Please replace links to Wikipedia in this article with links to this wiki. Only do this if these links relate to the wiki subject. Thank you!

Invasion of Iran
Part of Mediterranean, Middle East and African theatres of World War II
Date August 25, 1941 – September 17, 1941
Location Imperial State of Iran
Result Decisive Allied victory


  • Soviet occupation of Northern Iran
  • British occupation of Southern Iran
Soviet Union United Kingdom*British Raj


Commanders and leaders
[1] Dmitri T. KozlovSergei Trofimenko
Edward Quinan
Reza Shah Pahlavi

Gholamali Bayandor

[2] 3 armies[3]2 divisions,

3 brigades

9 divisions, 60 aircraft
Casualties and losses

40 KIA 3 planes lost [5] [6] 22 KIA[1] 50 WIA[1] 1 tank destroyed

~800 KIA~200 civilians killed

2 gunboats sunk, 4 damaged 6 planes lost

The invasion of Iran was the Allied invasion of the Imperial State of Iran during World War II, by Soviet, and British, and other Commonwealth armed forces. The invasion from August 25 to September 17, 1941, was codenamed Operation Countenance. The purpose was to secure Iranian oil fields and ensure Allied supply lines (see Persian Corridor) for the Soviets fighting against Axis forces on the Eastern Front. Though Iran was officially neutral, its monarch was friendly toward the Axis Powers: he was deposed during the subsequent occupation and replaced with his young son.


[hide] *1 Background


For many decades, Iranian and German governments had cultivated ties, partly as a counter to the imperial ambitions of Britain and the Russian Empire (and, later, the Soviet Union). During the 1930s, Nazi Germany continued to woo Iran, by providing economic aid.

Although Reza Shah Pahlavi declared neutrality at an early stage of the war, Iran assumed greater strategic importance to the British government, which feared that the Abadan Oil Refinery, owned by the UK-based Anglo-Persian Oil Company, might fall into German hands; the refinery produced eight million tons of oil in 1940 and was thus a crucial part of the Allied war effort.[2] Reza Shah PahlaviFollowing Germany's invasion of the USSR in June 1941, Britain and the Soviet Union became formal Allies, providing further impetus for an Allied invasion.[3] With the German Army steadily advancing through the Soviet Union and the "Persian Corridor" formed by the Trans-Iranian Railway was one of the easiest ways for the Allies to get desperately needed Lend-Lease supplies to the Soviets, by sea from the United States.

As increasing U-boat attacks and poor ice conditions made convoys to Arkhangelsk extremely dangerous, the railway became an increasingly attractive route. The two Allied nations applied pressure on Iran and the Shah, but this led only to increased tensions and pro-German rallies in Tehran.[citation needed].

In addition, requests from the Allies for the expulsion of residents who were Axis citizens were also refused by the Shah; a British embassy report in 1940 estimated that there were almost 1,000 German nationals in Iran, ranging from skilled workers to spies.[4]


[7][8]The Iranian warship Babr (Tiger) after being shelled by the British sloop HMS Shoreham, during the surprise attack on Iran, August 1941.[5]. The Babr was later sunk by the Australian sloop HMAS Yarra.[9][10]1950's era Iranian postage stamp illustrating the Iranian warship Palang (Leopard). The British Royal Navy sank the Palang while it remained moored at an Abadan pier during the surprise attack on Iran in August 1941.[5]Although some have claimed that the invasion was an undeclared surprise attack,[5] it was preceded by an obvious build-up of forces. In addition, two diplomatic notes were delivered to the Iranian government on July 19 and August 17 requiring the Iranian government to expel Axis nationals or force would be used against Iran.[6] The second of the notes was recognised by the prime minister Ali Mansur as a disguised ultimatum.[7][8] Final diplomatic notes, declaring that the invasion was starting, were delivered by the Soviet and British ambassadors during the night of the invasion. The British believed that the invasion would not be a surprise. As General Wavell later wrote in his despatch, " was apparent that the Iranian Government fully expected an early British advance into Khuzistan and that reinforcements, including light and medium tanks, were being sent to Ahwaz."[9][10] Despite this, the invasion was a tactical surprise and was described by Allied forces as rapid and conducted with ease.

Military operationsEdit

The Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy attacked from the Persian Gulf as well as by land and air, from Iraq. Six days after the invasion and the ensuing Allied occupation of southern Iran, the British divisions previously known as "Iraq Command" (also known as Iraqforce) were renamed "Persia and Iraq Force" (Paiforce), under the command of Lieutenant-General Edward Quinan. Paiforce was made up of the 8th and 10th Indian Infantry Divisions, 2nd Indian Armoured Brigade, 4th British Cavalry Brigade (later renamed 9th Armoured Brigade) and the 21st Indian Infantry Brigade.

Meanwhile, the Soviets invaded from the north, mostly from Transcaucasia, with their 44th, 47th and 53rd Armies of the Transcaucasian Front under General Dmitri Timofeyevich Kozlov, occupying Iran's northern provinces. Air force and naval units also participated in the battle.

In response to the invasion, the Iranian Armymobilised nine infantry divisions. [11][12]Map of Iraq and western Iran in 1941The campaign began on August 25 with a dawn attack by the British sloop HMS Shoreham on the harbour at Abadan. The Iranian sloop Palang was quickly sunk, and remaining ships were destroyed or captured. There had been no time to prepare resistance. The petroleum installations at Abadan were captured by two battalions from 8th Indian Division's 24th Indian Brigade making an amphibious crossing of the Shatt al-Arab from Basra.[11] A small force was also landed at Bandar-e-Shahpur from the Australian armed merchant cruiser HMAS Kanimbla to secure the port and petroleum terminal there. The Royal Air Force attacked airbases and communications. The 8th Indian Division (18th Brigade plus 25th Brigade under command from 10th Indian Division) advanced from Basra towards Qasr Sheikh (which was taken on August 25) and by August 28 had reached Ahvaz when the Shah ordered hostilities to cease.[12] Further north, eight battalions of British and Indian troops under Major-General William Slim advanced from Khanaqin (100 miles north east of Baghdad and 300 miles from Basra) into the Naft-i-Shah oilfield and on towards the Pai Tak Pass, leading towards Kermanshah and Hamadan. The Pai Tak position was taken on August 27 after the defenders had withdrawn in the night and the planned assault on Kermanshah on August 29 was aborted when the defenders called a truce to negotiate surrender terms.[13]

The Soviets invaded from the north and advanced toward Maku, which had been softened up by bombing raids. There were also Soviet landings at Bandar-e Pahlavi, on the Caspian coast. In one incident, Soviet ships suffered from "friendly fire".

In naval actions, two Iranian warships were sunk and four crippled by the Allied navies. Six Iranian fighters were shot down. Approximately 800 Iranian soldiers, sailors, airmen were killed, including Rear Admiral Gholamali Bayandor. Approximately 200 civilians died in Russian bombing raids in Gilan. British and Indian casualties were 22 killed and 42 wounded. Soviet casualties amounted to 40 killed.

Without any military allies able to come to its assistance, Iranian resistance was rapidly overwhelmed and neutralised by Soviet and British tanks and infantry. The British and Soviet forces met at Senna (100 miles west of Hamadan) and Kazvin (100 miles west of Tehran and 200 miles north east of Hamadan) on August 30 and 31 respectively.


Reza Shah appealed to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the basis of the Atlantic Charter:

"…on the basis of the declarations which Your Excellency has made several times regarding the necessity of defending principles of international justice and the right of peoples to liberty. I beg Your Excellency to take efficacious and urgent humanitarian steps to put an end to these acts of aggression. This incident brings into war a neutral and pacific country which has had no other care than the safeguarding of tranquillity and the reform of the country." — a letter of August 25

However, this plea failed to prompt a response from the US President to prevent the invasion of Iran, as Roosevelt's response shows:

"Viewing the question in its entirety involves not only the vital questions to which Your Imperial Majesty refers, but other basic considerations arising from Hitler's ambition of world conquest. It is certain that movements of conquest by Germany will continue and will extend beyond Europe to Asia, Africa, and even to the Americas, unless they are stopped by military force. It is equally certain that those countries which desire to maintain their independence must engage in a great common effort if they are not to be engulfed one by one as has already happened to a large number of countries in Europe. In recognition of these truths, the Government and people of the United States of America, as is well known, are not only building up the defenses of this country with all possible speed, but they have also entered upon a very extensive program of material assistance to those countries which are actively engaged in resisting German ambition for world domination."

Roosevelt also reassured the Shah by noting "the statements to the Iranian Government by the British and Soviet Governments that they have no designs on the independence or territorial integrity of Iran". However, in 1945, the Soviets would be responsible for backing two breakaway territories in the north.


Iran was defeated, the oilfields taken and the valuable Trans-Iranian Railway came into Allied hands. Because of lack of transport, the British decided not to establish any forces beyond Hamadan and Ahvaz. In the meantime, the new Iranian Prime Minister, Fourughi, agreed that the German Minister and his staff should leave Tehran, that the German, Italian, Hungarian and Romanian legations should close, and that all remaining German nationals be handed over to the British and Soviet authorities. The failure to meet the last of these conditions led to British and Soviet troops entering Tehran on September 17, the day after Reza Shah had been arrested and sent into exile in South Africa, leaving his son Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi to replace him on the throne. The Soviet and British forces withdrew from Tehran on October 17, after the Germans had been dealt with,[14] although Iran was effectively divided between Britain and the Soviet Union for the duration of the global war.

Events during occupationEdit

[13][14]Lend-Lease Program U.S. planes stand ready to be picked up at Abadan Air Field, Iran[15]With this crucial supply route now open to the Soviet Union, the Persian Corridor would provide a massive flow of supplies (over 5 million tons of materiel) to the Soviets primarily, but also the British in the Middle East. The new Shah signed a Treaty of Alliance with Britain and the Soviet Union in January 1942, under which Iran provided nonmilitary assistance to the Allied war effort. Article Five of this treaty, although not entirely trusted by the Iranian leader, committed the Allies to leaving Iran "not more than six months after the cessation of hostilities". In September 1943, Iran declared war on Germany, thus qualifying for membership in the United Nations. At the Tehran Conference in November of that year, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and General Secretary Joseph Stalin reaffirmed their commitment to Iran's independence and territorial integrity and displayed a willingness to extend economic assistance to Iran. The effects of the war, however, were very disruptive for Iran. Food and other essential items were scarce. Severe inflation imposed great hardship on the lower and middle classes.[16]

In summer of 1943, Abwehr's Operation Francois was an attempt to use the dissident Qashqai people in Iran to sabotage British and American supplies bound for the Soviet Union.

Also in 1943, Operation Long Jump was an unsuccessful German plot to assassinate the "Big Three" Allied leaders, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt, at the Tehran Conference.


Further information: Iran crisis of 1946During the three years of occupation, Stalin had expanded Soviet political influence in Azerbaijan and the Kurdish area in northwestern Iran, as well as in Iran founding the communist Tudeh Party of Iran. On December 12, 1945, after weeks of violent clashes a Soviet-backed separatist People's Republic of Azerbaijan was founded. The Kurdish People's Republic was also established in late 1945. Iranian government troops sent to reestablish control were blocked by Soviet Red Army units.

When the deadline for withdrawal arrived on March 2, 1946, six months after the end of World War II hostilities, the British began to withdraw, but Moscow refused, "citing threats to Soviet security."

Soviet troops did not withdraw from Iran proper until May, 1946 following Iran's official complaint to the newly-formed United Nations Security Council, which became the first complaint filed by a country in the U.N.'s history, and a test for the UN's effectiveness in resolving global issues in the aftermath of World War II. However, the UNSC took no direct steps in pressuring the Soviets to withdraw.[17]

Compensation demandsEdit

In 2009, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that his country suffered during the invasions of World War II, and that he would "stand to the end" to get full compensation. He also said "We will seek compensation for World War II damages. I have assigned a team to calculate the costs, I will write a letter to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asking for Iran to be compensated for the damages. During this period, the Iranian people were subjected to a great deal of pressure and the country suffered a great deal of damages but Iran was not paid any compensation."[18][19][20]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b Compton Mackenzie, Eastern Epic, p.136
  2. ^ Reed, Stanley; Fitzgerald, Alison (2010). In Too Deep: BP and the Drilling Race That Took it Down. Wiley. ISBN 978-0-470-95090-6.
  3. ^ Esposito (1998), p. 127
  4. ^ "Abbas Milani, Iran, Jews and the Holocaust: An answer to Mr. Black". Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  5. ^ a b c Stewart, Richard Anthony (1988). Sunrise at Abadan: the British and Soviet invasion of Iran, 1941. New York: Praeger. ISBN 0-275-92793-8.
  6. ^ Encyclopedia Iranica "Anglo-Iranian Relations iii. Pahlavi period
  7. ^ Stewart, Richard A. (1988). Sunrise at Abadan: The British and Soviet Invasion of Iran, 1941. New York: Praeger. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-275-92793-6.
  8. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37685. pp. 4097–4098. 13 August 1946.
  9. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37685. p. 4098. 13 August 1946.
  10. ^ Ward, Steven R. (2009). Immortal: A Military History of Iran and Its Armed Forces. Georgetown University Press. p. 154. ISBN 978-1-58901-258-5. Retrieved May 2012.
  11. ^ Compton Mackenzie, p. 130
  12. ^ Compton Mackenzie, pp. 132–133
  13. ^ Compton Mackenzie, pp 130–136
  14. ^ Compton Mackenzie, pp 136–139
  15. ^ National Museum of the US Air force,
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "No Operation". Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  19. ^ "Ahmadinejad Demands Compensation for WWII Invasion". Fox News. January 9, 2010.,2933,582671,00.html.
  20. ^ Associated, The (1941-08-26). "Ahmadinejad demands WWII reparations from Allied powers - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News". Retrieved 2011-09-22.

External linksEdit

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.