The historiography of modern Iran has viewed the Allied Occupation of August 1941 mostly with regard to its impact on politics and society, with the military events only as the external cause of the collapse of Reza Shah’s reign. This narrative has paid little attention to the broader context of the occupation, in particular the strategic aims of the warring parties, Iran’s military and economic situation during the first years of World War II, and her attempts to maintain a neutral stance.
Based on document findings in British and German archives, this lecture is intended to examine the political and military background of the events that led to the Allied occupation. Starting in the pre-war period, it will discuss the respective objectives both of Iran and the parties at war, the adopted diplomatic and military strategies, and the factors that finally led to the failure of neutrality. Furthermore, the lecture will analyze the role of Iran in the British and German strategical planning after occupation, and the significance attributed to the country by both sides as a theatre of war.