The Tehran conference was a summit conference between the leaders of the Allies, under the code name EUREKA (= Eureka). It was held in Tehran, Iran, from 28 November to 1 December 1943. At the leaders” level, American President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin participated. It followed, in time, the Cairo Conference, which ended on 27 November 1943, and was held without Stalin”s presence, but with that of Chiang Kai-shek. In fact, it was the first conference in which all three leaders participated. The decisions taken at the Tehran Conference were a prelude to the decisions that were simply ratified at the Yalta Conference in 1945, and in this respect it is considered one of the most important conferences of the war.
Since the entry of the Soviet Union into the war in 1941, Stalin has not ceased to ask his Western allies to create a second front in Europe. The Westerners countered that the creation of such a front would result in heavy casualties and, consequently, a wait-and-see attitude should be adopted until the necessary conditions for a similar campaign were secured. Stalin”s fears were not entirely unjustified: The USSR was facing enormous pressure from Nazi Germany and, until its decisive victory at Stalingrad, any withdrawal of the Western allies from the conflict meant that the USSR was strongly facing the spectre of defeat. Stalin”s distrust was due to the fact that he believed that the Western ”capitalist” powers disliked communism and the delay in opening a second front in Europe was simply a pretext to give the Nazis time to destroy the Soviet Union.
At the time of the conference the situation on the planet is as follows:
After the situation that has already developed, a meeting of the “big three” (the Big Three, as the allied leaders are called) is deemed necessary to formulate the further stance and policy to be followed.
The American President had already wanted a meeting with the other two leaders at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor in order to better coordinate their military actions. He had to wait two years for this wish to be fulfilled. But when the time came for the meeting, interests had changed: The expansion of the Axis forces had been brought under control while the Allied victory on the military level was already looming. FDR was now concerned with the political problems that would arise after the end of the war. Moreover, the Alliance was beginning to show cracks as more and more disagreements arose that required the leaders” immediate attention, and Roosevelt believed he could communicate better with Stalin than with Churchill.
Already in May 1942 Roosevelt had proposed to Stalin, through Harriman, a meeting between them somewhere in the Bering Strait or Iceland. Stalin missed the opportunity, although he wanted a meeting, because he was afraid of air travel.In July Stalin wrote to Roosevelt that “the great strategic questions cannot be solved by the military alone”. A flurry of exchanges of messages and proposals followed, mainly between Roosevelt and Churchill, before the meeting in Tehran was finally made possible.
After Stalin”s statement “on military matters”, Roosevelt decided, whenever the conference was held, not to take Foreign Minister Kordel Hull with him. The main reason for this was not formalities, as he told the other two, but the President was afraid of interference from his Minister, who kept reminding him that he was “giving a lot to the Russians” and did not want to have anyone at his side to advise him what to do and what to say. Yet Hal could not be ignored: He had agreed to take over the Foreign Office on condition that he would “participate in every possible way in the formulation and implementation of foreign policy”. He also put forward the argument that ”great military questions are impossible to resolve without causing political interference”. Hull had initially acquiesced to the President”s wishes until he learned that his British counterpart, Anthony Eden, would be attending the planned conference. When he mentioned this to Roosevelt, he replied that “the American and British systems of government are completely different.” Hall finally gave in to the President”s wishes.
Roosevelt also wished that there should be no representatives of the press at the conference. Of course, matters of great importance and secrecy were to be discussed, and Roosevelt was sure that Stalin would not speak openly and clearly if journalists were present. At the same time, he did not want to give handholds to those who criticized his policy on War issues.
The choice of Tehran
In the meantime, numerous suggestions had been made for the choice of the exact meeting point and almost all points of the waterway had been suggested. Roosevelt was already in poor health and Stalin”s attitude was of no help: The Soviet insisted that the conference be held in Moscow, which had already irritated Churchill. Hull had already gone to Moscow to arrange the meeting and Roosevelt had already turned down Tehran. When Roosevelt suggested other meeting places, Stalin replied, rather haughtily, that “he was the head of a great nation and could not be absent from his country while it was at war”. The American replied, probably in the same tone, that he too was the leader of a great nation at war and also could not be absent for long, as the Constitution obliged him to ratify with his signature every law passed by Congress within ten days. It was just that the journey to Moscow was too long and he proposed to “split the distance.” Stalin is adamant. Moscow, Tehran or postpone the meeting until 1944. Hal believes the latter will be what the President will approve, but his impatience is much stronger: Roosevelt relents and agrees to go to Tehran In fact, Stalin suggested this city because he could get there without using an airplane, given his airplane phobia. Moreover, the city had a direct telephone connection to Moscow.
Before the two Western leaders left for Tehran, they passed through Cairo, where they met Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek.
Roosevelt”s attitude is quite strange for an ally of such a nature as Britain. He believes that with Stalin he can discuss with him much more easily and they can take major decisions together – he does not believe the same about Churchill. The reason is that the British are conservative to anachronistic: he is committed to monarchy, a fanatical anti-communist, clearly a colonialist. The British Empire, of which he is a champion, is the quintessence of oppression and therefore should not survive after the War. On the contrary, he considers Stalin “in the stream of history” and strongly opposes the views of his advisers – and even people who know things and situations, such as the US military attaché in Moscow, who openly expresses the view that he considers “a possible US-Bolshevik alliance to be at least curious”.
The conference starts on Sunday 28 November. Churchill faces the united hostility of Stalin and Roosevelt. The two leaders” treatment of the British is more dismissive than egalitarian. Unsurprisingly, Roosevelt refuses to provide any assistance in the Mediterranean theatre of war, resulting in Britain attempting to take the Aegean islands on its own. The attempt fails miserably, a British brigade is captured at Leros and six British destroyers are sunk.
At the dinner on 29 November a serious incident takes place: Stalin, in the course of the discussion, expresses the view that Germany”s 50,000 – and perhaps 100,000 – leading figures in the fields of the armed forces, science, technology and economics should be summarily executed. Churchill replies, in a sharply accented tone, that he expresses his absolute refusal of such practices. Yes, of course war criminals must be tried and suffer the consequences of their actions, he has said and written so himself, but Britain refuses to “lump together” with criminals the soldiers who fought for their country. It refuses to participate in executions carried out for political reasons. Stalin is supported by a young Lieutenant Colonel who abuses his position: The son of President Roosevelt. The British man becomes so angry that he declares that he would rather be executed himself now in the courtyard of the Soviet Embassy than consent to such an action. He puts down his napkin and fork and gets up from the table on his way out. Stalin gets up in turn and brings the Briton back to the table and the conversation, assuring him that he was only joking.
The conference confirms what has been pointed out by historians of the Allied conferences: the primacy no longer belongs to the British Prime Minister. Without being sidelined, it is not he who sets the terms and persuades the others to follow them (as happened in Casablanca). Moreover, Stalin urgently wants a second front in Europe – that of Italy does not cover him. He finds the opportunity to wrest it from his allies. Moreover, in return for the USSR”s unstinting support for the Americans and British in the war against Hitler, he demands – and receives assurances – that the Yugoslav rebels will receive support and that the USSR will have primacy there.
According to Time magazine, Stalin, making a formal toast at one of the conference dinners, said: “It would never have been possible for the United Nations to win this War without the war production of the United States.”
The following decisions were taken at the conference
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The text of the general positions reached by the conference was as follows:
We, the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the leader of the Soviet Union have met over the last four days in the capital of our ally Iran, Tehran, and have formulated and reaffirmed our common policy.
We express our determination that our nations must work together both in the War and in the peace that will follow.
Our staffs attended the round table meetings and we drew up plans for the destruction of the German forces. We reached full agreement both as to the objectives and as to the timing of the operations to be undertaken from the east, west and south.
The mutual understanding we have achieved guarantees that victory will be ours.
As for the post-war peace, we are confident that our unity will ensure a lasting peace. We fully recognize the supreme responsibility that we and the United Nations bear to establish a peace that will dominate the goodwill of the masses of the world”s people and eliminate the suffering and horror of war for generations to come.
Through our Diplomatic Advisers we have been researching the problems of the future. We will seek the cooperation and active participation of all nations, great and small, whose peoples, like our own, have devoted themselves body and soul to the elimination of slavery and tyranny, of oppression and oppression. We will welcome them, whenever they decide to join, into a world family of democratic nations.
No power in the world can prevent us from destroying German armies by land, U-boats by sea and war factories by air. Our attack will be relentless and intensified.
From these heartfelt conferences we look forward with confidence to the day when all the peoples of the world can live freely, untouched by tyranny and according to their diverse desires and their own conscience.
We came here with hope and determination. We leave here as friends in deed, in spirit and in purpose.
Φ. D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin
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These points were subscribed to by the Big Three (Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin).
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After meetings with the Iranian Prime Minister, the Big Three agreed on mutually good relations with Iran, as the governments of their countries recognized the country”s contribution to the war against the common enemy and particularly the facilities it provided in the transit of supplies from abroad to the Soviet Union. In the post-war period, the governments of the USA, the USSR and the United Kingdom have all made a significant contribution to the development of the USSR. In the post-war period, the USSR, USSR and UK governments agreed with the Iranian government that any economic problems facing the country would be thoroughly examined, along with those of other UN members, through conferences or international delegations that existed or would be established to deal with international economic issues. All three Governments, like the Iranian Government, wish the country to maintain its independence, national sovereignty and territorial integrity. They are committed to Iran”s participation, like any peace-loving nation, in the establishment of international peace, security and prosperity after the end of the war, in accordance with the principles of the Atlantic Charter, to which all four Governments are parties.
These points were subscribed to by the Big Three (Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin).
The declarations of the conference contain the creation of NATO (the forerunner of which was the organisation envisaged by the Atlantic Charter) and the creation of the United Nations. From a purely strategic point of view, perhaps the most important decision was the planning of Operation Overlord, as the Normandy landings were called.