Executive Intelligence Review
This article appeared in the October 13, 1995 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

How FDR planned to
outflank the British

by Edward Spannaus

Surprising as it may seem today, at the end of the Second World War, both Afghanistan and Iran looked to the United States as their hope for economic development, and for protection from the imperialist designs of Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Both Afghanistan and Iran had long been pawns in the "Great Game" between Britain and Russia, and both saw in the principles of Franklin D. Roosevelt's Atlantic Charter, the possibility of fulfilling their aspirations for freedom from foreign domination and exploitation.

The transformation of the image of the United States, from the protector of exploited nations, to the "Great Satan" and sworn enemy of pan-Islamic fanatics, is a case study in British methods of manipulation and control.

The favorable image of the United States held in the eyes of the leaders of both Iran and Afghanistan was largely due to the deployment of President Roosevelt's personal representative, Gen. Patrick J. Hurley, to that region in 1943-44. When Hurley arrived in Iran in 1943, he found a country occupied jointly by the British and the Soviets, a country which feared it would be permanently partitioned by the two occupying powers after the war. Hurley proposed that Iran protect its future by joining the Allies and declaring war on Germany and the Axis powers—a proposal which was violently opposed by the British and Russian allies!

At FDR's instruction, and over efforts by the Anglophilic U.S. State Department to sabotage his efforts, Hurley drafted the "Declaration Regarding Iran" during the Teheran Conference in late 1943. The declaration guaranteed the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Iran, and promised assistance in dealing with the postwar economic situation. Over Averell Harriman's objections, Roosevelt managed to get the document signed by Stalin and Churchill.

Roosevelt's vision was to make Iran a "pilot project," which would show the world the benefits of applying American "twentieth-century" methods to the task of global development. He assigned Hurley to develop a plan for the postwar economic development of Iran, which involved freeing Iran from internal and foreign exploitation, so that it could use its considerable natural resources for its own benefit. FDR also asked Hurley to compile a list of American industrialists and experts who could be trusted to carry out the project. Hurley's report to Roosevelt included the following provisions:

"Inauguration in Iran of the American pattern of self-government and free enterprise will be an assurance that [the] proceeds from development of Iranian resources will be directed substantially to the building of schools, hospitals, sanitary systems, irrigation systems, and improvement of all facilities contributing to the health, happiness and general welfare of the Iranian people.

"This plan of nation building may be improved through our experience in Iran and may become the criterion for the relations of the United States toward all nations which are now suffering from the evils of greedy minorities, monopolies, aggression, and imperialism."

President Roosevelt was enthusiastic about the Iran Plan, and forwarded it to the State Department, commenting: "I was rather thrilled by the idea of using Iran as an example of what we could do by an unselfish American policy."

Intervention in Afghanistan

Afghanistan was Hurley's next stop. He flew to Peshawar in Pakistan, only 150 miles from the capital of Afghanistan. As Hurley's biographer Don Lohbeck tells the story:

"In Peshawar, a series of British-inspired obstacles arose to hinder completion of the flight to Kabul. First the plane in which he was to fly over the mountains to the Afghan capital was declared to be of a type that could not possibly land on the Kabul air strip; second, the officials of the British airfield 'lost' the key to the gasoline pump and could not furnish gas for the flight; third, local weather reports from Kabul were withheld from the Americans so that when on January 4, they finally took off—they had to turn back when within only twenty miles of the Afghan city, because weather conditions were so bad they could not land. Trying again the next day, the Americans had to turn back because of engine trouble that developed while in flight.

"Finally, in disgust, General Hurley and his party left Peshawar by car, driving through the Khyber Pass."

Hurley's trip was a marked success. The U.S. military attaché wrote that Afghanistan, which had been left out of the Teheran Conference, was eager for some notice from the United States, and that the Afghan leaders now looked to Washington as the arbiter of their relations with Britain and Russia.

Hurley himself reported to Roosevelt that "since leaving Afghanistan I have confirmed the impression that neither Russia nor Britain has the confidence of the Afghanistan Government.... The fact that the United States Government has no imperialistic designs may be regarded as the chief reason why it is trusted by Afghanistan and all nations of the Middle East. The king of Afghanistan is also familiar with the principles expressed by you. He expressed himself as in complete accord and anxious to follow your leadership. The king was delighted by the Iran Declaration. He said it gave all nations of the Middle East and Central Asia confidence in their own future. Throughout the Middle East you are credited with having obtained the Iran Declaration from Britain and Russia."

The FDR-Hurley plan for Iran was violently attacked by the State Department, whose "expert" on Iran, Eugene Rostow, dismissed it as "hysterial messianic global-baloney." Hurley angrily denounced the opponents of the plan as "stuffed-shirt diplomats in the State Department who were kow-towing to the British."

But with Roosevelt's death in 1945, and the accession of Harry Truman to the White House, the British agents-of-influence in the State Department had their way, and Roosevelt's postwar plans for the Middle East and Central Asia were scuttled.

American aid for Afghanistan, which was looking to the United States for investment and assistance, never materialized. The United States did manage to maintain more of a role in Iran, and in the early 1950s even assisted Iran's efforts to wrest control of its oil from Britain. Contrary to historical myth, the United States supported the Mossadeq government's nationalization of Iran's oil resources. But with the advent of the Eisenhower administration, U.S. policy in Iran was quickly aligned with that of Britain, and U.S. agents played a secondary, supporting role in the British-run coup against Mossadeq. It was only later that the CIA took credit for overthrowing Mossadeq—a stupid and false claim, which contributed greatly to British efforts to transform the United States into the "enemy image" in the Middle East.

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