In conclusion to an extremely tense situation of the early Cold War, the Soviet Union announces that its troops in Iran will be withdrawn within six weeks. The Iranian crisis was one of the first tests of power between the United States and the Soviet Union in the postwar world.
The Iranian crisis began during World War II. In 1942, Iran signed an agreement by which British and Soviet troops were allowed into the country in order to defend the oil-rich nation from possible German attack. American troops were also soon in Iran. The 1942 treaty stated that all foreign troops would withdraw within six months after the end of the war. In 1944, however, both Great Britain and the United States began to press the Iranian government for oil concessions and the Soviets thereupon demanded concessions of their own. By 1945, the oil situation was still unsettled, but the war was coming to an end and the American attitude toward the Soviet Union had changed dramatically.
The new administration of Harry S. Truman, which came to power when Franklin D. Roosevelt died in April 1945, decided that the Soviets were not to be trusted and were bent on expansion. Therefore, a policy of “toughness” was adopted toward the former wartime ally. Iran came to be a test case for this new policy. The Soviets had decided to take action in Iran. Fearing that the British and Americans were conspiring to deny Russia its proper sphere of influence in Iran, the Soviets came to the assistance of an Iranian rebel group in the northern regions of the country. In early 1946, the United States complained to the United Nations about the situation in Iran and accused the Soviets of interfering with a sovereign nation. When the March 2, 1946 deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iran passed and the Soviets were still in place, a crisis began to develop.
A major diplomatic confrontation was avoided when the Soviets announced on March 25, 1946, that they would be withdrawing their forces within six weeks. President Truman bragged that his threats of a possible military confrontation had been the deciding factor, but that seems unlikely. The Soviet Union and Iran had reached an agreement that gave the Soviets an oil concession in Iran. With this promise in hand, the Soviets kept their part of the bargain and moved their troops out of Iran in April 1946. Almost immediately, the Iranian government reneged on the oil deal and, with U.S. aid and advice, crushed the revolt in northern Iran. The Soviets were furious, but refrained from reintroducing their armed forces into Iran for fear of creating an escalating conflict with the United States and Great Britain. The Iranian crisis, and the suspicion and anger it created between the United States and the Soviet Union, helped set the tone for the developing Cold War.