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Daily News Analysis

Tehran Conference of 1943 determined the superpowers’ spheres of influence

Mohamed Bokreta

The Big Three: Plotting the world's future as if they owned it, at the Tehran Conference held in the Soviet embassy from November 28 - December 1, 1943

The present global configuration, although under severe strain, was established at a conference in Tehran in 1943.

The Second World War was still raging.

Three leaders—US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin—got together for the Tehran Conference (November 28 and December 1, 1943) to coordinate strategy for the prosecution of the war against Germany and Japan.

The conference held in the Soviet embassy in Tehran was held after the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran.

They took a number of important decisions concerning the war as well as post-World War II era.

The most notable decisions of the conference focused on the next phases of the war against the Axis powers in Europe and Asia.

Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin discussed the terms under which the British and Americans finally committed to launching Operation Overlord.

In return for the invasion of northern France, to be launched by May of 1944 that the Soviets had long been pushing the Allies for, Stalin agreed to launch another major offensive on the Eastern Front that would divert German troops away from the Allied campaign in northern France.

Stalin also agreed in principle that the Soviet Union would declare war against Japan following an Allied victory over Germany.

In exchange for Soviet declaration of war against Japan, Roosevelt conceded to Stalin’s demands for the Kurile Islands and the southern half of Sakhalin.

He also gained access to the ice-free ports of Dairen (Dalian) and Port Arthur (Lüshun Port) located on the Liaodong Peninsula in northern China.

The exact details concerning this deal were not finalized, however, until the Yalta Conference of 1945.

At Tehran, the three Allied leaders also discussed important issues concerning the fate of Eastern Europe and Germany in the postwar period.

In this context, Stalin pressed for a revision of Poland’s eastern border with the Soviet Union to match the line set by British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon in 1920.

In order to compensate Poland for the resulting loss of its territory, the three leaders agreed to move the German-Polish border to the Oder and Neisse rivers.

This decision was not formally ratified until the Potsdam Conference of 1945.

During these negotiations, Roosevelt also secured from Stalin assurances that the Republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia would be reincorporated into the Soviet Union only after the citizens of each republic votes in a referendum.

Stalin countered that the matter would have to be resolved “in accordance with the Soviet constitution,” and that he would not consent to any international control over the elections.

Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin also broached the question of the possible postwar partition of Germany into Allied zones of occupation and agreed to have the European Advisory Commission “carefully study the question of dismemberment” before any final decision was taken.

Broader international cooperation also became a central theme of the negotiations at Tehran.

Roosevelt and Stalin privately discussed the composition of the United Nations.

During the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers in October and November of 1943, the United States, Britain, China (then ruled by Chiang Kai-shek), and the Soviet Union signed a four-power declaration.

The fourth point of the declaration called for the creation of a “general international organization” designed to promote “international peace and security.”

At Tehran, Roosevelt outlined for Stalin his vision of the proposed organization in which the future United Nations would be dominated by “four policemen” (the United States, Britain, China, and the Soviet Union) who “would have the power to deal immediately with any threat to peace and any sudden emergency which requires action.”

Finally, the three leaders issued a “Declaration of the Three Powers regarding Iran.”

Within it, they thanked the Iranian government for its assistance in the war against Germany and promised to provide economic assistance both during and after the war.

Most importantly, the US, British, and Soviet governments stated that they all shared a “desire for the maintenance of the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Iran.”

Roosevelt secured many of his objectives during the Tehran Conference.

The Soviet Union committed to join the war against Japan and expressed support for Roosevelt’s plans for the United Nations.

Roosevelt believed that he had won Stalin’s confidence by proving that the United States was willing to negotiate directly with the Soviet Union and, most importantly, by guaranteeing the opening of the second front in France by the spring of 1944.

However, Stalin also gained tentative concessions in Eastern Europe that were confirmed during the later wartime conferences.

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