Iran in the Nazi New Order, 1934-1941

The global parameters of Iranian history are highlighted through an examination of local developments in the 1930s and their interaction with the expansionist aims of National Socialism. Despite a row of scholarly studies, the relationship between Reza Shah's Iran and National Socialist Germany has not been fully explored. By 1941, the economic relationship between the two countries was at its height, with Germany enjoying the position of Iran's "foremost trade partner." This paper explores the place of Iran in Nazism's "New Order", paying particular attention to the system of global trade agreements established by Reich Economics Minister Hjalmar Schacht after 1934. Schacht paid a visit to Tehran in November 1936 on the occasion of the signing of the Clearing Payments Agreement. Following the visit, German firms made considerable investment in Iranian industrial infrastructure. This paper analyzes how and why Iran became a site of National Socialist economic concentration in the mid 1930s, and asks the question of how Schacht's plans for the global outreach of the Nazi economy spoke to the nationalist desires of Reza Shah's Iran for industrial modernization. It argues that in the coming together of Schacht and Reza Shah, the state economic interests of each country were of primary importance. While not discounting the importance of Nazi political ideology—and the effects of this ideology in Iran—the article asks how state ideological visions on both sides were translated into concrete economic programs. Nazi thinking on economic and political involvement in the Middle East and Central Asia positioned Iran, Afghanistan, and Turkey as a "northern tier", seeing them as buffer states to be used in containing the Soviet Union. This strategy left traces in the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939. The paper will end with a look at Iran's place in the Nazi-Soviet Pact, which designated it as a zone of economic collaboration. The reaction of the Majles to the Pact will be a point of particular focus.