Population: 15 000 000 (1938), ~ 16 800 000 (1945).
Borders (during WWII) with British India (present-day Pakistan), Afghanistan, Soviet Union, Turkey and Iraq. It also has access to the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Caspian Sea, and the Indian Ocean.
Area: 1 648 000 squared kilometers.
Capital City: Tehran
Overview: In the first years of the conflict, despite of self-declared neutrality, Iran fell under a strong influence of Nazi Germany which aimed at transforming it into a powerbase for German penetration of Near and Middle East. Shortly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the strategic importance of Iran rose prominently; subsequently, British Commonwealth (East Indian) and Soviet troops entered the country (on 25/08/1941) in order to prevent Iran from falling into the Axis sphere of influence. A small U.S. contingent joined the already present Allied (British Commonwealth in the south of the country, and Soviet in the north) occupation forces in 1942. In September of 1941, following the abdication of Reza Shah, Iran declared war on Nazi Germany. Afterwards, the Iranian territory was used by the Allies as a transit route for shipments of supplies to the Soviet Union. Between 28/11/1943 and 01/12/1943, a conference of the heads of state of Great Britain, U.S., and Soviet Union took place in Tehran. Iran is one of the co-founding members of the U.N.
Armed Forces: By 1937 the Iranian standing army numbered 1 507 officers and 30 872 NCOs and men. By 1939 the army was composed of nine mixed divisions and five independent brigades. There was also one independent infantry regiment, as well as one heavy artillery regiment, one anti-aircraft battalion, one independent transportation squadron, and an air force component consisting of three air regiments (200 machines, mostly British-manufactured Hawkers and De Havillands). The Iranian navy possessed two sloops, five patrol vessels, and some thugs and motor patrol boats on the Persian Gulf / Gulf of Oman, in addition to an imperial yacht and some motor patrol boats for service on the Caspian Sea. Aside from the yacht all vessels were of Italian origin. The sloops suffered considerable damage during the Allied intervention in 1941, but were later repaired and returned to service. In 1940 an independent mechanized brigade made up of anti-aircraft, tank, and mechanized infantry regiments came into being. The number of active army personnel increased to 120 000. All of the armed forces were dispersed into six military districts. The armed police force fielded seven independent mixed regiments and 15 mixed battalions that formed a corps for internal and frontier security duties. During the Allied invasion in late summer of 1941, the Iranian armed forces offered only minimal resistance and the country was rapidly overrun and occupied. Afterwards the Iranian armed forces did not play any combat role during the remaining years of World War II. Major re-organization efforts of the armed forces started to be implemented in 1944.
Main article: Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran
During the start of the war the Allies demanded that Iran remove German nationals from their soil, fearing they might be Nazispies or harm the British-owned oil facilities, but Reza Shah refused, stating that they had nothing to do with the Nazis.
The Allies worried that Germany would look to neutral Iran for oil. Soon the Allies questioned themselves about Iranian neutrality and they gave Reza Shah a final warning to remove the German workers. He refused once again. In August 1941, the British and Soviet troops invaded Iran (Operation Countenance) and, in September 1941, forced Reza Shah Pahlavi to abdicate his throne. He was replaced by his son Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was willing to enter the war on the side of the Allies. Iran became known as "The Bridge of Victory".
Iran provided a 'blue water' supply route to the Soviet Union via the port of Bandar Abbas and a specially constructed railway route. The supply routes were known collectively as the Persian Corridor. Soviet political operatives known as "agitprops" infiltrated Iran and helped establish the Comintern affiliate Tudeh Party in early 1942.
The Soviet Union fomented revolts among the Azerbaijani and Kurdish peoples in Iran and soon formed the People's Republic of Azerbaijan in December 1945 and the Kurdish People's Republic not long after. Both were run by Soviet-controlled leaders. Soviet troops remained in Iran, following the January 1946 expiration of a wartime treaty providing for the presence of American, British and Soviet troops.