Iran and Afghanistan


Published in 1941 during the early part of World War II, this Japanese map of Iran and Afghanistan is based on a map issued the previous year by the Main Administration of Geodesy and Cartography of the Soviet Union. Unlike the British and the Russians, the Japanese did not have extensive knowledge of, or experience in, this part of Asia, which nonetheless became an important strategic interest for them during the war. The Axis powers—Germany, Japan, and Italy—believed that ultimate victory would require that they gain control of the Indian Ocean and the entire continent of Asia. On December 15, 1941, a week after their attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese presented the Germans with a draft military convention that divided the world into spheres of military operations along the 70 degrees longitude line. Japan would be responsible for territory east of this line, and Germany and Italy for territory to its west. The 70 degrees line bisected the Soviet Union east of the Urals and ran through Afghanistan somewhat east of Kabul. The Germans reportedly disliked the scheme, because it cut through territories that, like Afghanistan, constituted organic units. Germany would have preferred a line running along the eastern frontier of Iran and following the northern border of Afghanistan before turning north through Russia to the Arctic. The military convention signed by Germany, Italy, and Japan on January 18, 1942, for the most part adopted the line proposed by Japan. In the end, these discussions proved purely theoretical, as Germany and Italy were defeated in the west, and Japan in the east, long before they could implement their plans for Siberia, Central and South Asia, and the Indian Ocean.

Last updated: September 30, 2016