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Repeating mistakes
Britain, Iran & the 1919 Treaty

By A. R. Begli Beigie
March 27, 2001
The Iranian

It is interesting to read the recent debate in The Iranian about the future of Iran. But how do we stand a chance of ever realising our ambitions for Iran until we accept our shortcomings? Moreover we must stop repeating past mistakes, which is not possible with out knowing our past.

One of our problems has always been to blame others for our own failures and to seek refuge in conspiracy theories. One cannot deny the constant interference in Iranian affairs, but it would be naive to expect anything less. We must accept responsibility for letting foreigners get away with it. Without such acceptance we cannot even begin to remedy the problem.

Below is an account of such an episode in our history. It is the account of the 1919 Treaty written by Sir Clermont Skrine who was the British Consul in Mash-had during the Second World War. Skrine was part of the Indian Civil Service and was assigned to Iran from India.

Earlier in 1941 when Reza Shah was sent into exile, Skrine was assigned to accompany Reza Shah to Mauritius and help the Governor for the first few weeks as adviser, liaison officer and interpreter. He joined the Shah's party in India and informed him of the British Government's plans for his exile and their refusal to allow him to set foot in India. His account of these events will be provided on another occasion.

For those not familiar with the 1919 Treaty, it made the government of Iran impossible at a time when the world was trying to recover from the aftermath of the First World War and the Bolshevik Revelotiuon. The treaty was the beginning of the end for the Qajar rule.

Although the account below is not written with the arrogance of previous colonialists, nonetheless it is a distinctly British view. The attempt to cover up the bribes received by the famous Qajar princes is rather pathetic.

In explaining the events that followed the rejection of the treaty Skrine fails to mention Curzon's attempt to install Prince Firuz Mirza Nusrat-ud-Daula as Prime Minsiter in 1920. After the coup, Prince Firuz was among the Qajar elite jailed by Reza Khan.

The British Counsul in Tehran tried unsuccessfully to intercede on his behalf with Reza Khan. He made a grave error by suggesting that since Prince Firuz had been decorated by the British Government, by implication he would have to come under its protection.

According to the Counsul's account he only managed to make Reza Khan very angry who advised him that perhaps he ought to visit the Prince in prison and withdraw His Majesty's Government's decoration of an Iranian subject.

From World War in Iran, by Sir Clermont Skrine (1888-1974), chapter 5:

The winter of 1918-19 in Persia saw Britain's prestige and power at a zenith unattained before or since. Germany and Turkey had been eliminated from the scene; France and the United States were represented only by diplomatic missions; Bolshevik Russia was an unknown but not, as yet, seriously menacing quantity. The Gulf was a British lake; the South Persia Rifles, raised, trained and officered by Britons, held the southern provinces, Baghdad Command the centre and west, Commander Norris and his flotilla the Caspian. General Malleson's Mission and the East Persia Cordon Field Force stretched in a thin but unbroken khaki line from the south-eastern highlands of Persian Baluchistan northwards for a thousand miles to Merv in Russian Central Asia. At the capital a Government thoroughly trustworthy from the British point of view held what power there was under the last degenerate Shah of the Qajar line.

Britain alone was left, it seemed, mistress of the situation. In his brilliant character-study Curzon: the Last Phase, Sir Harold Nicolson tells the story of the abortive Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919 from the point of view of Curzon's imperialism which, he says, "was founded not so much on mystic determinism as upon a more precise, if less defensible, belief that God had specially selected the [British] upper classes as an instrument of the Divine Will". He pictures the Last of the Proconsuls, appointed in January 1919 to act as Foreign Secretary in Lord Balfour's absence at the Peace Conference and confirmed in that post in October, glorying in the opportunity which Heaven had granted him to realise a dream he had cherished for many years-"to create a chain of vassal states stretching from the Mediterranean to the Pamirs and protecting not the Indian frontiers merely, but our communications with our further Empire". Persia, which Curzon loved and romanticised, was the weakest link in that chain; now was the chance to strengthen it and make it safe by every means in his power. Thus would the coping-stone be set upon the edifice of his Eastern ambitions; he, Curzon, would go down to history as the man responsible for (as Lord Grey, disapproving, put it) "extending the frontiers of the Empire from the Himalayas to the Caucasus". The Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919 was the result.

The story of this Agreement has been told in several standard works, but a brief account of it and of the factors which combined to overthrow it will not, perhaps, be out of place in this narrative. For I myself had been brought up in the traditions of the British governing class to which my father, a Bengal Civilian, had belonged, and I was a junior member of that very Political service which Curzon as Viceroy had created to be, among other things, the instrument of his Frontier and trans-Frontier policies. Inspired by his writings and the talk of senior colleagues in my department, my attitude towards Persia during the First World War was thoroughly 'colonial' and 'paternalistic', to use current left-wing jargon. In 1916 I had entered the country from India without even a flying visit to Tehran to prepare me; it is surprising that I should have subconsciously regarded the south-east Persia of my destination as just another Baluchistan, denied by Fate the benefits of British rule? To me, these lands were intensely interesting as a new country to explore; they had not been properly mapped; books by European travellers were few and out of date.

As for the Persians, they too were subjects of study, fascinatingly different not only from my own countrymen but from the Hindus and Pathans and Baluchis among whom my paths had lain. I pitied but did not despise them; racially, like the Indians, they were our equals; it was not their fault but that of geography that they were inefficiently governed, politically backward and economically underdeveloped. If anybody had asked me in 1919 (nobody did) what I thought of Persia's future, I would probably have replied that given peace, law, order, British help and freedom from foreign (i.e. Russian) interference her material and spiritual standards would steadily rise, and Persians would learn within a generation, if not sooner, to govern themselves as well as any European state.

It may be held, therefore, that I and my colleagues who served in Persia during the First World War share with our Higher Command the responsibility for what happened after it, for we were the executives of Whitehall and Delhi, and Persians may have judged Britain's intentions towards their country by our attitude and our behaviour.

At any rate there is little doubt that Curzon erred from the outset in choosing a member of the Indian Political Service to forge for him the new and stronger Persian link in the chain of his imperial defences. Sir Percy Zachariah Cox, or 'Coccus' as his innumerable Arab friends used to call him, was one of the ablest and most respected officers who ever adorned the I.P.S., but for all that his appointment as Minister at Tehran in succession to Sir Charles Marling was a miscalculation on Curzon's part. Taciturn and completely realistic, Cox was not the man to negotiate with Persians. His make-up contained none of the vanity, the "egoistic angle on Persia" as Sir Harold Nicolson calls it, which marred Curzon's judgment towards the end, but it also lacked Curzon's "warm, protective, almost sentimental attachment" to Persia. Cox's love was Arabia, and it is a regrettable fact that affection for and understanding of the Arabs are seldom found in association with warm feelings for their Shi'a neighbours. But even if he had been more sympathetic than he was, his appointment would have been resented at Tehran for the very reason that he was an official of the Government of India.

Persians in my experience harboured a curious jealousy, a complex of mingled superiority and inferiority, towards the undivided 'colonial' India of my day; they were free men, Indians slaves; yet they had an uneasy suspicion, from personal contact or hearsay, that the Indians who came to their country on official or military duty were more efficient and more trustworthy than their Persian counterparts, and that India's schools, colleges, hospitals, army, civil service, communications and other appurtenances of a civilised State were far ahead of their own. We, the British in India, were responsible for this state of affairs, and it was taken for granted that we felt the same about it. Curzon himself placed on record a conversation on this subject with Prince Firuz Nusrat-ud-Daula, the Foreign Minister. The Prince urged that the British officers and officials sent to Persia under the Agreement should be men of the highest class, and he went on to represent strongly that none of them should be of the Indian services-not because he personally distrusted individuals with that experience, but there was a popular impression in his country that they did not treat Persians on equal terms. Yet the British Minister with whom the Prince and his colleagues had just negotiated the Treaty was one of those individuals! Could anything have been more pointed?

Nine long months Sir Percy Cox and his staff laboured with the cabinet of Vusiiq-ud-Daula and then, on gth August 1919, the Agreement was born. In a memorandum for his Cabinet colleagues Lord Curzon on that day defined as follows the object of the negotiations which had just ended so successfully:

... To come to some arrangement with the Persian Government by which British interests in that part of the world should be safeguarded in future from a recurrence of the recent shocks, and by which Persia, incurably feeble and unable to stand by herself, should be given support that would enable her to maintain her position among the independent nations of the world.

Under the terms of the Agreement Britain, after an assurance of respect for Persia's integrity, undertook to provide expert Advisers for her Treasury and any other departments of government that needed them; to second military officers for the reorganisation of her army (incorporating of course the South Persia Rifles) and to provide munitions and other material for its equipment; to help her revise her Customs tariff (in whose favour? Persians must have asked themselves); to assist her in the planning and construction of new railway and road projects (another dangerously vague promise, for everyone knew that Persia wanted a railway connecting Tehran with the Gulf and the Caspian, whereas we favoured one linking the Iraq system with the capital via Hamadan and Qasvin); and lastly, the jam after the quinine, a loan of £2million to be secured on customs and other revenue. In two letters addressed to the Persian Government simultaneously with the Agreement Britain promised (more jam) to 'reconsider' current treaties to which Persia objected-this was understood by both parties to mean that we would eventually, under proper safeguards, agree to the abolition of Consular courts, the so called, 'capitulations'; to help in the 'rectification' of Persia's frontiers [(a) the whole of Turkish Kurdistan, (b) a strip of Turkey and Russian Azerbaijan beyond the Aras River between Erivan and the Caspian coast south of Baku, (c) about 15,000 square miles of what is now Uzbekistan beyond the north-eastern border of Khorasan including Tejend, Merv and the valley of the Murghab River] at certain points where she had territorial claims; and to support her claims to war damages from belligerents other than the United Kingdom (those against us were set against the expenses incurred in maintaining the South Persia Rifles and keeping order in the southern provinces).

How came it that a Persian Government agreed with apparent willingness to concede to a foreign Power so exclusive and paramount a position in her internal economy in return for a paltry loan of two million sterling and a few vague promises? That Government consisted in effect of a triumvirate composed of the President of the Council, or Prime Minister as we should call him, Vusuq-ud-Daula; Prince Firuz Mirza Nusrat-ud-Daula, Foreign Minister; and a grandson of Nasir-ud-Din Shah, Prince Akbar Mirza, Sarem-ud-Daula. These men were, so to speak, professional Anglophiles; they were known to have the ear of the British Minister and profited personally from the knowledge; like Chinese war-lords they had funds salted away in foreign territory; and it is a fact that in separate letters given to all three of them concurrently with the signature of the Agreement they were promised asylum within the British Empire "should necessity arise". These were the statesmen with whom the Agreement of 1921was negotiated, the Persian Government of whom Lord Curzon wrote in a memorandum for the Cabinet on the subject.

. . . convinced that the future of Persia lay in friendly reliance on ourselves ... realising that we are the only neighbouring Great Power closely interested in the fate of Persia, able and willing to help her, and likely to be disinterested in that object . . . they decided of their own free will to assist Persia in the rehabilitation of their fortunes.

We must give the great Proconsul credit for being sincere in this belief, but it was in fact mere wishful thinking; while as for the loan of two million sterling, it did the British cause much more harm than good. The first instalment Of £131,000 was paid before the Agreement was denounced; inevitably, it became the foundation of a widely accepted belief that the British Government gave the money as a bribe to Vusuqu-ud-Daula. Reza Shah taxed me with this story among others on board the Burma. Curzon, an old hand if ever there was one, ought to have known better than to let this happen. For if there is one sure and certain way of undermining an Eastern politician's influence with his own people, it is by giving his enemies an opportunity to denounce him for receiving foreign gold. You can subsidise an absolute monarch or a dictator with some hope that he will be able as well as willing to deliver the goods, but where, as in Persia before Reza Shah, a whole gang of politicians scramble among themselves for power it is useless to bribe one or even several of them; you merely alienate the unbribed majority, each of whom watches

the other as a cat watches a mouse for any sign of foreign corruption. Nothing remains a secret long in such a world, and the disappearance of the £131,000 was no exception. The ill-fated Agreement soon became obnoxious to various influential public men, rivals of the Triumvirate, who were not personally interested in it, and their hostility, supported by international opinion, was decisive.

It is easy to be wise after the event, and it would be doing less than justice to the foresight of the British Government to blame them for yet another tactical mistake, namely their omission to insist on the Agreement being ratified by the Majlis, in accordance with the Persian Constitution, at the earliest possible moment. The Majlis had not met since 1915, and no one was in a hurry to convene it, least of all Vusuq-ud-Daula and his colleagues who would have had to resign their portfolios and seek reappointment. Elections were always rigged, and a majority of the deputies would assuredly be stooges of the Triumvirate; small wonder if neither Legation nor Foreign Office took the risk of rejection seriously. Perhaps no great harm was done after all, for it is doubtful whether, once the tide of Persian enthusiasm for the victorious cause had ebbed, any Majlis, however carefully packed, could have been induced to ratify the Agreement; but its non-ratification certainly afforded its Persian sponsors an excuse for dropping it and running away when the tide turned. However this may be, during the winter and spring of 1919-20 the British Government, taking ultimate ratification of the Agreement for granted, proceeded with the implementation of its terms. The first instalment of the Loan, as I have said, was paid over; a team of staff officers headed by General Dickson planned the reorganisation of the army; the customs tariff was revised by a joint commission-without, be it noted, any particular preference being given to British goods; a senior Treasury official, Mr. Armitage Smith, was appointed to reform Persia's financial system with the assistance of the Hon. J. M. Balfour. Meanwhile, the most dangerous enemy Britain has ever faced was at work, undermining her prestige, poisoning Persian minds against her, putting the worst interpretation on everything she did, sabotaging her efforts to rebuild Persia on Western lines. That enemy was Russian Communism.

Those of us who, like myself, knew something about Persia in those days but very little of what was going on elsewhere behind the scenes, may perhaps be excused for underestimating the danger from this quarter. Who, in the spring of 1920, would have believed that within a year the Muscovite lion and the Persian lamb, having jointly chased the British shepherd off the field, would be lying down together in apparent amity?

Who, two years and a half after the October Revolution, could have foreseen that a Cold War of ideas had been declared against the West which would still be raging forty years later? But it is hard to find excuses for the conflicting policies of the Coalition Government. In it the Foreign Secretary was trying to carry out a strong policy of 'intervention' in Persia as part of a general scheme of 'containing' Communist Russia. But intervention postulated power, and power consisted not merely of the prestige won by past achievements, nor of thin khaki lines in Central Asia and flotillas on the Caspian, but of the troops and guns of the Army of Mesopotamia occupying strategic points in Central and Western Persia. Yet in April 1920 the Cabinet, under pressure from the War Office, decided to withdraw nearly all Baghdad Command's forces from Persia, leaving only General Dunsterville with 5oo men to hold Azerbaijan. Not for the first nor for the last time in Britain's history Mr. Winston Churchill saw the danger and did his best to avert it. In a letter dated 20th May I920 he wrote to Lord Curzon:

There is something to be said for making peace with the Bolsheviks. There is also something to be said for making war upon them. There is nothing to be said for a policy of doing all we can to help to strengthen them, to add to their influence and prestige, to weaken those who are fighting against them, and at the same time leaving weak British forces tethered in dangerous places where they can easily and suddenly be overwhelmed. I do not see how anything we can do within the present limits of our policy can possibly avert the complete loss of British influence throughout the Caucasus, Transcaspia, and Persia . . . I should have been only too ready to have helped you with a different policy which, properly supported, would now have ended this criminal regime in Russia. But in view of the decisions which were taken six and eight months ago, and in view of the uninstructed state of public opinion, I think that it is impossible ... I must absolutely decline to continue to share responsibility for a policy of mere bluff.

The steps by which the Bolsheviks succeeded, with Britain's help, in substituting Britain for Russia as Public Enemy Number One in Persian eyes are worth recapitulating. Within three weeks of the signing of the Anglo-Persian Agreement the Soviet Government broadcast an announcement that they regarded as null and void all existing Tsarist treaties, concessions, etc. "which placed the Persian people in an unfavourable position, or which signified an intervention in the internal affairs of Persia". Public meetings were held under Soviet auspices at towns near the Persian frontier, such as Ashkhabad on the Transcaspian Railway, at which Muslim speakers from Tashkent denounced the British as "leeches and parasites", and called upon Persia to join Afghanistan and the Caucasian Republics in a holy war to deliver Islam from slavery. Within a month, translations of inspired articles in the Bolshevist Press were being passed from hand to hand in the bazaars and wayside tea-shops of Persia announcing that the Soviet Government wished all nations, weak or strong, independent or colonial, to befree. For this purpose they regarded all secret treaties and agreements between Russia and other powers which violated the rights of Persia (such as the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 and the Constantinople Agreement of May 1915) as null and void. Everything Tsarist Russia had taken from Persia would be returned to her; all Persian 'guarantees' to Russia would be cancelled; extra-territorial rights (including the Consular Courts) would be abolished. To secure all these blessings Persia had only to sign a new Treaty on the dotted line.

The effect of all this upon Persian opinion and the fortunes of the Anglo-Persian Agreement can be imagined. But the Bolshevist leaders left nothing to chance. When, in the early summer Of 1920, it was seen that Britain was persisting in her plans, they struck. Conveniently forgetting their own diatribes against foreign intervention, they landed a strong force at Enzeli, Persia's port on the Caspian, seized the White Russian ships of General Denikin which had been interned there, and began the military occupation and political infiltration of Gilan province. Skirmishing with loyal Persian detachments of the Cossack Brigade followed, but these had to fall back on Norperforce (as General Dunsterville's tiny army was now styled), which, far too weak to risk engagement with the Russians, withdrew to Qazvin. Meanwhile a promising separatist movement was in progress in the vitally important province of Azerbaijan to the west. An eloquent Tabrizi ex-mujtahid, Shaikh Muhammad Khiab-an, who had learnt revolutionary techniques in the Caucasus and was now the leader of a 'National Democratic Party', swept the province and proclaimed an independent State of Azadistan (Country of the Free).

To the National Democrats Britain was the enemy and they revolted against the Vusuq-ud-Daula triumvirate partly in protest against the Anglo-Persian Agreement. The Russians in Gilan, using the tactics with which we have since become so familiar, tried to 'capture' this indigenous movement; advancing on Zenjan, they established contact with Khiaban. But the latter had insufficient popular support; the very approach of the Russians stimulated resistance to the separatist movement. The Triumvirate fell and were replaced by a Nationalist government led by Mushir-al-Daula, who sent a strong Governor-General to Azerbaijan with an adequate escort to restore the situation. With the support of Norperforce the Cossack Brigade put the rebels to flight and Khiaban was duly caught and executed. But Gilan was a different proposition. The Central Government were powerless to recover control with not even the remnant of a British force to help them, and they appealed to the newly formed League of Nations. The case was discussed in Council on 15th and 16th June 1920, but no active intervention was possible; the parties were then directed to negotiate direct and report the result to the League. This was exactly what the Bolshevists had been scheming for. From the position of strength which they had taken up for the purpose they offered, firstly, to withdraw all their troops, secondly to cancel all Persian debts to Russia, thirdly to hand over all concessions and public works, roads, railways and harbours, provided Persia undertook to negotiate with them a treaty on the lines already announced.

The writing was on the wall for Curzon's Persian ambitions. One of Mushir-ud-Daula's first acts was to refuse to submit the Anglo-Persian Treaty to the Majlis for ratification. Then came the despatch of a diplomatic mission to Moscow to negotiate the treaty the Russians wanted. By November it was ready for signature and Moscow announced that an envoy, Theodore Rothstein, had been appointed to Iran. But Persia, torn between fear of Russia and dislike of Britain, yet all the while secretly hoping against hope that Britain had not really deserted her, vacillated and played for time; Mushir-ud-Daula fell and was replaced by Sipahdar; Rothstein was refused a visa and it was announced that no treaty could be signed while Russian troops remained on Persian soil. But the counterweight of British power had been whittled away and Persia was alone. For another two months Tehran waited, fearful of what the Russians would do, and then the deadlock was broken dramatically. On 21st February 192I three thousand Persian Cossacks led by a ranker officer of whom no one had heard and accompanied by a well-known newspaper editor, marched into Tehran and, without firing a shot, overthrew the Government.

The officer was Major Reza Khan, forty-three, son of a Mazanderani officer of the Savad Kuh regiment called Abbas Ali Khan. Reza joined the Cossack Brigade in 1900 and by sheer strength of character and military genius rose from the ranks, making full use of the training given him by the Tsarist Russian officers of the brigade. When that force (for which H.M.'s Government had for years been paying) was 'purged' of its Russian officers in 1920 and reorganised, Reza by common consent was chosen to command it with headquarters at Qazvin. The planner and political leader of the coup d'etat was Syed Zia-ud-din Tabatabai, editor of one of Tehran's two daily newspapers, Ra'ad; in retrospect he was accused by the Communists of being a British stooge from the first, but in fact he was a patriot who only favoured friendship with Britain when, and so long as, it was beneficial to his country. Now, evidently, Britain was not only intensely unpopular owing to the Agreement but also war-weary and in no mood to stand up to Russia on Persia's behalf; and no sooner had a subservient Majlis made Syed Zia Prime Minister and Reza Khan Minister of War than the new Government concluded and ratified the Russo-Persian Treaty. Shortly afterwards they denounced the British agreement on the grounds that it had never been ratified. In April the new Soviet envoy, Rothstein, arrived and at once began a new propaganda campaign against Russia's British rivals.

Syed Zia had no alternative to these decisions; he was no lover of revolutionary Russia although, or perhaps because, he had recently been an exile in the Caucasus. Unfortunately he overplayed his hand, making too many enemies and failing to keep the friendship of the one man who was indispensable to him, Reza Khan. To the men who really pulled the strings he was a tool that had served its purpose, and they cast him aside. In May he fell and was replaced by a statesman who has twice moulded Persia's destiny, QavSm-ul-Saltana.

Under the Qavam and the formidable War Minister who stood behind him all parties combined to oust British privilege and influence. The contracts of the Financial Advisers and other experts were terminated; the staff officers helping with the reorganisation of the Army and the British personnel of the South Persia Rifles were asked to go, and the force itself was disbanded The removal of the last forty miles of India's Nushki-Duzdap railway which lay on Persian soil was demanded. A violent campaign inspired by the Soviet envoy was launched against the British oil concession in the south-west, already producing and refining on a great scale: other targets were the Imperial Bank of Persia and the Persian section of the Indo-European Telegraph Department, British controlled institutions which for decades had been of incalculable value to Persia, not only commercially but as models of good organisation and fair dealing. British prestige, it seemed, had fallen from its post-Armistice zenith to a nadir from which recovery was scarcely possible in the foreseeable future

But Persia is a land in which things are seldom what they seem to a Western observer. She was not, after all, so "incurably feeble and unable to stand by herself" as Curzon thought. She only needed a leader to help her people set their house in order-not very democratic order, certainly, but a great deal better than hopeless disorder. Thanks to one outstanding personality, Reza Shah, the regeneration which Curzon so sincerely desired took place without his active help; the power-vacuum between the British and Russian spheres which had seemed so dangerous was filled not by Britain but by Persia herself, and-such is the irony of fateBritain got at least some of the credit. For decades the Persian public had been wont to imagine the hidden hand of Britain working in their midst against the arch-enemy, Russia. Everyone knew that the Cossack Brigade had opposed the Bolshevik invasion of Gilan and had fallen back upon Norperforce; Reza Khan, an officer of the Brigade, had been seen hobnobbing with British colonels at Tabriz and Kazvin. The British had done nothing to prevent his rise to absolute power and his pacification of the tribes, even in those 'British preserves' the provinces of Fars and Kerman. Evidently we had been behind him all along, and would eventually, somehow, benefit by his achievements.

The 'palace revolution' of February 1921, and the risorgimento which followed it, were not, of course, the result of far-seeing, deep-laid plotting in Whitehall or at Delhi. They were the work of Persians and Persians alone, of the man of destiny thrown up by Persia in her hour of need and the men whom he chose to help him. Once more the statesmanship and diplomatic guile of Persia's Ruling Few ensured her survival as a sovereign nation. By adroit use of the League of Nations and appeals to world opinion, by playing Russia off against Britain when Britain was strong and Britain against Russia when Russia encroached, they evaded Curzon's attempt to place them under tutelage and at the same time parried the threat of Russian-sponsored separatism in the northern provinces. For the danger continued even five months after the conclusion of the Russian treaty; in July more Soviet troops were landed at Enzeli in support of a renewed offensive by the Gilan leader Kuchik Khan, and for a time Tehran itself was threatened by the rebels. But Reza Khan's determined opposition and the Qavam's protests to the League secured the evacuation of the Red forces by September, and then the liquidation of the Gilan Republic and the capture and execution of Kuchik Khan by Reza Khan's Cossack Division were only a matter of time.

If ever there has been a case of history repeating itself, it is in the matter of Russian attempts to establish subservient 'satellite' regimes in Persia's northern provinces. That of 1920-1 in Gilan was clumsy and amateur, for the Soviet State was very young; that Of 1945-6 in Azerbaijan, which is described in Chapters 21 and 22 below, was much more determined and thorough, but it was defeated in much the same way, and by one of the same men, too-Ahmad Qavam, Qavam-us-Saltana.

As for the collapse of British prestige, though distressing at the time, it was not a national disaster. As the years passed it became clear that Britain's long-term interests, strategic and commercial, had not been seriously undermined by the 1921 debacle, especially in the cast and south where the realities of British-Indian power on land and sea made themselves felt. This was proved in I939-41 when no difficulty was experienced in stepping-up Anglo-lranian oil production, recovering the naval facilities needed in the Gulf, and pushing back the Nushki Extension Railway terminus to Zahedan. As for the ill-fated Treaty, its repudiation was probably a blessing in disguise. For the regime it envisaged would almost certainly have broken down sooner or later, and more permanent harm might have been done to Anglo-Persian relations by its demise in childhood than in fact resulted from its stillbirth.

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