Majlis “Elections” and the Implementation of the Anglo-Persian Convention

  August 25, 2021   Read time 4 min
Majlis “Elections” and the Implementation of the Anglo-Persian Convention
Under the Persian constitution, the Anglo-Persian Convention was valid only if it was ratified by the Majlis. Shortly after it was signed, in late 1919 elections were held in certain regions for the purpose of convening the Fourth Majlis and submitting the agreement for its consideration.

Caldwell describes the government’s attempts to ensure that the “right” candidates would be elected, a prelude to the farcical elections that would be held during the next sixty years under the Pahlavis: It is quite generally understood that neither the present cabinet, who were and are as previously reported, dictated, held and placed in office by the British Legation and who have maintained their incumbency by reason of the support given by that Legation and the presence of a large number of British troops in and about Persia, nor the British Government and Legation expect or desire to await the convening of the Persian Medjliss to ratify this agreement, even though the Constitution provides that such ratification is necessary before the agreement becomes effective or of force and validity. This in spite of the fact that the present cabinet absolutely controls the appointment of Governors throughout the different provinces and that these Governors will, and in some instances have, practically chosen the members of the Medjliss from their respective provinces.

By early 1920, it was becoming clear, despite the election of many “suitable” candidates, that given the popular antagonism to the agreement, there was no possibility of its approval by the Majlis. Consequently, the government decided not to convene the Majlis. Almost immediately after the signature of the Anglo-Persian Convention, and despite lack of Majlis ratification, its main provisions had been implemented, including the appointment of British advisers.

It is understood that the British advisers provided for in the agreement are en route here, expecting to begin work at once, though it will be months before a Persian Medjliss can be convened. Many British officers in the Indian Service are reported to be looking forward and aspiring to a better career in the Persian service and while numerous assurances and repetitions in the form of published “communiqués,” “covering letters,” etc., are given the public assuring that Persia’s independence and integrity are to be respected, numerous wellknown Persians of strong pro-British tendencies and reputation, certain news papers, officials and such are openly saying that “Persia is now a British dependency; we are under a British protectorate and may as well acquiesce; the best we could do was to come under this British mandate,” etc. Nevertheless there is nothing in the treaty itself that necessarily implies a limitation of Persia’s sovereignty; but throughout Persia the thoughtful inhabitants are inclined to regard the res gestae. These Persians point out that the really good part of the convention is not the treaty itself, but is conveyed in a “covering letter” from the British Minister. The same convention, if made with America, would probably have excited no opposition from the Persians, who desire to place such power as is therein given in the hands of a non-neighboring power who has no political interests here and who has, to quote numerous Persians: “a good reputation in dealing with small and weak nations.”

The Anglo-Persian Convention provided for the appointment of a British Military Mission to Persia: A number of British military investigators have arrived in Teheran. They are headed by Major General [W. E. R.] Dickson, and most of them are connected with the Indian army. According to the Anglo-Persian agreement the present Persian forces are to be made into a uniform force. It will no doubt be of great value to have Persia’s forces unified and enlarged, which heretofore has been prohibited by her neighbors, but which it is believed Great Britain now considers as necessary, and it is to be hoped that she may be allowed to have a sufficiently large force to keep her interior in a state of peace, as well as to properly safeguard and protect her territory. In order to do this she will also need to have her finances properly organized, so that she may have the wherewithal to maintain such a force. If Persia is allowed to have a proper taxation and financial administration, which it not only desires but has often tried to secure, it is believed that she will not only be able to pay all her current expenses, but she will soon also be able to pay off her debts, which in reality are not large.

In his description of the rapid de facto implementation of the agreement and tariff revision Caldwell reported the appointment of newly arrived British Financial Adviser S. A. Armitage-Smith: The recently promulgated but unratified Anglo-Persian treaty is being and has been practically put into full force and effect. The tariff has been revised by the British Commission of experts and their revision has the force of law. The Tariff Revision Commission has departed and has been replaced by a financial expert, Mr. A. Armitage-Smith as “Financial Adviser,” although in effect he has the same powers or even more than Mr. Shuster had while in Persia. He has brought out a number of assistants from England, and his, as well as the Military Commission and other Departments of the Persian Government, is constantly being augmented by the arrival of newly arrived Englishmen.