British Hoax and Devilish Politics in Early Pahlavid Persia

  November 28, 2021   Read time 3 min
British Hoax and Devilish Politics in Early Pahlavid Persia
Norman wrote to Curzon on 23 January that Firouz had telegraphed on 13 Janauary with the request to 'prevent the situation [in Tehran] from developing until he can talk it over with me’, that is to keep Sepahdar in office a while longer. Norman had replied that events were moving too rapidly and doubted his ability to control them.
Norman urged Firouz to hasten his arrival and wrote to Curzon that Firouz had twice before postponed his departure but now promised to start on 24 January. 'It shows how impossible it is to make even the most political Persian realise the value of time.’ Norman had later seen Salar Lashkar, Firouz’s younger brother, who had elaborated on Firouz’s future plans. Firouz did not intend to enter the Cabinet of Sepahdar. He preferred that Sepahdar stay in office for some two or three months longer ‘until he himself [Firouz] has overcome the dislike long felt for him by the public’ because of his rapid rise in politics. 'He intends to establish his personal ascendancy in Parliament which he is confident of his ability to do’. He would then try for the premiership.
On 15 January the Shah informed Norman that he intended to seek a replacement for Sepahdar and Norman had replied that the Shah was free to do what he wished. The Shah further informed Norman that he intended to ask Mostofi to form a cabinet which would include Farmanfarma and Ain al Dowleh.51 Mostofi, before accepting the post, sent a message to Norman that if he undertook to form a government he would be unable to subm it the Agreement to parliament. The Shah, informed of Mostofi’s condition, withdrew the offer and asked Norman to whom he should turn.
Norman replied that since Britain was ‘no longer in a position to afford material help to keep any Prime Minister in office he would be unwilling to accept the responsibility of recommending anyone’. Faced with Norman’s feigned or real indifference the Shah finally decided to ask Sepahdar to remain in office and to form a new Government ‘with a strengthened Cabinet’. To Justify his indifference Norman informed Curzon that anyone he might recommend would be regarded as the nominee of the Legation and if he were to fail or be removed Britain’s prestige would suffer.
Norman’s actions during this period are puzzling. The same activist Norman, who only two weeks earlier had sought a change of prime m inister now appeared to resign himself to the continued donothing Government of Sepahdar. He could have persuaded Curzon to accept Mostofi as Prime Minister, a candidate Norman had thought of from the first day he arrived in Tehran. Faced with the events of the previous three months Norman had nothing to lose.53 It is difficult to accept at face value Norman’s explanation that with the impending departure of British troops he had lost his clout A more persuasive reason would be that Norman was privy to and working with Gen. Ironside on other plans which would reveal themselves shortly.
Curzon apparently alarmed by Norman's new hands-off policy, wrote that although the Legation was now in a difficult position the Persian Government should not think ‘Britain is indifferent to their future’. Norman was instructed to convey the message to the Shah and Sepahdar. Norman accordingly called on Sepahdar on 24 January and reassured him that Britain was still 'vitally interested in Persia, her Government and Prime Minister’. Norman then pressed Sepahdar to call parliament into session and ascertain what changes in the Agreement were necessary to have it accepted.
He further suggested that Sepahdar act swiftly to ’arrest and deport trouble-makers who are standing in the way of approval...’ Sepahdar recounted the difficulties he had faced in forming a new Government and stated that he was roundly criticised for allowing British officers to take over command of the Cossacks, even on an unofficial basis. He suggested that his path would be easier if he could substitute Belgian for British officers. Curzon responded that the engagement of Belgian officers should not be encourged and it was useless at this late hour to talk of delaying the departure of British troops. He also deprecated any attem pt to modify the term s of the Agreement.