Chaotic Conditions of the Land upon the Arrival of the Father of Modern Iran

  June 11, 2022   Read time 2 min
Chaotic Conditions of the Land upon the Arrival of the Father of Modern Iran
In December 1920, the political impasse reached a point of crisis. After the resignation of Moshir al-Dowleh (1872–1935), a respected statesman with a far-reaching program of reform who headed a short-lived coalition, no one among the Tehran statesmen seemed to be capable of forming a government or even volunteering to undertake such a task.
Fath ‘Ali Khan Sepahdar Rashti (1878–1947), a large landowner from Gilan with no political talent to speak of, also gave up, after twice tinkering with creating a cabinet. The fourth Majles, which was elected in the long shadow of the 1919 agreement, was incapable of even convening its inaugural session, lest it face the prospect of ratifying the hated agreement. The Bolshevik-Jangali threat loomed large in Gilan and in the provinces of Azarbaijan and Khorasan new revolts were in gestation. The south was almost in the hands of the Qashqa’is, and most of the other tribal powers of greater Fars, Isfahan, and Luristan were restive.
The “constitutional monarch,” Ahmad Shah, was a timid procrastinator who regarded his constitutionality as one of cynical nonaction. He was genuinely frightened by the prospect of British military withdrawal from Iran and baffled by the consequences of such an event for the survival of his throne. Major figures of the constitutional era, on the other hand, were invariably disillusioned and divided. Some lost credibility or went into exile; others were retired from politics or killed in action. The most distinguished among the exiles, Hasan Taqizadeh, the ranking member of the first Majles, had resided in Berlin since 1915. He was invited there by the German government to organize a resistance circle of Iranian nationalists, intellectuals, and activists to be dispatched back to Iran as agent provocateurs. Taking advantage of the occasion, together with a group of talented writers and intellectuals, he founded the influential periodical Kaveh. By 1920, the Berlin circle was nearly at its end, but Taqizadeh was still uncertain of a political prospect in Tehran. Closely identified with the vanquished party in the war, he lingered there.
It was in such a climate that the British envoy Norman endorsed Sayyed Zia’s plan to stage a coup and subsequently form a national government. He did so perhaps without the Foreign Office’s prior knowledge and full support. By the last months of 1920, more than two years after World War I ended, the British forces stationed in northern Iran were ready to leave. With Mandatory commitments in Iraq and Palestine straining British finances, the budget for the upkeep of British forces faced serious opposition in the House of Commons. These considerations made any plan for a successful coup dependent on a viable military partner that could stand as a substitute for the departing British forces. The search for such an alternative had preoccupied for some time the British command in Qazvin, the headquarters of the Norperforce. Major General Edmund Ironside (1880–1959), the commander of the Norperforce, his second-incommand Lieutenant Colonel Henry Smyth, and a few other middleranking officers were saddled with the task of reorganizing the Cossack Brigade, which they ultimately hoped to incorporate into a uniform Iranian army—an objective of the 1919 agreement.

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