Colonialist Ambitions and Regional Conflicts: British Devil and Iran's Dwindling Territory

  September 12, 2021   Read time 2 min
Colonialist Ambitions and Regional Conflicts: British Devil and Iran's Dwindling Territory
Consistent British efforts resulted in the creation of a boundary commission, composed of Iranian, Turkish, British, and Russian commissioners - Russia participated at the invitation of Great Britain.

The commission’s work between 1843 and 1847 produced a new agreement between Iran and Turkey ( 1847), which confirmed some of the provisions of the previous treaties but also contained a few new boundaries. Iran undertook to relinquish the extensive province of Zohab, i. e., its western territory. In return, Turkey recognized the sovereignty of Iran over the town and port of Mohammarah, the island of A1 Khizr, and the lands on the left side (the eastern bank) of the Shatt al-Arab, which were admittedly in the possession of Iranian tribes.

The boundary having been defined in general terms, another commission, composed like the first one, covered the frontier zone (1848-52). Its surveys were discontinued during the Crimean W ar but were resumed in 1857. The British and Russian surveyors labored for eight years in St. Petersburg and in 1865 produced two separate maps “in the eight first sheets of which were four thousand discrepancies.” The task was continued until 1869, when the Carie identique was completed. During the same year Iran and Turkey agreed to preserve the status quo and respect the disputed lands until the boundary lines were settled as the result of the efforts of the four-power commission.

Despite the conclusion of this agreement no conclusive settlement was reached. The anomalous composition of the commission was in part responsible for this failure. Apart from the opposing purposes of the great rival powers, the intransigency of Iran and Turkey did not help the situation. At one point, in 1851, Palmerston was tempted to take the matter completely out of the hands of the disputants. Great Britain was “confirmed in the opinion,” he stated, “that the boundary between Turkey and Persia can never be finally settled except by an arbitrary decision on the part of Great Britain and Russia.”

In one instance it appeared for a time that a “settlement” was reached. Differences over Khoi and Kotur flared up after the 1847 agreement. Iran charged that contrary to the spirit of the agreement Turkish troops had occupied both areas. The bitter controversy was aggravated by the divergent positions of Russia and Great Britain on the matter. The former stood by Iran and the latter favored Turkey. The controversy dragged on for years ; finally a basis for settlement was arrived at in 1878. Article 60 of the Treaty of Berlin provided that Turkey would “cede to Persia the town and territory of Khotour, as fixed by the mixed Anglo-Russian Commission.” Apparently the Turks first refused to comply with this provision, but they later yielded Kotur to Iran. However, the Kotur as well as other boundary disputes between Iran and Turkey remained largely unsettled until the twentieth century.