This remarkable ultimatum demanded (1) the dismissal of Shuster; (2) an undertaking by the Iranian government not to engage foreign subjects in the service of Iran without first obtaining the consent of the Russian and British Legations, and (3) the payment of an indemnity to defray the expenses of the troops then on their way to Iran. In this crisis, as in the previous ones, Great Britain went along with the Russians. The British argument was the same as before.
In defense of his Iranian policy the Foreign Secretary invoked the 1907 convention and stated in part: The independence of Persia must take account of the interests of her neighbours, and her hostility to Russia is unjustified by facts. If the Russian officers in Tehran had intervened on behalf of the ex-Shah, he would never have been turned out.
But the Persian Government, having got rid of the Shah, determined to get rid of Russian influence in Persia. That was a perfectly hopeless policy. The drama in Tehran was, however, witnessed with indignation “by the British friends of Persian reform/’ “It had been the policy of Russia,” cried a member of the House of Commons, “to make the government of Persia impossible, so as to have an excuse to come in ; and Great Britain had condoned every step she had taken.”
In the crisis that now confronted the Iranian government the administration split into two factions. The Cabinet under Samsam al-Saltanah took the view that the Russian ultimatum should be accepted, while the Majlis opposed it vehemently. In the face of Russia’s menacing position disunity could spell nothing but disaster. On December 1, 1911, the Cabinet proposed to the Majlis a resolution authorizing it to accept Russia’s demands within forty-eight hours. The vote had to be taken before the time expired and there was little opportunity for long speeches. “It may be the will of Allah,” one of the deputies stated briefly but firmly, “that our liberty and our sovereignty shall be taken away from us by force, but let us not sign them away with our own hands.’’ Other deputies followed with similarly brief appeals, and then the vote was taken.
And when the roll call was ended, every man, priest or layman, youth or octogenarian, had cast his own die of fate, had staked the safety of himself and family, and hurled back into the teeth of the great Bear from the North the unanimous answer of a desperate and downtrodden people who preferred a future of unknown terror to the voluntary sacrifice of their national dignity and of their recently earned right to work out their own salvation.