Occupiers Preoccupied by the Arrival of the New Occupiers

  November 28, 2021   Read time 2 min
Occupiers Preoccupied by the Arrival of the New Occupiers
Another compelling voice against evacuation and change of capital came from the Viceroy of India, Lord Chelmsford, who wrote to Montague on 22 January, The pivot of the situation and the immediate danger is any hasty action to abandon Tehran before withdrawal of British troops’.

The Iranian Government, the British Legation and the Imperial Bank should remain in Tehran. The Iranian Government should gamble on the sincerity of Bolshevik assurances that they will not invade Iran in the event of British troop withdrawals. ‘Any action to abandon Tehran is tantam ount to suicide’. As an intermediate step Chelmsford advocated the withdrawal of the Anglo-Persian Agreement unilaterally “with good grace’.

Norman also had been opposed to abandonment of Tehran all along. His position was strengthened by the Viceroy’s comments and now by extraordinary demands being made by the Bakhtiari Khans. The Bakhtiaris had asked for transfer of sovereignty of large parts of Iran to themselves with, a Qajar Prince as a puppet Shah. They demanded that henceforth all oil royalties be paid to them directly. In return for British agreement they would undertake to protect Esfahan and the south together with the forces of Qavam al Molk* who they insisted should receive a separate British financial subsidy. Faced with these demands Norman questioned whether it was worthwhile to have any alliance with the Bakhtiaris.

Their request: ... entails condemning a great part if not the whole of Persia to most rapacious rule which It would ever have experienced. Already Bakhtiari governors wherever they exist, are hated for their oppression and If country Is delivered into their hands... It is to be feared that their exactions will everywhere Incline the people to welcome Bolsheviks In which case... we shall again be confronted In the South with problem which will have baffled us In the North.

Norman also argued that Bakhtiari rule would mean the end of all attem pts at any type of reform in Persia. He made the further point that the Bakhtiaris were disunited. The younger Khans would not take orders from their seniors and only would be anxious to get a share of the spoils. To round out the circle, the opinion of Sir Percy Cox, an old colonial hand, at that time a king-maker in Mesopotamia and formerly the chief executor of Curzon’s policy in Iran, was also sought. Cox strongly supported dose co-operation with the Bakhtiari Khans and suggested that if the Bolsheviks occupied Tehran and the Khans felt more comfortable with a new Shah, the British Government should seriously entertain their proposal. In such a case the British Government should encourage the Sheikh of Mohammereh (Sheikh Khaz’al) and Wall of Posht-e-Kouh to declare their respective territories, Arabistan (Khuzestan) and Lurestan, independent states. These two new states, together with the area under Bakhtiari control should form a confederation which would offer a very formidable bulwark against Bolshevik aggression*.38 Cox's proposals were similar to the threatening scenario which had been put forward by some British officials to justify their effort to obtain a mandate from the Paris Peace Conference to rule Iran as a protectorate. They also cast doubt upon declarations by Curzon and Cox that the 1919 Agreement was designed to maintain and protect the independence and territorial integrity of Iran.