Puppet Government under British Pressure

  October 25, 2021   Read time 3 min
Puppet Government under British Pressure
In a well-reasoned memorandum Montague, the Secretary of State for India and Curzon’s chief adversary in the Cabinet, also voiced his recommendations. He argued that the Anglo-Persian Agreement would never be accepted as it presently stood.

Iran, within the near future, would not be able to raise an army fit to oppose an external enemy. Any involvement on Britian’s part whether military or financial would eventually impede the growth of a nationalist spirit which was, in the long run, Britain’s real defence against Bolshevism. Montague suggested the following: Britain should forestall rejection of the Agreement by scaling it down to a point acceptable to Iran. [Iran] merely expects a sufficient flow of revenue to cany out her miserable administration... The Shuster experiment showed that expert foreign control of finance would not only be welcome but bring in large increase of revenue.

Montague stopped short of recommending a British team of financial advisers and suggested the retention of only one or two experts. The Cossack Division and the SPR should be handed over to Iran: ... to be officered by her as she likes. If she chooses to bring in a foreign element one should not object, although we shall endeavour to guide her choice into unobjectionable channels. Persia should look after her own external defence. Our disappearance will rob Bolshevism of her one valid excuse and possibly even remove temptation for open aggression... These are not the most attractive proposals but they are designed to square with the facts.

Other expert advice was sought later and by the beginning of 1921 detailed plans for the evacuation of Tehran were seriously considered. Ahmad Shah, more agitated than the seasoned politicians, began to press once more for permission to go to Europe. He began to complain to Norman that ‘the state of his nerves were getting worse’ and described the symptoms of his imaginary malady at great length to whomever had an audience with him. Norman sympathised with the Shah but vigorously argued against his departure .comparing it to a soldier deserting his post, and reproached him for wanting to ‘enjoy himself on the money he has been able to remit abroad’.

The Shah appealed to Norman for a trip of no more than two months for the sole purpose of consulting a neurologist in Paris. Norman concluded the discussion by saying that he had to have the approval of Curzon before the Shah could be allowed to leave. In his report to Curzon. Norman lamented: If the Shah had shown more interest in affairs of state and less in increasing his private fortune and remitting it abroad he might have become popular, but as it is his indifference to everything save his own interest has disgusted all classes of his subjects, and if he left the country it is unlikely that he would ever be able to return... A change of the Shah in itself would doubtless not be an unmixed evil if it were easy to find a satisfactory substitute for His Majesty, but in the present circumstances his deposiUon will impart new elements of instability into a situation which already contains more than enough of them, and might well hasten a revolution, which I believe in any case to be inevitable if British protection to Persia is not continued in some form.

Curzon advised Norman to begin planning for the evacuation to Baghdad of women, children and other members of the British Colony whose presence was not essential by no later than the beginning of spring. [Members of the Legation] should remain in Tehran as long as possible... if and when you consider the capital to be untenable you should withdraw to Ispahan. Much will depend on whether the Shah and the Persian Government decide to leave Tehran and set up a Government in another city, or whether they feel themselves strong enough to remain in the North.

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