The Fall of the Vossough-ed-Dowleh Cabinet, June 1920

  September 26, 2021   Read time 9 min
The Fall of the Vossough-ed-Dowleh Cabinet, June 1920
By early 1920, it was clear that despite all the coercion and intimidation by the British and the Vossough government, even with the “election” of the right persons, there was no possibility of the agreement being ratified by the Majlis or accepted by the population.

It was clear that the civilian dictatorship of Vossough had failed. This left in limbo the many British advisers who had arrived in Persia. Meanwhile, according to Caldwell, the British were becoming “disgusted and angry” at the resistance to the advisers: However, it may be well to point out that the Persian Government is already saddled with a large number of British advisers and employees who have contracts for at least three years, and these men will probably be kept here for the time being, although it is doubtful if they will be allowed to accomplish much until the matter of the treaty is definitely settled, even though as one of these men, who was being retired from the regular British Government service and was assuming an important position under the Persian Government, expressed to me: “I am glad to be able to take up this work because I feel it is a good opportunity of serving my King”. . . . The various British commissions have assembled in Teheran and their reports and recommendations have been made to the Persian Government, but owing to the opposition of the public it has not been possible for even Vassough-ed-Dowleh [Vossough] to proceed with the work of reorganization in accordance with these recommendations as desired. The work has, in every possible manner, been delayed and hindered, and the British are becoming impatient and disgusted. Of course the British have gone full-steam ahead under the terms of the Anglo-Persian Convention of August 9, 1919, apparently regarding it as in full force, whilst they were continually making public statements to the effect that of course the treaty could not be regarded as in effect until it was ratified by the Persian Medjliss. The Persian populace have, of course, refused to recognize its validity since it has not passed through even the sham Medjliss that the treaty’s adherents were said to be about to convene.

Shortly after the signature of the Anglo-Persian Convention, Ahmad Shah wisely departed on an extended European trip. He did not wish to be associated in any way with Vossough-ed-Dowleh and the agreement. Caldwell describes the gradual disintegration of the Vossough government:

His Imperial Majesty, the Shah, is continuing his visit to Europe, having been officially received by the King of Italy. He is expected to return to Persia in May or June. For some time past it has been rumored that the Minister of Finance has not been on the best of terms with the Prime Minister and that the former was intriguing against the latter, but it is understood that since the Minister of Finance is very pro-British, the British Minister until recently insisted that he remain in the Cabinet. However, a short time ago the Prime Minister threatened to resign if Prince Sarem-ed-Dowleh, the Minister of Finance, did not do so, and finally the latter handed in his resignation. This was no doubt also brought about by the fact that the Minister of Finance found it burdensome to have to work under British advisers, especially since it is well known that some of them have been greatly opposed to him, and at the same time the Persian populace was bringing as much pressure as possible to bear on him not to accept the British proposals. He was replaced by the former Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Etela-ol-Molk, and the Chief of the Division of Neighboring Countries in the Foreign Office, Mansourol-Molk, has been appointed Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. When the Minister of Finance resigned, the Minister of War, Sipahdar Aazam, also left the Cabinet. This man has, like the former Finance Minister, long cherished the ambition of being Prime Minister. However, it is believed that his resignation was due entirely to the undercurrent of public pressure opposed to the [British] Military Commission, and the difficulty of working with these foreign advisers. This resignation took place when the preliminary work of the Military Commission was finished, and at the same time the next most prominent Persian member of this Commission, Colonel Fazlollah Khan, committed suicide, leaving a note advising all patriotic Persians to follow his example. A new Minister of War was appointed, but never attended even one meeting of the Cabinet, and a couple of weeks later he also resigned, since when Prince Salar Lashgar (a brother of Prince Nosrat-edDowleh, the present Minister of Foreign Affairs) has with great difficulty been persuaded to take charge of the Ministry of War. It is not pure accident that the Persian Ministers of War and Finance, the two main Departments of the Persian Government which the British have invaded, have had to resign. Recently it has been rumored continuously that Vossough-ed-Dowleh is about to resign and that Prince Farman Farma, the present Governor-General of the important province of Fars on the Persian Gulf, will return here to again take up the position of Prime Minister. In this case, although it is now thought by many that Vossough-ed-Dowleh would then go on a foreign tour, it is more generally believed that if the Medjliss should be opened, he, as member of that body, will be a leader in trying to secure the ratification of the Anglo-Persian treaty.
Caldwell later reports the return of Ahmad Shah in 1920: On June 2nd His Imperial Majesty, the Shah, arrived in Teheran, after having spent about ten months in Europe. He was due to arrive here several weeks earlier than he did, but he apparently much enjoyed the fetes and publicity so lavishly bestowed by interested European governments, and so prolonged his visit. But at last, on account of the heat in Mesopotamia and His Majesty’s illness there and the rumblings of disorders, both in Mesopotamia and in several of the Persian provinces, he cut short his visit to the Mohammedan Holy places and hurried to his capital. The courtiers, grandees, officials and notables received His Majesty at one of his palatial garden-parks just outside the city. After that reception, which occupied about two hours, the Shah drove through the streets, which were handsomely decorated with rich oriental rugs and lined with tremendous crowds along the whole distance to Gulestan, the royal palace in Teheran. He was received with great éclat and it is believed that in Teheran, at least, his theretofore low and ebbing prestige has somewhat increased. However, in this respect, much depends on the stand taken by His Majesty and the newly formed Cabinet. His Majesty has been greatly improved by his sojourn abroad, both physically and mentally. He has lost seventy pounds in weight during his absence (which loss he could well afford) and not only does he seem to have grown much more au courant with world happenings and politics in general, but his ideas, ideals and general view of life and the world seem to have changed greatly for the better.
Judging the moment to be right, Ahmad Shah quickly brought about the resignation of the Vossough-ed-Dowleh government. As soon as His Majesty returned political intrigues commenced on every hand and numerous malcontents, of whom the Vossough-ed-Dowleh regime has produced a tremendous number, rushed to the Shah to inform him of their real and fancied wrongs and woes, and the country’s plight. Vossough-ed Dowleh, the Prime Minister, immediately informed the Shah that he was overworked and desired to be relieved of the fatigue and burden of Government. It is true that Vossough [Vossough] has been most diligent, and whereas most Persian Prime Ministers do very little actual work, he has kept in constant and closest touch with every department of the Government, and the Ministers of his Cabinet have been allowed practically no freedom of action, for all government business has to pass through his own hands. As heretofore reported, the Shah and Vossough-ed-Dowleh have had several tilts regarding the usurpation of power by the latter and a few days after His Majesty’s return the Prime Minister demanded, if he were to remain in office, plenary powers to deal with the present and portent uprisings such as those in the Northern and Western parts of Persia. But the Shah felt that upon his return from Europe a policy of appeasing the populace might work to better advantage than one of force, and therefore the requested powers were not granted to Vossough-ed-Dowleh, who thereupon stated that his resignation was final and, after days of hesitation and indecision, it was accepted.
Vossough then left Teheran in greatest haste and is reported to be on his way to India and England. It is reliably reported that the British government, in making its regular monthly payments of three hundred and fifty thousand tomans to Persia, actually paid over the money to Vossough-ed-Dowleh, and that the last three of these monthly payments were retained entire by him personally, no part of the same having been turned over to the Persian Government. Immediately after the resignation of Vossough-ed-Dowleh the Shah himself sent a telegram recalling the exiles who were banished from Teheran to Kashan: Musteshar-ed-Dowleh, Mohtashem-es-Saltaneh, and Momtaz-ol Molk, and it is generally supposed that these men will be given positions of trust under the new government. The new Prime Minister [Moshir-edDowleh] also published a statement saying: “With regard to the so-called Anglo-Persian Treaty of August 9, 1919, as it is evident that this treaty must be passed by the Medjliss before being enforced, its executive operations will be discontinued for the present.” When it was certain that Vossough-ed-Dowleh had resigned, several mass meetings were held in Teheran, entirely disregarding the rule of the existing martial law that no political assemblies shall take place, and the police, although aware of the meetings and even present thereat, made no attempt to disperse the crowds, feeling that the new policy of the government would be much more liberal than hitherto. At these meetings petitions were addressed to the Shah demanding: Withdrawal of existing martial law. Annulment of the Anglo-Persian Convention of August 1919. Re-election of members of the Medjliss throughout the provinces, to replace those fraudulently chosen. Immediate assembly of the national Medjliss. A separation of the powers of church and state. The latter, especially, is a remarkable demand to be made by the inhabitants of a Moslem country.