Immediate Background to the Nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s Crisis: Britain and Iran

Immediate Background to the Nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s Crisis: Britain and Iran

However, the Governor-General sent a different envoy to Persia, as he did not think Malcolm’s further missions would improve the atmosphere between Persia and Britain. The new envoy was Sir Harford Jones. His task was to mend Anglo-Persian relationships which deteriorated under Malcolm.

Jones negotiated a treaty whereby the Shah denounced all previous engagements, and undertook to prevent the passage of European armies to India, in return for a promise of financial and military assistance in the event of the invasion of Persia by a European power. The preliminary engagement negotiated by Jones in 1809 formed the basis of the Defensive Treaty of 1814 between Britain and Persia. The reason behind the surprising and sudden improvement of relations between Britain and Persia was that Czar Alexander of Russia and Napoleon had just concluded a peace agreement between themselves. So far as Teheran was concerned, the Franco-Persian alliance was meant to be an anti-Russian policy. Therefore such a move between France and Russia caused consternation in Teheran. The Franco-Russian agreement took place as far as the British were concerned at an extremely convenient moment, especially too since Persia was in a vulnerable and weak position in an open hostility with Russia. Consequently, the British envoy, Sir Harford Jones, skilfully exploited the situation arising from the position of Persia with Russia in the war between them, and the Franco-Russian peace treaty known as the Tilsit Agreement. As the downfall of Napoleon came about, in the meanwhile, a new chapter was opened in the region’s politics. Russia replaced France, and became Britain’s principal threat to India.8

The pursuit of an active British diplomatic manoeuvring in Persia, during Persia’s conflict with Russia, eventually resulted in Persia not being an entirely independent power. This consequently led to the establishment of a British sphere of influence over Persia, that lasted until the mid 1950s.

The treaty of 1814 between Britain and Persia, which came about as a result of Sir Harford Jones’ diplomatic efforts, did not after all, contrary to what had been believed in Theheran, and even to the disbelief of some British publicists, such as Rowlinson, mean that Britain too had adopted an anti-Russian policy. Events were soon to establish this.

The British treaty of 1814 had just followed a peace treaty between Persia and Russia in 1813, following hostility which opened between the two countries, which resulted in Persia’s defeat. The peace treaty of 1813 between Persia and Russia was called the Treaty of Gulistan. In that treaty, Persia lost most of the Caspian Sea to Russia. Having lost Georgia to Russia in 1800, and a large portion of the Caspian Sea in the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, Persia’s animosity against Russia intensified. On the other hand, Russia’s appetite was not satisfied despite substantial territorial gains. Therefore the 1813 treaty did not last long. In 1826 a new war broke out between the two countries, in which Persia again suffered a series of setbacks. Peace was restored in 1828, by the Treaty of Turkmanchai, whereby Russia acquired further territory and imposed a heavy indemnity on Persia. Even more significant were the commercial privileges which Persia was forced to concede, privileges which conferred extra-territorial rights on Russian subjects.9

  1. Ibid.
  2. A.R. COLQUHOUN, Russia Against India, (London: Harper and Brothers, 1900).

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