According to the British Foreign Secretary Selwyn-Lloyd,


our main purpose in the Gulf is to ensure fair access to the oil and stable conditions for its production.¹


The United States nevertheless began to establish its influence in the Persian Gulf, as developing a close relationship with Iran had become the United States policy towards the zone, which was pointed out earlier in this chapter.


There have been many signs lately that the United States’ navy is arriving at building up for itself a predominant position in the Gulf.²


reported the British Ambassador in Teheran, Sir Roger Stevens, to Selwyn-Lloyd, The British Ambassador to Teheran however, in his report on the United Kingdom, for economic and defensive reasons pursuing a policy of co-operation with the United States, and Britain’s military position in the Persian Gulf, said:


It is surely better to devise a constructive way out of this dead-end, even at the loss of a little prestige, rather than wait to be overwhelmed by events and thrust on to the inevitably disastrous defensive.³


Sir Roger Stevens went on, in his report to the British Foreign Secretary:


With the liquidation of our Indian Empire, the traditional reason for our presence in the Persian Gulf ceased to exist, and our positions there become stations on a road leading nowhere.4


There were still, in the eyes of Britain, fairly substantial interests east of Suez. So the winding up of the Empire in India did not imply that Britain was finished with this area. Britain’s interests still included her base in Egypt, her view (as opposed to the USA’s) of the Baghdad Pact, and her relations with the Persian Gulf States. Despite the “loss” of India, Britain’s role east of Suez, especially Malaya/Singapore/Hong Kong, was still very important and the short route to these countries (and to Australia/NZ) was still very important.

It was a little too premature to dismiss the British position in the Middle East as no longer viable or necessary. In the first place Britain certainly did not see herself as a power in decline. The diaries of Patrick Gordon-Walker bring out the continuing concern with the Empire as a kind of political force in the world and a force in international relations even though Gordon-Wa1ker was of course a Labor man.5 Britain had a bit of luck in the Middle East because of the Russian disappearance from the scene between 1918 and 1945. But sooner or later this would come to an end and Britain would have to work a little harder to maintain her influence. Secondly, Iran was not even a British colony though she was under British influence, and she was not typical of Britain’s presence in the Middle East, and that Britain could, to some extent, see this as an exceptional episode.

    1.  PRO, London, CAB 129/81 CP (56) 122, Memorandum by the Foreign Secretary, Selwyn-Lloyd, on Protecting British Interests in the Persian Gulf, Secret, 14th May 1956.
    2.  PRO, London, F0371/120571, The General Political Correspondence of the Foreign Office, Sir Roger Stevens, British Ambassador to Teheran, to the British Foreign Secretary, Selwyn-Lloyd, Secret, 8th December 1956.
    3.  Ibid
    4. Ibid.
    5. R. PEARCE, (ed.), Patrick Gordon-Walkers Political Diaries, 1932-1971, (London: Publisher, The Historian Press, 1991), Chapter 6.

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