Joint Interests of the Occupiers and Lonely Iran

  December 15, 2021   Read time 3 min
Joint Interests of the Occupiers and Lonely Iran
Great Britain’s interests in the Persian Gulf were numerous. For example, British trade acquired almost a monopoly of the foreign commerce of the Gulf ports. Indians had settled in considerable numbers at Lengah, Bandar Abbas, Bushire, and Bahrein.

Foregn imports and exports passed through the hands of these settlers. The many Anglo-Indian companies maintained a merchant steamer service between Karachi and Basra. British communication interests in the Gulf were equally significant. Great Britain maintained the submarine cables of the Indo-European Telegraph Company from Fao to Jask and of the land lines from Jask to Karachi. Furthermore, Great Britain had important political agreements with the Gulf states. The Sheikh of Kuwait, for example, had agreed not to receive the representatives of any other power. Great Britain also controlled Musqat, whose trade was in Anglo-Indian hands.

Maintenance of the British position in the Persian Gulf was regarded as “vital to the safety of India.” As early as February 1900 Russia had attempted to gain a foothold in the Gulf, but had failed. In the following years Russian warships toured the Gulf, but no further attempts were made to acquire a footing. Consulates, however, were established at Basra, Bushire, and Bandar Abbas. Russia’s ambitions and its concerted efforts to gain influence in the Gulf alarmed the British, but it was not until the termination of the Boer War that Great Britain made the most important declaration of British policy in relation to the Gulf since Sir Edward Grey’s pronouncement in 1895. Lord Lansdowne declared: Firstly, we should protect and promote British trade in the Gulf. Secondly, we should not exclude the legitimate trade of others. Thirdly, we should regard the establishment of a naval base or a fortified port in the Gulf by any other Power as a very grave menace to British interests, and we should certainly resist it by all the means at our disposal.

In view of the significance attached to the Gulf, Great Britain was “anxious that in the Convention an article should be inserted by which Russia would recognize [British] special interests in the maintenance of the status quo in the Persian Gulf” 14 but because of Russia’s apprehensions the Gulf question was settled later by a letter from Grey to Nicolson which was appended to the convention and published with it14 Grey’s letter states : “For the Russian Government have, in the course of the negotiations leading up to the conclusion of this agreement, explicitly stated that they do not deny the special interests of Great Britain in the Persian G ulf-a statement of which His Majesty have formally taken note.”

Russia’s interests in reaching an agreement with its traditional rival were also manifold. Anglo-Russian hostility, which had reached its zenith during the Dogger Bank incident, subsided after the RussoJapanese War. Izvolsky, who had opposed the policy that had led to the conflict with Japan, believed in the need for friendship with Great Britain.14 He realized that Russia was greatly weakened by its war with Japan and that the Franco-Russian Alliance had consequently lost weight as compared with the Triple Alliance. Both Russia and the Franco-Russian combination needed the strengthening which could come from closer relations with the greatest sea power in the world. Izvolsky’s belief in the need for strengthening Russia was reinforced by his suspicion that Japan was preparing for a new struggle in the Far East.14 The natural bridge between Russia and Japan seemed to be Great Britain, Japan’s ally since 1902. Furthermore, the fact that both Russia and Great Britain were linked to France-the former by an alliance of 1897 and the latter by the Entente Cordiale of 1904 - seemed to favor friendly cooperation between St. Petersburg and London. Nevertheless, Russia could hardly hope to enhance its international posture through friendship with Great Britain so long as the long-standing conflict of interests in the Near and Middle East remained unresolved.

Write your comment