Puppet Shah and Monarchical Policies

  November 09, 2021   Read time 2 min
Puppet Shah and Monarchical Policies
Iran Nineteenth-century foreign policy was influenced by the internal situation just as was that of the earlier centuries. In the nineteenth century the most important decisional unit was still the monarchy.

The monarch’s absolute control over affairs of state made his character and military support of crucial importance not only for foreign policy but also for Iran’s existence as a state. The military strength of the Shah was often decisive in maintaining stability at home and success abroad, but mere support by the army was not sufficient. Shah ’Abbas the Great created a strong army, but his success lay in his wise choice of strategies and a degree of political realism. Unfortunately Iran did not have many prudent policy makers like Shah ‘Abbas, and even he did not realize how he injured the country by keeping possible successors from gaining experience.

In the nineteenth century, as in previous centuries, other harmful internal factors also influenced Iranian foreign policy. Fath *Ali Shah’s policy decisions were at times as much swayed by Shia fanaticism as were those of Shah Tahmâsb. The early Qäjär policy makers listened to astrologers and soothsayers as had Shah Sultan Husayn and other Çafavi monarchs generations before. Whatever salutary effects the European trips of Nâsir al-Dïn Shah and Muzaffar al-Din Shah might have had on these monarchs, their foreign policy showed few signs of improvement. Instead of becoming alert to the intellectual, socioeconomic, and technological underpinnings of the power and prestige of European states, these monarchs became disillusioned and despondent as the result of their trips. The ignorance, lust for pleasure, and extravagance of the Shahs were thus compounded by a sense of inferiority not without effects on their policies.

While these basic characteristics of the internal situation significantly conditioned the making of foreign policy, the implementation of foreign-policy decisions in turn produced changes in internal affairs. Alliances, wars, and economic policies all produced changes, but economic policies were the most important initiators of change. The economic activities of foreigners in the establishment of telegraph lines, the construction of new and better roads, or the development of other concessions and the expansion of trade made a significant break in the centuries-old crust of traditional Iranian isolationism. These activities brought a small but growing number of Iranians into contact with foreign experts, officials, and skilled workers. They also furthered those social, economic, and intellectual conditions associated with the rise of an intelligentsia, a commercial middle class, and labor. The stage was thus set for a national awakening, the earliest signs of which were the popular opposition to the tobacco monopoly, the Russian loans, and the Russian-inspired tariffs.

The triangular interaction between external factors, foreign policy, and internal conditions which was pointed out at the outset of this study persisted dynamically from 1500 to 1905. This interaction produced two major developments which have already been discussed but must be recalled here because of their significance for an understanding of the foreign policy of Iran in the twentieth century. One was the appearance of popular unrest and dissatisfaction with the traditional political system, which led to the Constitutional Revolution. The other was the fact that at the turn of the twentieth century Iran was a backward and weak state, whose independence was largely in name only.

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