Qajar Foreign Policy in Dealing with the Superpowers

  December 14, 2023   Read time 3 min
Qajar Foreign Policy in Dealing with the Superpowers
Qajars were almost a total failure in their interaction with the foreign entities. They lost numerous parts of the country in various occasions and even turned some victories into frustrated lasting failures. This is an episode of their failed policies.

Another development in the field of foreign relations was the government's decision to protest the conclusion of the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907. In June of that year the Iranian Minister in London told Grey of Iranian anxiety over a division of the country into spheres of influence. Grey told the Iranian Minister that his impression was “incorrect” ; instead, the agreement with Russia would indude a British obligation not to push its influence in those parts of Iran which bordered on the frontiers of Russia.“ Grey later instructed Cedi Spring-Rice, the British Minister at Tehran, to propose to his Russian colleague an identical communication in which it would be stated that both Great Britain and Russia would “absolutdy” respect the independence and integrity of Iran, that the spedfic regions mentioned in the convention were dearly defined in order that future misunderstanding between Great Britain and Russia, which might embarrass the Iranian government, might be avoided, and that “the sole object of the arrangement is the avoidance of any cause of misunderstanding between the contracting Powers. The Shah’s Government will be convinced that the Agreement can not fail to promote the prosperity, security and ulterior development of Persia in the most efficacious manner.”

Prior to the presentation of this memorandum on September 11, 1907, Spring-Rice wrote a reassuring letter to the Iranian Foreign Minister (September 5, 1907) in which he stated that Great Britain and Russia “have no sort of intention of attacking Persia’s independence.” “Not only do they not seek a pretext for intervention; but their aim in these friendly negotiations is not to permit one another to intervene in Persia on the pretext of safeguarding their own interest.” 7* On September 24 the Iranian Foreign Ministry finally received the text of the convention insofar as it related to Iran. On November 3, 1907, the Minister of Foreign Affairs read the text of Iran’s reply to the British government in the Majlis. The convention, which had been concluded between the British and Russian governments, the Iranian note stated, could only affect the contracting parties. As a sovereign and independent state, Iran had certain rights and privileges which were and would be immune from the adverse effects of any agreement which might be reached between two or more foreign states.

A third foreign-policy decision during the early sessions of the Majlis concerned the employment of foreign advisers. In establishing its control over the financial affairs of Iran, Russia had seen to it that the post of Treasurer-General was filled by Mornard, a protégé of Naus, Russia’s most devoted agent. As early as December 1910 the deputies of the Majlis had played with the idea of securing finance administrators from a “disinterested and distant” power. Later, in the early 1920’s, this idea was raised to the level of what we have called the “third-power policy,” and even after the rise of Riga Shah it continued as the cornerstone of Iranian foreign policy. The chosen third country in 1910 was the United States. The Cabinet, through the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Husayn Quli Khan, instructed the Iranian Legation in Washington to request the Secretary of State to put him in touch with possible American financial advisers. The Legation was also authorized to arrange preliminary employment for three years “subject to ratification by parliament of a disinterested American expert as Treasurer-General.”

As a result of negotiations with the Department of State, Morgan Shuster was tendered a contract to serve as Treasurer-General of Iran for three years. On February 2, 1911, the Majlis approved the term s of the contracts of Shuster and his four assistants “by a large majority and amid great enthusiasm.” It was well understood that Shuster was not going to Iran “in any manner as the representative of the American Government.” T* The fate of the American mission has already been related. The memory of the experiment, in spite of, or maybe because of, its dramatic failure, continued to exert a powerful influence on the foreign policy of Iran in the decades to come.

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