The Great Transition

  June 13, 2022   Read time 1 min
The Great Transition
By 1919, Reza Khan came to the attention of senior British officers who had been employed either directly by Vosouq or sent to Tehran by the War Office as part of the military advisery team. It is at this time that it appears Reza Khan came to the direct attention of Gen. Dickson, who soon formed a high opinion of him. 

There are other complimentary references to Reza Khan in this period. He is described as 'handsome and distinguished and a first rate soldier who grasped things quickly’.24 Furthermore, his hostility towards the Russian Cossack officers had not gone unnoticed by the British. Reza Khan rose through the ranks on merit enduring hardships which included recurrent bouts of malaria which plagued him to the end of his life. He had a disciplined and austere mode of living with few material pleasures, a regimen he maintained throughout his life. This is substantially the extent of reliable information. There are references to Reza Khan having worked with the British military adviseiy mission in 1920 and having declared himself ready to take steps to oust Starosselsky from command.

The question of his having worked with British officers prior to the 1921 coup and his introduction to Ironside have been the subject of several commentaries in the last 25 years. There is no doubt that Reza Khan was known to the British military establishment in Iran prior to the coup because of his rank, distinguished military record, his work with Gen. Dickson’s officers who had been sent to Iran as part of the 1919 Agreement and, of course, his prominent role in the removal of Clerge and his later conflict with Starosselsky. However, the question of who introduced Reza Khan to Ironside has produced conflicting claims and self-serving accounts some of which are absurd. The first and most reliable account is in the Diaries of Ironside himself in which he unequivocally states that it was Col. Smyth who first introduced Reza Khan to him. The weight of reliable evidence indicates that Reza Khan had been hand-picked by an adventurous British General who had seen in him courage, determination and patriotism.

There are very few accounts left to us of the events of 20 and 21 February 1921 by Iranian participants and witnesses. Few had a grasp of the larger picture. Only years after the fact did they realise the significance of what had taken place. The following appear the most reliable.

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