Iran and the West 1813 - 1953

A century and a half of misunderstanding and betrayal


1813 Treaty of Golestan. After 9 years of war between Russia and Persia (as Iran then was) a peace treaty was brokered by an Englishman, Sir Gore Ouseley, whom Persia had regarded as a friend, in which most of Iran's territories in the Caucasus were given to Russia.

1898- 1901 Desperate attempts by Britain to stop Russia winning influence in Persia.

1901 English millionaire Knox D'Arcy secures an agreement "to search for, obtain, exploit, develop, render suitable for trade and carry away and sell natural gas and petroleum ... throughout the whole extent of the Persian empire for a term of 60 years."

1908 Huge oil strike at Masjid Suleyman.

pic of the firdt oil well in Persia

The first ever oil-well in Persia at Masjid Suleyman in Khuzestan.

1914 British government buys 51% stake in Anglo-Persian Oil. British troops seize Abadan. "Control of these oil supplies (in Iraq and Persia) becomes a first-class war aim." [Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Cabinet] Abadan grew to become the biggest refinery in the world.

1919 Agreement to install British advisers in Persia to run treasury and armed forces.

1920 Conference at Baku. Bolsheviks propose a holy war against British Imperialism.

1925 Reza Khan becomes Shah of Persia with British backing. He tries to diminish foreign influence in Persia (now renamed Iran). He plays Britain and Russia off against each other by increasing ties with Germany.

1933 Anglo-Persian reluctantly agree to pay royalties to Persia - £4 per ton, after the Shah cancels the Knox D'Arcy agreement.

1941 Britain and Russia invade Iran to deny oil supplies to Germany. Reza Shah, who was threatening to support Hitler, is forced to abdicate in favour of his son Mohammed Reza.

1948 Mossadegh begins to urge Iranians to look after themselves. Little profit from oil boom reaches ordinary Iranians.

1949 US interest in Iranian and Middle Eastern oil increases, as Iran is seen as crucial ally against USSR. "The oil in this region is the greatest single prize in all history" [Lord Beaverbrook]. "We should refuse to divide our last asset with the Americans" [Lord Halifax]

1951 Mossadegh becomes Prime Minister of Iran and nationalises the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

1953 CIA-backed coup removes Mossadegh.