IS A bloc of Middle East states now in process of being forged out of hitherto incompatible elements? Such a regional unit would correspond roughly to the mythical state which Captain Mahan in 1900 predicted might arise in lands astride the communications from Europe to the farther Orient. The possibility seemed remote so long as Islam was the only cement uniting the peoples involved. But in the last decade the replacement of Islam by the spirit of regional brotherhood, based on new and vigorous nationalisms, gives historical conjectures a fresh undertone of probability. The speed with which Afghanistan recently joined Turkey and Soviet Russia in following Persia into the League of Nations is but one indication of the intense desire to put into practice the coöperation called for in the closely-knit treaty system of the region. The League itself seems to be drifting toward an international balance of power, based on regional state-groups. If that is so, it is not unlikely that such a bloc of Middle East states would use Geneva as a first line of defense against a resumption of the old processes of Western encroachment.

Of the three states involved, Persia had sunk the lowest in comparison with its former power and prestige, and has made the most unexpected comeback. And though it is less modernized than Turkey, it is the strategic center and holds the key to the regional politics. Like the fabled Phoenix of her deserts, Persia has known death but never actual extinction in three thousand years of history. After each epoch of disaster she has risen from her own ashes. What is most striking in her rebirth in the last decade is not the new formula by which it has been achieved but the suddenness with which it has occurred, the rapidity with which the process of slow atrophy has been reversed.

A century ago Persia enjoyed a sort of self-sufficiency, producing her own food, satisfied with her artistic handicraft wares. Her folly in attempting to regain Georgia from Russia resulted in the Treaty of Turkomanchai, 1828, which fixed not only the capitulations but also set a 5 percent ad valorem duty as the maximum which she might levy on imports and exports. In virtue of the "most favored nations" clause, other states imposed the same terms. That put the country, already somewhat decadent, on an economic toboggan. Throughout the nineteenth century machine-made goods from the West streamed into Persia, creating a competition in prices which native artisans could not meet. Nor could they return to farming, as the country already had a surplus of food, unexportable because of the lack of internal transport. The only recourse was to turn from native arts to the production of raw materials for European factories. Here again the cost of caravan transport was a barrier. The result was that, under the weak Kadjar Dynasty, Persia slipped stage by stage into pauperism and political debility. The middle class all but disappeared. At the turn of the century, Persia, with a trade balance usually adverse by 30 percent, was mortgaged to foreign banks. Her agriculture had declined, her handicraft industries diminished, and her population greatly decreased. The revolution of 1906 resulted in a constitution and a popular assembly. But poverty bred corruption. Political leaders took British pounds one day, and Russian rubles the next. The Anglo-Russian Convention, 1907, pointed to an eventual partition of Persia, modelled on that of Poland. What there was of reform never got beyond the first stage, as shown by the indecent haste with which the Tsarist Government forced Morgan Shuster out of the country.

During the World War the Persians were denied the rights of neutrals in international law. For a brief moment the Wilsonian bugle of self-determination aroused their hopes. But the logic of geography, and their own undetermined attitude toward property as an institution, seemed to decree that they were to hold a position of vacuum in the new conflict between two economic systems. In fact, the practical question at the end of the war was not Persian independence, but what nation would be supreme after Persia had been reduced to colonial status -- the collectivist, upper grindstone (Soviet Russia, and land power), or the individualist, lower grindstone (Britain, and sea power).

The answer now seems to be: neither. The revival of Anglo-Russian rivalry worked for rather than against the Persian cause of freedom. On July 27, 1918, the Persian Government declared the old unequal treaties null and void. The Bolsheviks renounced not only the treaties, but the debts owed by Persia to the Tsarist Government as well as the Russian privileges accumulated in a century. Britain, meanwhile, with a much larger financial stake in the country, and fearful of a Bolshevik advance toward India, managed to get Persia's signature in 1919 to a treaty which would have placed the country under the tutelage of London. But the coup d'état of February 21, 1921, brought to power a nationalist group which denounced the British treaty. That sounded the first tocsin of modern Persian freedom. Since then Persia has managed to make the British and Russians counter each other, rather than grind down the country between them as formerly. Her subsequent astonishing success in neutralizing the two foreign pressures is credited to the commanding personality of Riza Khan, who rose from a trooper to be Minister of War and Prime Minister. In 1925 he was placed on the throne, as Shah-in-Shah, founding the Pahlevi Dynasty.

Using Turkey as an example, Riza Khan's program has been to achieve national sovereignty at home and recognition of full national independence abroad. He realized that independence, once it had been won, could not be maintained unless Persia put her house in order by adopting Western methods. His program of discipline has undoubtedly revitalized Persia. The danger remains, however, that the Persian abhorrence of foreign tutelage may lead to such costly mistakes in the exercise of the new independence as to jeopardize the program as a whole and thus invite a return of the former conditions.

II. STEPS IN REFORM

The foreign political obstacles removed, Riza Khan's first requirement was to reassert the central authority which had been in abeyance in many districts since about 1850. For this he needed a loyal force to replace the scattered and unreliable military units officered by foreigners. An all-Persian national army was created toward the end of 1921 and placed under the Ministry of War. Assuming personal command of this force, Riza Khan subdued the country by 1925. The Majlis (Parliament) that year decreed the registration of births, marriages and deaths, and at the same time enacted compulsory military service of two years, with exemptions for men with university education. Since then the army has increased to 80,000, officered entirely by Persians of whom one-third have been trained in either France or Germany. There is, in addition, a Security Force of 12,000, known as the Amnieh, whose light-blue uniforms brighten the highways they patrol in pairs. Persia also has a small navy in the Persian Gulf, with officers trained in Italy, and the nucleus of an air force. The defense forces are under the direct supervision of the Shah, free from parliamentary control. The army is extremely popular as a career because of the educational facilities it offers, and because of the prestige and political influence to be acquired through service with the "right arm of the Shah."

Next in order were the judiciary reforms. For 1300 years Persia had the Moslem system of religious and civil laws known as the Shari'at, of which the law books were in Arabic. Early in 1927 the new Ministry of Justice dissolved all the old tribunals and began a work leading to the promulgation, in Persian, of new law codes. The Civil Code presumes to give protection to private ownership and contracts; it effects a reconciliation between the Koran and the Code Napoleon without consideration for Marxian concepts.[i] The Penal Code guarantees individual liberties, greatly reducing the influence of Islam on criminal procedure. The Commercial Code is designed to encourage economic development; it establishes compulsory, uniform bookkeeping, and grants juridical personality to companies, etc. These legal innovations prepared the way for the abolition of the capitulations.

In administrative and educational reforms Persia looks to France for guidance. The French centralized control is more suitable than any other to local conditions, and French culture has always appealed to Persians. Great numbers of young Persians, educated at either public or private expense, return every year from France to take part in the work of extending the school system; the number of schools has more than doubled since 1922. Especial emphasis is laid on vocational training, and the linking of military service with the duties of citizenship. As in Soviet Russia, there are numerous night classes designed not only to diminish illiteracy but also to give training for promotion in the government offices. Meanwhile, those pioneers of higher education in Persia, the Stuart Memorial College at Isfahan and the American Mission College at Teheran, continue to turn out Persians trained for the service of their country.

III. STEPS IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The long-pull economic problem is to restore and modernize the economic life so violently unbalanced by the inroads of Western goods. Industry is still primitive. The largest enterprise is a textile plant in Isfahan which employs 500 persons. The production of rugs, 95 percent of which are exported, has been badly hit by the world depression and by the rise in tariffs, chiefly in the United States, where one-half of Persia's exported rugs formerly found a market. Agriculture is the occupation of 80 percent of the population, including the tribes. According to Sir Arnold Wilson, there is no lack of land; in fact, all over southern Persia, vast expanses of terraced hillsides, now abandoned, point to the earlier existence of a highly skilled population practicing methods of cultivation now unknown. Many areas once dotted with villages are now peopled only by nomadic tribes. About 90 percent of the peasants are tenant farmers, paying two-thirds of the crop to the large landowners. In fact, agrarian relationships have not advanced much beyond feudalism.

Forced to produce easily transportable materials, Persia began about forty years ago to develop poppy culture. By 1926, opium was bringing in 7.5 percent of the public revenue and accounted for 16 percent of exports. In the effort to control opium at the sources, the League of Nations in 1927 sent to Persia a Commission of Inquiry, headed by Frederic A. Delano of Washington, for study on the spot. The Commission reported that for Persia the poppy is an ideal crop, as it is sown in autumn and therefore irrigated when water is plentiful, that it has four times the money yield per acre of wheat, that opium thus can bear the high transport charges, and that as it is almost all exported it carries a disproportionately large load in paying for imports. In recommending that the Persian Government concentrate on building roads, improving agricultural methods, conserving water, reviving dying industries, and resisting the economic pressure of countries already highly industrialized, the Commission suggested that Persia be given three years to make adjustments and find substitutes for the poppy crop, after which it should start reducing the poppy acreage 10 percent per annum. The Persian Government established an Opium Monopoly, making cultivation of the poppy subject to license and special taxation, prohibited the planting of new land, and laid down a program entailing a complete cessation of poppy culture in certain districts. But though land diverted from poppy to other cultures is exempt from taxation for five years, the business of finding substitutes proceeds slowly and cannot gain headway until tariffs elsewhere are lowered on Persian products. Persian exports of opium continue to decrease, however, and the Assembly of the League expressed its high appreciation of the good will shown by the Persian Government in conforming to its recommendations.

On the financial side the picture is brighter. The financial reorganization begun in 1922 by Dr. Millspaugh, the American adviser,[ii] has been carried through with a determination to meet all expenditures out of ordinary revenues. The 1934 budget shows that 20.4 percent of the revenues come from customs duties, 22.4 percent from the monopolies (sugar, tea, matches, tobacco, opium, cotton, etc.), and 17.6 percent from the concessions. Of the expenditures, 31.4 percent go to national defense and 57.2 percent to the national administration. To balance the budget with ordinary revenues, and at the same time meet the heavy expenses involved in the government's expanding activities, is an achievement of note. Further, after sixty years on a silver standard of currency the Persian Government in 1930 went over to the gold standard with a new unit, the gold rial, equal at par to the pound sterling. To protect its currency the government has kept the royalties from the Anglo-Persian Oil Co. in London.

The most pressing need is to provide modern transport facilities. The normal mode of travel and of moving goods today is by automobile, although camel and donkey caravans still meander alongside new metalled roads. Since 1925 the government has been spending between two and three million dollars a year on highways, the sums in question being derived from road taxes. It is not many years since Persia was obliged to protest to the International Postal Union that the cost of transporting incoming parcels far exceeded the amount the government collected on stamps for the outgoing mail. Investigation revealed that the discrepancy was caused by the large supplies of Bibles mailed to Persia by American and British societies, to be carried by camelback across the deserts. The highways in Persia still recall the lively scenes of earlier periods in Europe, with the difference that the frequenters of the roadside tea stalls are mostly truck drivers, hauling such things as steel girders 6,500 feet up the mountain ravines to Teheran. The many attempts since 1865 to build railways have generally been defeated by the rivalry of the various foreign groups. The Russians did build a line from their frontier to Tabriz during the World War, and the India system was extended 52 miles into Persia. The 1500 kilometer Caspian-Persian Gulf Railroad, now under construction, is the most talked of project in Persia. It is being financed entirely out of Persia's own means, "untainted" by foreign loans or control. The Persian dream is to have a railroad with both termini on Persian soil. That dream is being fulfilled, but only with the sacrifice of the natural terminus at the port of Pahlevi (formerly Enzeli) on the Caspian, as too much under Soviet influence, and of Mohammerah on the Shatt-al-Arab, in the south, the frontier of Iraq. Instead, the termini are Bandar Gaz, on the Caspian, reached through terrific gorges, and Bandar Shapur (formerly Khor Musa), on the Persian Gulf. It is a political and strategic railway, which probably will not pay for itself for many years, but it will greatly aid the policing of the country, and at the same time assure an all-Persian management.

The most significant, historically, of the Shah's new measures was the abolition of the capitulations. After 1921 the foreign Powers began to group themselves into two camps: those whose citizens still enjoyed extraterritoriality, and those whose citizens came under Persian jurisdiction, such as Soviet Russia, Turkey, Afghanistan, and the new states of Europe. The second group chafed under the discrimination. According to a Persian authority, Dr. Matine-Daftary, the Russians in particular sought means to re-enter the capitulary régime for the sake of facilitating the spread of propaganda. Great Britain, on the other hand, preferring to submit to Persian tribunals rather than accept the alternative of Communist agitation approaching India, placed no obstacles in Persia's way. Again the constellation of external factors favored the Teheran government. After a year of provisional arrangements, the capitulations came to an end on May 10, 1928, marking a diplomatic victory which was celebrated as a national holiday. A whole new series of treaties was then signed with other states, putting Persia on an equal footing with them. Most of the new treaties contain guarantees that foreign citizens shall be exempt from requisitions, expropriations, compulsory labor for the state, and compulsory subscription to loans. The abolition of the capitulations was accompanied by Persia's recovery of customs autonomy, and the negotiation of new commercial treaties. In other words, freedom of economic action was achieved.

The end-link in the chain was the establishment of the Foreign Trade Monopoly by the law of February 25, 1931. This monopoly allows free exchange within Persia, but establishes quotas for imports. Its purpose is to force a balance between imports and exports by requiring all prospective importers to present a certificate proving prior export of Persian products of the equivalent value in foreign exchange, against which an import license may be issued. The cost of the export certificates raises the price of imported goods, which is borne by all the consumers, thus distributing the burden. It is maintained that the Foreign Trade Monopoly has prevented the flight of silver from the country to cover the adverse balance in trade. On the other hand, the system has several undesirable features. It involves heavier taxation and higher prices, and a marked restriction of the small traders for the benefit of the large merchants who are able to acquire import licenses. Business tends to concentrate in fewer hands. And smuggling is on the increase. The Persians, however, believe that the system gives essential protection during the world crisis.

IV. STEPS IN THE SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION

The most remarkable change of all is in the spirit of the country. Islam had long since ceased to represent enough of a binding force to assure national unity. The awakening of the nationalistic spirit demanded a release from its dead hand. The Shah travelled far and wide, preaching love of country and patriotism. In sending the first large group of students to France in 1928, he said to them: "France is a country where patriotism is very highly honored; you shall learn to follow the example of the French and love your country as much as they love theirs." There is also a movement to standardize Persian dress, to have a national costume, to accentuate the Persian feeling. All Persian citizens wear what is called the "Pahlevi Hat," shaped somewhat like a French military kepi, with a visor, issued in black and beige. Western standards of public health are being urged. Women, though still wearing the veil, are to be seen at the many cafés and cinemas. On the other hand, the Shah decreed that Persians should not frequent foreigners, on the grounds that Persia's past misfortunes were due to such contacts. There is an atmosphere of suspicion in Teheran. One by one, and in groups, the foreign experts and advisers have been sloughed off, as elsewhere in the Middle East. The last to go were the Belgian customs officials (June 1934), leaving only a few French technical experts in education and a few Germans in agriculture. Here again appears the danger of "nationalistic nerves," for in many cases qualified Persians cannot yet be found to fill the posts vacated by foreigners.

V. STEPS TO IMPROVE FOREIGN RELATIONS

By the foregoing measures Riza Khan reasserted a central authority and broke through the cordon of foreign control. Insurance against a return of the former conditions, however, must depend primarily upon Persia's ability to pit future Russian and British pressures against each other in such a way as to preserve her own integrity as a sovereign neutral zone -- a Switzerland of Asia. The constellation of external factors continues at the moment to be favorable to that ambition.

This is especially true as regards the pressure felt closest home, the pressure of Russia. Originally the policy of the Soviets was to assault capitalism in the West by undermining imperialism in the East. While the Bolsheviks had, and have, a sincere sympathy for semi-colonial peoples, their extreme generosity in wiping the slate clean of all past obligations was very much to their own interest. Their policy in regard to nationalities (cultural autonomy within the limits of centralized economic and political control) had as a secondary objective the attraction into the Soviet federation of border peoples who are racially akin to those already in the Union, e.g. the Outer Mongolians, the Turks of Sinkiang, etc. The Soviets likewise promoted the formation of a Middle East bloc, and organized the treaties of friendship signed in Moscow in 1921 between Soviet Russia, Persia, Turkey, and Afghanistan. When these treaties were strengthened in 1925-1928 the initiative was taken by the Islamic states themselves, indicating their feeling of greater independence as Western aggression declined. Also, there was the fact that the Bolsheviks had managed to lose economically the prestige they had gained politically as champions of the semi-colonial peoples. For, though theoretically especially lenient in dealing with non-industrialized Eastern states, the Soviet Foreign Trade Monopoly has aroused constant protests from Oriental merchants. Even in 1934 Persian traders have kept up a stream of demands to the Teheran government either to cease dealing with Soviet Russia or to make the Persian monopoly as rigid as the Russian.

Still another factor was the defeat of Trotsky by Stalin, which meant victory for the program of "socialism in one country first" over that of "world revolution." Since 1927 the Bolsheviks have marked time politically in the Eastern border states, where in any case the soil is not fertile for the Marxian doctrines. The Stalin policy of "peaceful coexistence and friendly collaboration with capitalist states" has been the focus of Moscow's attention, and was climaxed in September 1934 by the entry of Soviet Russia into the League of Nations. But for all that, the fundamental interest of the Soviets in the East broadens and deepens. Under the second Five Year Plan more than half of the total investments for new construction will be made in regions east of the Urals, to increase the already sizeable industrial plant which eventually must find its market in the rest of Asia. The various Soviet Institutes for Eastern Studies are turning out experts, skilled in languages and crafts, and prepared for work in the border states. But, for the time being, the Bolshevik preoccupation with mending political fences to the West so as to be able to concentrate on contingencies in the Far East, insures Moscow's support for Persian independence.

Britain's policy in Persia has likewise evolved. The "Egyptization" treaty of 1919 was the last of its kind. Curzon's diplomatic battles with the Bolsheviks in 1923, and the breaking off of relations in 1927, centered on the Eastern policies of the two countries. That is now history. What is new is the friendly British attitude toward Persia evidenced in the happy ending of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company's dispute. The new concession, signed in April 1933, extends the lease for 60 years and grants Persia a minimum royalty of £750,000 a year, plus other contributions from the company such as £10,000 yearly to educate Persian nationals for the oil industry. This makes a handsome income. Further, the skillful conciliatory measures introduced by Sir John Cadman, Chairman of the Board, and T. L. Jacks, Resident Director in Teheran, give promise that the last of Britain's great empire-companies will continue its beneficent rôle in modern Persian life. The company is now completing a new refinery at Kermanshah, which will be fed by a pressure pipe line from the Naftkhanal oil field on the Iraq-Persian frontier. Hitherto, oil from Baku has had a virtual monopoly in north Persia because of the cost of motor transport from the refinery at Abadan in the south. The Kermanshah refinery will be able to supply Persian oil to northern Persia at competitive prices. Aside from the dispute as to sovereignty over the Bahrein Islands, British relations with Persia are serene. So, Great Britain also supports Persian independence and closer coöperation amongst the Middle East states.

One of Persia's most notable triumphs has been to convert her traditional enemy, Turkey, into a staunch friend. After the World War the relations of the two countries were so strained over frontier disputes that they did not sign a treaty of friendship until 1926, following it in 1928 with a protocol for close economic coöperation. With the frontier delimited satisfactorily in 1929, there began an exchange of courtesy visits by high officials of both countries. The last and most spectacular of these was the visit of the Shah of Persia to Ankara and Istanbul in June 1934. The political significance of the visit has not yet been revealed, but it seemed to create a blutbrudergesellschaft between the two dictators, united in a common task of keeping foreigners at bay. There was some talk of a railroad to connect Teheran with the Turkish railway system and the Black Sea. A more likely result will be renewed use of the old Trebizond-Tabriz caravan route, recently opened to motor traffic, to give Persia a shorter trade passage to the West. The Shah travelled by this road (foreigners, including the author, were barred by the Turkish Military Staff). Having received the desired recognition for Persia's achievements, the Shah returned to Teheran on July 7 and began immediately to prepare for a return visit from Mustapha Kemal. The Persian capital is now bustling with civic improvement projects -- a municipal electric light plant, a university, hotels, hospitals, more schools, etc. -- to gladden the eyes of the Ghazi when he views the work of the Shah, like himself the restorer of pride to a whole race. Finally, as a gesture of good will, Persia in September withdrew, in favor of Turkey, her candidacy for the non-permanent seat vacated by China in the Council of the League of Nations.

Afghanistan presents Persia with no problem. The Afghans, formerly included within the Persian Empire, still use the Persian written language and continue in the Persian orbit. The indefiniteness of the frontier caused some friction until 1921. Finally, both sides accepted Turkish arbitration, and a Frontier Delimitation Commission proceeded to the spot in June 1934. The relations of the two states are now extremely close. Afghanistan is, in a sense, a back-mountain lot of Persia. Kabul, but a week from Teheran by automobile, is strongly influenced by the Persian reforms, though changes are taking place there at a less rapid tempo than in the days of Ammanullah.

Lastly, and most troublesome, are Persia's relations with Iraq. The thorniest problem is the boundary. This (delimited at last in 1913 in virtue of the Treaty of Erzerum of 1847) follows not the channel of the Shatt-al-Arab, as would be customary in international law, but the Persian shore. The bulk of the shipping proceeding up the Shatt is bound for Persian river ports, and thus must pass through foreign waters in which the Persian authorities cannot station customs or police patrols. So long as the nonlegalistic Turks controlled the Shatt no serious questions arose. But Iraq, the successor state of the region, is as nationalistic as Persia. The question became acute when Riza Khan in 1924 asserted the authority of the central government over the previously autonomous Sheik of Mohammerah. Persia claims that the Majlis never ratified the 1913 Protocol; it evidently was not ratified by Turkey either. In the hope of settling the Shatt question Persia withheld recognition of Iraq until 1929. But the question remains unsolved. In addition, pin-prick disputes constantly arise, such as questions regarding the nationality of persons of Persian origin now on Iraqi soil, the jurisdiction of consuls, matters involving extradition, frontier police, etc. Last spring the question of water rights came to the fore. Iraq is dependent on Persian sources for a certain amount of water. The Persians diverted the Gangir River, and filled in some of the wells which served as conduits, thus causing considerable suffering amongst the Iraqi villages of the Mandali district. The feeling is bitter on both sides, and so far the British have been unable to effect a compromise. Meanwhile, the Shah has made Bandar Shapur the southern terminus of his railway rather than the more favorably located port of Mohammerah. Iraq, in fact, is the sole exception to the picture we have drawn of the general evolution of Persia's foreign relations from a state of semi-hostility to friendship with all neighbors.

Maybe, however, the projected return visit of Mustapha Kemal to the Shah may provide a propitious moment for Turkish mediation between Persia and Iraq, the only remaining step necessary to complete the circle of Middle East solidarity.

VI. PERSIA'S SIGNIFICANCE IN WORLD POLITICS

Supposing that the upward curve which has marked the last decade of Persian history continues, and that the favorable constellation of external factors does not alter, then what? In that case, the question posed in the first sentence of this article must be answered in the affirmative. For the probability would be that the three Middle East states, having adopted the same pattern of "great-man reform," would tighten their already strong political, economic and cultural ties and proceed to use the platform provided at Geneva to exert influence as an "Asiatic League." In the event of another European war, it is likely that the Middle East bloc would be so solid as to prevent any violation of its regional neutrality and would be able to exercise freedom of choice as to whether or not to keep out of the conflict. On the other hand, should the West be able to avert war and to recover from the economic crisis, there might well ensue, as part of that recovery, another era marked by competitive imperialism with a consequent renewal of the old pressures on Persia.

Consideration of this question invites a glance at geography. The debatable ground of Asia is the belt between the 30th and 40th parallels and including China, Afghanistan, Persia, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Palestine. Captain Mahan's dictum that control of this belt is bound to be a strategic issue between the sea power of Britain and the land power of Russia must be modified somewhat in the light of the rise of Japan, and the advance of military aviation. His other dictum, however, still holds: that of this debatable belt, China, primarily because it is a productive and market area, must cede first place in importance to the regions west of the massive mountain center, for it is there that the vital control of communications can be maintained.

No matter what the form of her government, Russia must regard Persia as of the utmost strategic importance, especially in case Japan should succeed in blocking the outlet to the Pacific. As the huge industrial plant of Western Siberia and Turkestan begins to produce a marketable surplus, it is not likely that the products of Asiatic industry will travel back to industrialized Europe. The Caspian is a Russian lake, even though the Bolsheviks returned the port of Pahlevi to Persia. With the expansion of the Central Asian railway net, Russia must attempt to use Persia as a "land Suez" leading to the warm salt waters of the south. Whether she will act with the coöperation of Persia or not depends on unpredictable issues.

Great Britain, also, can never cease to consider the strategic position of Persia. Control of Persia would permit the encirclement of Afghanistan and the protection of the air bases in Iraq, besides offering a threat to the Russian oil fields at Baku and providing an observation-post toward Russian Turkestan. The British are evidently now engaged in developing an alternative land route to replace the Suez Canal should the latter be destroyed in time of war. The recent transfer of most of the British naval base from Malta to Haifa, the frequent tours of inspection by British officials, the reinforcement of the garrison at Akaba, and the elaboration of railway projects -- one down the shore of the Red Sea, the other to tie in with the Baghdad line leading to the Persian Gulf -- all indicate new British plans for Western Asia, in which Palestine and Transjordania will serve as centers of defense. In connection with this development of her Middle East defenses, we may note Great Britain's apparent effort to withdraw from the European security system, and to shift attention to a system of world security in which there shall be as few British commitments in Europe as possible.

Whatever the result of these various tendencies, we may predict that because of her strategic position Persia will be required to exercise ceaseless vigilance in order to maintain her independence. The revitalization of Persia's social forces now in progress augurs well, indeed, that such vigilance will be valiantly maintained.

[i] The Shah himself has become the owner of much of the property of dispossessed "rebels."

[ii]Cf. "The Financial Independence of Persia," by Edgar Turlington, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, July 1928.

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  • BRUCE HOPPER, Assistant Professor of Government, Harvard University; author of "Pan-Sovietism" and other works
  • More By Bruce Hopper