chapter  I
23 Pages

Introduction

As Lord Salisbury appreciated when he wrote this in 1889, Britain did possess India, and a proprietor's concern for security became the central and sustaining feature in the Anglo-Iranian connection. l One of the ironies of the relationship was that Iran was more the object of concern than the subject for relations. Apart from a rather limited trade, British interest or involvement in the kingdom of the Great Sophy arose out of an abiding concern for the defense of India's land frontier and the routes thither. Had the British been assured of the security of the strategic routes across the Middle East, and if they could have been reassured about the invulnerability of their vast continental possession, it is doubtful that Iran would have figured very prominently in British thinking. But one of the problems with security is that its mental frontiers always exceed the physical means for achieving security. A succession of Foreign Secretaries and Viceroys were never able to completely dismiss concern for or doubts about the security of India; nor were they ever able to solve the Persian puzzle - of finding a way to fit Iran into a scheme for imperial defense. This provoked one Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, to complain, 'Persia tried my patience more than any other subject.' 2 Hyperbole, perhaps, but considering the problems he had to deal with it reflects a sense of the frustration which was a constant feature of Anglo-Iranian relations.