chapter  2
41 Pages

Building a new army: Military reform in Qajar Iran


In the early years of the twenty-first century the United States and Britain find themselves, as a consequence of their resort to war, the resulting collapse of indigenous state structures, and their own post-war policies, once again directly involved in military reform and state-building in the Middle East. In Iraq and Afghanistan, US and British missions have undertaken the reconstruction of military and police forces, defining their projects in terms of building up local military forces to the point at which these forces would be politically reliable and capable of guaranteeing domestic peace and security. In this, they place themselves within a tradition of Western-sponsored military reform in the Middle East which has a long and problematic pedigree. The nineteenth century saw a plethora of European military missions arrive in the Middle East and North Africa from all the major powers, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia, as well as from minor and supposedly neutral countries such as Sweden. The twentieth century saw a renewed eruption of military missions, notably to Iraq and Transjordan, under the aegis of the mandatory system, while after the Second World War the United States became the principal supplier of military advisers, especially to Iran. The narrative below looks at the history of one Middle Eastern country’s experience with Western military missions, an experience which extended over a protracted period, and which was to have a profound impact on the configuration of Iranian nationalism.