The origins of the Cold War in Iran are usually equated to the Azerbaijan Crisis of 1945-46. These four papers challenge this consensus with regards to both chronology and content. Orthodox interpretations provide a triumphalist United States discourse emphasising President Truman’s role in confronting Soviet interference, whilst more recent revisionist interpretations downplay the significance of Western actions in favour of Iranian Premier Ahmad Qavam. This panel offers a post-revisionist interpretation, with each paper challenging these existing assumptions and focusing on the dynamic interactions between Iranian policy actors and the three Great Powers: the Soviet Union, United States and Britain. Firstly, Dmitry Asinovskiy provides insight into Soviet policy, evaluating the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad, where the interaction between Soviet ambitions and indigenous nationalism were more dynamic than in the puppet Azerbaijan regime. This paper will explore the limits and opportunities for Great Power interference in Iran: a crucial theme of the panel. Further exploring this issue, Gregory Brew’s paper questions the traditionalist account of strategic and ideological competition, instead focusing on the relations between Western oil companies and the Iranian government. This emphasises continuity between 1946 and earlier events, such as the 1942 and 1944 oil scrambles, implying that Soviet-American rivalry in Iran predated the global Cold War. Similarly focused on the oil question, Mattin Biglari offers a social history of 1946 in contrast to the top-down paradigm evident in both orthodox and revisionist interpretations. By analysing inter-communal relations in the Khuzestan general strike, his paper provides both an original interpretation of postwar Iranian nationalism, and emphasises the conflict between Tudeh aspirations and Soviet policy: further indicative of the limits of Great Power influence. Finally, Alexander Nicholas Shaw challenges the prevailing perception of conflictual Anglo-American relations in Iran, considering Anglo-American reactions to the growth of Tudeh influence as evident in the Khuzestan strike. In fact, British and United States representatives cooperated closely in the ideological-strategic arena whilst conducting triangular diplomacy with Qavam. This contrasts with United States desires to supplant British influence in the economic sphere, as assessed by Gregory Brew. Overall, this panel challenges the prevailing assumptions about the origins of the Cold War in Iran by moving beyond the Azerbaijan question, focusing on power relationships between local and international agencies, and reconsidering Iranian nationalism, through incorporating ideas from social, economic and diplomatic history.
Traditionally, Anglo-American relations in Iran during the 1940s are depicted as strained due to United States perceptions of British imperialism. This paper will re-evaluate this relationship using the official records of the British Foreign Office and personal correspondence of diplomats including British Ambassador to Tehran Sir Reader Bullard (1939-46), Minister in Moscow Frank Roberts (1945-47) and United States Ambassador George Allen (1946-47). Although it is apparent through the latter’s discussions with President Truman that the United States intended to supplant British influence, Anglo-American representatives in Tehran cooperated closely in pressuring Iran into a firmer anti-Communist policy. Evaluating this cooperation will involve comparison of the individual tactics of the two allies in pursuing their strategic goals. Following the seeming resolution of the Azerbaijan question by April 1946, Anglo-American concerns centred on the Soviet-Iranian oil agreement, inclusion of three Tudeh ministers in the Iranian Cabinet, and rapid growth of Tudeh influence amongst the British oilfields in southern Iran. Whilst Britain preferred heavy-handed brinkmanship symbolised by the dispatch of nearly ten thousand troops to the Iran-Iraq border in August 1946, the United States adopted a more subtle approach. Ambassador George Allen cultivated personal relations with the Shah, characterised by frequent tennis games, to intervene in the fragile domestic power balance between Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Prime Minister Ahmad Qavam. This tactical dichotomy was complimentary in achieving short-term goals, but ultimately self-destructive for longer-term British influence due to Iranian perceptions of ‘perfidious Albion’. In the short-term, it will be concluded that, contrary to traditionalist United States histories of the 1946 crisis, the heavy-handed British approach was equally significant in persuading Qavam to adopt a stronger policy in resisting Tudeh influence. This peaked with the dismissal of the Tudeh ‘camels’ (as termed by Bullard’s successor John Le Rougetel), due to the combination of overt brinkmanship with more veiled personal threats from the Ambassador. Le Rougetel has been interpreted as a weak choice to replace Bullard due to his lack of regional experience, but by balancing threats with a more sympathetic attitude towards Qavam, whom Bullard dismissed as a Soviet stooge, he achieved far more for British policy. However, leading up to the Majlis rejection of the Soviet-Iranian oil agreement in 1947, United States influence noticeably supplanted Britain, fulfilling Truman’s long-term objectives. This is evident through comparison with Qavam’s visit to Moscow in February-March 1946, during which British Minister Frank Roberts became a frequent confidant.