Colonialism of England in Persian Gulf
By : Meisam Taheri Ben Chenari
History of presence of English colony in Middle East and Persian Gulf goes back to beginnings of 19th century. In 1820s in heydays of Iran-Russia wars, English government occupied southern coasts of Persian Gulf claiming to be fighting pirates and signed protectorate agreements with local rulers. Aim of this country was permanent presence in heart of world energy, i. e. Persian Gulf, and in order to fulfill this dream did not refrain from an anti-humanitarian measure like occupation – military involvement – weakening rights of nations – slaughter.
Even though in the past eras including Safavid dynasty the English were present in Iran, but at that time due to power of central government they were only involved in trade. In Qajar dynasty and in the period of weakening of Iran due to war with Russia, England seized opportunity to militarily occupy some Persian Gulf regions which were controlled by Iran.
On the way to have complete authority on region in last years of 19th century in addition to other measures England used “cause disunion and rule” policy and by intensifying border disputes caused them to get even weaker. And made region conditions convulsive.
At this stage England was able to dominate Bahrain, Dubai, Sharje, Abuzabi, Masghat, Oman, … sheikhdoms. Then during second half of 19th century after stabilizing its position in Persian Gulf sheikhdoms England made more attempts to weaken Iran and Ottoman governments and imposing numerous wars on these governments and removing different land from them forcibly it could develop its authority and control more than ever before in these 2 countries.
Regarding focus of England on Persian Gulf a number of reasons can be mentioned:
1. Economic significance: Merchants from different areas of world have been active in this region from ancient times. Persian Gulf was on the way of trade of goods from India, China and Indochina peninsula to Ottomans and Europe. The English, like other Europeans who had heard description of infinite wealth of this region, entered with military fleet. First they defeated other European colonizer governments like Portugal and Netherlands and after weakening big governments of region they developed their dominance over this wealthy and rich region.
2. Other reason of England’s interest in Persian Gulf at that time frame was use of Persian Gulf in order to control India. They were worried that European powers might develop their control and influence in Persian Gulf and attack India from there and to avoid increase of power by big regional powers like Iran and Ottomans and their interests being threatened by them. Therefore England paid much attention to maintenance of Persian Gulf and using causing disunion policy attempted to keep countries of this region weak.
3. Oil: At beginning of 20th century due significance of Persian Gulf another value was also added and that was oil discovery and extraction in Iran in 1908and then gradually in other Persian Gulf countries also oil was discovered.
England government in 1913 decided to transform driving power of its war vessels from coal- burning engines to oil-burning ones to dwindle its costs and to produce more maneuver power and speed for its vessels. Iran oil significance increased with this decision otherwise it would have had to purchase oil from other countries, namely America, Mexico and … . Therefore it started to think about thorough dominance over Iran oil as confident source for fuel of its war vessels.
It was for aim of solidification of its dominance over Iran that it paved the way for 1299 coup-d’état and transformed Iran into a half-colonized country. Afterwards with discovery of oil in other Persian Gulf countries it strengthened its dominance over those countries, namely Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. And reorganized politics of those countries for its own benefits.
Occurrence of first world war (1914-1918) not only did not encounter England with any threat but also by the end ending of war and removal of powers like Ottomans and Russia, the position of England in Persian Gulf region got stronger than during before war and was also able to develop its dominance over Iraq and transformed also this country into one of its colonies. Of course England had made several attempts at occupying Iraq before, namely at beginning of 19th century when dominance over Iraq was deemed significant in England’s strategic calculations it made this country more active in Iraq but after numerous struggles finally in 1820 Sultan Mahmud the Ottoman campaigned against Iraq and revived Ottoman dominance in this country. After this event, England focused on southern coasts of Persian Gulf. But with occurrence of world war and war announcement on England by Ottomans, British government seized the opportunity to campaign against Iraq and dominated Iraq after defeating Ottoman and German forces in battle of Kutolemare.
In the gap between First and Second World Wars England kept its position in Persian Gulf and played main role in politics of Persian Gulf and Middle East at this time frame of history. And this situation continued until occurrence of Second World War. Second World War destabilized authority of England in the region. This war inflicted great man and financial damages on England. Great agricultural and industrial portions of England were ruined. A vast part of navy forces of this country was destroyed during Second World War. England face economic weakness and deficit in balance of payments made this country a country in debt.
After developments of Second World War, foundations of England power gradually got weak and in 1968 it announced that its forces will leave east of Suez canal including Persian Gulf. At that time number of military forces in east of Suez canal amounted to 27,000 land forces and 18,000 air and navy forces. England government mentioned reason of its forces leaving the area to be economical savings at that time but a closer look at conditions of region at that time shows that England quitting region has had deeper reasons.
At that time some events occurred against interests of England. Like independence of India and Pakistan, end of guardianship era of England over Palestine and Jordan, nationalization of Iran oil in 1951, which led to America becoming a partner in Iran oil interests, occurrence of free officers revolution in 1952 in Egypt, nationalization of Suez canal in 1956 and America and USSR taking stance against England and France in that event, Iraq 1958 coup-d’état when Feisal’s dynasty collapsed and ruined one of foundations of control and dominance of England in the region. 1967 war and closing of Suez canal and anger of Arabs against Israel and its advocates, Kuwait independence in 1961, vast uprisings in Bahrain against England combatants, participation of people in anti-England colonialism movements in Qatar, Sharje, Dubai, Abuzabi and Rasolkheime, uprisings of people of Oman to banish the English during which in 1968, 1,700 English combatants were killed and wounded in Oman.
Despite mentioned reasons, the question arises if England has been persuaded to forbear region regarding its vast economic benefits there. At that time England supplied close to 64% of its oil needs from oil of Middle East. (Oil domains hadn’t yet been discovered in England). And also England’s investments in Persian Gulf region countries was 1,940 million £ and benefit yielded from that has been 250 million £. Also exports of England to the region in 1966 had been 1,400 million £.
In spite of England military forces evacuating region, but England wasn’t willing to forbear its interests in region easily, therefore it thought about ways to continue its control over on region and sometimes government heads of England admitted it – namely Edward Heath, prime minister of England in 1972, at time of speech in Sento ministers meeting had said: Our combatants leaving doesn’t mean that we pay attention to this significant region no more. We have merely modernized our ties with rulers of Arab countries.
Amongst these measures for ensuring England’s control we can name its advocates taking office as heads of governments and rulers in Middle East and Persian Gulf like establishing UAE government which was a union of Dubai, Abuzabi, Sharje, Rasolkheime and … sheikhs. England supported its advocate ruler in Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan and … . Which of course with strengthening of America, these governments inclined to America and control of England diminished. One other measure of England was dominating some social groups in Islamic countries like some political groups, students, professors, merchants, clergymen and … which relationship was always in a state of flux. Generally influence and dominance of England on region has continually been decreasing after leaving in 1972 in a way that in some time frames it was felt that its influence had been cut.
But in the wake of recent developments (September 11th) it displays military presence in region suddenly like colonialism era by attacking to countries of the region that is Iraq and Afghanistan. We observe military presence of England after 32 years of absence. What can be the cause of this repeated presence?
Reasons for England participating in attack on Iraq
After end of Second World War, internal crises overwhelmed England. Losing colonies, increasing economic weakness and social crises made post-war governments face many problems. And none of the conservative and labor governments hasn’t been able to solve these problems. This approach has led to questioning of great English parties that is labor and conservative parties. Tendency of voters has diminished regarding them such that the English 2-party system is on the verge of collapse. This approach has led a tendency to grow to have small parties. Here labor party led by Tony Blair is in an awful situation. Intrinsic branching has made the party weak. Considering these problems England and labor party needed to renew unity with a foreign operation and by deviating people’s attention to outside of borders make them forget about problems inside and return credit of labor party back to it in England.
The other reason for England’s accompaniment in attacking Iraq is longing for economic interests in this attack. England has encountered economic crises in recent decades. Workers’ strikes and unemployment continues all the time. These economic crises led to several uprisings in cities in England in 1980-90. Therefore England hopes to become a partner in economic interest of Iraq by participating in attacking there, obtain some oil privileges and also to engage its economic and trading companies in economic activities of Iraq and compensate its trade balance deficit in this way.
In addition by placing Iraq as a base it can get involved in economic activities in other countries as well and by exchanging goods with wealthy and oil-rich countries of the region it can flood these countries with export of its goods. The other reason which can be mentioned for England’s participation in the plan of attack to Iraq is reestablishing its past dominance over region and giving life to old British empire and playing a more important role in politics of Middle East. In 1968 at the time of government of labor party led by Wilson, the prime minister of England, it was announced that England will leave east of Suez canal and Middle East region. Middle East region which was slave of political games of England for a period of 2 centuries was relieved by this pleasant news. Everyone thought that Middle East has been unleashed of chains of old colonizer. But at beginning of 21st century sound of its footsteps returning could be heard and the memory of era of disunion causing and deceptions and hypocrisy has been revived.
It was announced at time of governance of labor party that England is intending to leave the region. Again at time of same labor party it was announced that England has returned to middle east and middle east countries again should await deceptions of old colonizer fox. From beginning of 18th century when England developed its dominance in region until 1970s when it left Middle East, it was considered main player political scene of Middle East. It used cause disunion and rule policy and made countries and nations enemies and stabilized its dominance.
But due to economic problems and afterwards uprisings of region countries it was forced to send out its forces from middle east. And in later years it was also engaged in some internal problems such that it rarely afforded to pay attention to issues of other regions. These problems made England so weak that that it was no longer able to campaign against other countries.
Until America started to think about executing its macro- and long-time plans in different parts of world after September 11th attacks and England also seized opportunity and announced that it’s following America’s politics. And the two countries with cooperation started an imaginary war on terrorism.
They recognized Iraq to be an appropriate prey after Afghanistan. They charged it with some accusations like supporting terrorism and reproducing weapons of mass destruction and then they commenced their attack. England that not long ago considered Iraq to be its colony and held its politics and economy in its hand could exert its dominance over Iraq faster and better than America. England that was led out of Iraq in 1958 after Abdolkarim Ghasem’s coup-d’état was now returning there after 55 years to re-colonize former colony in a new manner and set its traps there. Of course Iraq isn’t their sole target but they also have views upon other Middle East countries and they intend to re-dominate free countries of region with military attack which have dissatisfied the west with their independent politics.
Of course it must be considered that in this new game, England plays role of follower in back scene and America is attacking head and shield of England. And in case complications arise and new plans face deadlocks it’ll skillfully pull over and will leave America alone in the crises and among enemies.