Persia

From Kaiserreich

Politics

Persia is a constitutional monarchy under the Qajar Dynasty.

History

In 1901 Muzzafir al-Din Shah, in order to finance his continued wealth and that of his court at the expense of the country awarded key oil concessions to William D’Arcy, a British subject living in Persia. In one fell swoop Britain had at her disposal the greatest source of oil in the Middle East, and the protection of the control of this oil became the overriding goal of British politics in the Middle East. The D’Arcy concession was followed by others, and soon Persia was strangled by foreign economic control. This aroused the bazaari class, the merchants, guilds, and moneylenders who were the heart of the economy, to anger. The Shah had, through the concessions, deprived them of their livelihood and threatened to destroy them all. Clearly something had to be done. In this the bazaaris found allies in two unlikely places. The first was the reform movement. A motley collection of men and women, even members of the Qajar nobility, who had become dissatisfied with the corruption of the Imperial Court and the exploitation of their country, they sought a revolution to modernize Persia. The second was the ulema, the Shi’a Islamic clergy. The ulema and the bazaaris had allied once before during the tobacco protests in 1890, but in general the clergy and the merchant class rarely cooperated. The three forces melded together to form the Nezhat-e-Mashrooteh, the Constitutional Movement. In 1905 two merchants were bastinadoed (a punishment where the bottom of the feet are beaten) in public because of the rates they charged for their goods. In answer the NM called for a general uprising against the Shah. From the sanctuary of a Tehran mosque the reformers issued their demands for a modern constitution and a national assembly of the people. At first Muzzafir al-Din Shah simply ignored the protestors and ordered the mosque to be cleared, violating the sanctuary status of the building. This backfired on the Royalist cause and the NM simply took up refuge in a second mosque, outside Tehran. The common people poured into the streets and joined the call for a constitution. When Royalist forces executed a Sayyid, a descendant of Mohammed in the early part of the following year events spun out of control. By August, 1906 the Shah was cornered and caved in. Within a month the first assembly, called the Majlis, was convened. The Majlis worked quickly, and created the Fundamental Law, which became the Constitution. Muzzafir al-Din Shah initially resisted the passing of the Fundamental Law on the grounds that the Shah should retain some authority. The Majlis objected to this but amended the constitution to suit royal demands, which among other things made it so that all laws had to be signed by the Shah to become law and most infamously allowed the Shah to appoint and dismiss Prime Ministers as he pleased. The revised Fundamental Law was signed on December 31st, 1906 to mass celebration in the streets of Tehran. Within 5 days of the passing of the Fundamental Law the Shah was dead, and his son Mohammed Ali succeeded him.

The reign of Mohammed Ali was fraught with tension. Although he made a grand show of his support for the new Constitution of Persia in reality the new Shah schemed to restore the old absolutist system. In the early days of 1907 the Majlis formulated the Supplementary Fundamental Law, a basic Bill of Rights. But unlike other similar documents the Supplementary Fundamental Law was adjusted by the ulema to adhere to Shari’a Law. Mohammed Ali dragged his feet however, determined to bring the new government crashing down. With the outbreak of food riots and protests by the common masses against the bazaaris it appeared that a return to absolutism was not so far fetched. A split in the ulema resulted in many prominent clerics denouncing the Majlis as in violation of the tenets of Islam. When Great Britain and Russia divided Persia into spheres of influence as part of the August 31st agreement that saw the formation of the Triple Entente it had dire consequences on Persian political stability. The Shah’s supporters capitalized on the event as proof of the weakness of democracy. In June 1908 Mohammed Ali Shah ordered V. P. Liakhov, commander of the elite Persian Cossack Division to open fire on the Majlis. The Persian Civil War had begun. The civil war demonstrated once and for all that the time of the absolutist monarch was past, as the Shah’s army proved incapable of fighting the constitutional partisans. In July 1909 horsemen loyal to the Bakhtiyari Xan (Persian spelling of Khan) Sardar Assad stormed Tehran and defeated the Persian Cossack Division with the aid of a force of Azerbaijan rebels. Mohammed Ali Shah was deposed the following month by the restored Majlis and exiled to Russia. In his place the Majlis elevated the 11-year-old Ahmad, creating him Ahmad Shah. Following this victory the Majlis began to break down as the unity of the Nezhat-e-Mashrooteh evaporated. The old party survived but new political parties, the most powerful being the Hezb-e-Demokrat-e-Iran, the Democratic Party of Iran, and the Hezb-e-Vatan, the Homeland Party, were formed. The loss of unity shattered what little stability that Persia had and the country descended into anarchy. In 1911 the British and the Russians directly intervened militarily, the British to protect the newly discovered oil within the D’Arcy concession, the Russians in support Mohammed Ali. Despite the disunity of the nation Mohammed Ali was defeated a second time and driven into exile for good. The Russians returned before the end of the year, this time to demand the removal of William Morgan Shuster. Shuster was an American who was retained by the Majlis to handle finances. At this point he had done a splendid job, and Persia looked to make an economic recovery. But Shuster’s progress concerned the Russians when he began to go after corrupt officials in Russian employ. So they marched on Tehran demanded the American be sacked. The Majlis refused and it looked like a war would break out when in December, 1911 Shu'a al-Saltaneh, Ahmad’s uncle and the Prince Regent dismissed William Shuster. Following the Russian withdrawal the Prince Regent dissolved the Majlis.

Now we reach the point of divergence. In 1916, while the Weltkrieg whirled all around, the young Shah of Persia came of age and took the throne for real. Ahmad Shah, despite his youth and inexperience, genuinely cared for the Persian people and country. Unlike his father Ahmad did not desire absolute power and never wanted to exceed his limits as a constitutional monarch. He believed in the Fundamental Law, and saw no reason to break it. Unfortunately he was surrounded by incompetent and greedy ministers, many of them foreign puppets. For the early years of his reign he did not have the Majlis to help him, as the last sitting session had dissolved itself due to Russian pressure the year previous. When the February Revolution of 1917 resulted in the abdication of Tsar Nikolai II it changed the progress of the Weltkrieg and Persia. When the Bolsheviks launched a coup in October there was much fear in Tehran of what the British would do. From their occupation zone in the southeastern provinces the British surprisingly did nothing at all, being far more concerned with the German military redeployments and events on the Mesopotamia and Palestine fronts (POD in history they put Persia under military occupation to fight the Bolsheviks, a situation which resulted in the 1919 Anglo-Persian Agreement which killed the Qajar dynasty). Meanwhile the Jangali Movement, a radical rebellion started by Mirza Kuchak Xan and the Society of Islamic Union, became progressively bolder. This became a significant problem after the central government granted the White forces asylum in Persia, in a show of mercy. Together with the Persian Cossack Division, which had survived the fall of Mohammed Ali Shah, and other Persian armed forces, the White Russians rallied and successfully defeated the Jangalis in battle in 1918. The Cossacks were charged with insuring the destruction of the Jangali movement. In 1919 the situation took a rapidly different course. In the Weltkrieg the Entente collapsed with the surrender of France and Italy, leaving Britain to stand alone. In panic the British decided to abandon their zone of influence in Persia, and pulled out. The southeast fell into turmoil in the power vacuum, although attempts to calm the region were soon underway. Meanwhile the various White Russian factions pulled together at the Congress of Omsk, and the remaining Russians in Persia decided to head for home. A minority opted to stay and continue to serve.

In 1921 with the end of the Weltkrieg Ahmad Shah felt confidant enough to recall the Majlis back into session after 5 years. The Fourth Majlis soon gained the moniker of the ‘The Assembly of Revenge’. The returning delegates had spent the interregnum on the run, hiding from the British and the Russians and the many different rebels. But with the assembly back in session the Majlis was out for blood. The first thing they did was revoke all concessions made by the Persian government since Muzzafir al-Din Shah reigned. This included the D’Arcy concession, which had become the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. The APOC, long the sore spot of many Persian politicians was nationalized before the year was out. Spearheading the effort was a young Qajar prince and Minister of Finance, Mohammed Mosaddeq, the nephew of the nation’s senior politician Prince Abdul Husayn Farman Farma. With the leadership of the new Prime Minister and leading general, Ahmad Qavam, the nation looked like it would make a recovery. Meanwhile the Persian Cossack Division finally brought the Jangali Movement to heel, and the former Russian zone finally knew a semblance of peace. Mirza Kuchak Xan was captured and publicly hanged in Tehran in a strong show of force by the Majlis. In 1923 Ahmad Shah left Persia to take in the new world situation. The height of the tour was the visit to Berlin, where Ahmad Shah and Mohammed Hassan, his brother and heir, was received with pomp by Germany’s victorious monarch, Wilhelm II in 1924. During the visit the German Imperial Chancellor, Alfred von Tripitz, made allusions to the Shah about the possibility of German aid to Persia in exchange for a treaty of friendship. Ahmad Shah had grown up surrounded by such language and recognized it for what it was: Germany wanted to replace Britain and Russia as the new foreign hegemon. In a famous reply the Shah reminded the German Chancellor that Persia was a free nation, with a constitution, that while at times on shaky ground was solid and in power by the will of the people themselves. Ahmad Shah was not going comprise the integrity of his nation for anyone. The message was clear and von Tripitz dropped the matter, perhaps at the insistence of Wilhelm II. The Shah spent the remainder of his time aboard in Italy attending his father who had settled there in exile. When the old man died in April 1925 Ahmad and Mohammed Hassan oversaw his funeral and returned eastward with the body, burying it in the Qajar Family Crypt in the Shrine of Imam Husayn, Karbala, within the Ottoman Empire. The Fourth Majlis dismissed itself soon after the return of the Royal brothers. The succeeding assembly was much more conciliatory then the ‘Assembly of Revenge’ but was fraught with the same inter-party strife that had afflicted some many previous sessions. Distressed by the strife Ahmad Shah approached the Majlis to ask them put their differences aside for Persia’s sake. While political turmoil continued the Shah’s plea caught their attention, and resulted in the popular coalition government of Abdulhusayn Teymurtash. Teymurtash was the youngest delegate in the Majlis but he was already famous for abilities as a minister and his patriotism. With wide ranged support the Teymurtash government oversaw the rebuilding of Persia, resulting in various court honors. The coalition broke down in 1932 when the Prime Minister attempted a radical secularization program. Teymurtash, like many members of reform movement, had been angered by the compromise with the ulema they had been forced into during the drafting of the Fundamental Law. His vision was of a secular Persia, with no clerical role in government. Teymurtash’s support for the Congress of Eastern Women, a political movement inspired by Women’s Rights movements in the Western world brought the matter to a head. The clergy proved triumphant over the secularists in the ensuing political war, and Ahmad Shah was forced to dismiss his favorite Prime Minister by the end of the year. Frustrated by the conflict the former Prime Minister retired from public life in 1933.

Now we enter the modern time. In 1936 Qajar Persia is still a struggling nation, but one with promise. The Teymurtash Government had done much to set the nation on the modernizing path. Ahmad Shah continues to reign and the year previous oversaw the inauguration of the Tenth Majlis. The current Prime Minister is HIH Prince Firuz Nosrat ed-Dowleh, the eldest son of the Grand Old Man of Persia, Prince Abdul Husayn Farman Farma. Prince Firuz’s Government is mostly stable, except for a loose cannon in the form of Minister of War Reza Xan. Reza was formerly a solider in the Persian Cossack Division who became the first Persian to actually command the unit, until his dismissal in 1921 for excessive brutality in the fight against the Jangalis. But Prince Farman Farma, under whom Reza had formerly served, managed to salvage the young man’s career. Reza Xan quickly became the foremost military man in Persia, aside from Ahmad Qavam. But his low birth and questionable methods have kept Reza Xan in check for now. His greatest opponent is the popular returning Finance Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq, who has held the position now for more times then even the Shah can remember. Diplomatically Persia has been forced by necessity into closer relations with Imperial Germany and her hegmonial alliance, the Mitteleuropa. The long lived Kerensky Government in Russia had forged some ties with Persia, and while still wary of the Russians with good reason the Russian immigrant community still has some effect on Tehran. Relations with the rest of the Entente are unexpectedly still cold. Years of British abuse are hard to forgive. The syndicalists are, internationally and internally, Ahmad Shah’s greatest worry. In the late 1920s syndicalist agents working for the Commune of France created the underground Hezb-e Tudeh Iran, or simply Tudeh, the Communist Party of Iran. The Tudeh quickly proclaimed itself the successor of the Jangalis, and was ruthlessly hunted down by the Persian Cossack Division. Recent measures by the Majlis against the Bakhtiyari and other nomad groups in a new measure to centralize the nation are causing dangerous murmuring about a repeat of 1909. Lastly the Tenth Majlis will end in 1937 and who knows what the new elections will bring...

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