Reza Khan, The British and 1921 Coup

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Rozita Miri

February 22nd 1921 coup of Reza Khan may be considered a turning point in the political relationship of Iran and the Britain. As 1917 revolution of the Russia has deprived the Qajars from Russian support, it was time for its rival to expand its influence more than ever.

The main purpose of the coup was to take Ahmad Shah's control over the military power of the Cossack Brigade. So it was necessary to dislodge Colonel Staroselski, the commandant of the Cossacks from its position.

Subsequent to his removal, a senior British officer, Colonel Smayce who came to Iran for the training of the new army, was appointed to deal with the Cossack brigade affairs.

Despite Majlis having appointed Sardar Homayun as Cossack commandent, General Ironside and colonel Smayce had invested Reza Khan with powers to carry out the coup. However, it could not be done without the help of domestic elements. Seyyed Ziaaddin Tabatabi was one of those who had taken oath to fulfill the coup.

It is said that there were five people including Seyyed Ziaaddin, Reza Khan mirpanj, Major Massud Khan, colonel Ahmad Agha khan AmirAhmadi, and colonel Kazem Khan Sayyah, who were united and sealed the back of the Holy Koran to carry out their plan.

Since 1913 Ardeshir Ji's network had been connected to Reza Khan through Mirza Karim Khan Rashti and somehow undertook his political training.

Ardeshir Ji believed that Seyyed Zia had performed his task well and his incentive was to help his country, but he exaggerated in showing off his connection with the British. Seyyed Zia in many occasions has said that events of the coup were secrets and should not be mentioned. However the existing telegrams between the British foreign secretary and the British minister in Iran and further to that General Ironside's diaries reveal the British nature of the coup.

Though General Ironside is known as the architect of 1921 coup, it is evident it would not achieve its goals without the support of domestic elements, especially the Zargandeh committee, the members of which were in close connection with the British Legation. As one of its most secret members of the committee, Mirza Karim Khan Rashti has confessed to his being a mediator between the Legation and Reza Khan.

The coup aimed at the establishment of military dictatorship all over the country and within a few days closed the publication of all dailies in the country.

The British and Feb. 22nd 1921 Coup

Eftekhar Belarashk

As being one of the main events of Iran’s contemporary history, Feb. 22nd 1921 was carried out in Iran and was backed by the British due to some reasons including 1919 treaty not being concluded by the Majlis, preventing the expansion of Communist Russia in Iran, and safeguarding its interests in India. The British attempted to execute the contents of the 1919 treaty through his protégé in Iran.

At first they appointed Seyyed Ziaaddin Tabatabai who was a journalist as its main tool, and following much talks and considerations, lieutenant colonel Reza Khan became the commandant of the cassock forces and the military man of the coup.

Eventually, the Cossacks entered Tehran under Reza Khan and after a short clash with the gendarmerie, they took control of Tehran. Martial law was declared, and some members of the society were detained, and the contents of 1919 were cancelled superficially.

The following documents give ideas of the events of those days including Seyyed Zia’s being appointed as prime minister, his introducing his cabinet members, appointment of Colonel Kazem Khan Sayyah as the military governor of Tehran, the famous declarations beginning as “ I order” by Reza Khan, closure of clubs and theaters and etc.

1 - Ahmed Shah’s firman appointing Seyyed Ziaaddin Tabatabi as Prime Minister [M 288-181-19]

2 - Seyyed Ziaaddin Tabatabi’s telegraph to Nasserolmolk requesting the cancellation of 1919 treaty observing the friendly relations of Iran o British in every ground [G 1250]

3 - A circular issued by Seyyed Zia introducing his cabinet members [N 4869]

4 - The order appointin Colonel Kazem Khan Sayyah as the military governor of Tehran issued by Seyyed Ziaaddin Tabatabai, minister of interior[M 288-181-20]

5 - A nine articled announcement known as “I order” issued by Reza Khan, the head of Cossack division [K 139-2-3]

6 - Communiqué issued by Tehran municipality on the prohibition of clubs and theater’s activities [K 139-2-5]

7 - The translation of an article of Near East on Seyyed Ziaaddin Tabatabai’s actions on Iran’s domestic and foreign affairs, inviting the British advisors for cooperation in Iran despite the cancellation of 1919 treaty and declaring hopes to have the British help to fight back the Bolshevik forces of the north [K 139-1-32] (page 1)

8 - [K 139-1-33] (Page 2)

9 - [K 139-1-34] (Page 3)

10 - The translation of a piece of news on the British control over the Cossack forces to prevent the conclusion of a contract between Iran and Russia which appeared on l’Humanite of Paris [K 139-1-7] (page 1)

11 - [K 139-1-8] (Page 2)

12 - Approved regulation of the ministers on the employment of advisors from the Britain, France, United States, and Sweden [N 49]

13 - The translation of a piece of news from a German daily on the British meddling in Iran’s affairs through bribing the Cossack brigade for annihilating the Bolshevik dominance, and preventing the Russian influence in India [K 139-1-35] (page 1)

14 - [K 139-1-36] (Page 2)

Source: The Institute for Iranian Contemporary Historical Studies (IICHS)