It’s not uncommon, among the most conspiratorial Iranian politicians, to hear fulminations against British plots, even today. And to be fair, there’s some basis for Iranian antipathy toward nearly two centuries of antipathy between the Persian and British empires.
The British increasingly sidelined the Persian empire in the 19th century during the so-called ‘Great Game,’ as the Russian and Turkish empires increasingly encroached on historical Persia. In 1908, with the discovery of oil, British interests quickly swooped in to negotiate favorable terms for themselves, to the detriment of the Iranians. During World War II, though Iran was officially neutral, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union jointly invaded Iran in 1941 as part of efforts to secure Iranian oil, installing the young Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as the country’s new shah. The resulting chaos led to famine, economic mismanagement and starvation throughout Iran for the rest of the war. Though the United States Central Intelligence Agency carried out the 1953 ouster of prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, British intelligence greatly facilitated the operation.
More recently, a mob invaded the British embassy in Tehran in 2011, setting fire to the British flag, which caused the United Kingdom to cut relations with Iran.
So it’s no exaggeration to say that the United Kingdom might today be even more hated in the Islamic Republic of Iran than the United States of America.
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All of which makes this week’s bilateral meeting between Iranian president Hassan Rowhani and British prime minister David Cameron so fascinating. Continue reading Photo of the week: Cameron meets Rowhani