British diplomacy and the Iranian revolution, 1978-1981

Ali, Luman (2016) British diplomacy and the Iranian revolution, 1978-1981. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Exploiting recently-released files from the United Kingdom’s National Archives at Kew, this thesis is a case study of the complexities of engaging in diplomacy with a revolutionary regime – a regime that had come to power in a state with which there had previously been friendly co-operation and profitable commercial relations. Specifically, it analyses the evolution of the British diplomatic experience and especially the role played by British diplomats in dealing with Iran between 1978, when widespread discontent against the Shah made it clear that his pro-Western regime might not survive, through the revolution of 1979, the dawn of the Islamic Republic and the American embassy hostage crisis, until the end of 1981, by which time it was clear that Anglo-Iranian relations were mired in difficulties, with Britain conducting business via an ‘interests section’ under a protecting power, Sweden. The main purpose of this thesis is to investigate how well British diplomats performed as they conducted relations during a major revolution, against a highly uncertain backdrop, with Iranian domestic affairs in constant flux. Comparisons are made to the British experience of previous revolutions, especially those in France, Russia and China.

In exploring the relationship and interactions between Britain and Iran, the thesis not only looks at how foreign policy towards Iran was shaped by the British government in London (particularly via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), but also at how the British embassy, and later the interests section, in Tehran, helped to shaped policy at home while dealing with the grave uncertainties in Iran. To this end, in addition to looking at major international issues, like the fallout from the hostage crisis, the implications of the Iranian upheaval for the Cold War and the impact of the Iran- Iraq conflict, the thesis explores three major questions. In chronological order these are: the supposed failure of the embassy, under Sir Anthony Parsons, to predict the downfall of the Shah (where the thesis draws on works that discuss intelligence ‘surprises’); how diplomats at the embassy faced the upheaval in Tehran, during the revolution itself; and how the interests section was established and staffed, under Swedish protection. The thesis therefore combines some of the conventional focus of works of international history (such as political crises, war and trade) with questions that have arisen from the literature on diplomatic practice (such as the daily work of ambassadors, the value of interests sections as compared to embassies and interactions within the diplomatic corps).

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Young, John
Subjects: D History - General and Old World > DA Great Britain
D History - General and Old World > DS Asia
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 33884
Depositing User: Ali, Luman
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2016 13:40
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2020 04:30

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