This panel is the first part of a sequence of two panels structured around the notion that secret intrigues and intelligence played at least as significant a role in the modern history of Iran’s relationship with foreign powers -- including Britain, Russia and Germany -- as did public diplomatic encounters. Whereas the history of Iran's relations with these countries has been significantly explored, many details of the secret deals and spying remain to be exposed. As the papers make clear, it is often difficult to draw a line between what is “open” and secret, myth and reality, in great power diplomacy. Even though the papers bring in a number of new, predominantly archival, sources on Iranian history, there will always remain an element of mystery in the clandestine activities of foreigners in Iran. The papers in these panels engage these issues from a variety of perspectives -- examining individual spies and intelligence operations -- and together they paint a rich tableau of the multifaceted role British, Russian/Soviet and German nationals have played in modern Iranian history.
This panel centers on the diplomatic intrigues of Russians/Soviets, British and Germans. The first paper will focus on the British side of the deadly attack on the Russian embassy in Tehran in 1829 and will argue that a “wrong gambit” of the Russian envoy, Alexander Griboedov, in close alliance with his British counterpart, Col. John Kinneir MacDonald, was among the main reasons leading to the tragic demise of both men. The second paper considers the WWII period and will demonstrate that the abdication of Reza Shah in 1941 was purely the result of secret British-Soviet intrigues and the rivalry of the two powers for influence in Iran. The third paper will explain how Soviet intelligence outplayed its German counterpart and won the Kurds’ support prior to and during the Soviet invasion of northern Iran in August 1941. The fourth paper will expose the “slick intrigues” of British officials in 1946, including hidden dealings, deceits and promises, as they struggled to undermine Tudeh influence among the striking Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) workers.