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|From: Church & State: Editorials|
|Date: January, 2012|
|The Irish Government has closed its Embassies in the Vatican and in Iran, giving cost—and lack of trade—as the reason. In diplomatic matters it is not expected that the truth will be blurted out. If it was, there would be no role for diplomacy.
The closing of the Vatican Embassy comes on the heels of a series of scandals involving members of the Catholic clergy in a situation brought about by the handing over of many areas of public life to the Catholic Hierarchy. The handing over was done by the party that has now broken off diplomatic relations with the Vatican as a populist gesture, after the Taoiseach made a speech holding the Pope responsible for the climate of public opinion, and the neglectful administration, in which these things happened. His attack on the Vatican was an absurd declaration of independence, suggesting that the Pope, who has nothing but a few toy soldiers under his command, had somehow conquered Ireland and held it down.
British propaganda over the centuries, and 'revisionist' propaganda in recent decades, have repeatedly asserted that the Irish have a deplorable tendency to hold others responsible for things that they have done to themselves. In the case of the present hysteria about Rome by the people running the country that is true.
The British administration during the last half-century of the Union tried repeatedly to make Rome an instrument for snuffing out the Independence movement in Ireland. Rome did its best to serve the Empire which it found useful in its world mission, but it failed. It excommunicated the rebellious Irish while the British were battering them down, but to no avail. The Independence movement went beyond rebellion to dominate the Constitutional scene. It won elections and formed a Government which the British Government found itself unable to destroy.
Rome never recognised the elected Irish Government of 1919-21 as legitimate, and it excommunicated those who resorted to physical force in defence against Britain's attempt to destroy it. The military defence of the Republic continued, despite the excommunications, until Britain considered it prudent to negotiate a Truce with those whom it had been describing as murder gangs, and to impose Dominion status on the country as a means of dividing the Independence movement and manipulating it into war with itself.
Those who agreed to establish Dominion Government under the authority of the Crown, and with an Army supplied by the Crown, made war at Britain's insistence on those who stood by the Republic. They were immediately recognised by the Catholic Hierarchy as the legitimate Government and their opponents in the so-called 'Civil War' were excommunicated. Once again the excommunications failed in their secular purpose. Those who rejected the 'Treaty' were not broken spiritually by the excommunications. They were broken militarily by British arms in Treatyite hands—and the Treatyites made war on their Republican opponents only because Britain threatened a campaign of all-out conquest if they refused to do so.
The Treatyites won the war. And they got a majority in the Dail because of the British threat—and because a rejection of the Treaty in the Dail would not have been regarded by Britain as invalidating the Treaty but as invalidating the Dail.
In winning the war, the Treatyites undermined the Sinn Fein spirit that had animated them in the earlier period. On the basis of the military conquest of 1922 they governed for ten years and gave a structure to the State which could not easily be undone in its internal aspect when, with the decline in the credibility of the threat of British reconquest, the electorate reverted to Republican voting.
It was in those years that the anomalous position of the Church in the State was established. It was in those years that what reason there was in the description of the State as clericalist was established. And then, when the Anti-Treatyites came to power in 1932 and proceeded to break the Treaty arrangements in their external aspects, the Treaty party declared itself to be a Catholic Fascist party. Then in the late 1930s, it campaigned actively for the recognition of the Franco insurrection as the legitimate Government of Spain, long before that revolt had established itself in de facto dominance. It recruited volunteers to go and fight for Franco. And, by means of a mass organisation, the Irish Christian Front, it exerted pressure on the Fianna Fail Government to recognise Franco on Catholic Fascist grounds. Fianna Fail resisted the pressure and only recognised the Franco Government when it had become the de facto Government of Spain.
Rome did not compel Cumann na nGaedheal/Fine Gael to do any of these things. Rome had no means of compulsion. Irish opinion, which had shrugged off excommunications in 1922, as in 1920 and 1867, did not insist on it. These things were done because the section of Sinn Fein which undertook to operate the Treaty was soon swamped by elements attaching themselves to it which had never supported the Independence movement. If it is too much to say that this was the inevitable consequence of the 'Treaty', it was at any rate the actual consequence.
After the Treaty was broken, and after the Treatyite party failed to make a success of Fascism, the Treatyite spirit survived only in its aspect of religious piety.
Rome and its Hierarchy in Ireland provided spiritual support to accompany British arms in the construction of the Treaty State in 1922-23. Roman casuistry, which British propaganda had often cited as a reason why punitive laws against Catholicism were necessary in the civilising of Ireland, came to the aid of Britain's 'Treaty' project by assuring those who had taken an Oath to the Republic that they were not bound by it. While there is no evidence that different degrees of belief in Roman authority contributed to the Treaty split, the working out of that split did bring about a degree of political segregation on religious grounds between those for whom Roman authority was absolute and those for whom it was not. Fine Gael was the Ultramontane party and Fianna Fail the Gallican. Gallicanism (a French development under Louis XIV) did not repudiate Rome; it put it into perspective, and took much of what it said with a pinch of salt.
The 2nd Vatican Council (1962-1965) enacted radical changes in Catholic practice, which had a disturbing effect on the dimension of Irish life that was still moulding itself ever more closely to the structures decreed by Vatican I. These changes were made in response to difficulties in other parts of the Catholic world which found no expression in Ireland. They had therefore a disconcerting effect on Ireland—on the Ultramontanist party.
Since the principle of Ultramontanism is subordination to Roman authority, these changes, however disturbing they were felt to be, could not be disputed or resisted. Nevertheless they could not but exert a subversive influence on the feelings of durable certainty generated by the system of Vatican I.
Early issues of this magazine carried a series of articles on The Rise Of Papal Power In Ireland, explaining that strict Romanism in Ireland was of very recent origin. It was provoked into existence by British Penal Laws and Protestant Crusades. Cardinal Cullen came to Ireland in 1850 to establish it. It was resisted by a considerable part of the society, and was still in the process of being established when Vatican II aborted it. We published these articles as a booklet in 1979, on the occasion of the Pope's visit. It was an unwelcome contribution to the event. The only official notice taken of it was a curt, ignorant dismissal of it by Books Ireland. But a large quantity of it was sold, and it entered into the stew that was stewing.
It was about then that we became aware of the strain of scepticism, or cynicism, that had developed within the Ultramontanist intelligentsia. It expressed itself only in private, behind a public facade which it helped to maintain. Because it did not dare to develop itself as a public force—because of obstacles existing only within itself—resentment built up in it. This resentment has now found relief in the sudden, impulsive, withdrawal of the Embassy to the Vatican by the leader of the party that was responsible for bringing about the subordination of Ireland to Rome insofar as that actually existed.
The Embassy is withdrawn, but diplomatic relations have not been broken off. There is an Ambassador to the Vatican. He is a civil servant in Dublin who is doing this job along with others. The Vatican, whether one likes it or not, remains one of the great international centres of the world, but Ireland has no presence there anymore. And we doubt that the world will come to the civil service office in Dublin to consult the Ambassador who stays at home.
In 1932 De Valera decided not to abolish the Treatyite Governor General. Instead he gave the office to Donal Buckley/Domhnall Ua Buachalla, who made a joke of it for a few years pending its abolition. But we expect that, before too long, an Irish Ambassador will again be found amidst the splendours of the Eternal City.
(A sign of the decay of the spiritual dimension of Treatyism as a consequence of Vatican II is the change of the Independent newspapers from piety to soft porn.)
If the closing of the Vatican Embassy is the action of inhibited anti-clericalism, which over the decades would not engage in the kind of open disagreement with the Church which might have brought about an evolutionary compromise—either because they over-estimated the power of the Church due to having constructed it into a demon in their own minds, or just because they did not see immediate career advantages in it—the closing of the Iranian Embassy has a different explanation. It has the signs of a clearing of the ground for a military attack on Iran. If an attack is launched, Ireland will be onside for it.
Whether or not an attack is launched is unpredictable. That the possibility of an attack is being contemplated is certain. The final decision on whether to attack will be taken with all the gravity and realistic purposefulness of a toss of a coin.
One thing that has been demonstrated by the conduct of American foreign policy during the past decade is that the US race issue has been resolved, and that its resolution has made no discernible difference to American foreign policy. Martin Luther King's dream has been realised in the White House and in the Pentagon, without causing the slightest decrease in American warmongering. General Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, lied about Iraqi WMD in order to facilitate the destruction of the Iraqi State. When no WMD could be found he insisted that American occupation should continue because the search for the non-existent WMD had broken the State. He summed up this position with the flippant huckster's remark: If you break it, you own it. Condoleeza Rice launched the war that destroyed the Iraqi State. And President Obama's conduct over three years give no grounds for supposing that the fact of his being black will have any influence on the decision whether to set about the destruction of Iran.
During the decades of the Cold War there was a widespread illusion that it was the division of the world into two antagonistic social systems that prevented the United Nations from ushering in an era of general peace in the world. Stalin, towards the end of his life, observed that a removal of the Communist bloc of states would unleash war within the capitalist system. The Soviet bloc collapsed in 1989-90 and a new era of warfare began on the instant. The Utopian aim of this new warfare was the perfecting of Capitalism as a global system under Western hegemony. States which had been part of the anti-Communist alliance—and which had been allowed, for anti-Communist purposes, to develop their economies by establishing anti-competitive measures—could not be tolerated in the era of free-market Globalism, and they were subverted. Warfare was restored as the norm which it had been from time immemorial.
US expansionism was justified after 1945 as the defence of Freedom against Communism, but America was expansionist long before a single Communist state was established, and it continues to be expansionist now that the Communist states have all gone. It is its nature to be expansionist. In the 1840s it was declared to be its "manifest destiny" to rule the American Continent. And, when it reached the Pacific, it found its destiny was to cross that Ocean and break the peace in which Japan had slumbered contentedly for centuries, and to make the coast of China an Open Door. It must expand. It can't help itself. It is in the grip of the English Puritan vision that created it.
It is sometimes not easy to see what national interest of the USA the policy and conduct of the US Government serves. But that is because the interest of a State is not something objective which can be understood by mere calculation, according to some general standard.
What US interest did it serve to impose a Jewish state on the Middle East, against the wishes of every state in the Middle East; to arm it with powerful weapons, so that it might domineer over its neighbours while riding roughshod over the natives and seizing their territory and property; and finally to enable the Jewish State to acquire the Weapon of Mass Destruction, so that it might exterminate its neighbours if they ever get their act together with conventional military forces, while preventing official recognition that Israel is a Nuclear Power?
Britain laid the foundations for the Jewish State between 1917 and 1939. Serious thought was given to the matter. The history of Jewish States was reviewed. It was seen that they had been catastrophic in their conduct because they were driven by a Millennial vision. It was not assumed that two thousand years since Rome had found it necessary to destroy the previous Jewish State would somehow cause a restored Jewish State to be entirely different in its conduct.
When Britain took the Zionist project under its wing, and thereby made it a real force in world affairs, its ideal of itself was that it was the Roman Empire revived and perfected. That was its governing idea for a generation before it launched its Great War in 1914. The Great War was its Punic War in which it would destroy the new Carthage, Germany, and establish itself in magisterial control of the world.
That view was freely expressed in influential political publications during the generation before 1914. Rome was the exemplar. It was the source of Western civilisation. The 1914 war propaganda explained that Germany was an evil force at the heart of Europe because it not only defeated Roman attempts to conquer and civilise it two thousand years ago, but had gone on to wreck the Empire fifteen hundred years ago. The Dark Ages followed, after which Roman civilisation was slowly and painfully restored, beginning with the Italian Renaissance and culminating in the British Empire.
That was the world-view within which Britain undertook to restore a Jewish State in Palestine.
In the present flux of things last week sometimes seems like ancient history. To the rulers of the Empire a century ago, two thousand years was only last week. It came naturally to them, therefore, to assume that Judaism remained much as it was last week.
In 1917 Britain had made no real headway in its war of destruction of Germany. It was looking for fresh allies and saw the possibility of enlisting Jewry in the affairs of the Empire. The Jews were then seen as agents of Germany. Germany was in alliance with the Ottoman Empire in the War. Before the War, its foreign policy had been to support the Ottoman Empire as a state which gave Islam a place in the Great Power structure of the world, while the policy of the British/Russian alliance was to destroy the Ottoman Empire and share it out. The position of the Jews in Russia generated amongst them a Millenarian nationalism focussed on Palestine. Britain decided to back this Jewish nationalism as a means of breaking Jewish orientation on Germany and of providing itself with a base in the Middle East against the Arab forces with which it had formed an alliance in the war of destruction against the Ottoman Empire.
The new Jewish State, set up to be "a little loyal Jewish Ulster" amidst the Arabs, would not behave like earlier Jewish States, because it would be a colony of the Empire, dependent on the Empire for its existence, and directed by the Empire.
That is how the matter seemed to stand in 1917, when a residue of the old Imperial ruling class was still in command of the state. A year later Carthage/Germany was defeated, pillaged and reduced to incoherence and Britain. Churchill described the position of Britain as follows:
"The British nation is now in the very forefront of mankind. Never was its power so great, its name so honoured, its rivals so few. The fearful sacrifices of the war, the stupendous victory with which it closed, not only in the clash of arms, but in the triumph of institutions and ideals, have opened to us several generations of august responsibility" (Illustrated Sunday Herald, 9.5.1920).
But, within Britain itself, beneath the ruling class that had guided Imperial affairs for two hundred years, there lay a stratum of simple-minded Christian fundamentalism of a distinctly Old Testament kind, which was Zionist by inclination rather than by Imperial calculation. This stratum had become a force in politics, mainly in the Liberal Party and then by inheritance in the Labour Party. (It had issued the ultimatum to Parnell in 1890 which impelled him to self-destruction.) And, when the War Coalition fell in 1922 because of its failure to dominate the Irish situation, and its retreat in the face of Turkish resistance to the Treaty intended to disable it and open it to Greek colonisation, an era of Imperial drift set in.
Palestine was opened to Jewish immigration by the British administration. The Jewish Agency, represented in the Versailles Treaty negotiations, was accorded a kind of Home Rule status in a Palestine overwhelmingly populated by Arabs. Arab resistance built up. Britain made war on the Arabs in the late 1930s and British officers gave terrorist training to militant Jewish groups. By the time the Arab resistance was beaten down, Britain had set its course for another war on Germany (having collaborated with the Nazi Government in 1933-8 to build up Germany as a bastion against Communist Russia), and it had to curb Jewish immigration into Palestine so as not to drive the Arab States into active alliance with Germany.
World Jewish migration to Palestine was severely limited by the 1939 British White Paper, and an undertaking was given that future policy would be subject to the approval of the people actually living in Palestine. This put the formation of the Jewish State in doubt, since twenty years of mass immigration still left the Jewish population very far short of constituting a majority.
At the end of the World War the Jewish nationalists launched a 'War of Independence' against the British administration by means of unrestrained terrorism. The British Government—which never negotiates with terrorists—surrendered to Jewish nationalist terrorism. It announced that it would withdraw from Palestine in May 1948. It made no attempt to organise a Government, or Governments, to take its place. It refused to allow outside forces to be deployed. It washed its hands, with its customary self-righteousness, of the catastrophic situation it had brought about in the Middle East. The practical result, which was not difficult to anticipate, was that the Jewish terrorist forces were left free to concentrate their efforts on the native population.
Britain in 1919 chose to govern Palestine under a League of Nations Mandate, instead of directly as a conquered possession of the Empire. At the same time it made sure that the League had no effective authority as an international organisation.
When it decided to leave Palestine, it relinquished this notional Mandate—it handed it back. It could not hand it back to the League. It had effectively abolished the League in 1939 when it decided to make war on Germany on its own account. A formal remnant of the League continued for some time. When the War that had been declared on Germany by Britain and France, but not waged—they preferred instead to try to go to war against Russia in its conflict with Finland—when that declared war ended with the defeat of France and the retreat of England from the battlefield, the Secretary-General of the League accepted the New Order of Europe, determined by war, as being legitimate. This was in accordance with the precedent of 1919, when the League was set up as an instrument of the victors in the Great War.
The League was dumped in the rubbish-bin of history when the British and French Empires declared war on their own account. The League then became a formal hulk. Its last act was to expel Russia from membership over Finland, when Britain and France wanted to make war of Russia instead of prosecuting their declaration of war on Germany. A year and a half later Russia became an ally of Britain, and the future of Britain became dependent on the power of Russia to master Germany. Six months after that, Roosevelt succeeded in bringing the US into the War, despite an electoral undertaking to keep it neutral, by giving Japan an ultimatum which gave it a choice between war and surrender.
Britain, France and Russia then began to call themselves the United Nations. In 1945 a United Nations Organisation was established. The League structure of formal equality between all members was dropped. The UN consisted of a General Assembly and a Security Council. All power lay with the Security Council, which was under no obligation to heed General Assembly resolutions. And, within the Security Council, all power lay with a minority of five Governments who were Permanent Members in a total of eleven. (Four further Non-Permanent seats were added in 1963.)
The three Great Powers that founded the UN exempted themselves by right of Veto from the application of any 'laws' that might be established, and also accorded Veto power to France and China. These five were Permanent Members of the Council while the others rotated.
Britain could not return the Palestine Mandate to the League when it decided to cut and run. So the United Nations was lumbered with it. But, in giving responsibility for it to the UN, Britain also ensured that the UN could not deal with it competently, by Vetoing its appearance on the agenda of the Security Council. It was therefore referred to the General Assembly to deal with. But the General Assembly had no executive authority. That lay with the Security Council.
Britain's object was to appear to have nothing to do with the setting up of the Jewish State—even though, without Britain's actions since 1917, there would have been no prospect of a Jewish State—in order to ease its manipulation of the Arab states it had created.
By means of powerful persuasion, arm-twisting, bribery, and sheer dictation, the Soviet Union and the USA secured a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly (quite a small body in those days) for a motion to Partition Palestine so that an area with a Jewish majority might be established. That area, in which there was an Arab population of well over 40%, was designated as the territory for a Jewish State. The British administration went home in May 1948 and the Jewish terrorism to which it had surrendered—and which had been directed against the Arab population the moment the UN vote was passed—became a war against the Arab population both within that territory and beyond it. The expansion of the Jewish State, beyond the territory awarded by the General Assembly, began on the instant in 1948 and has been going on ever since.
The borders of the territory allocated for a Jewish State by the UN in 1947 have been entirely forgotten—as has been the provision that Jerusalem be an international city. The 1948 Conquest—usually referred to as the 1967 Borders—is now virtually treated as being part of the UN award. And even the withdrawal of Israel within the 1967 Borders is regarded (de facto) as a Utopian project.
Britain, having piously washed its hands of the situation it had created, leaving Jewish nationalist terrorism free to deal with the Arab population, then intervened to block the Jewish conquest of the whole of Palestine, by use of the "Arab Legion"—a Jordanian army with British officers and a British commander whose action was controlled by the British Government. The Arab Legion prevented the Jewish State from over-running the whole of the region which God had given to the Jews. There were ineffectual military gestures by the other Arab States. The way that event is generally described in the media is that five powerful Arab states tried to stifle Israel at birth, leaving it to be understood that the Israel which they tried to stifle was a state wishing to settle down within the territory of the 1947 UN Resolution.
The gross inadequacy of the liberal-democratic conception of things, supposedly established as the international norm by the League and the UN, is demonstrated by its inability to control, or even to question, the Jewish nationalist force it set loose in the Middle East, which acts under a Mandate given to it by God.
The Palestine War of the late 1930s, in which Palestinian resistance to irredentist Jewish colonisation was broken by the British Army, concluded at the moment when Britain was organising its second war on Germany. The Palestine war naturally generated anti-British sentiment in the region.
If the declaration of war on Germany had been made good by the defeat of Germany—which was the expected outcome in the light of the greater force available to the Anglo-French alliance—Britain would have consolidated its position in the Middle East and held resentments in check by knocking heads together.
But Britain and France lost the war that they had declared. The French declaration of war led to a German occupation of the country in 1940, as had been the case in 1870. In 1870 France had refused to negotiate a settlement, following failure to win the regular war that it had started, and had tried to maintain a resistance by irregular war—guerilla war—terrorism—insurgency: take your pick. That only made its situation worse. In 1940 it decided to negotiate a settlement once it had lost the regular war. A new French Government was set up in part of the country, in accordance with the will of the French democracy represented in Parliament, while Germany remained in occupation of the other part pending a settlement with Britain.
Britain, with the Royal Navy dominating the seas of the world, and with Germany not attempting an invasion, did not need to settle, and did not settle. It abandoned France, denounced it for making a settlement even though there was no realistic alternative, maintained its declaration of war on Germany even though it had neither the will nor the means to prosecute it, and made war on France as a traitorous deserter.
The French Empire remained intact under the settlement with Germany, and the war came to the Middle East in the form of war between the British and French Empires. Each had taken a part of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 and there was war between those two parts in 1940-42.
That Anglo-French War was a component of the multiplicity of wars that are given a spurious unity by being called the Second World War. It has been all but removed from the historical record by British historians.
Britain also made war on two of its own former possessions in 1941: Iraq and Iran. In view of the obscurity in which the Anglo-French War has been sunk, it is not easy to see what influence it might have had on the British decision to invade Iraq and Iran, overthrow their Governments, and install puppet regimes.
The invasion of Iraq was a preliminary to the invasion of Iran.
Iraq was constructed from a group of Provinces of the Ottoman State, thrown together by Britain for Imperial convenience and called a nation-state. It had no internal national unity and therefore could only be run by dictatorship of one kind or another, with or without elections. The first dictatorship was British, and it functioned by means of blatantly rigged elections.
Iraq was given formal independence by means of a Treaty drawn up by Britain in 1930, which became operative in 1932. Under that Treaty Britain gave itself the right to station some military forces in the country, but the Iraqi Government was not constitutionally obliged to follow Britain into war, or make itself available as a British base for war.
Iraq declared itself neutral in 1939. In 1941 Britain landed a military force at Basra. Baghdad recognised its right to do so. But, when Britain announced its intention to land another military force, Baghdad said it should move on the first before the second contingent landed.
The Irish Independent reported on 2nd May 1941:
"Further contingents of British troops have arrived without incident at Basra to supplement the forces landed there recently to open up communications in Iraq… In view of reports, emanating from France, of complications between Britain and Iraq, it was explained in London yesterday that the Iraqi authorities had put forward a proposal that Britain was not entitled to land further troops until the passage of the first contingent across Iraq had been completed. The British regarded this view as without foundation under the terms of the Anglo-Iraq Treaty."
The Irish Press report of the same date said:
"Further concentrations of British troops have arrived at Basra… Concentrations on the part of the Iraq army have taken place which might be regarded as a threat to the security of the British air base at Habbaniyah on the Euphrates, some 60 miles west of Basra, states the P.A. Diplomatic Correspondent…
The Irish Press headline the following day was Iraq, Fighting British, Asks Axis Aid.
And on May 9th: Baghdad Airport Bombed.
May 10th: Iraqi War Minister In Ankara: Turk Cabinet Meets.
May 19th: Move On Palestine Reported. New Iraqi Claims.
"A penetration of Iraqi troops some 25 miles into Palestine was claimed in a statement broadcast from Baghdad last night".
And the British claimed that Habbaniyah Airport was bombed by German planes.
The Irish Independent on May 3rd:
"It was reliably reported in London last night that Rashid Ali, head of the Iraq Government, had applied to Germany for assistance against Britain…
The situation was that there was a dispute between Britain and the nominally independent state of Iraq—which had been created by British conquest, and on which Britain had imposed a subordinate regime by means of open election rigging—about the interpretation of a Treaty imposed on Iraq when it was set up as a nominally independent state. The Government declared neutrality when Britain launched its World War in 1939 and Britain did not require it to do otherwise. In May 1941 Britain "stood alone" in this war which it had started, which was a war of choice on its part, and it set about controlling Iraq.
It had begun the war in alliance with Poland and France. It had encouraged Poland to refuse negotiation with Germany over Danzig by offering it a unique military agreement, enabling it to precipitate Britain into war. The French seconded it in this. Germany, finding itself under military encirclement by greatly superior forces, struck at Poland when it saw that Britain and France were making no credible preparations to make good the guarantee to the Poles. Britain fired only an occasional shot in support of the Poles and its war alliance was reduced to two.
It then proceeded at a leisurely pace to place a small army in France while trying to get into conflict with Russia in Finland.
Germany responded to the declaration of war on it nine months after the declaration was made. Due to the spectacular success of a military stratagem, the German Army rolled up the French Army and the small British Army in a few weeks. France, with its army broken and being under German occupation, negotiated a provisional settlement (under which it retained its Empire) pending a settlement with Britain.
Britain, with the Royal Navy still ruling the waves, still refused to settle. It denounced France as corrupt and riddled with Fifth Columnists, because it had not fought its war for it, and it made war on France.
So, through gross negligence, Britain lost the two Allies with which it had begun the war.
In May 1941 it decided to make Iraq a military base in the world war, even though it had declared neutrality. Baghdad disputed its interpretation of the Treaty terms. Instead of referring the matter to the arbitration of the League, or some other body, Britain launched a military reconquest of Iraq and established a puppet regime, which let it do as it pleased with the country. (Sixteen years later it undermined that regime by demands on it, following the British-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt, in what is known as the Suez Crisis.)
No evidence has come to light that Rashid Ali was preparing to make war as an ally of Germany. His offence was to maintain a detrmined neutral stance when Britain needed Iraq for its War—as Ireland did. And the Irish position was that, if either of the belligerents in the World War attacked it, it would seek the aid of the other belligerent. If that had happened, we can be sure De Valera would have been given the Rashid Ali treatment by Churchill—because Britain was by far the likeliest assailant.
Churchill denied that Ireland was entitled to be neutral when the Crown was at war. And of course De Valera too was open to the charge of having broken a British Treaty.
In Volume 3 of his war history, The Grand Alliance, Churchill says:
"The Anglo-Iraq Treaty of 1930 provided that in time of peace we should, among other things, maintain air bases at Basra and at Habbaniya, and have right of transit for military forces and supplies at all times. The treaty also provided that in war we should have all possible facilities, including the use of railways, rivers, ports and airfields of the passage of armed forces. When war came Iraq broke off diplomatic relations with Germany, but did not declare war; and when Italy came into the war the Iraq Government did not even sever relations…"
…and the Anglophile Government was ousted.
Britain began to build up troops at Basra under the Treaty rights which it gave itself. But the Ambassador was instructed:
"Our position at Basra… does not rest solely on the treaty, but also on a new event arising out of the war. No undertakings can be given that troops will be sent to Baghdad or moved to Palestine and the right to require such undertakings should not be recognised in respect of a Government has has itself usurped power by a coup d'etat, or in a country where our treaty rights have so long been frustrated in spirit. Sir Kinehan Cornwallis should not however entangle himself by explanations…"
Rashid Ali was simply informed that British troops would land. He was "forced into action". And "the German plan for raising rebellion in Iraq and mastering cheaply this wide area was frustrated".
Rashid Ali was then demonised as a Nazi agent and Nuri es-Said was set up as Britain's Prime Minister of Iraq and did Britain's bidding. Nuri, who had taken part in the Arab Revolt against Turkey, organised by Britain in the Great War, was Anglophile in outlook. But, after the fall of France in June 1940, he began to prepare for an accommodation with Germany as the new Great Power. When Great Powers go to war, what is there for little states to do but live in the world shaped by the winner?
The complicating moral factor was that Britain remained the Great Power in the neighbourhood of Iraq, doing so with the consent of Germany, while German power was located far away on another continent. Nuri submitted to the local assertion of local British power, while Rashid Ali tried to maintain Iraqi independence against the local superpower.
Some further Irish Independent headlines:
June 12: Allies Advance In Syria. French Hit Back.
June 13: British Tanks In Vanguard Advance On Damascus.
June 20: Ultimatum Rejected: No Surrender Of Damascus.
June 23: Germans Invade Russia.
July 11: Syrian Fighting Continues.
July 15: Finns Massing For Attack: Threat To Leningrad.
August 28: Joint Invasion of Iran. Move By Anglo-Soviet Armies. Attack From Many Points.
The British Invasion of Iran was launched from Iraq. The only account we know of is that given by Ronald Storrs in his Quarterly Record Of The War, published at the time. It was reprinted in this magazine in Spring 2007.
The senior BBC propagandist, John Simpson, mentioned that 1941 British war on Iran just before last Christmas in the many BBC outlets that propagandise the world night and day. Setting the scene for the current US/EU preparation of the world for yet another war on Iran, he said that in 1941 the Shah "was so pro-Nazi that the British overthrew him… To us all this may seem like ancient history". But of course it isn't ancient history—about that, at least, we agree with him. It is purposefully marginalised history—lying there to be pulled out of the hat whenever it is called for.
(It is worth recalling, in passing, that Simpson, who was in the vanguard of the "liberation" of Afghanistan in 2001, commented, when the invaders offered a big reward for information leading to the capture of Mullah Omar, that it was certain that Omar would soon be caught because "betrayal is the national culture of Afghanistan".)
Iran, unlike Iraq, was not a state thrown together by Britain when it was destroying the Ottoman Empire. It was one of the great historic states of the world. It was never a British possession formally, but half of it was actually possessed by Britain in the period before the 1914 war. The other half was possessed by Russia. When Britain ad Russia suspended their conflict in central Asia, in order to join forces against Germany and the Ottoman Empire, there was an agreed de facto Partition of Iran. Britain had the South and Russia the North, with a sliver of the Iranian state between them as a buffer zone. It seemed to be the destiny of southern Iran to become an extension of the British Empire connecting India with the Gulf. By 1912 it was already being coloured red in some maps. If the Great War had gone well, it is possible Iran would have been dissolved officially into the British and Tsarist Empires. But the War, carefully arranged though it was, did not go well. Iran survived yet again—though Britain pillaged it, causing a massive famine.
In 1941 it was an independent state, which had gone trough a national development during the inter-War period, and Britain had no residual Treaty claims on it. But when Britain, after collaborating actively with Nazi Germany for five years, then capriciously decided to make war on it, it conducted the war in a propaganda medium of moral exaltation which recognised no pettifogging obstacles of law or custom as legitimate. It wanted Iranian oil, so it took it. And it was morally entitled to it because Iran did not break off diplomatic relations with Germany when Britain stopped collaborating with Nazism and made war on it.
Irish Independent, 22nd August:
"Iranian Reply Awaited: May Refuse Request
"British Study Iranian Reply
The Irish Independent on 28th August reported that Britain had invaded Iran from Baluchistan, Basra and Baghdad, while Russia went in from the Caucasus, between the Black and Caspian Seas, and published this Editorial:
"Iran's point of view was that as a neutral it was not entitled to discriminate against the nationals of any one country. Its policy, it said, was to ask all foreigners who had no special occupation, as well as those whose positions could be filled by Iranians, to leave. Since the British representation had been received…, said the Iranian Government, this policy was being carried out with greater care and speed than previously. Britain and Russia refused to accept this statement of Iranian policy as satisfactory, and Red troops were sent across the border yesterday at the same time as British forces entered from Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and India, to enforce the demands.
A British statement, justifying the aggression, said that:
"As in other neutral countries… the German community would be employed at the appropriate moment to create disorders to assist German military plans, and the fact that Germans in Iran occupied so many positions in industry and communications gave them unique facilities to do so… A proposal was made to meet Iran's special needs, by which a few German technicians engaged on specially important work might be retained temporarily, the two Governments to assist in finding experts in place of the Germans.
The Soviet position was described as follows:
"A Note handed by Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Commissar, to the Iranian Ambassador at Moscow, stated that 'in view of the persistent activity of German agents in Iranian territory directed against the security of the USSR and the refusal of the Iranian Government to take measures against these activities, the Soviet Government deemed it necessary to order Soviet troops to enter on the territory of Iran.'
27th August: Iranian Oilfields Captured. Anglo-Russian Advance.
Iran was at this time surrounded by the Allies, who invaded it from all points in the compass. The notion that a few hundred Germans in Teheran constituted a threat to the British Empire and the Soviet Union was absurd. But, when you invade a country in your own interest, it is only decent to pretend otherwise. That was a bit of good manners that the Soviet Union learned from the British Empire. (About 15 years earlier Stalin had published an article in praise of the British way of doing these things—of always acting under a defensive camouflage.)
Control of Iranian oil was part of the reason for the invasion. Iran was not to be allowed to profit as a neutral from the increased demand for oil. The cause of the Allies was sacred. Everything else in the world was legitimately subordinate to it.
This sacred Alliance, whose actions were morally unquestionable, was two months old when it conquered Iran.
Britain had been at war for two years, and had been "standing alone" in its own War for more than a year. Preparations for the conquest of Iran had been made before the Alliance that conducted the invasion had been formed. The sacred alliance of capitalist Imperialism and Communism came about as a consequence of the German invasion of the Soviet Union. If Britain had proceeded with the invasion of Iran after subjugating Iraq in May, it would have been countered by a hostile Russian invasion. Russian preparations for such an invasion had been made and it was rumoured that propaganda material distributed by Russia in its collaborative invasion with Britain was produced on the assumption that it would be countering a British invasion, and declared that Russia had come to protect Iran from Imperialist conquest.
The invasion of Iran by Britain and Russia was a virtual certainty. Because of the German attack on Russia in June there was a collaborative Anglo-Soviet invasion, instead of a blocking Russian invasion to counter a British invasion.
Britain no longer stood alone in its own War. It had gained a powerful Ally—but after that the War was no longer its war. Whatever its purpose had been in going to war in September 1939, that purpose was no longer operative after June 1941. It had secured a powerful Ally—but this Ally was the fundamental enemy of the 1920s and 1930s, against which it had supported Fascism and Nazism.
The defeat of Germany by an Anglo-Soviet alliance could only bring Anglo-Soviet antagonism to the centre of world affairs as a naked and direct antagonism without the buffer of Fascism between them. But in the short term there was an Alliance between them, and the British Empire had weakened itself so much by its bungling foreign policy as the World Super Power for a generation after 1918 that it had no alternative to supporting Russia for the time being. So there was the co-ordinated invasion to take control of Iran, which established a de facto land frontier between the British Empire and and the Soviet Union and made them good neighbours for the time being.
After the defeat of Germany, the revival of the Anglo-Soviet antagonism ensured that both Powers would vacate Iran. But, when Iranian national development resumed and Mossadegh's Government acted to put Iran in control of Iranian oil, arbitrary government was restored by an Anglo-American coup in 1953. In 1979 Iranian independence was restored by the Islamic Revolution. And now the US and the EU are making propaganda preparatory to yet another invasion of Iran—on the grounds that Iran is on the verge of becoming capable of defending itself—i.e., of acquiring nuclear weapons, which have become the only effective means of defence.
It is unlikely that, if the invasion threat is carried through, it would be under a UN mandate. It will be action by a "Coalition of the willing", as in the case of the destructive invasion of Iraq in 2003. And, by closing its Embassy in Iran, this Irish Government has acted pre-emptively to make itself part of the Coalition Of The Willing before the event, thereby encouraging the event to happen.
P.S. In 1941, after Iraq and Iran had been dealt with, Churchill made a petulant comment on them. We do not have his words to hand, but they said in effect that Britain had given good honest names to those countries and the natives had no right to give them fancy new names that nobody could remember—Was Mesopotamia Iran and Persia Iraq, or was it the other way about?