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The Allied occupation of neutral Iran in 1941 was to open a supply route to support the Soviets against the German invasion of the USSR which, but for the defence of Stalingrad, would have led to the capture of the oilfields of Iran and Iraq, on which the UK depended.
The operation was a logistical triumph, involving building new docks, extending the railway network, importing rolling stock and locomotives, assembling aircraft at the dockside, as well as building hundreds of miles of roads and importing thousands of trucks, which all gave employment to thousands of Iranians. After the victories of Stalingrad and Alamein, the German threat to the east evaporated and most of the British and American troops were withdrawn to fight in Italy. The operation was thereafter forgotten, at least in England, as a sideshow.
The military memoirs of the time supply the detail of the operations on the ground which, since there was very little resistance, lacked military excitement. What Professor Jackson has achieved in his book is to paint a much broader picture, including Iraq, that shows the strategic drama created by Rashid Ali and the mufti of Jerusalem, combined with the earlier threat to the oilfields of Iran posed by the Soviets, who were then in pact with Germany. This was at a time when it looked as though Egypt might be lost and the Allies had precious few troops or equipment to spare.
Professor Jackson is Professor of Imperial and Military History at King’s College London and a Visiting Fellow at Kellogg College, Oxford. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He has published widely on aspects of British imperial history, with a special interest in the Empire during times of war and with regional specialisms in the history of Africa, the Indian Ocean, and the Middle East.