Some Problems of the Persian Gulf


Some Problems of the Persian Gulf is a paper read by Lovat Fraser at the meeting of the Central Asian Society held in London on January 8, 1908. Fraser was a British journalist of some note. A strong imperialist, he had been editor of the Times of India until 1907, when he left Bombay (present-day Mumbai) for London, where he was a foreign correspondent for the same newspaper until 1922. His most notable work is India under Curzon and After, published in 1911. The paper presented here includes Fraser’s address to the meeting and the transcript of the discussion that followed. The problems referred to in the title are the strategic actions required to keep British influence in the Persian Gulf paramount in the face of the ambitions of the other Great Powers, especially Russia and Germany. The strategic goal in the Gulf, in Fraser’s view, was to protect India from encroachment by these powers. The British presence in the Gulf was built around a series of treaties with the Trucial States, the Arab shaykhdoms along the Gulf, whose leaders looked to Great Britain for maritime security, freedom of commerce, abolition of slavery and piracy, and internal reconciliation of tribal disputes. For its part, Persia (present-day Iran) was concerned about preserving its territorial integrity against possible incursions by tsarist Russia. The British provided maritime security along the Iranian coast of the Gulf for, as Fraser explains, “The Persians never possessed, and never will possess, the secret of the sea.” The audience seconded Fraser’s call for continuing British dominance in the Gulf, extending a British sphere into central Iran, and working to maintain the stability of Ottoman Iraq and Arabia. Some, however, regretted the lack of “Imperial spirit” among many members of Parliament and complained that the foreign affairs of the country were conducted amateurishly by politicians and functionaries “who have very little knowledge of local conditions.”

Last updated: February 18, 2016