December 23, 2006 at 7:21 pm | Posted in Arabs, Globalization, History, Islam, Middle East, Oil & Gas | Leave a comment








Percy Zachariah Cox

20 November 1864
20 February 1937

In a historical sense this is the man responsible for today’s Gulf crisis. Sir Percy Cox was the British High Commissioner in Baghdad after World War I who in 1922 drew the lines in the sand establishing for the first time national borders between Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. And in each of these new states the British helped set up and consolidate ruling monarchies through which British banks, commercial firms, and petroleum companies could obtain monopolies.

Sir Percy Zachariah Cox (20 November
186420 February 1937) was a British administrator and diplomat in the British Mandate of Iraq. He was born in Herongate, Essex, England and died in Melchbourne, Bedfordshire, England.
He established the Iraqi army and constitution. He replaced Sir Arnold Wilson as the British Civil Commissioner in Baghdad in 1920. In 1902, he was adviser to the Sultan of Oman.
Nickname: ‘Coccus’ He replaced Sir Charles Marling as Minister at Tehran from the Indian Political Service and wrote the Anglo-Persian Agreement of 1919.

He established the Iraqi army and created the individual state of Kuwait. Kuwait was an autonomous caza within the Ottoman Empire which was setup in the Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1913.


J. Townsend, Some reflections on the life and career of Sir Percy Cox, G.C.M.G., G.C.I.E., K.C.S.I., Asian Affairs, Volume 24, Number 3, Number 3/November 1993, pp. 259-272(14)Comment:  Percy Cox & The Contemporary Gulf Crisis:

First, a quick review of what brought on this crisis.Does the name Cox bring anything special to mind? Sir Percy Cox?

In a historical sense this is the man responsible for today’s Gulf crisis. Sir Percy Cox was the British High Commissioner in Baghdad after World War I who in 1922 drew the lines in the sand establishing for the first time national borders between Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. And in each of these new states the British helped set up and consolidate ruling monarchies through which British banks, commercial firms, and petroleum companies could obtain monopolies. Kuwait, however, had for centuries belonged to the Basra province of the Ottoman Empire. Iraq and the Iraqis never recognized Sir Percy’s borders. He had drawn those lines, as historians have confirmed, in order deliberately to deprive Iraq of a viable seaport on the Persian Gulf. The British wanted no threat from Iraq to their dominance of the Gulf where they had converted no less than ten sheikdoms, including Kuwait, into colonies. The divide-and-rule principle, so well-practised in this country since the beginning. In 1958 the British-installed monarchy in Iraq was overthrown in a military coup. Three years later, in 1961, Britain granted independence to Kuwait, and the Iraqi military government massed troops on the Kuwaiti border threatening to take the territory by force. Immediately the British dispatched troops, and Iraq backed down, still refusing to recognize the border. Similar Iraqi threats occurred in 1973 and 1976.

Arnold Wilson July 18, 1884May 31, 1940

Sir Arnold Talbot Wilson (July 18, 1884May 31, 1940) was the British civil commissioner in Baghdad in 19181920. Wilson became publicly known for his role as the colonial administrator of Mesopotamia (geographic Iraq) during and after the first World War. His high-handedness led to an Iraqi revolt in 1920. He was replaced by Sir Percy Cox.

Early life and career

Wilson was born in 1884 and educated in England at Clifton Public School, where his father was a headmaster. He started his career as an officer of the British army in India. In 1904, he went to Iran as a Lieutenant to lead a group of Bengal Lancers to guard the British consulate in Ahwaz and to protect the work of the D’Arcy Oil Company, which had obtained a sixty-year oil concession in Iran and was pursuing oil exploration in partnership with the Burma Oil Company. Wilson was an officer in the 32nd Sikh Pioneers, a regiment of the Indian Army.In 1907, Wilson was transferred to the Indian Political Department and sent to the Persian Gulf, where he served as a political officer, soldier and senior administrator. In 1920, he joined the Anglo-Persian Oil Company as resident director in the Persian Gulf. He worked for the company until 1932. Wilson oversaw the discovery of the first oil site in the Middle East, Masjid-i-Suleiman in 1908.

World War I and afterwards

In 1915, as the British were moving troops from India into Mesopotamia through the Persian Gulf and Basra, Wilson was designated as the assistant, and then deputy, to Sir Percy Cox, the British Political Officer for the region. Based in Baghdad, he then became the acting Civil Commissioner for Iraq.During his tenure in Iraq, Wilson worked to improve the country’s administration according to the principles he learned in India. In doing so, he was nicknamed The Despot of Mess-Pot”. However, after the end of WW1, he found himself progressively opposed to other British officials, who believed that Arab countries should be granted independence under British supervision.

In 1919, during the Paris international conference which followed WW1, he was amongst the few who successfully recommended adopting the Arab name Iraq instead of the Greek name Mesopotamia. This name change was intended to cover the planned northern expansion of the newly created country under British Mandate to include the oil rich Mosul region of Kurdistan, in addition to the Mesopotamian provinces of Baghdad and Basra.In April 1920, at the Conference
of Sanremo
, the League of Nations agreed to the British mandate over Iraq. In the spring and summer of 1920, various riots erupted across central and southern Iraq. These riots were often violently repressed by Wilson’s administration. The total number of Iraqi casualties of these riots was estimated at 10,000 people.
In the summer of 1920, Wilson proposed a compromise, suggesting that Faysal, the former King of Syria, be offered the Iraqi throne. This proposal was intended to obtain support from the Iraqi population as well as by the British officials who favored a controlled Arab independence. It was eventually accepted by the British Government and by Faysal, but Wilson would not be there to participate in its implementation. The British government decided not to follow Wilson’s views, and instead grant independence to Iraq. The British government removed Wilson from his position in Iraq, and knighted him. Deeply disappointed by the turn of events, he left the public service and joined APOC as manager of their Middle Eastern operations.

World War II

In 1933, he was elected as MP for Hitchin. Before World War II, his outspoken views evoked a lot of criticism. The New Statesman described him as “an admirer of Hitler and an unscrupulous propagandist for Mussolini and Hitler“.However, at the outbreak of the war, he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, becoming an air gunner in 37 Squadron of Bomber Command. Still an MP, he was killed in action over northern France, around Dunkirk, on May 31st,1940. He is buried at Eringhem churchyard, half-way between Dunkirk and St. Omer.

His book, S.W. Persia: Letters and Diary of a Young Political Officer 1907-1914 (1941) was published posthumously.


Late Victorian: the life of Sir Arnold Talbot Wilson, by John Marlowe.

A Periplus of the Persian Gulf by Arnold Talbot Wilson.

S. W Persia: Letters and Diary of a Young Political Officer 1907-1914 by Arnold Talbot Wilson.

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The Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) was founded in 1909 following the discovery of a large oil field in Masjed Soleiman, Iran. It was the first company using the oil reserves of the Middle East. APOC was renamed 1935 in Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) and eventually became the British Petroleum Company (BP) in 1954, as one root of the BP Company today.

The D’Arcy Oil Concession

The D’Arcy Oil Concession was granted to the British during the reign of Mozzafar-al-Din Shah Qajar, a Turkmen descent who was deeply hated by the Iranians, thereby effectively giving away control of Iranian oil reserves to Britain for 60 years.William Knox D’Arcy had negotiated a 60 year oil concession with the Shah of Persia in 1901 but within a few years was almost bankrupted by the cost of exploration. He sold his interest to the Burmah Oil Company Ltd. who created APOC as a subsidiary, and also sold shares to the public.Volume production of Persian oil products eventually started in 1913 from a refinery built at Abadan. The British government, at the impetus of Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, partly nationalised the company in 1913 in order to secure British-controlled oil supplies for its ships.APOC took a 50% share in a new Turkish Petroleum Company organised in 1912 by Calouste Gulbenkian to explore and develop oil resources in the Ottoman Empire. After a hiatus caused by World War I it reformed and struck an immense gusher at Kirkuk, Iraq in 1927, renaming itself the Iraq Petroleum Company.

The Anglo-Persian Oil Company continued its large Persian operations although it changed its name to the AIOC in 1935. By 1950 Abadan had become the world’s largest refinery. In spite of diversification the AIOC still relied heavily on its Iranian oil fields for three-quarters of its supplies, and controlled all oil in Iran. The Iranian government wanted to take a significant share in the company, and would not negotiate when only offered a larger share of revenues. This culminated in the nationalization of the industry by the Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1951, which led to the Abadan Crisis. Foreign countries refused to take Iranian oil and Abadan refinery was closed. AIOC withdrew from Iran and traded off its other reserves until military intervention restored its ownership in 1954, although it lost its monopoly. It was forced to operate as one member of a consortium of Iranian Oil Participants. That was the year AIOC changed its name to British Petroleum Company.

Anglo-Iranian Oil Dispute

The crisis began under the government of Clement Attlee. At the time, the British were taking 85% of Iranian oil profits. In March 1951, the Iranian parliament (the Majlis) voted to nationalise the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) and its holdings by passing a bill strongly backed by the elderly statesman Mohammed Mossadegh, a man who was elected Prime Minister the following April by a large majority of the parliament.The International Court of Justice was called in to settle the dispute, but a 50/50 profit-sharing arrangement, with recognition of nationalisation, was rejected by both the British government and Prime Minister Mossadegh. Direct negotiations between the British and the Iranian government ceased, and over the course of 1951, the British ratcheted up the pressure on the Iranian government and explored the possibility of a coup against it. U.S. President Harry S. Truman was reluctant to agree, placing a much higher priority on the Korean War. The effects of the blockade and embargo were staggering and led to a virtual shutdown of Iran’s oil exports.

Mossadegh also held an important speech for the UN Security Council in New York which was covered by all newspapers and he was pictured on the Times magazine’s “Man of the Year” issue. After the U.S. chose a new president, the British changed their strategy of getting the U.S. on their side from economic/colonial to anti-communist. This new strategy found listening ears in the new U.S. president and the newly established CIA. The CIA finally toppled the democracy in Iran and brought back the Shah with the help of the British contacts/information it had from the British embassy and secret service.

After the regime change the Iranian oil started flowing again with the blessing of the U.S. and Britain under the power of a group of American and British oil companies of which included the Anglo Iranian Oil Company.

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