Capitulations reduce the Iranians to a level lower
than an American dog.
— Ayatollah Khamenei
Three years after the Shah’s Persepolis extravaganza, the Conservative government of 1970–74 fell in Britain and I returned to the opposition benches in Parliament. As one of my party’s front bench spokesmen on industry, my contacts with businesses multiplied and I was invited by a number of large companies to assist in promoting exports to among other countries Iran, where higher oil prices and the Shah’s purchases of defense equipment offered numerous sales opportunities.
My contacts in Teheran included a new Minister of Court, Asadollah Alam, who previously had served as prime minister. He invited me to his home and recounted an extraordinary story. One of the deputy prime ministers of the Soviet Union who had recently visited Iran asked the Shah if there had been an increase in the number of sturgeon caught on the Iranian side of the Caspian.
“Why do you ask,” said the Shah.
“Because some damn Englishman told me that pollution on the Russian side has sent the sturgeon to live on the Iranian side.”
“Were you that Englishman?” Alam asked as I sat with him on the patio of his home.
I could not deny it.
While serving as an under secretary in the U.K.’s Department of the Environment, I had visited Moscow to work out an Anglo-Soviet exchange of scientific and technical know-how, and while there had