The Great Powers in the Middle East, 1919-1939

By Uriel Dann | Go to book overview

23
The Saadabad Pact of 8 July 1937

D. CAMERON WATT

The so-called Oriental Entente, concluded in the Shah's summer palace at Saadabad on 8 July 1937 between the representatives of Turkey, Iraq, and Afghanistan, is almost forgotten today. 1 Yet it was the forerunner of the ill-fated Baghdad Pact and is perhaps the only real embodiment of the Northern Tier, beloved of American strategists and geopolitologues. It marked the first attempt to set up a Middle Eastern security pact confined to states indigenous to the area. It comprised the first three independent oriental states to embark on the hazardous process of modernization and westernization, and the first modern Arab state to achieve more than merely nominal independence. In part it was designed to act as a regional bloc at the League of Nations -- a forerunner of the Arab and African blocs at the United Nations today. In part it represented the only way out of an impasse into which Iranian territorial ambitions had led the shah and his government. In its rise and fall there is much that bears on the subsequent policies of its erstwhile members; and much to be learned of the origins of such groups and the strains to which they may become subject.

Seen in geopolitical terms, the four states that made up the Oriental Entente all lie on that indeterminate line which divides the oceanic influence of the Anglo-Saxon powers and the continental power of the Soviet Union. The changing state of relations between the continental power, the Soviet Union, and Britain, the mistress of the oceans, also played a large part in the development of the Entente. Indeed, the nature of its provisions and the very idea of linking its members together were a product of the AngloSoviet tension of the early 1920s. The Entente can in fact be described in

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