Unravelling the Threads of History: Britain’s Colonialism and its Impact on Today’s Global Conflicts - Part 1 | Rock & Art

Unravelling the Threads of History: Britain’s Colonialism and its Impact on Today’s Global Conflicts – Part 1

Iran recently launched its first-ever direct attack on Israel, firing 300 missiles and the largest drone strike in history. Israel has retaliated. The world awaits with bated breath, for Iran’s next move in this high-stakes game of weaponized chess between these two countries, where the Middle East has become the chessboard. Where the rewards aren’t king or queen, but life or death. No black pieces against white, but Muslim against Jew and many shades of grey. And here, there are no winners.

From Past to Present: Unpacking the Role of Colonialism in Today’s Global Conflicts

The potential outcome could escalate to a full-scale war between Israel and Iran. There’s even discussion of a possible World War Three, with Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran on one side and global democracies on the other.

How did we arrive at this point? Why has Iran, once one of the world’s most progressive democracies, aligned itself with autocracies and transformed into a militant Islamic state that funds HAMAS? Interestingly, the four central wars ongoing today – in Israel, Palestine, Iran, Russia, Ukraine and Myanmar (and the Falklands conflict 42 years ago) – were all initiated or exacerbated by one country’s questionable colonial and imperialist decisions.

Why would a democratic country turn another democratic nation into a dictatorship? Britain forcibly removed a democratically elected prime minister in Iran and installed a puppet dictator. Britain promised Palestinian land it didn’t own to Israel. Britain waged war on India in 1971 after ruling it for 200 years, which drastically altered India’s foreign policy to favour Russia. Britain’s colonial rule resulted in the transfer of Muslim indentured labourers to Burma, culminating in the ongoing Rohingya genocide and the longest civil war in history. Britain colonized land 300 miles from Argentina, a dispute that persists 300 years later and has resulted in one armed conflict, one battle, and over 1,000 deaths.

This article will examine the background and history of today’s four central wars, Britain’s foreign policy in these six countries, and how this led to genocide and mass human rights violations. It will also discuss Britain’s silence over the wars it initiated instead of offering accountability and support and how these decisions shaped a new world order. Rather than solely blaming the largest empire of all time, we should learn from these mistakes to prevent future conflicts.

The Intricate Dynamics of Israeli-Palestinian Relations

On October 7th, 2023, HAMAS launched 5,000 missiles into Israel, killing 1,200 Israelis. Israel’s military response to defend itself from HAMAS has resulted in the deaths of nearly 35,000 Palestinians, including 9,500 women and 14,500 children. According to the United Nations (UN), this is higher than the number of children killed in the last four years of worldwide conflict.

It can be argued that Britain did what was necessary during a war. However, there is little doubt that Britain’s strategy in Palestine contributed to a century of conflict between Israel and Palestine. This conflict is currently transforming Gaza into what U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez describes as “an unfolding genocide.”

During World War I (WWI), Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey), which sided with Germany and Austria-Hungary. When those countries lost WWI, Britain gave the land to the Jews, even though it wasn’t technically theirs to give. This was done through the Balfour Declaration, a public pledge by Britain in 1917 declaring its aim to establish “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. This document is regarded as one of the most contested in modern history and has played a significant role in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

As we delve deeper into the history and background of today’s central wars, the role of Britain’s foreign policy in these conflicts becomes increasingly apparent. Britain’s decisions have led to genocide, mass human rights violations, and the shaping of a new world order.

In the next part of this article, we will continue to explore these themes, focusing on the conflicts in Iran, Russia, Myanmar, and the Falklands. We will examine how Britain’s colonial and imperialist decisions have initiated or exacerbated these wars and discuss the need for accountability and support from Britain over the wars it started. Stay tuned for more insights into these complex issues.


Britain’s Role in Palestine: A Wave of Immigration

Britain assumed responsibility for Palestine, and over the course of the following two decades, more than 100,000 Jews immigrated to the country.


London Conference: A Stalemate in Jewish-Arab Dialogue

In response to the religious conflict, Britain convened a conference in London with Jewish and Arab leaders, which unfortunately resulted in a stalemate


UN Intervention: Britain’s Delegation of the Issue

Britain delegates the issue to the United Nations.


UN Proposal: Partitioning Palestine

The United Nations proposes the division of Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states.


Britain’s Withdrawal: Sparking Conflict in Palestine

Britain withdraws from Palestine, leaving the Jews and Arabs to confront each other in the ensuing war.


Kidnapped” posters by Israeli artists Nitzan Mintz, and Dede Bandaid

The concept of Western “peacemakers” and “honest brokers,” who are significantly involved in every Middle Eastern conflict, is not new. The British betrayal of Arab aspirations spans many decades. This includes their strategy of using Arabs as pawns in their “Great Game” against other colonial contenders, only to later betray them while still portraying themselves as benevolent friends.

Al Jazeera has even asserted that Britain destroyed the Palestinian homeland. Furthermore, it claims that the British government, unrepentant after all these years, has yet to accept any moral responsibility, however symbolic, for its actions towards the Palestinians.

Decoding Diplomacy: A Deep Dive into Israeli-Iranian Interactions

Two dates on the calendar are indelibly imprinted in the collective memory of Iranians: August 19th, the anniversary of the 1953 coup d’etat, and September 16th, the anniversary of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement. This movement began in 2022 following the tragic death of Mahsa Amini, who was killed by morality police for not adhering to the Islamic dress code.

Colonialism - Iran

On these significant dates, millions of Iranians ponder the alternate course their nation’s history might have taken if the US and UK had not conspired to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected leader in 1953 and install a dictator. The rise of radical Islam and the geopolitical landscape of the entire world could have been markedly different.

Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian woman, tragically died in 2022 due to alleged police brutality for not adhering to the Islamic dress code. Her death sparked widespread protests, leading to the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement. This movement, ignited by Amini’s death, advocates for the end of compulsory hijab laws and fights against gender discrimination and oppression in Iran.
The UN fact-finding mission held Iran responsible for the violence leading to Amini’s death, further fueling the protests. Women across Iran responded with acts of defiance, such as removing their hijabs in public, symbolizing their demand for gender equality and fundamental rights. Amini’s legacy continues to inspire the fight for women’s rights in Iran.

The coup did more than alter the trajectory of Iran and the Middle East. It set a precedent for a series of imperialist interventions and the overthrow of democratically elected governments across the Global South. Suppose the US had not been successful in overthrowing Iran’s Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh. In that case, it is possible that they might not have orchestrated coups in Guatemala in 1954, leading to the Guatemalan genocide and the loss of 362,000 lives, or in Congo in 1961, resulting in 95,000 deaths. Nor might they have toppled a democratically elected left-wing government in Chile and installed the dictator, Augusto Pinochet, under whose regime 3,000 people died.

Oil, Power, and Betrayal: Disentangling the Threads of Iran’s Turbulent History

As the democratically elected leader of Iran from 1951 to 1953, Mossadegh championed the nationalization of Iran’s oil industry, a concept gaining traction since 1950. This industry had previously been controlled by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), a British company established in 1909 after discovering a large oil field in Iran. This company later became British Petroleum (BP), one of the top 10 British companies for the past 70 years and the perpetrator of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest oil spill in history and one of the most significant environmental disasters ever.

When the UK declined to negotiate with Iran and refused to provide reports confirming that Iran was receiving its fair share of oil profits, Mossadegh decided to return Iran’s oil to its people. In March 1951, Iran’s parliament voted in favour of nationalization, causing consternation in Britain. Britain responded as it typically did when any country challenged its colonial ambitions, fearing the sun might set on its empire.

The plot to depose and dispose of Mossadegh began immediately. The plotters persuaded the USA to join them and instigated a scheme to regain the oilfields by installing their puppet dictator. Two democratic countries, who often extol the virtues of democracy, removed a democratically elected leader and installed Shah Reza Pahlavi, who had recently fled the country after a failed plot to remove Mossadegh.

Within a short period, the Shah had tightened his grip on Iran’s security services and imposed a dictatorial regime that ruled with brutality and fear for 26 years. The overthrow of Prime Minister Mossadegh and the subsequent rule of the Shah directly led to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. By 1979, when Iran rose in a popular rebellion, it was essentially an absolute monarchy, with the Shah’s will enforced by the dreaded Savak secret police.

This transformed Iran from a progressive, liberal country that was spreading progressive Islamic values around the region into a militant Islamic state. This led Ayatollah Khomeini to take charge, which was the catalyst for the country to collaborate with and fund terrorist groups such as HAMAS (perpetrators of the October 2023 attacks on Israel that killed 1,200 with 130 hostages still being held) and pushed it into the welcoming arms of China, Russia, and North Korea.

As they fight for a better future, Iranians understand how the coup extinguished their fledgling democracy. They ask themselves whether Mahsa Amini and two other women beaten to death for protesting, Nika Shahkarami and Sarina Esmailzadeh, as well as hundreds of other young Iranians, would still be paying with their lives in Iran’s struggle for fundamental rights today if the 1953 coup hadn’t happened.

Despite an admission from Norman Darbyshire, a former MI6 spy in charge of British operations in Iran, who confessed that Winston Churchill couldn’t convince the USA under US WW2 president Harry Truman to participate, as Mossadegh, like the USA, was against communism. However, Churchill did persuade his successor, USA President Dwight Eisenhower by claiming that Iran’s nationalism was a Soviet-backed plot. Churchill convinced him that Iran was falling to the Soviets (even though there wasn’t concrete evidence to justify this) and effectively exploited the American Cold War mindset.

In 2013, a year after the 2012 multiple Oscar-winning film Argo, directed by and starring Ben Affleck, which describes the 1953 coup in the film’s opening credits, the USA admitted to their involvement in this plot, acknowledging their actions were undemocratic. The UK has yet to do so.

The UK should finally acknowledge its leading role in the 1953 coup that toppled Iran’s last democratically elected leader. Lord David Owen, a foreign secretary from 1977 to 1979, told the Guardian newspaper, “There are good reasons for acknowledging the UK’s role with the US in 1953. By admitting we were wrong, we damaged the steps towards a democracy”.

Richard Norton-Taylor, the author of “The State of Secrecy,” commented, “It is both sad and absurd that the British government continues to hide behind its age-old mantra of ‘neither confirm nor deny.’ It still refuses to acknowledge MI6’s leading role in Mosaddegh’s overthrow, even though numerous official CIA documents have revealed this information over the years.”

While there are no guarantees, one could argue that if Iran had remained a democracy in control of its vast oil reserves, the country might not be grappling with extremism and a lack of women’s rights today. A successful democratic model in Iran could have triggered a domino effect throughout the Middle East. This is similar to how Dubai’s economic success led to more moderate thinking spreading through the Gulf Arab Emirates, to increase tourism revenue as their oil reserves dwindled. This shift in thinking, for instance, resulted in women in Saudi Arabia, one of the strictest Arab nations, gaining the right to drive and vote.

To put the jigsaw pieces together, Iran and Israel had a trade relationship since the birth of Israel in 1948. Israel provided weapons. Iran provided oil. This stopped after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Had Mossadegh’s democracy continued, that relationship could have continued. Espousing moderate values may have meant less hatred towards Israel and Jews as a whole throughout the region. Iran wouldn’t have funded HAMAS, meaning the current Israel-Palestine conflict may not be taking place.

The USA and UK constantly proclaim the importance of “peace in the middle east”. The irony being, they themselves may have prevented peace due to their 1953 coup. Bloomberg has stated “A Democratic Iran will Lead the Middle East” whilst Quillan says “Iran is the Key to Peace in the Middle East”.

However, the reality is different. We now have a country that has issued death sentences to journalists, is involved in numerous global conflicts, and is a constant source of concern due to its capability to create nuclear weapons. Moreover, it has been providing drones to Russia, thereby re-energising Russia’s war against Ukraine.

It could be argued that if Great Britain had not been so driven by its desire for oil 70 years ago, Iran might have been an ally to the democratic world rather than one of its biggest adversaries.

The current Israel-Palestine conflict may not be occurring and there could finally be peace in the Middle East.