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The New York Times, June 7, 1874, p. 4:

PERSIAN COMMERCE AND MANUFACTURES.

    There are at present two principal currents of trade which are set into Persia, one by the Persian Gulf on the South, the other by the Black Sea.
    All the raw cotton produced in the northern maritime provinces goes to supply Russian manufactories, and a fleet of thirty steamers plies between Rescht and the neighboring ports to the Astracan and the Volga. The policy of Russia is to shut the merchants of the west of Europe completely out of the north Persian trade. Persia produces cotton equal to any American, except the Sea Island. The want of railroads is the great obstacle to its increased export, but water carriage is available in many parts of Southern Persia.

    The northern carrying trade, which formerly centred in the Turkish port of Trebizond, has now, in consequence of Turkish apathy, passed to the Russian port of Poti. Russian merchants have thus gained complete possession of the northern carrying trade, while they retain the route of the Volga for their own commerce with Persia.
    The value of the Persian trade to Europe and India is difficult to ascertain in consequence of the irregular manner in which the Custom-house accounts are kept, and the extensive contraband trade. Few Persian products can, with the present means of communication, support the expenses of transport to European markets.

    Silk has hitherto been the most valuable of her productions which Persia could offer in exchange for foreign commodities. The larger portion of the produce is exported to France and Russia. The chief silk province is Ghilan, but in Mazanderan, and in almost every part of Persia, silk is produced. Almost all the silk fabrics produced in Europe are manufactured in Persia, and although inferior in gloss and finish, are strong in texture and brilliant in color.
    The silk production of Persia received a severe check at the breaking out, in 1865, of the silk-worm disease in Ghilan. In the previous year the exportation of raw silk from that province was of the value of £1,057,310, but it gradually fell so low as £140,307. The production had so much diminished in 1871 that Messrs. Ralli & Co., the great Greek merchants at Rescht, were obliged to wind up their business and quit the country.

    The Persians have always manifested a high capacity for works of art. The productions of the country in metal, ornamental carpentry, and decorative furniture are of remarkable excellence and beauty. The glazed tiles, which are so conspicuous in the houses of the wealthy, were long peculiar to Persia. They are used to decorate the interior walls of apartments, which, paneled in various colors and patterns in arabesque, intermixed with flowers in mosaic, are exceedingly beautiful.
    The celebrated palace of Tamerlane at Samarcand, of which the Persian pish tak, or verandah, towered above the rest of the building in the form of a half dome or alcove, was richly decorated with these tiles in gold and blue, and must have given it a most gorgeous appearance.
    These ornamental tiles are still manufactured, but owing to the impoverished state of the country the demand for them has greatly fallen off.

    The Persian glazed earthenware, says Mr. Piggot, is distinguished by the great brilliancy of tis enamel colors, the principal of which are a deep lapis lazuli blue, turquoise, a vivid emerald green, a red of a dark orange tone, buff, purple, olive green, and black. The lustres are a rich orange gold, a dark copper color, and a brass lustre. Many of the mosques of Persia are decorated with beautiful tiles; the earliest of these are of the tenth century.

    Another Persian artistic specialty is the illumination of manuscripts. As, remarks Mr. Piggot, in the beautiful production of this character in Europe in the middle ages, the illuminated decorations were painted by artists who had nothing to do with the text, of course it would have been a waste of time for such artists to have written the book, and that work was accordingly given to inferior men.
    The illuminations in Persian MSS. exhibit the same faults of perspective as their pictures, but they are effective from the brightness of the colors, which are heightened with gold. The borders are also ornamented with arabesque designs in gold and colors. The penmanship of these MSS., and also of those not so ornamented, is very beautiful, the Persian characters being well suited for calligraphic display.
    It is the appreciation in which these MSS. are held which has been the chief bar to the employment of printing to any extent in Persia. Lithography is more suited to the purpose. Very large prices are often paid for examples of writing by celebrated penmen. Sir J. Malcolm says he had known £7 given for four lines written by Dervish Mujid, a famous calligrapher.

    Of the textile manufactures of Persia, the most important is that of carpets, which possess a durability and richness of coloring which are unrivaled. The colors are permanent, and great ingenuity and taste are displayed in the patterns. The best are made at Yezd, and in the neighborhood of Kermanshah.
    Each side of a Persian carpet is equally presentable. If a piece of red-hot charcoal is placed upon one of the finest quality it will be singed and marked with a brown spot, but when it is buffed not the slightest trace of the spot remains. This is said to be the test of a good carpet.
    Large numbers are made in the villages by women and children. The mechanism is very simple, consisting of four stakes fixed in the ground, which serve to twist the woolen threads together.

    The Caspian provinces, from their great fertility and varied produce, seem to offer the fairest prospect of increased wealth to the kingdom. The climate of Mazanderan is very similar to that of Lower Bengal, and the province resembles it in its natural productions. Rice and cotton could be cultivated to a great extent, and the forests are rich in valuable timber. An enterprising Frenchman lately explored the district successfully in search of walnut-trees, the wood of which, from its great consumption in ornamental furniture, has become very scarce in Europe.
    Dense jungles cover large portions of this province, and, like those of Bengal, they harbor tigers and wild boars.

    Large quantities of sturgeon are caught in the rivers which enter the Caspian, and caviare and isinglass are prepared and exported by the Russians, in whose hands the fisheries chiefly are. This is a source of wealth from which Persia has as yet derived scarcely any advantage.

    Numerous references have been made from time to time to the mineral wealth of Persia, which has, up to the present time, remained almost entirely undeveloped. The district of Karadagh abounds in copper and iron, which are procurable to an amount almost unlimited. The iron ore is reputed to be so pure that the mountains may be almost said to consist of that metal.
    Within thirty miles of Tehran coal can be obtained in abundance for the cost of working it. These mines have hitherto been neglected, as charcoal and wood are in general use as fuel, but the introduction of railways, and the probable influx of European artisans in connection with Baron Reuter's concession, will doubtless effect a considerable change, by gradually accustoming the people to the consumption of a cheaper fuel, for any further destruction of the forests for the production of charcoal is greatly to be deprecated.

    The famous turquoise mines in the Province or Khorasan, the only mines from which these stones are now to be obtained, have been worked for centuries, and the district is covered for miles with refuse. The cost of working hs been constantly increasing, but the rubbish on being sifted is still found productive.
    Dark blue is the color preferred, and the inferior stones are made into rings, which find a ready sale among the Arabs. The most valuable stones are either purchased by Persian nobles, or exported to Europe.
    The mines must be of great antiquity; for the Greek historians represent their countrymen as being struck with admiration at the sumptuous gold armor of the Persians, richly ornamented with these beautiful stones.

    Persian lapidaries are said to be very expert in inlaying them, but they are apt to cut designs and inscriptions upon them to conceal natural imperfections.
    The stones which Sir John Charden saw in the Treasury of Ispahan astonished him equally by their quantity and beauty; he saw vast numbers in their rough state, piled high on the floors, like heaps of grain; while the polished specimens filled innumerable bags, weighing from forty-five to fifty pounds each.
    It has always been the custom for the best stones to be presented to the Shah.
The British Quarterly Review.

TIME Magazine, March 26, 1951, p. 31:

FOREIGN NEWS: IRAN: Whose Ox is Nationalized
    In Iran's Majlis (Parliament) last week, 106 deputies got to their feet and voted to nationalize Iran's oil; not a single deputy voted no. A spectator in the galleries screamed: "Eight grams of gunpowder did this!"
    He meant that the Majlis was intimidated by the assassination of Premier Ali Razmara, who had opposed nationalization of oil. That was true, but it was only part of the story that led up to one of the worst calamities to the anti-Communist world since the Red conquest of China.
    Iran's oil (6% of the world's production and Western Europe's biggest oil source) was threatened because of 1) British business greed in past decades; 2) British Socialist advertising of the magic word "nationalization"; 3) failure of the U.S. to develop an effective policy in Iran; 4) complete lack of U.S.-British cooperation (TIME, Jan. 8). As usual, the Russians stand to gain from the West's failure; their puppet Tudeh party, officially outlawed, is very active behind the scenes in the drive for nationalization of Iran's oil. Thousands of people ran through Teheran's streets, shouting: "Our oil is nationalized!"

    A Loophole for Hope. The assassination of Razmara and fanatic threats or other killings would not have had so spectacular an effect on the Majlis if anti-British feeling had not been smoldering for years in Iran. It began to flare two years ago when Sir William Fraser, board chairman of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. (which has a concession for all oil production in southern Iran) offered to double the royalties paid to the Iranian government.
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Iran map, from the CIA World Factbook

    The Islamic Republic of Iran, (in ancient times, Persia) is bordered by 7 other Asian nations, as well as the Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf, and Gulf of Oman. The capital is Tehran. The area of Iran is 636,300 square miles (1,648,000 square kilometers). The estimated population of Iran for July, 2008 is 65,875,224. The official language is Persian.

    Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling monarchy was overthrown and the shah was forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces established a theocratic system of government with ultimate political authority vested in a learned religious scholar referred to commonly as the Supreme Leader who, according to the constitution, is accountable only to the Assembly of Experts.

    Iranian-US relations have been strained since a group of Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and held it until 20 January 1981. During 1980-88, Iran fought a bloody, indecisive war with Iraq that eventually expanded into the Persian Gulf and led to clashes between US Navy and Iranian military forces between 1987 and 1988.
    Iran has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism for its activities in Lebanon and elsewhere in the world and remains subject to US economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement.

    Following the election of the reformist Hojjat ol-Eslam Mohammad KHATAMI as president in 1997 and similarly a reformist Majles (parliament) in 2000, a campaign to foster political reform in response to popular dissatisfaction was initiated. The movement floundered as conservative politicians prevented reform measures from being enacted, increased repressive measures, and made electoral gains against reformers.
    Starting with nationwide municipal elections in 2003 and continuing through Majles elections in 2004, conservatives reestablished control over Iran's elected government institutions, which culminated with the August 2005 inauguration of hardliner Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD as president.

    In December 2006 and March 2007, the international community passed resolutions 1737 and 1747 respectively after Iran failed to comply with UN demands to halt the enrichment of uranium or to agree to full IAEA oversight of its nuclear program.
    In October 2007, Iranian entities were also subject to US sanctions under EO 13382 designations for proliferation activities and EO 13224 designations for providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.
        The CIA World Factbook: Iran

Iran flag, from the CIA World Factbook

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  Free Books on Iran (.pdfs)

Through Persia... Gulf to the Caspian Bradley-Birt 1910
Persia Past and Present Jackson 1906
Cyrus the Great Abbott 1903
10,000 Miles in Persia Sykes 1902
Persian Life and Customs Wilson 1900
A Year Among the Persians Browne 1893
History of Art in Persia Perrot 1892
Early Voyages... to Russian & Persia Morgan 1886
Darius the Great Abbott 1878
Through Persia by Caravan Arnold 1877
Sketches of Persia Malcolm 1845
Sheikh Mohammed Ali Hazin Ali Hazin 1831
The History of Persia Malcolm 1829

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    This apparently generous action convinced the Iranians that the British had been bilking them for years under the old rates. The Majlis refused to ratify the agreement with Anglo-Iranian, and payments to Iran, earmarked to finance a desperately needed development plan, were held up. Although the British government owns 52.55% of Anglo-Iranian voting stock, it let the deadlock between Fraser and the Iranian government continue, as if nothing more were involved than commercial haggling over price. Nor did the U.S. make any serious attempt to break the deadlock, even after the development plan, drawn up by top U.S. engineering companies, had to be abandoned because Iran's government was without funds.
    In spite of the best efforts of Razmara and the Shah,* Iran's economy began sliding downhill. As unemployment grew, Iranians tended to blame the whole muddle on British imperialism. Tudeh party leaders and Mohammedan fanatics of the National Front joined in spreading the belief that nationalization of oil would end Iran's troubles.
    In fact, Iran just does not have the know-how to operate Anglo-Iranian's holdings, which include the world's biggest refinery. Last week's Majlis resolution contained a clause inviting foreign experts to help in nationalization. The experts could scarcely be British or American. If Iran (improbably) turned to Russia for such aid, it would fall victim of a far harsher imperialism than the British ever imposed.
    Last week's action by the Majlis left a small loop hole which admitted some hope. Nationalization is not to take effect until after two months of study. The Shah and his new Premier, Hussein Ala, are both opposed to nationalization, and the period of study may give them a chance to cool off the anti-foreign pressure drive.

    Contagious Fever. Britain last week sent a strong note protesting that nationalization of Anglo-Iranian was illegal, and offering to give Iran 50% of the company's profits. (This offer matched the terms given in January by the U.S.'s Aramco Oil Co. to Saudi Arabia.) Said London's Daily Mail: "If this business were not so serious, it would be very funny indeed. For the Socialists to lecture another government for wishing to nationalize a basic industry is a prize example of the Devil rebuking a sinner." The liberal News Chronicle found "an element of poetic justice" in the Laborites dilemma.
    Meanwhile, the nationalization fever spread. Some extremists in Teheran demanded the nationalization of American oil holdings on Bahrein Island in the Persian Gulf. Iran has not exercised effective sovereignity over Bahrein for a century and a half. Since 1880 the island has been a virtual British protectorate by treaty with the Sheik of Bahrein.
    From Cairo came reports of a move in the Egyptian Parliament to nationalize the Suez Canal, dug by and operated by a French company in which the British government now owns about 44% of the stock.
    On the London Stock Exchange Anglo-Iranian shares, which stood at 120 a few weeks ago, dropped last week to 100, a five-year low. Britain's Socialist leaders fretted and squirmed over the Iranian crisis and all the other ills that might follow in its train. Apparently, it made a lot of difference whose ox was nationalized.

* Who last week ceremoniously began the distribution of his vast land holdings, on which 500,000 peasants live. The land is not a gift, but is being sold under easy installment terms. The proceeds will go to finance farmer's cooperatives.

Britain's ruling Labor (Socialist) government nationalized British coal, steel, & railroad industries in the late '40s & early '50s.

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