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Battlelines for Suez: the Conservatives & the Abadan crisis, 1950-1951

By Sue Onslow


The Abadan crisis was the initial phase of the protracted crisis in Anglo-Persian relations 1951–54, precipitated by Persia's nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in May 1951. For many in the Tory party, it provided the test run of British policy in the Middle East. It seemed to demonstrate what should be the appropriate British response to the challenge of indigenous nationalism to British strategic and commercial interests in the region: namely, a robust assertion of British interests by all means necessary, including the use of force. This article examines Conservative perceptions and behaviour during the Abadan crisis, as the experience proved a vital formative influence upon the later Suez Group, the vociferous Tory backbench pressure group which played a contributory role in the Eden government's decision to confront Nasser in 1956. It seeks to show how the crisis contributed to the emergence of a clearly identifiable faction of imperial-minded Conservative MPs who cared passionately about Britain's place in the world, and specifically in the Middle East. The article looks at the relationship between the Conservative leadership and the nascent backbench faction and considers whether Conservative front bench policy and behaviour in this crisis in any way contributed to the emergence of the Suez Group

Topics: DA Great Britain
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Year: 2003
DOI identifier: 10.1080/13619460308565441
OAI identifier:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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