The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 54
Our first aim, therefore, in selecting a strategic and commercial communication to run through Turkey in Asia, Persia, and Baluchistán to India (i), is to determine the military points of advantage necessary for us to occupy for both attack and defence; (ii) to align it so as to pass, at a safe distance from the frontier, through or near them, and centres of supply, the richest pastures, the most wooded hills, luxuriant cornfields, &c.; and finally (iii), to arrange for its subsidiary supply lines both to the front and page 8 rear, so as to strengthen vulnerable points and give easy access to points of military and commercial importance.
To put off sowing the seed of prosperity and reform under the idea that when necessary we can plant the grown tree and at once reap its fruit, is a policy that will not bear a deep investigation (see page 2).
All are military requirements of defence as well as commercial public works of a highly remunerative nature, so on no higher grounds than these of self-interest they should be undertaken and secured by inter-government treaty.
At present the great natural highway from Europe to India through Mesopotamia lies untrodden. It is becoming daily of increasing political and commercial importance to the Empire.
Projects for Mesopotamia railways.
The Euphrates Valley line.
Strategically it is important as the shortest through line to India, and from its giving communication in the direction of Diarbekir to Ja'ber Castle. The line is estimated to cost 10 million sterling on the broad, and 5 millions on the narrow gauge.
Defective both strategically and commercially.
Causes at work, to keep down cultivation and population in the East.
These two matters are so closely allied, that they are considered together.page 9
Insecurity of life and property.
and want of communications.
The area cultivated therefore depends upon the security as to ownership of the surplus cultivated and upon the means of transporting it. The simple fact of opening up communications enables a large additional population to be fed by rendering available the surplus grain of fertile localities which otherwise would go to waste.
cause national poverty.
causes famines and pestilences,
emigration, defective cultivation, and stagnation of all enterprise;
and renders a nomad life necessary.
Remedy for the evil.
The Sikh despotism in the Panjáb was a mild one compared to those of Afghánistán, Persia, and Turkey in Asia. Since its cessation the increase of produce, of population, and of material wealth has been considerable.
It rests with man, by the evil that lies in the lawless and unrestrained few, to make of a fertile soil an abomination of desolation or by the good that lies in the peace-loving many to create of it a garden.
When the world was young the valleys of the Tigris, Euphrates, and Kárún rivers were thickly populated and richly cultivated; it is a blot on modern civilisation that they are to-day practically depopulated wastes. The climate is more bearable than that of India, less heat and more cold, so well suited to an Indian constitution, that colonies of Indians could be planted there to the benefit of the race and the relief of many over-populated districts.
The Aleppo-Mardni-Mozul line.
Superior commercially and strategically to the Euphrates Valley line.
Based on both the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf.
A Black Sea base also necessary.
A defensive trunk line,
with offensive branches.
(ii) Kharput, Mush, Bitlis, Van, Kotour.page 11
The main Mediterranean-Baghdad trunk line would cost to construct about 13 millions. The line leading to the Black Sea from Mardin and the Van and Erzerum branches would cost £1,200 to £15,000 per mile (see page 15).
Requires to be supplemented by an extension through Persia.
The Aleppo province has a trade of £2,200,000 per annum.
The population of Diarbekir is 40,000 (formerly 150,000); of Mozul (ancient Nineveh) 40,000; of Kharput 11,000; of Sivas 35,000, and of the Province 1,500,000; of Erzerum 40,000; of Bit- lis 40,000 of Tocat 30,000; of Mush 15,000; of Van 30,000; of Homs 30,000; of Mardin 25,000; of Urfa 40,000; of Kármansháh 30,000; Hamadán 30,000; Isfahán 60,000; Karmán and Yazd 40,000 each, &c.
The construction of the line of railway would raise these towns into emporia of first class importance, and by sympathy with them its influence would extend more or less to all others even to the shores of the four seas.
Too much through traffic must not be expected on these lines. Local traffic will gradually develop and become great. Their chief value will be strategical and political, and in developing latent resources both agricultural and mineral. We look for too much at one time and to com-bine all advantages at all times, whereas we must be content to take each advantage in its due season.
A trunk line to India through Tehrán and Mashhad is quite out of the question, as it would be completely under Russian influence; it must be commanded from the Persian Gulf.
Defence of Turkey in Asia.
First, consider the case of Turkey in Asia.
A probable Russian plan of campaign in Turkey in Asia.
Her aim will be a decisive result, and a rapid and thorough overwhelming of the Turkish army, for with it will fall Turkish dominion in Asia. Turkey is comparatively weak in the eastern parts of her Empire, adjoining Russia, and slow of action.
Russia, when she desires to pounce upon her prey, may be therefore assumed to mass her forces about Olti, Kars and Erivan, and to be ready to descend by land and sea on Erzerum, Van, Trebizond and Samsún.page 12
A defence to oppose it effectually
requires railroad communi-cations.
Result of an ineffectual re-sistance from the outset
would be to lose a consider-able area of fertile soil, and perhaps one or more strong places;
To these points should gravitate the Western allies, troops, stores and transport, &c., required to the front.
therefore timely action very important;
Judging from results, Turkish forts and entrenchment are not impregnable to Russian troops, and fall when scientifically assaulted with less than double numbers in a few weeks or even days.
An oriental work is never perfect. It is certain to fail in some essential defensive requirement, which a wary foe is not slow to turn to good effect.
and would lead to the initia-tive being taken in the enemy's country under most favourable strategic conditions.
Right wing on the defensive capable of assuming the offensive.
Left wing acting vigorously on the offensive and an independent force landing or threatening a descent on Batoum.
The defensive zone, to the south-west of Van, so threatens the communications of an enemy advancing from the Caucasus on both Erzerum and Van, that it must of necessity be attacked in force or watched by a large force.
A descent on the coast at Batoum, unless made in great force, cannot be said to threaten a Russian advance on Erzerum, as it would probably be itself besieged; it is when the initiative is taken, and an advance in force made towards Kars, that its value will be felt.
In such a plan of campaign, Turkey being aided by a naval and military power, a Persian column would play a most important part.
Advance of a force from the area Karmansháh, Sahna, Burújird and Haniadán based on the Persian Gulf, an important flank movement, and directly threatens the Caspian base of the Trans-Caspian region.
Such a column would be based on the Tigris and Persian Gulf, Baghdad, and Muhammerah, by lines of communications (III, page 10), already referred to, and the Kárún (see page 14).
It is also capable of advancing into the Caucasus and of co-operating with the main advance from Erzerum.
The Persian column only possible if Persia an ally, or her territory be violated by Russia.
If Persia is maintained neutral, and she herself is neutral, this column composed of Eastern allies could co-operate with the Turks and her Western allies in the general direction of Mozul, Van, Bayazid.
The railway lines (II) proposed meet the military requirements of defence and offence.
These lines lie wholly within Turkish territory.
The question has been considered on its broad principles alone, and main points only have been mentioned; in each case, however, details have not been overlooked: to state them, however, would be but to confuse the subject and weary the reader.
Troops required to defend Turkey in Asia and to take the initiative towards the Caucasus.
|Holding the Kurd hills||25.000|
|Threatening a descent on the coast, Batoum to Yenakili||50.000|
Such a force, so placed for mutual support, should render it impossible for superior numbers to cross the border, and would be in a position to take the initiative with 200 000 troops, and as many more as the country could afford to place in the field over 300 000 men.
The defence of Turkey in Asia is the defence of India and of the British Imperial strategic road across Mesopotamia and by the Persian Gulf, which, if in the hands of Russia, would place in serious jeopardy our Eastern Empire and compel it to keep up ruinous war establishments.
The part that a force of 50,000 landing on the coast about Batoum, so as to outflank a Russian advance, or further north, about Yenakali, to cut her communications, is no unimportant one if it take up a strong position securely based on the sea and entrench itself until it can advance to aid in raising the disaffected Caucasus.
Communications required to render effectual the operations of the right Hanking column.
|(i)||The extension of the Mesopotamian railway through the Zagros Gates to Karmansháh and Burújírd.|
|(ii)||The opening of the navigation of the Kárún river to Shústar; the construction thence of a line of railway, 45 miles in length, to the foot of the hills, north of Dizfúl and of a cart- road over the Chul and Dálích passes, viâ Khoramábád to both Karmansháh and Burújírd.|
|(iii)||Although it may be impossible to bring Karmansháh into navigable communication with the Gulf by the rivers Kárású, Kharkháh, and Kárún, yet it ought to be no difficult task to make this line of water communication suitable to rafts by improving the worst parts of its course, and to thus facilitate the evacuation of the army.page 15|
|(iv)||The prolongation of the line of rails from Burújírd to Isfahán, the capital of South Persia, and the centre of an agricultural and pastural district, presents no difficulties and follows as a matter of course. Nor does this line offer great difficulties between Burújírd and Khoramábád and between the western foot of the Zagros range and Baghdad; the passage of the Zagros to reach the hilly plateau of Mid Persia (5,600′ to 8,000′), a line of steep gradients and sharp curves, is a difficult engineering work.|
Notwithstanding the difficulties of this section, and the fact that the Mid Persian plateau has in winter a severe climate, this military line, the direction of which is imposed by strategic necessities, is also the best commercial line; no other line would so directly tap such fertile districts, i.e., those of Karmansháh, Hamadán, Burújírd, Gulpaigán, Khonsár, Isfahan, &c., and those to their northward, nor draw towards it so effectually the products of North and South Persia—Opium, wool, corn, barley, carpets, ghi, &c. (see page 11).
The Persic-Indian connecting link.
Total cost of strategic railways between the Mediterranean and India.
The length of the Turkish lines would be roughly 1,600 miles, including the Erzerum and Van branches, and the cost another 20 millions. Thus, for the moderate capital outlay of 40 millions, the guaranteed outlay on which may be taken to require the imposition of an income-tax of one penny in the £ for the few years required to develop traffic, we would have done our utmost to render possible the placing ourselves in a position the best possible for the interests of our Empire, and eventually reap the benefit as well of adding to the markets and the productions of the world and of recouping our outlay.
Allowing another outlay of 10 million for the improvements of harbours, canals and roads, a total outlay of 50 millions on remunerative works, for which we may exact substantial guarantees by requiring certain territories along the lines of works to be given over to us to administer, one- half the cost of a war, only is required. Such an outlay, necessary as an Imperial insurance, is insignificant in comparison to the amount insured; the rumour of a war causes the principal stocks quoted in the London stock exchange to fall in value 100 millions. It is a work in which the Empire may well be called to assist, for Imperial defence is obligatory on us all. The sources of our greatness and prosperity should be preserved by Imperial loans, if, by them, they can be safeguarded.
Amongst colonists are some of the most vigorous of our race, who must be included in our war organisation and Imperial councils. The simple fact of a man being a colonist often stamps him as a man of purpose and determination. By sharing common responsibilities the race page 16 is ennobled and rendered one; honour and shame must be shared together, for our rise and fall must of necessity be one.
The Central Persian trunk line better both commercially and strategically than lines to the south of the Zagros range.
The line, viâ Shústar, Behbahán, and Shiráz, although cheaper to construct than that viâ Karmansháh and Burújírd, is also defective as a trunk line; it would develop little country and take little traffic. Both are most defective strategically; not leading to any important military positions; not lessening the military difficulties of advancing into the country; not aiding in provisioning and supplying the troops so advancing to any sufficient extent; the coast line is indeed both commercially and strategically useless, and the Shústar-Shiráz line but a slight improvement upon it. A line to pay commercially and to be of military value should run to the north of the Zagros range and its south-east Bakhtíári continuations, so that it may tap the rich valleys found there, and that traffic may flow into it from either hand; it should, as the Baghdad, Karmansháh, Burújírd, Isfahán line does, go direct to the sources of wealth, and put the hills difficult to traverse to its south. The iron road must overcome the difficulties of the passage of the Zagros, which occur everywhere between Karmansháh and Isfahán, and which the transport of the country wears itself to death in overcoming, and at the same time it must form the necessary secondary base, to the Persian Gulf and the Tigris as a first base, the breathing stage, for operations towards the Caucasus and the Caspian.
The great importance of the selection of the best commercial and strategic line in the first instance.
and the considerations that must influence its selection.
The large town of a district give the greatest assistance to an army; shelter for troops, safe storage for provisions and war materials; their civil workshops and tradesmen, &c., are of value; military establishments page 17 of many sorts are to be found in them; they are in fact essential to the organisation, administration and maintenance of an army.
Military bases depend for their fitness upon sources of supply and refitment, fortresses to store munitions of war, open towns for storage of provisions.
All the above considerations were carefully weighed before the overland strategic line to India now put forward as a possible and safe one, and one answering the purposes that it is required to fulfil, was finally decided upon; upon the manner in which it meets the requirements of a good line of commercial and military communication and of a secondary base to the Black and Mediterranean Seas and Persian Gulf, as primary bases, its merit must be decided; the best base and line of communication combined will also be the best commercial line.
The defence of this line is the defence of both Turkey in Asia and Persia (see pages 11, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21).