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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 54

Mesopotamian Highways

Mesopotamian Highways.

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.

Besides the construction of the grand trunk strategic highway, which will take the form of a railway, much has to be done in the way of improving

Subsidiary requirements.

feeding waterways and roads, and harbours, and no time is to be lost in their initiation.

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.

To connect the Mediterranean Sea with

Projects for Mesopotamia railways.

the Persian Gulf, three chief railroad projects have been proposed:
I.—General Chesney's project, known as the Euphrates Valley scheme, and advocated by Sir W. P. Andrews as a sound commercial enterprise.—

The Euphrates Valley line.

The practicability of this scheme is undoubted; starting from Suedia th line would be carried up the Orontes valley and viâ Aleppo to Ja'ber Castle on the Euphrates, thence through the El Jazírah to Baghdad on the Tigris and Kurna at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates. Below Já'ber Castle the Euphrates is navigable to its mouth by light draught steamers (2′ to 3′) of high horse-power, steaming 12 to 15 knots. The culturable area that this line taps is very large; and population, irrigation, good government, and an outlet for its produce, such as that offered by the railway, are alone required to transform it into a vast grain-growing and grazing country.

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.

Both strategically and commercially it is defective as a trunk line

Defective both strategically and commercially.

of railway; no near access is given by it to the important strategical centres of Diarbekir and Mozul and the rich districts and mining wealth lying south and north of the line Urfa, Diarbekir and Mozul, and those to the east of the Tigris are untouched by it.
It is well here to remark upon the fallacy of the generally conceived

Causes at work, to keep down cultivation and population in the East.

notions that no exports of wheat or other grains means no growth of them, and that poverty of population argues a poor and impoverished soil.

These two matters are so closely allied, that they are considered together.

page 9
Growth of grain depends upon population, soil, and irrigation. The valleys of the Euphrates, Tigris, Kárún and Hindiyán, &c., are amongst the richest alluvial valleys in the world: where corn and barley are grown, they rival our English grains. If one-half of Mesopotamia were put under cultivation, it is calculated that it would yield grain equal to the produce of the whole of France; and that, in the early spring, it could be Sold in London at a cheaper rate than that brought from Odessa. But

Insecurity of life and property.

insecurity of life and property have caused the canals to become dry and the ground to be tilled but here and there by a few wandering tribes. Good government would change this impossible state of things as if by a magic wand.
Fertility of soil is therefore no criterion of the amount of grain grown; it renders the growth possible only. No grain can be exported without communications, and no man will grow more than absolute want compels him to do, unless he is guaranteed the ownership of the surplus after paying a moderate portion of it as a tax. Without communications

and want of communications.

the bountiful yield of the soil supplies its fortunate cultivator with food at a nominal cost; but he remains poor and ill-clad, being unable to barter his wealth by carrying it to markets where it is required.

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.

To be ill-clad and fed is of comparatively little consequence in

cause national poverty.

the tropics; but in Persia, Afghánistán and Turkey in Asia, it means numerous early deaths and the survival of the strongest only.
Another cause of national poverty and paucity of population is

Bad government

bad government; public works, roads and bridges fall into ruins.
Canals cease to carry water, famines result; sanitation is neglected,

causes famines and pestilences,

pestilences follow. These two causes carry off thousands or people, whose lives are sacrifices to Sultáns, Páshás, Sháhs and Kháns and their satellites.
Bad government leads to oppression and oppression to emigration,

emigration, defective cultivation, and stagnation of all enterprise;

neglect and repression of cultivation. If a crop of corn or fruit or wool is large, the prince not only takes the lion's share but requires the young men and transport of the village to carry it to his headquarters; as a natural consequence but enough for the wants of the community is grown, and the fruit trees are cut down as a source of loss, and the cultivators are the gainers. The Khán takes a fancy to his retainer's colt, and it becomes his; naturally horse-breeding operations do not prosper: a man makes a fortune, not to enjoy it, but to hide his wealth, lest he be summoned to Tehrán, Isfahán, Kábal, or Constantinople to be 'squeezed,'
page 10
These are no fancy tales; they are facts. The nomad life is not

and renders a nomad life necessary.

preferred except by the lawless few; it is a necessity to enable the taxgatherer to be more readily eluded; fear of extortion and ruin prevents the peasants settling in villages. Reclamation from a nomadic to a village life would lead at once to the security of the roads, the settlement of the country, and the increase of trade. Proverty also keeps a man single.
Change the causes of poverty and depopulation, causes inseparable

Remedy for the evil.

from an oriental despotism, and the results are changed; increase of all kinds of produce and of population will result; famines will be less frequent and pestilences more under control.

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.

II.—A more perfect line than that just described (I), proposed by

The Aleppo-Mardni-Mozul line.

Mr. Latham and others, takes Alexandretta as a starting point, and runs via the Beilan Pass, Antioch, and Aleppo to Birejik on the Euphrates, and thence through Northern Mesopotamia, past Urfa, Mardin, Jazírah and Mozul to Baghdád, thus gaining at the cost of an increase in length of 200 miles great commercial and strategic advantages; the centres of commercial and mineral wealth are tapped; it crosses the two main waterways of

Superior commercially and strategically to the Euphrates Valley line.

the country, the Euphrates and Tigris, at points to which they can be navigated; it develops a greater area of alluvial soil, and, as well, passes through the great strategic centres necessary to the defence of the country.
In a military sense this line is based on both the Mediterranean Sea

Based on both the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf.

and the Persian Gulf, on Great Britain and on India, To increase its strategic and commercial value a Black Sea base and outlet are required.
This is afforded by the line proposed by Sir M. Stephenson and the

A Black Sea base also necessary.

Stafford House Committee, running from Mardin viâ Diarbeker, Malatia, Sivas and

A defensive trunk line,

Tokat to Samsún. This line is essentially a defensive one. Offensive branches are required as below—

with offensive branches.

(i) Sivas, Erzingham, Erzerum.

(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).

III.—For both strategic and commercial reasons a Central Persian

Requires to be supplemented by an extension through Persia.

line is required, with Isfahán as an objective. This line best takes off from the Mozul-Baghdád line at the most convenient point from whence to cross the Zagros range, so as to reach Karmansháh and Burújird (see pages 14 and 19).

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.

To explain the strategic necessity of the above lines to the defence of

Defence of Turkey in Asia.

Turkey in Asia and Persia, let lis consider how these countries can be defended most readily and with the least expenditure of means

First, consider the case of Turkey in Asia.

Russia, her natural enemy, is strong in the country bordering the

A probable Russian plan of campaign in Turkey in Asia.

Black Sea and the Caucasus; she is quick to strike and to take every advance of her apathetic enemy. This she did in 1877, and may be expected to do again.

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
If a naval and military power be allied with the Turks, it will be necessary

A defence to oppose it effectually

for her to command the sea and to aid to prevent the former. This she can conveniently do by advancing direct from Trebizond on Erzerum, and by taking up positions along the line Samsún, Tokat, Sivas, Malatia, Diarbekir, and advancing directly by prepared roads or railroads from Sivas on Erzerum and from Malatia on Van. For the rapid

requires railroad communi-cations.

success of these movements railroads are essential; no modern armies can operate with rapidity without them; they multiply men and means, and save life and money by prohibiting protracted operations and leading to decisive results.
Should the slow mobilisation of the Turks, want of military roads, backwardness of her allies, &c., so favour Russia that she capture Erzerum

Result of an ineffectual re-sistance from the outset

(at once the capital and key of Armenia) and Van, or invest and pass beyond them, her endeavour will be to occupy the fertile plains and valleys extending southwards to the Armenian Taurus or Kurdistan range of mountains, i.e., to Mush, Khanus, Bitlis, &c., and westwards, to the neighbourhood of Erzingham and to occupy the eastern outlets of the roads leading through the hills stretching from Erzingham in a south-east direction to the south of lakes Van and Urmiah, viâ Hamadán to Shiráz (the Zagros), which outlets it may be confidently assumed will be then fortified and held in force. Under the most favourable circumstances, Russia cannot hope for more than this, and here at least let us hope the defenders will bar all further progress by the occupation of the hill passes

would be to lose a consider-able area of fertile soil, and perhaps one or more strong places;

and such points as supports to them as Erzingham, Palu, Hasu, Hazru, Sart, Khizan, Bash Kal'a, &c., effectually hindering all advance on the main strategical points of Mozul, Diarbekir, Kharput, and Sivas.

To these points should gravitate the Western allies, troops, stores and transport, &c., required to the front.

To the west of the border the Russians would have roads only to operate by: these being indifferent and few the numbers that can

therefore timely action very important;

operate by them will be restricted. Time will be of the utmost importance, so that the initiative may be taken before the enemy shall have had time to mass in numbers, and to fortify himself and before Erzerum, if it hold out, shall have fallen. To enlist time on the side of the defence, as already stated, railways are required.

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.

A well concerted forward movement from the directions of Trebizond,

and would lead to the initia-tive being taken in the enemy's country under most favourable strategic conditions.

Erzingham, Bitlis and Van should carry the initiative by Olti, Zewin, and Alishgird into the enemy's country, for the strategic advantages of the defence are considerable; flanks, page 13 secure, resting on the sea and the Armenian Taurus; the right wing, in the

Right wing on the defensive capable of assuming the offensive.

firm occupation of most difficult mountains, their outlets and their exits, an advance can be made at will on the enemy's communications, or a pure defensive may be maintained with inferior forces, whilst the

Left wing acting vigorously on the offensive and an independent force landing or threatening a descent on Batoum.

bulk of the army pushes everything before it, and advances to hand over the border, and, aided by a descent on the coast at Batoum, carry war into the heart of the disaffected Caucasus, Russia's most vulnerable point, and where a reverse, if followed up, must lead to a retirement out of Turkistán.

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.

Such a force based upon the area Karmansháh, Sahná, Burújírd,

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.

Hamadán, and advancing in the direction of Tabríz and Rasht, would completely prevent any Russian attempt to force the mountain roads south-east of Van, for it covers all their mouths, and, if necessary, can aid in the defence of Tehran.

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.

This Persian column is only necessary should Russia violate Persian territory and operate from Khoi, Tabríz, Souj-boulak or Sahná through

The Persian column only possible if Persia an ally, or her territory be violated by Russia.

the Kurdistán hills. Such operations it completely takes in flank; its own flank is only threatened from the direction of Rasht and Tehrán,—a threat which can be readily met by any reserve force occupying the quadrilateral base above mentioned.

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 above sketch of a plan of operations having for its object the

The railway lines (II) proposed meet the military requirements of defence and offence.

defence of Turkey in Asia against Russia goes to show that the strategic lines of communication already considered, from the Black Sea (Samsún), the Mediterranean (Sakandarun, or Suedia or Tripoli) and the Persian Gulf (Baghdád on the Tigris), assures it being effectually carried out.
page 14

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.

The number of troops required for such a campaign must naturally

Troops required to defend Turkey in Asia and to take the initiative towards the Caucasus.

depend much on the nature of the theatre of war, which is hilly and traversed by few good communications. They may be estimated somewhat as below—
Line—Trebizond-Erzerum [unclear: 60].000
Line—Sivas-Erzingham 25.000
Line—Kharput-Van 50.000
Line—Diarbekir-Bitlis 25.000
Line—Mozul-Van 25.000
Line—Baghdád-Hamadán 50.000
Holding the Kurd hills 25.000
Threatening a descent on the coast, Batoum to Yenakili 50.000
Total 300.000

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.

To render effectual the co-operation of a force from the area

Communications required to render effectual the operations of the right Hanking column.

Karmansháh, Sahriá, Burújird, Hamadán, the inauguration of communications as below is required, viz.:—
(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).

Between Isfahán and Sistán, the connecting link to make complete

The Persic-Indian connecting link.

the overland rail route, the country presents no great engineering difficulties; the line passes through the fertile districts and towns of Yazd, Karman, &c., and follows the route taken by caravans.
Taking the line as a whole from Baghdád to Nushki, where it would

Total cost of strategic railways between the Mediterranean and India.

join on to the Indian lines, its length would be roughly 1,700 miles, and its cost 20 millions of pounds sterling.

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 route is both commercially and strategically

The Central Persian trunk line better both commercially and strategically than lines to the south of the Zagros range.

superior to others put forward as feasible, viz., that from Baghdad, uiâ Shústar and Shiráz to Karmán and Sístán, keeping to the south of the Zagros range and its south-east continuations, the Bakhtíári hills, and that from Baghdád viâ Basra and Bushire and the shores of the Gulf. The latter line would meet with considerable difficulties from streams, floods, &c., would develop no traffic beyond that of the narrow strip of land between the Gulf and the barren difficult hills to its immediate north, and would carry only what filtrates through them into Muhammeruh, Bushire, Bandar Abbas, &c., and which is more cheaply conveyed by sea from these ports.

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.

That a correct choice should be made of the best strategic line between

The great importance of the selection of the best commercial and strategic line in the first instance.

the Mediterranean Sea and India, so as to answer all the military requirements of defence and offence, is of the highest importance. A wrong choice cannot be rectified except by costly expedients, and may cripple military act ion or render it wholly

and the considerations that must influence its selection.

abortive; a strong line as to defence, well selected as to the offensive, must compel the enemy's movements to conform to your initiative. All the advantages are gained of a pre-arranged campaign on a definite plan. The best strategic lines of communication, even if the longest, will generally run through the most important provinces and the most flourishing towns; main communications and not bye-ways are most appropriately used for strategic purposes.

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).