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THE MODERN HISTORY of Persia, as Iran was once called, began when it was recognized as one of the main oil sources in the Middle East. In May 1901, the British adventurer William D'Arcy Knox signed the first British oil concession, or agreement, with Persia's Shah Muzaffar al-Din. From the beginning, Great Britain guarded its oil supply with Iran jealously, realizing the critical importance of oil to its modernizing armed forces, especially its Royal Navy. Within seven years, the need for oil had ended one of the greatest power rivalries of the 19th century, the “Great Game” between England and the Russia of Tsar Nicholas II. In 1908, Great Britain signed an agreement with Tsarist Russia, basically dividing the country into Russian and British spheres ...

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