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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

A painful sight is the Persian army


No

one realises this better than the well-to-do Persian, and nothing would be more welcome to him than radical reform on the part of the Shah, and the establishment of the land of Iran on unshakable foundations. With a national debt so ridiculously small as Persia has at present, there is no reason why, with less maladministration, with her industries pushed, with her army reorganised and placed on a serviceable footing, she should not rank as one of the first and most powerful among Asiatic independent nations.

We have seen what young Japan, against all odds, has been able to accomplish in a few years. All the more should a talented race like the Persians, situated to begin with in a far less remote position than Japan, and therefore more favourably for the acquisition of foreign ways, be able to emulate, and even in a short time surpass, the marvellous success attained by the little Islanders of the Far East.

It is grit that is at present lacking in Persia. The country has a wavering policy that is extremely injurious to her interests. One cannot fail to compare her to a good old ship in a dangerous sea. The men at her helm are perplexed, and cannot quite see a clear way of steering. The waves run high and there are plenty of reefs and rocks about. A black gloomy sky closes the horizon, forecasting an approaching cyclone. The ship is leaking on all sides, and the masts are unsteady; yet when we look at the number

of rocks and reefs and dangers which she has steered clear through already, we cannot fail to have some confidence in her captain and crew. Maybe, if she is able to resist the fast-approaching and unavoidable clash of the wind and sea (figuratively England is the full-blown wind, Russia the sea)--she may yet reach her destination, swamped by the waves, dismantled, but not beyond repair. Her damage, if one looks at her with the eye of an expert, is after all not so great, and with little present trouble and expense she will soon be as good as new. Not, however, if she is left to rot much longer.

Such is Persia at present. The time has come when she must go back into the shelter of a safe harbour, or face the storm.

CHAPTER XII

The Persian army--The Persian soldier as he is and as he might be--When and how he is drilled--Self-doctoring under difficulties--Misappropriation of the army's salary--Cossack regiments drilled by Russian officers--Death of the Head Mullah--Tribute of the Jews--The position of Europeans--A gas company--How it fulfilled its agreement.

A painful sight is the Persian army. With the exception of the good Cossack cavalry regiment, properly fed, dressed, armed and drilled by foreign instructors such as General Kossackowski, and Russian officers, the infantry and artillery are a wretched lot. There is no excuse for their being so wretched, because there is hardly a people in Asia who would make better soldiers than the Persians if they were properly trained. The Persian is a careless, easy-going devil, who can live on next to nothing; he is a good marksman, a splendid walker and horseman. He is fond of killing, and cares little if he is killed--and he is a master at taking cover. These are all good qualities in a soldier, and if they were brought out and cultivated; if the soldiers were punctually paid and fed and clothed and armed, there is no reason why Persia should not have as good an army as any other nation. The material is there and is unusually good; it only remains to use it properly.


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