By: Mir M.Hosseini
In the first year of Mohammad Shah's reign, under Henry Ellis, John McNeill was appointed secretary of the special embassy sent to congratulate the Qajar king on his accession to the Persian throne. He was honored with the order of Shir-o-Khorshid. McNeill was sent to Persia as Minister in May 1836, to replace Ellis. Meanwhile the British were pursuing a sinister plan in Afghanistan.
During the third year of Mohammad Shah's reign, Herat declared independence. Shah gathered an army and marched towards Herat to punish Kamran Mirza. But the British needed Afghanistan as a buffer zone to protect their interests in India and they sent their envoy John McNeill to persuade the Shah to abandon his campaign. Iran, which had lost Caucasia to Russia could not afford losing Afghanistan, however, behind the scenes, British and Russia had made a secret agreement.
Mohammad Shah's soldiers soon captured Ghurian Castle near Herat. The British declared war on Iran despite an agreement with the state of Iran not to interfere with issues related to Afghanistan. Having a superior naval power, they attacked the Persian Gulf and captured the Khark Island. Then the British started bombing Bushehr for several days.
Mohammad Shah therefore was forced to give up the siege on Herat and return to Tehran. After killing his brilliant Vezir, Ghaem Magham Farahani, the Shah had lost his political grip and several revolts started in every corner of Iran at the time.
Soon after Britain broke off relations with Iran in June 1838, McNeill returned to Iran with a new mission in 1841; diplomatic relations were restored in October and a treaty of commerce was signed.