Who killed Robert Imbrie?

Confusion and conspiracy theories arose almost immediately after Imbrie’s. Who had incited the mob? Why had they attacked the vice consul? Persian newspapers and the Russians blamed the British, saying they instigated the religious protests as a way to exert their own authority in the region and maintain their exclusive oil agreements. The British blamed religious fanatics. Still others blamed Reza Khan, who was looking for an excuse to impose martial law and consolidate his power. And still others pointed to the Russians, who had long wanted Imbrie dead because of his anti-Communist crusade.

Marguerite Harrison blamed international intrigues, coupled with Imbrie’s poor judgment, for the murder. She told a newspaper reporter that she believed the British had fomented the religious riots to discredit Reza Khan, who was trying to develop closer ties to the Americans. She added that Imbrie contributed to his own death by taking photos at the shrine and then trying to flee when the mob turned on him. “Undoubtedly the mob intended merely to punish him, but when he drove away rapidly in his carriage, it was taken as an indication that he considered himself guilty of a grave offense, and he was pursued. The way to invite a Near East mob to attack you is to turn your back and run,” she said.

In her memoir, Marguerite strangely made no reference to Imbrie’s murder at all.

 Marguerite was not in Persia when Imbrie was killed, but she must have seen the rising tensions between the Muslims and the Baha’i that factored in his death. Those religious disputes may explain why Marguerite parted from Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack in Beirut and headed to Haifa, where she spent two nights in a Baha’i colony rooming with an American woman. She offered no reason for visiting the colony, which she described as “a queer little backwater of modern life.”

After a week traveling in Palestine, Marguerite reunited with Cooper and Schoedsack in Paris, and at the end of August the three sailed for New York.

Reza Khan

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