The Baghdad Set: Iraq through the Eyes of British Intelligence, 1941-1945. London/Cham: Palgrave Macmillan/Springer Nature, 2019. ISBN 9783030151829.

 This book provides the first ever intelligence history of Iraq from 1941 to 1945, and is the third and final volume of a trilogy on regional intelligence and counterintelligence operations that includes Nazi Secret Warfare in Occupied Persia (Iran) (2014), and Espionage and Counterintelligence in Occupied Persia (Iran) (2015). This account of covert operations in Iraq during the Second World War is based on archival documents, diaries, and memoirs, interspersed with descriptions of all kinds of clandestine activity, and contextualized with analysis showing the significance of what happened regionally in terms of the greater war. After outlining the circumstances of the rise and fall of the fascist Gaylani regime, Adrian O’Sullivan examines the activities of the Allied secret services (CICI, SOE, SIS, and OSS) in Iraq, and the Axis initiatives planned or mounted against them. O’Sullivan emphasizes the social nature of human intelligence work and introduces the reader to a number of interesting, talented personalities who performed secret roles in Iraq, including the distinguished author Dame Freya Stark. ‘O’Sullivan has found a completely underexplored but important field and made it entirely his own. With a strong cast and exciting narrative, The Baghdad Set bears all the hallmarks of his well-crafted prose and exhaustive research, with a wonderful awareness of the secondary literature and an unrivalled mastery of the primary material.’ Ashley Jackson (Professor of Imperial and Military History, King’s College London, UK).

Espionage and Counterintelligence in Occupied Persia (Iran): The Success of the Allied Secret Services, 1941-1945. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. ISBN 9781137555564.

Nominated for The 2016 Cundill Prize in Historical Literature. A companion to the pioneering Nazi Secret Warfare in Occupied Persia (Iran), which told of Germany’s spectacular failure in the region, this carefully researched study of British, American, and Soviet success makes for fascinating reading. Espionage and Counterintelligence in Occupied Persia (Iran) introduces us to Allied and Axis spies, spycatchers, and spymasters and to the highly effective methods employed by regional security forces to safeguard the lines of communication, the Lend-Lease supply route from the Gulf to the Caspian, and the vital oilfields, pipelines, and refineries of Khuzistan from Nazi attack and indigenous sabotage. Of particular interest in this study of neglected operational narratives and key clandestine personalities is its lucid description and analysis of Anglo-American and Anglo-Soviet intelligence relations, as the three Allies moved inexorably towards postwar realignment and the Cold War. ‘Eminently readable. Adrian O’Sullivan is an excellent writer, whose lively and elegant style succeeds in capturing the narrative and the ironies of its twists and turns in a way that is highly entertaining without “dumbing down”.’ Tilman Dedering (University of South Africa)

Nazi Secret Warfare in Occupied Persia (Iran): The Failure of the German Intelligence Services, 1939-1945. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. ISBN 9781137427892.

The first full-length work to be published about the spectacular failure of the German intelligence services in Persia (Iran) during WWII. Based on archival research it analyzes a compelling history of Nazi planning, operations, personalities, and intrigues, and follows the protagonists from Hitler’s rise to power into the postwar era. ‘Well worth reading … the ultimate book on German secret-service activity in Persia from 1939 to 1945.’ Martin Moll (University of Graz)





[With Claire Hubbard-Hall] ‘Landscapes of Intelligence in the Third Reich: Visualising Abwehr Operations and “Covert Space” during the Second World War’. Journal of Intelligence History (Published online by Taylor & Francis: 12 September 2020, pending assignment to journal issue).

The German military-intelligence service (the Abwehr) was a macrospatial organisation whose clandestine operational activities were significantly affected by such factors as place and space. As the Second World War progressed, the Abwehr’s covert spaces expanded and contracted dynamically, producing some challenging operational environments. The service responded in various ways to a changing landscape engendered by military occupation, overseas deployment, geographical distance, enemy activity, and imminent defeat. In response to the recent ‘spatial turn’ in the theory and methodology of other disciplines, intelligence historians should now consider incorporating geospatial visualisation into their study of such landscapes with the aid of geographic information systems (GIS).

[With Claire Hubbard-Hall] ‘Wives of Secret Agents: Spyscapes of the Second World War and Female Agency’. International Journal of Military History and Historiography 39 (2019): 181-207.

Few existing archival records or secondary sources appear to narrate or describe the circumstances, relationships, and activities of ‘spy wives’ during the Second World War. Intelligence historians currently find themselves at a turning point, where new approaches to the writing of intelligence history have been called for that transcend the study of operations and policy, while drawing when necessary upon the methodologies of such adjacent disciplines as social history and historical geoinformatics. It is therefore surely appropriate to conduct an examination of the hitherto neglected social phenomenon of female agency in the ‘spyscape’ of wartime British and German covert operations. Through an examination of  case studies of individual wives of intelligence operatives, constructed on the basis of information gathered from scattered primary and secondary sources, it is possible to assemble and analyse a wide, highly differentiated range of gender relationships at the intersection of the manifest and secret worlds.

‘Neglected Narratives of Nazi Subversion’. Journal of the Iran Society 2, no. 16 (September 2017): 7-19.

The hitherto neglected stories of three remarkable German intelligence officers who came to Persia early in the Second World War, and who failed in everything they attempted. All three were Russia experts, not Persia experts, yet they adapted quickly to their immediate predicament when Persia was invaded by British and Russian forces in 1941. With no specific orders or funding from Berlin, with little knowledge of Persian culture or of Farsi, and with nothing but faith in Germany’s ultimate victory over the Bolsheviks to sustain them, these three intelligent but seriously flawed men set about the task of preparing for their vision of a German invasion and occupation of Persia and Iraq from the north, from Asia Minor, and from North Africa.

‘Joe Spencer’s Ratcatchers: British Security Intelligence in Occupied Persia’. Asian Affairs 48, no. 2 (July 2017): 296-312.

This article, conceived and written in the autumn of 2016, commemorates an anniversary both unique and obscure, as one might expect from the pen of a historian who specialises in espionage and counterintelligence. On 16 November 1944 at the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House), an artillery colonel named Edward Leslie Spencer, known to everyone simply as ‘Joe’, gave a lecture entitled ‘Security Problems in Persia’. Unfortunately, the text of Colonel Spencer’s presentation has not survived the intervening 72 years. So, as a tribute to a fine leader and all those who served under him in Persia during the Second World War, this article attempts to complete a partial reconstruction of Joe’s wartime lecture, fully updated and contextualised from a modern postwar perspective. This can be managed with relative confidence, because most of what Spencer spoke about probably resembled what is to be found in Adrian O’Sullivan’s books on occupied Persia, to the extent that they concern the work of the extraordinarily successful security-intelligence unit that Joe Spencer commanded in Tehran during the Second World War: the Defence Security Office (or DSO) Persia.

‘British Security Intelligence in Occupied Persia, 1942-1944’. Global War Studies 12, no. 1 (March 2015): 38-56.

The curiously neglected narrative of security intelligence in occupied Persia (Iran) reveals that where the German intelligence services failed catastrophically, British security measures triumphed spectacularly. However, from 1943 onwards, after Stalingrad and Kursk, the focus of the Allied intelligence services abruptly shifted from the war against Nazism to the prospect of postwar realignment and the struggle against Stalinism. Equally abruptly, the German services switched their operational priorities from subversion of the Persian polity to sabotage initiatives targeting the Lend-Lease supply route across Persia, the oil infrastructure of southwestern Persia, and Allied shipping in the Persian Gulf, all of which failed. By the end of the war, all German operatives on Persian soil had been captured, interrogated, and interned by British security. The initially amateur but ultimately professional ‘ratcatchers’ of the Defence Security Office in Tehran also performed various routine but vital security functions throughout the region, not least the establishment and maintenance of a large registry numbering 61,000 personalities. Success came to the DSO partly because of the excellent communicative liaison sustained between the Tehran office and MI5 headquarters; important relationships were also created and nurtured with the Soviet security forces and the Americans.

‘The “Ratcatchers”: British Security Intelligence in Occupied Persia, 1942-1944’. Paper presented at 1944: Seventy Years On, an international conference held at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, 14-17 April 2014.



Covert Operations and Security Intelligence in Turkey, Palestine, and the Levant, 1939-45 (book projects in preparation).

[With Claire Hubbard-Hall] ‘Dress, Deception, and Disguise during the Second World War’, an article and book project, funded by the Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL). 

‘The Geohistorical Intelligence Project (GEOHISTINT)’, an extensive synchronic case study implementing an HGIS visualisation of the landscape of Nazi foreign intelligence within Greater Germany at the zenith of Hitler’s continental power immediately before the Battle of Stalingrad during the winter of 1942-43.



‘A Story of Nazi Failure and Allied Success’. Interview with Mohammad Memarian. Iran Daily 6919, 22 December 2021.

Iran was officially neutral during World War II but opposing sides of the war did not wish, or could not afford, to respect its neutrality. Barely two years into the war, Anglo-Soviet forces invaded Iran in an operation codenamed Countenance, effectively taking control of the country in a week. The strategic objective of the invasion was to maintain Allied supply lines to the USSR, already attacked by the Axis. Along with the combat and logistics aspects of war in the Iranian theatre, there had been a heated espionage rivalry between the Allied and the Axis powers. In two volumes on the matter published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014 and 2015, Adrian O’Sullivan, Professor of Intelligence History at Bishop Grosseteste University, has looked into the intelligence activities of the two sides of the war in Iran. In an exclusive interview with Iran Daily, he has elaborated on some of the core themes of his twin books



‘The Nazi Spy Ring in America: Hitler’s Agents, the FBI, and the Case That Stirred the Nation, by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, reviewed by Adrian O’Sullivan‘, H-Diplo Review Essay 334 (16 April 2021).

‘Blood, Oil, and the Axis: The Allied Resistance against a Fascist State in Iraq and the Levant, 1941, by John Broich, reviewed by Adrian O’Sullivan’, Journal of Military History 84, no. 2 (April 2020): 625-26.



Clark, J. Ransom. ‘Guarding the Door to the Persian Gulf’. Review of Espionage and Counterintelligence in Occupied Persia (Iran): The Success of the Allied Intelligence Services, 1941-45 by Adrian O’Sullivan. International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 30, no. 2: 425-29.

Macris, Jeffrey. ‘Review of Espionage and Counterintelligence in Occupied Persia (Iran): The Success of the Allied Intelligence Services, 1941-45 by Adrian O’Sullivan’. The Journal of Military History 81, no. 1 (January 2017): 267-69.

Martin, Venessa. ‘Review of Nazi Secret Warfare in Occupied Persia (Iran): The Failure of the German Intelligence Services, 1939-45 and Espionage and Counterintelligence in Occupied Persia (Iran): The Success of the Allied Intelligence Services, 1941-45 by Adrian O’Sullivan’. The Journal of The Iran Society 2, no. 15 (2016): 49-53.

Moll, Martin. ‘Review of Nazi Secret Warfare in Occupied Persia (Iran): The Failure of the German Intelligence Services, 1939-45 by Adrian O’Sullivan’. Journal for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies 8, no. 2 (2014): 153-55.

Paehler, Katrin. ‘Review of Nazi Secret Warfare in Occupied Persia (Iran): The Failure of the German Intelligence Services, 1939-45 by Adrian O’Sullivan’. Journal of Military History 80, no. 1 (2016): 273-74.

Pasqualini, Maria Gabriella. ‘I servizi d’intelligence tedeschi in Persia dal 1939 al 1941’. Review of Nazi Secret Warfare in Occupied Persia (Iran): The Failure of the German Intelligence Services, 1939-45  by Adrian O’Sullivan. Osservatorio Analitico (2 March 2016).

Pasqualini, Maria Gabriella. ‘Spionaggio e contraspionaggio in Persia durante la seconda guerra mondiale. 1941-1945’. Review of Espionage and Counterintelligence in Occupied Persia (Iran): The Success of the Allied Intelligence Services, 1941-45 by Adrian O’Sullivan. Osservatorio Analitico (3 March 2016).

Wynn, Antony. ‘Review of Nazi Secret Warfare in Occupied Persia (Iran): The Failure of the German Intelligence Services, 1939-45 and Espionage and Counterintelligence in Occupied Persia (Iran): The Success of the Allied Intelligence Services, 1941-45 by Adrian O’Sullivan’. Asian Affairs: Journal of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs 47, no. 2 (May 2016): 306-8.



‘German Covert Initiatives and British Intelligence in Persia (Iran), 1939-1945’. DLitt et Phil diss., UNISA, 2012.

Available as a PDF download from Academia.eduIf you wish to know more about my work, please browse through this website, where you will find a handy CONTACT form if you wish to message me.