Upping the Ante

August 25, 1951 — U.S. Editorial

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | December 12, 2015                    

Bad Poker In Iran | August 25, 1951 editorial

In his memoirs, Secretary of State Dean Acheson recalled that Premier Mohammad Mossadegh was a “a great actor and a great gambler”. This editorial found his gambling skills subpar.

In response, a 59-year old World War I veteran, Bert A. Doering (1891-1968) of Missouri, wrote a letter to the editor defending Iranian sovereignty.


IRAN’S MOSSADEGH now has learned that in politics, as in poker, a bluff can be called.

After making all the concessions which could be reasonably expected of them in connection with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. dispute, the British have walked away from the conference table. And Mossadegh, having overbid his nationalistic hand, now is face to face with the hard fact that Iran cannot process and market its petroleum without British help.

Further, without its oil revenues, Iran is on the rocks. Sir Richard Stokes, the chief British negotiator, was careful to agree with the American intermediary, W. Averell Harriman, that the negotiations have only been “suspended.” But both men have left Teheran. That puts the next move pretty well up to Mossadegh. The Persian premier will have to back down.

Obviously, this will not be easy. His one policy has been an unconditional British surrender. In support of this, his country was whipped into a frenzy of xenophobia. [Then why did Iran ask the British oil workers to stay? Why invite foreign oil technicians?] Complete separation of the British from the Iranian oil resources was even made a matter of religion. In the opinion of the British, it was this passion which prevented Mossadegh from accepting a settlement when the chips were really down.

Now, however, Mossadegh or some other Persian representative must face the facts. True, colonialism is on its way out; so there can be no thought of forcefully preventing Iranian nationalization of its oil resources. A new deal is in order. The British have come around on this point. But the billion-dollar British investment, represented most specifically by the world’s largest refinery at Abadan, cannot just be wiped off the slate especially not in the current world situation.

And it is on this point that the Iranians must come around. Western Europe, Africa and India depend very heavily on Iran for oil. It will be hard on them to be deprived of this oil, even if it does not go to the Russian bloc. [Iran was not going to deprive its former customers and was willing to sell oil to them, including the British, even at a discount]

So it is essential that the British should have some voice in how and where the oil is sold. This, however, is no affront to Iran’s sovereignty. A fair, businesslike agreement is possible. Iran would profit as much if not more than anybody else under a contract permitting the British to process and sell Iranian oil with an equitable division of the profits. There is no longer any desire to exploit Iran.

On the other hand, Iran cannot hope to exploit Britain with the help of American or German technicians. Nor can Iran afford to turn unbridled nationalism into economic disaster. Sooner or later, all this must be recognized in Teheran.

Meanwhile prudence is in order. With British warships standing by, there should be no provocative attempt to seize the Abadan installations. Most hopeful would be a brief cooling-off period and then a quiet resumption of negotiations.

Newspapers that published this editorial included:

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) — August 25, 1951
The Daily Notes (Canonsburg, Pennsylvania) — September 1, 1951

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
August 30, 1951

Jurisdiction Limited?

Editor of the Post-Dispatch:

From your editorial “Bad Poker in Iran,” it is quite apparent that you are attempting to be the judge of the terms and conditions under which Iran may dispose of its oil.

May I suggest that you bear in mind Iran is a sovereign nation not subject to the assumed jurisdiction of any newspaper editor?


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Related links:

Mossadegh’s Bad Gamble | The Dixon Evening Telegraph, October 23, 1952

Mossadegh Makes One More Bad Guess | The Daily Republic, July 18, 1952

Mossadegh Quits | The New York Times, July 18, 1952

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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