Boiling Point Near in Iran

The Alsop Brothers — July 30, 1952

The Mossadegh Project | July 31, 2021                    

“...this country may be faced with the choice of allowing Iran to go the way of China, or intervening forcefully to support any anti-communist forces in Iran, however reactionary and blindly nationalist.”

The Alsop Brothers — Stewart Alsop (left) and Joseph Alsop

Joseph Alsop and Stewart Alsop reacted to the events surrounding 30 Tir in their syndicated newspaper column for The New York Herald Tribune Inc. The column ‘inspired’ this editorial in an Indiana newspaper.

Unwatched Pot Boiled Over While We Weren’t Looking


WASHINGTON — As usual when presidents are being nominated, foreign affairs are forgotten. And as usual, like any unwatched pot, the world situation is coming to a boil again. The British economic situation is increasingly appalling, and plenty of troubles threaten elsewhere in the world. But it is in Iran that the unwatched pot is really beginning again to boil furiously.

The real meaning of what has been happening in Iran is simple enough. In the first place, the young, Hamlet-like Shah, once counted upon in the West as offering re-insurance against a Soviet take-over in Iran, has lost his power to Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and his extreme Nationalist followers. In the second place, Mossadegh himself is in turn in grave danger of losing his real power to the religious fanatic and violent Nationalist, Mullah Kashani, who has made an open alliance with the Communist underground. [Ayatollah Seyed Abolghassem Kashani]

Two Stages

This has happened in two stages. When old Ahmed Qavam, who had promised to reach an oil settlement with the British, was arrested last week after only four days in office, the Shah’s power was in effect, destroyed. [Ahmad Ghavam was not arrested] For the Shah funked his chance to use his power, and now he has almost no power left to use.

If the Shah had used the then still loyal army and security forces to suppress the largely Communist-inspired anti-Qavam riots, he would now rule Iran in fact as well as name. But his more timid advisers warned civil war, and the Shah drew back. As a result, the army and the security forces are now wholly controlled by Mossadegh’s National Front. Mossadegh’s deputy, Hussein Makki, has warned the Shah that the fate of Marie Antoinette awaits him if he now attempts to interfere. [Hossein Makki] The exile of Egypt’s King Farouk, who was also once hopefully regarded as re-insurance for the West, has lent point to this warning. For all practical purposes, the Shah is no longer a force to be reckoned with.

The second stage was reached last week, when Mossadegh again took power. His first act was to call in the British and American ambassadors, and to talk much more sense than he ever had before.

Discusses Settlement

Far more calmly than is his custom, Mossadegh discussed the terms of a possible settlement. He talked of reasonable compensation for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, with the company to have world-wide distribution rights, and with the details to be settled by a three man board, headed by a neutral. These conversations in turn gave rise to long, anxious discussions in Washington and London.

Nothing to Get Excited About

The British were at first reluctant to start negotiating again. But just as they were on the point of agreeing with the Americans to accept the half loaf offered by Mossadegh, rather than risk losing the whole Iranian loaf to the Soviet, he saw the Western representatives again, and this time he reverted to his familiar mood of tearful unreason, refusing seriously to discuss a settlement.

What happened was obvious. While the Qavam episode caused the star of the Shah to wane almost to vanishing point, it also caused the star of the small, sharp-eyed, ruthless Mullah Kashani to rise higher than ever. Kashani’s murderous band of Moslem fanatics, in open alliance for the first time with the Communists, were chiefly responsible for the fall of Qavam.

Tough and Ambitious

Kashani is a tough and almost insanely ambitious man. If there is no settlement with Britain, Iran will soon be engulfed in total chaos. Then, with the help of the Communists, Kashani can take power, either in person or through a stooge. With this prospect before him, Kashani has nothing to gain and everything to lose from a settlement. Thus Mossadegh’s sudden reversal is reliably interpreted as a response to the most violent pressure from Kashani and his powerful allies in the National Front.

The coming to power of Kashani could only be a Kerensky-like prelude to a full Communist seizure of power. [Tudeh Party] Mossadegh is no Communist, and this can hardly be a pleasing possibility to him. It is possible that Mossadegh’s sudden reversal is only a device for buying time, so that he can gain full control of the security forces in order to be in a position to defy Kashani and negotiate a settlement.

Obviously, this is a moment of knife-edge decision for the whole Middle East. Iran is the key to the Middle East, and if a rational settlement can at last be negotiated with Mossadegh, the situation in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East can no doubt somehow be kept glued together.

Otherwise, this country may be faced with the choice of allowing Iran to go the way of China, or intervening forcefully to support any anti-communist forces in Iran, however reactionary and blindly nationalist. It is believed in Washington that a communist take-over in Iran must be averted at whatever cost, even the cost of a break with Britain on Middle Eastern policies. This in itself is a measure of the danger to the western alliance of the crisis now reaching the boiling point in Iran.

Alternate titles:

World Situation Tense
The Unwatched Pot Is Boiling
Iran Faces New Crisis With Reds Tall in the Saddle
Commie-Backed Fanatic Mullah Kashani Moves Nearer Complete Power in Iran


Related links:

The Explosive Power of Iran | Alsop Brothers, March 5, 1953

Another ‘Oil Mystery’ | The Detroit Free Press, August 27, 1952

Persian Crisis Easier? | The Kalgoorlie Miner, June 7, 1951

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

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