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

The Mossadegh Project | March 14, 2020                      

“If order is restored in Tehran, and a settlement of the oil dispute can then be arranged, the first steps will have been taken toward the pacification of Iran.”

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

Joseph Alsop and Stewart Alsop — the Alsop Brothers — assessed the Iranian political turmoil surrounding the No’he Esfand incident in their syndicated newspaper column for The New York Herald Tribune Inc.

Iran Highlights Middle East Unrest


WASHINGTON, March 4 — Maybe it is just as well that the perpetual crisis in Iran entered one of its incandescent stages at this time. This week, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden can talk the problem over face to face, directly, frankly and without the obstacles created by cable communications. Under the whiplash of necessity, they may even agree, at long last, on a positive, common policy in the Middle East.

The need is certainly dire. The drama at Tehran is only one part of a broad and terrifying pattern, in which the other parts are also close to incandescence. In recent weeks, the American Ambassadors throughout the Middle East, and especially in the Arab countries, have begun to take a tone of downright despair in their messages to the State Department. The Arab-Israeli dispute has dragged on too long. Anti-American feeling has grown more and more inflamed. The new anti-Semitism of the Kremlin has greatly increased the inflamation. [sic—inflammation]

Grave Dangers

There are grave immediate dangers. For instance, if the Kremlin chooses to send arms to Col. Shishekly, [Adib Shishakli] the dictator of Syria, the sequel may easily be another outbreak of large-scale lighting between Arabs and Israelis. (The border war goes on interminably, like a low fever.) Or the Soviets can arm the Iraqi dissidents. Or there can be some sort of irreparable breakdown or governmental crisis. This would happen even in Egypt, which is the only place where the trend of events is at all hopeful.

In this somber picture, Iran has a double importance. One of the causes of the troubles that overtook the aging Premier Mossadegh over the weekend is a division of power over the army and police. The Shah of Iran formerly controlled both police and army. Mossadegh has been seeking to wrest this control from him. The process is only half completed. With the forces of law and order thus distracted and divided, there is an obvious opportunity for the Communist Tudeh Party. The government of Iran is now such a ramshackled structure that it may fall apart at any time.

Invited Trouble

Premier Mossadegh actually invited trouble, by beginning to behave like a dictator before he had consolidated his power. Behind the new riots are the riots that blew up some time ago, out of the rivalry between Mossadegh and his former ally, the Mullah Kashani. [Ayatollah Seyed Abolghassem Kashani] The aged Kashani, who leads the Tehran street mobs and runs the Fedayan Islam, a “Murder Inc.,” sought to prevent Mossadegh from being granted full powers by the Iranian Parliament. [Feda’ian Islam] Kashani’s challenge failed. Mossadegh threatened to send the Mullah abroad “to study theology”. The religious potentate subsided for the time being.

Then Mossadegh moved in on the Shah. The extraordinary ultimatum which was presented to the Shah has not been fully reported. Mossadegh accused his monarch of consorting with his enemies. He demanded that the Shah see no one, foreigner or Iranian, officer or civilian, without governmental permission. He asked the Shah to hand over all the crown lands. He requested complete control of the armed forces. And he insisted on a detailed accounting of palace expenditures.

No wonder, then, that the Shah declared he would leave his country, rather than submit. Unfortunately for Mossadegh, the Shah is genuinely popular; while Mossadegh himself has been lately losing ground, especially among the powerful merchant class, whose business is not helped by Iran’s present condition of endemic bankruptcy. Kashani raised his head again, and got out the street mobs on the Shah’s behalf. So the trouble began. Where it may end, it would be ridiculous to try to predict at this distance.

But the danger of final collapse of the crazy Iranian governmental structure, is only one-half of the importance of Iran. The other half is symbolized by the more hopeful fact, that only last month the long efforts of Assistant Secretary of State Henry Byroade, at this end and of our Ambassador, Loy Henderson, in Tehran, were all but crowned with triumph. They would have settled the bitter oil dispute between the British and Iranians if a silly row had not started about the Iranian translation of the word “enterprise.”

If order is restored in Tehran, and a settlement of the oil dispute can then be arranged, the first steps will have been taken toward the pacification of Iran. The pacification of Iran is one of the three essential first steps, in turn, towards the pacification of the Middle East. The others are settlements of the Suez dispute with Egypt, and, most important of all, final settlement of the endless conflict between the Arabs and Israelis.

If these steps cannot be taken soon and Secretary Dulles has no uglier or more difficult assignment the Middle East is quite likely to burst into flames, singeing the whole world.

Alternate titles:

Middle Eastern Dynamite
New Drama of Tehran Only Part Of Broad and Terrifying Pattern
Timing of New Iranian Crisis Lets Dulles, Eden Consult
Now That Iran Situation Has Erupted Again U.S., Britain May Be Forced Into Policy Pact
Disorders in Iran Only One Part Of a Broad Pattern of Danger Confronting Entire Middle East — Arab-Israeli Dispute Grows More Inflamed — Anti-American Feeling Spreads, Need for Positive U.S.-British Policy Faces Dulles and Eden


Related links:

U.S. Proposes Allied Backing of Mossadegh to Forestall Reds — Alsop Brothers, Aug. 13, 1952

The Iranian Situation: CIA Director Allen Dulles Surveys U.S. Assets In Iran (March 1, 1953)

Persian Riots | The Daily Gleaner (Jamaica), March 6, 1953

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

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