Lack of Tax Keeps Iran Bankrupt
August 8, 1952 — James Marlow

The Mossadegh Project | June 2, 2015     

Widely syndicated Associated Press column "The World Today" by James Marlow (1904-1968). Though basically informative, it minimizes the effect of the British blockade of Iranian oil, among other strangling measures.

Other headlines for this piece as published in various newspapers included:

Iran Is Land Held By Rich, Writer Claims
No One Knows What Will Take Place In Iran
Greedy Iranian Wealthy Refuse Pay Any Taxes
Taxing Rich Would Help Save Iran
Iran Lacks Taxation To Offset Loss Of Revenue From Idle Oil Industry

The World Today
Nationalization of Iranian Oil
Dried Up Big Revenue Source


James Marlow WASHINGTON (AP)—Iran is a land of a few rich men and a vast mob of the ignorant poor. Of the 16 million people there, only 1,600,000 can read and write.

The rich men, huge landowners and merchants, are among the wealthiest in the world. Some single families own hundreds of villages with the surrounding land worked by peasants as sharecroppers.

While the main purpose of the U.S. Congress and British Parliament is constructive legislation, the Iranian Parliament has acted as a block to change. Its members mostly represented the rich.


Although Iran has a tax law, practically no taxes are paid. This has been an ideal situation for the rich. So long as the British were in Iran, piping out oil, the country managed to squeak by.

The British, for the oil they took, gave the government a royalty which amounted to about one third of Iran’s revenue. The rest of it came from customs duties and other sources.

When Premier Mohammed Mossadegh kicked the British out 15 months ago and nationalized the oil, one third of Iran’s revenue disappeared.

If Iran could have sold its oil abroad, it might have made up this loss. But the British clamped a boycott on Iranian oil. The Iranian governments’ income began to dry up. Expenses exceed income.


If the rich Iranians paid some taxes, the government’s finances would have taken a healthier turn. Parliament didn’t vote taxes on them. Or the sky might have brightened If Mossadegh made a deal with the British.

He made no deal. Instead, like an Iranian Hamlet, he wept and had temper tantrums by turns. The Iranian economy went from bad to worse.

Still, Premier Mossadegh was a national hero. He had punched the British Lion in the snout, a popular pastime in the Middle East since the war when British power and prestige dwindled.

But Mossadegh was no newcomer to nationalism. He had been leader of the Nationalists when he was in Parliament himself. At the same time he denounced the conservative members.

But this nationalism, part of the ferment which spread among the impoverished people of the world after the war, served a handy purpose for the rich of Iran. It distracted the attention of the poor from them.

But the Moslem leaders, the ultra-nationalists of Iran, kept Mossadegh in power. And yesterday one of them, Ayatullah Kashani, a Mullah priest, was elected leader of the lower house of Parliament.

This lower house had voted dictatorial powers to Mossadegh, who proposed slapping a tax on real estate, enough tax to raise perhaps 300 million dollars a year, which might be enough to get Iran out of its jam.

Then it was the turn of the Iranian Senate to approve the same power for Mossadegh. It may vote on this tomorrow. So at the moment this attempt to squeeze some money out of the rich isn’t certain.

Meanwhile, the Communist Tudeh Party has become stronger in the months since the British were thrown out and the Iranian economy began to crack.


In the boiling atmosphere of Iran now no one, in this country or Britain, seems sure of what may happen next. The Communists are a real threat. If they pulled a revolution and won, the rich wouldn’t have to worry about paying taxes. They wouldn’t have any money left to pay.

There is also talk Mossadegh would like the sharecropping peasants to get a bigger share of the profits of the land for their work.

It’s questionable whether Iran can survive if this is as far as Mossadegh wants to go.

Related links:

Rich of Egypt, Iran Are Near Tax TroublesThe World Today, August 14, 1952

Iran’s Landlords Ordered To Share With PeasantsAP, August 14, 1952

Iran Is Headed Toward DisasterUPI (Phil Newsom), August 11, 1952

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

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