Waiting For the Slump

October 3, 1951 — The Baltimore Sun

The Mossadegh Project | July 27, 2023                   

An editorial on Iran at the UN in The Baltimore Sun newspaper (Baltimore, Maryland).

Bitter Pill For The British

Confronted with an Iranian ultimatum to clear the oil fields at Abadan of British personnel by tomorrow, Britain is now removing the last of 350 oil technicians from the country. The decision to evacuate completely must have been a hard one for the Labor Government since it is in effect a complete reversal of Mr. Attlee’s pronouncement last July that it was not the intention of his Government to withdraw entirely. [Clement Attlee, British Prime Minister]

That policy was, of course, premised on the hope that a deepening economic crisis in Iran caused by deprivation of customary oil revenues would bring the Iranians around to striking a reasonable bargain. Quite understandably, the British underestimated the intransigent nationalism of Iran’s Premier Mossadegh.

Since July Iran has in fact rejected every British offer to settle the matter by compromise and negotiation. Repeatedly she has flouted the ruling of the International Court calling upon both parties to do nothing to aggravate the dispute until a negotiated settlement could be reached. But despite the last and most flagrant violation of that ruling, the present ultimatum, the British have declined a policy of meeting force with force.

All along the British have insisted that Iran constitutes a threat not only to Britain but to the peace of the world. It is, they say, a matter to be settled in the United Nations rather than through unilateral action by one country. The evacuation decision is in keeping with this philosophy. The use of force to oppose the Iranian ultimatum would not have been.

Obviously there are other considerations of a more practical nature. When the United States declined to back a British show of force in Iran, Britain was left alone to bear the possible international consequences of such action. Her moderate policy and the large element of British self-interest in preserving both the oil and the Abadan installations intact argue against going it alone in this situation. There are also domestic political considerations.

Standing on the eve of a national political test with the Conservatives, whom the Laborites have already tagged as the “war party,” Mr. Attlee’s Government is not likely to follow a provocatively tough policy to protect British interests. Recall in this connection Mr. Churchill’s statement before Commons: [the Conservatives] “would oppose and censure by every means in their power the total evacuation of Iran.” [House of Commons, July 30, 1951]

But now that the evacuation disavowed by both parties has taken place, what is Britain to do? Convinced of her right to the installations at Abadan and to the oil in its tanks, she may decide to blockade the refinery to prevent sale of the oil to other customers by the Iranians. In the United Nations yesterday she succeeded in placing her case before the Security Council, only to have consideration delayed for ten days to give a high Iranian time to reach New York to present Iran’s case.

When the case is finally considered the British elections will be over. But whatever changes they may effect in Britain it is hard to see how the outcome can alter present British policy of “waiting for the slump.”

What Went Wrong in Iran? | Amb. Henry Grady Tells All (1952)
What Went Wrong in Iran? | Saturday Evening Post, Jan. 5, 1952

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Related links:

Handing It Over To The U.N. | Baltimore Sun, October 1, 1951

UN Amb. Ernest Gross Advises British To Revise Approach on Iran | Oct. 2, 1951

Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Threatens: Don’t Buy Iranian Oil (Sept. 1951)

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

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