Destiny In Her Hands

August 24, 1951 — The Boston Globe

The Mossadegh Project | December 7, 2022                   

Lead editorial on Iran in The Boston Daily Globe (Massachusetts) newspaper.


Diplomatists are, by tradition, a cautious lot. The more critical their tasks in any dispute involving important interests for their countries the greater their circumspection. Especially in public utterances.

Thus, in the climax now reached between Iran and Great Britain over the destinies of Persian oil, Mr. Richard Stokes, the British Minister of State (who has been speaking at Tehran for his government), explains that negotiations have been “suspended.” At the same time Mr. Averell Harriman, personal representative of President Truman (who has been endeavoring to find a bridge between Iranian and British viewpoints), thinks they have been merely “interrupted.” Prime Minister Mossadegh, who speaks as the political captive of the closely cooperating Persian nationalist movement, the landlords and the Communists of the formidable Tudeh party, opines frankly that they have “broken down.”

All of these distraught gentlemen also follow the diplomatic line appropriate to such situations by explaining that “the door remains open.” The door they have in mind, however, bears uncomfortable resemblance to the one mentioned by the Persian poet: after hearing “great argument, about it and about,” they have left by “the selfsame door where in they went,” when this quarrel began. [Omar Khayyam]

The dispute between London and Tehran, set in train by Iran’s seizure of the vast properties of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, without any offer of compensation, has now moved perilously close to the explosion point. [Anglo-Iranian Oil Company / AIOC] The deadlock, despite professional phrases, is very nearly complete. And the temper of policy on both sides in this matter (involving a $1,000,000,000 investment by the British, some 13 percent of the world’s oil supply, the searing passions of Persian nationalism, and the coolly calculated maneuverings of Persia’s formidable Communist-run Tudeh party) has hardened. Mr. Stokes has gone home to London. Mr. Harriman prepares to depart “in a few days.” The precarious Premier Mossadegh returns to his barricaded room in the Iranian Parliament House, keeping a wary eye out for assassins.

The dangers in this situation are patent. They are emphasized from one side by the order issued yesterday calling all British technicians from the oil fields in Persia back to the island-centered refineries (now shut down tightly) at Abadan. They are further underlined by the noticeably sharpened tone of British policy, by the movement of warships up the Persian gulf, and by the recent announcements from London that any violence against British subjects, or in the refinery area, will mean immediate action by air, by sea, and by land on Abadan Island. The British are preparing to evacuate their entire personnel from Persia if need be but (and this is a new development) not from Abadan.

This baring of teeth by the recently much-harassed British Lion is portentous. It suggests that a gradual shift in London’s hitherto conciliatory attitude is in the making, which may, before long, become more dearly revealed in London’s diplomacy all the way from Tehran to Cairo, Madrid, Paris and Washington. A hint from the French capital yesterday pointed it up there, with word of Anglo-French rapprochement on revision of the North Atlantic Alliance aimed at Franco Spain. Behind all this is an apparent trend toward rearrangement in the balance of forces outside the precincts of Russia.

The quarrel between Iran and Britain over oil raises equally serious prospects in another direction. Iran’s treasury depends on the profits from oil for most of its revenues. With Abadan closed down, there is no flow of money and today, as Prime Minister Mossadegh’s party press announces wryly, “the treasury is empty.” The army, which is obtaining some $40,000,000 of American equipment, and instruction under American officers, remains unpaid. So does the vast tribe of civil servants. “Iran,” proclaims another paper in Tehran, “has her destiny in her hands.”

The 25,000 members of the tightly organized Tudeh party (which has enjoyed immunity from interference by the police of late) know what they want because they receive orders directly from the huge enclosure in the center of Tehran, where the Russian Embassy is sheltered behind a wall 10 feet high. They are the only party in Persia with a compact and determined policy. They control the 65,000 members of the trades unions in the nation, all the youth and student organizations and have successfully infiltrated the nationalist movement.

With bankruptcy approaching, the margin of time left Premier Mossadegh and his supporters to recover reason is painfully meager.

“If I sit silently, I have sinned”: A guiding principle
The untold story behind Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh's famous quote “If I sit silently, I have sinned”


Related links:

The Persian Drama | The Boston Globe, December 12, 1951

Mossadegh’s Immense Audacity | The Baltimore Sun, November 15, 1951

Mr. Mossadegh Is In Tough Spot | Financial Post, September 15, 1951

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

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