No-Win Situation

August 20, 1952 — The Des Moines Register

The Mossadegh Project | October 7, 2021                        

Lead editorial in The Des Moines Register newspaper of Des Moines, Iowa.

Korean War media archive

The Des Moines Register (Iowa)


It is entirely possible that United State citizens may wake up one of these days to find another “Korea” has taken place in Iran.

Let’s look at the facts, dispassionately: Iran is in a seriously weakened, almost desperate economic condition. Since nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. a year ago, the country has virtually no income from oil, which was its main financial bulwark.

Premier Mossadegh, who engineered the oil take-over and who represents “moderate” nationalism, is a neurotic, physically-ill old man. He has temporary dictatorial powers, and is trying to carry out land rental and taxation reforms to stave off complete mob violence and chaos.

The alternative to Mossadegh is almost certainly a more explosive nationalistic and fanatically religious Islamic regime. Lying in wait is the powerful, well-organized Tudeh (Communist) party. It is nominally outlawed but is ready and competent, in the opinion of observers, to set up a Communist regime.

Britain and the United States are not agreed on a policy toward Iran. Britain resents the aid we have provided Iran while she has been freezing Iranian assets and trying to put on pressure for a settlement of the oil dispute. Our backing of Mossadegh, mild as it has been, seems to the British to condone his seizure of private property without compensation.

The danger in this situation, of course, is that Iran will fall like a ripe plum to Soviet Russian control, simply because we don’t know what to do about it. Korea was a relatively easy problem compared to this one. There we were faced with naked aggression which we met with force. It is not so easy to suggest a way of stopping Communism, from within a country like Iran. If we provide full backing for Mossadegh, together with loans and technical help that means we are supporting a dictator who is anathema to the British.

There are recent signs, however, that the British may be changing their attitude slightly. But even if Mossadegh is supported, he is a weak reed to lean on. He may not live long. And even if he does, he may not be able to retain his control.

If Iran should go Communist, the strategic loss to us would be greater than in the case of Korea. It would give Russia a solid position in the Middle East, outflanking our dependable ally, Turkey. Many of the small Arab nations might be tempted to swing over to the Kremlin’s side with all their oil. Our only answer to date is moderate economic aid to Iran. (Actually, this aid has been extremely small so far, much less, for example, than we provided South Korea before the war began.)

We have developed no broad, consistent policy toward the Middle East, in co-operation with our European allies. And the time is getting shorter.

1951 cartoon on Korea and Iran by Reg Manning


Related links:

History Repeats Itself | Hamilton Butler on Iran, July 1, 1951

Collecting Taxes | Detroit Free Press, August 25, 1952

Funny War | The Odessa American (Texas), August 3, 1952

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

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