Showdown Nears for Mossadegh

Edgar Ansel Mowrer — October 15, 1952

The Mossadegh Project | January 25, 2021                   

Edgar Ansel Mowrer — journalist, foreign correspondent and commentator

"Edgar Mowrer on World Affairs" — a column by journalist Edgar Ansel Mowrer (1892-1977), on the protracted Iranian oil dispute.

U.S. Urged to Back Up Britain in Refusing to Let Iran Humiliate the West

NEW YORK, Oct. 15.—Maneuver as he may, Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran is not going to be able to avoid an oil showdown much longer. Either his colossal blackmail of the West is going to work and we shall bail him out on his own terms — or he is going to collapse.

Iran is threatened by the USSR and its stooges in the Iranian Tudeh Party. Iran is desperately poor and opium raising (and consuming) is no real substitute for better food and living. Iran is driven by discontent—some of it economic, some of it national (as in the case of the independence-seeking Kurds who are being manipulated by the USSR), some of it religious, (if one can property apply such a noble word to the murderous xenophobia of Mullah Kashani and the fanatical Fedaya Moslems). [Ayatollah Kashani and Feda’ian Islam]

Trying to Scare West

In his hatred of the British, the weeping, wily Mossadegh has encouraged all these troubles, desperately gambling on the one chance that he can “scare” the West into making Britain pay Iran for the British oil properties Iran confiscated from Britain, so far without compensation.

Mossadegh and his howling supporters say, of course, that they are ready to pay for what they have taken. But only, of course, for the “physical properties,” not far the value of a going business, they justify this plan on the grounds that Britain originally “robbed” Iran of its oil.

Now it is true that in getting and developing the Iranian oilfields Britain used various forms of pressure and paid the Iranian owner less than what would now be considered a “fair” share.

Iran Needs British Operators

It must, however, be remembered that the Iranians were — and are — incapable of developing their own oil properties and that without British development the Iranians would have got nothing at all. Instead, they have been propping their unstable state and backward society upon oil revenues, however small. The proof is that when Mossadegh simply seized British property and the oil revenues stopped, Iran began to disintegrate. That disintegration now threatens its existence.

This, however, has not deflected Mossadegh from his purpose. That purpose, as I see it, is triple — getting the oil properties without due compensation; eliminating the British from the operation of getting and selling Iranian oil; and, inflicting a telling blow upon all Western “imperialists.”

On Edge of an Abyss

Mossadegh does not admit the first. He says he will compensate the British once they have paid him a mythical sum which he imagines Anglo-Iranian Oil owes Iran. [AIOC] It is certain that sum would just about equal anything the Iranians would ever pay Britain. Hence, if their scheme is accepted, they will have taken the oil properties without compensation, that is, they will have stolen them.

The British have naturally refused any such offers — and Mossadegh has refused their counteroffers. As a result, Iran is tottering on the edge of an abyss.

Mossadegh and his Moslem confederates know all this. In their hearts, they are doubtless frightened of the Communist danger. But they are pretending not to see it because they know that it is their only card for making Britain and the West let them get away with a bare-faced steal.

U.S. Is Wobbling

Therefore, they have not only not stopped the local Communists but have invited and accepted their co-operation against Britain, and, to a certain extent, against the United States. Mossadegh thinks he can hold out a day longer than the anti-Communist West. He has been encouraged by the visit of U.S. oilman Jones of Cities Service, whom Europe thinks was deliberately sent to help Mossadegh by President Truman. [W. Alton Jones]

The Iranians are simply betting their country’s existence that they can frighten the West into accepting their outrageous terms.

I believe the British are ready to see Iran go Communist rather than bail out the “robber Mossadegh.” The United States is wobbling. I think Britain is right and that the U.S. should support her and prevent Mossadegh from selling oil internationally until he starts paying for it.

It is not in the interest of the American people that property should be seized anywhere without due compensation, or that weakened Britain should be further flouted, or still less that feeble Iran should humiliate the West. For if Iran gets away with these aims, it will not be five years before every Middle Eastern country tries the same trick.

In my judgment, it is better to see Iran go Communist (if Mossadegh has the nerve to play with fire until he burns up) than lose all influence over an entire strategical area whose leaders are blind to the danger from Moscow.

The United States should give full support to Britain in Iran. Success here would put the entire area at Stalin’s mercy. Mr. Jones should get out of a situation he is apparently politically too uninformed to understand.

[Or: “Mr. Jones should get the hell out of a situation he is apparently politically too uninformed to understand.” Most editors removed this.]

Alternate titles:

Mossadegh Unaware Of Dangers in Dual Play
Mossadegh Plays Both Ends, Unaware Of Danger


Related links:

Grady to Report U.S. Must Lead In Middle East | Doris Fleeson, Sept. 26, 1951

IRAN SNIPPETS | More Rim Shots From the Mossadegh Era (1950’s)

The Devil or the Sea | The Salt Lake Tribune, Sept. 1, 1952

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

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