Harriman Has Difficult Mediation Task in Iran
July 15, 1951 — Ernest K. Lindley

The Mossadegh Project | April 27, 2021                      

Ernest K. Lindley (1899-1979)

Ernest K. Lindley (1899-1979) was a journalist, syndicated columnist, radio and TV commentator, author and Newsweek magazine bureau chief from 1937-1961.

Harriman Faces Tough Task Solving Iranian Oil Dispute


Whether W. Averell Harriman, the President’s special assistant, can find a way out of the impasse in Iran depends chiefly on whether the Iranian government really wants a way out.

Prime Minister Mossadegh’s behavior has not been quite rational. By insisting on the outright nationalization of an industry which the Iranians are not capable of operating he has brought his country to the edge of chaos. Ordinary common sense would dictate a negotiated agreement with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. to manage the properties. Instead, Mossadegh sought to intimidate the British employes of the company.

If this impasse continues, Iran almost certainly will not survive as an independent nation. The government cannot meet its obligations without revenues from the oil properties. But it cannot earn revenues from the oil properties without skilled technicians and marketing facilities and outlets abroad. These can be provided quickly only by the British or by Americans. And no responsible American oil company would enter into a deal with a government which has so flagrantly broken its obligations.

If the present situation continues — and the Communists are doing their utmost to see that it continues and is aggravated — one of two things almost certainly will happen:

(1) Bloodshed, followed by the partition of Iran between Russia and Britain and perhaps by the third world war.

(2) Communist control of Iran through the Tudeh party.

Dr. Mossadegh is a fanatic but in the past he has not been pro-Soviet. On the contrary, he has been for years an extreme nationalist. Mossadegh has indicated, moreover, that he realizes that the Iranians cannot operate the oil properties and sell the oil without foreign aid. There is at least a hint in his letters to President Truman that he is looking for a way out of what he now recognizes is an impasse. If that is so, then Harriman may be able to retrieve the situation.

Some observers fear, however, that Mossadegh hopes to win Harriman’s complete support and perhaps wrangle American assistance in operating the oil properties and selling the oil. In that event — unless Dr. Mossadegh changes his mind or is supplanted by another prime minister — the Harriman mission will fail.

The British continue to hope for the creation of a more moderate government in Iran. Mossadegh’s party is only a tiny minority. But less extreme leaders have been intimidated by violence and threats of violence.

Harriman has had long experience in international negotiation. In 1941 he went to London as lend-lease expediter. With Lord Beaverbrook, he went to Russia later that year to arrange for aid to the Red army. [William Maxwell Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook] He had a hand in the setting up of the Iranian route to Russia for the shipment of war supplies. Later he served as Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Ambassador to Great Britain, Secretary of Commerce, and Ambassador-at-large for the Economic Cooperation Administration.

Harriman’s approach is always informal and friendly. He eschews diplomatic formalities. He is not a fluent or powerful public speaker, but in a man-to-man conversation across a table he is often very effective. He was present at the Teheran conference in 1943 when President Roosevelt obtained an agreement from Churchill and Stalin that the sovereignty of Iran was to be restored fully after the war. [President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, British Premier Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin]

Perhaps Harriman will be able to remind even Prime Minister Mossadegh of the importance to Iran of the United Nations and its related organizations. Iran was the first nation to appeal to the United Nations for help. It got the backing of the U.N. in 1946 — and the Russians withdrew. It is hardly conceivable that after that experience, Iran should defy the World Court, an agency which, as President Truman pointed out, is respected even by a nation so powerful and independent as the United States.

The odds are against Harriman’s success in his mission to Iran. But he has never run away from a hard or thankless job, and he is a tenacious man who will not stop trying so long as there is any hope of salvaging Iran from chaos or Communism.

Alternate titles:

Harriman’s Mission — PEACE PIPE OR SMOKE SCREEN? Mediator Faces Hard, Thankless Job
Harriman Has Difficult Mediation Task in Iran — Bloodshed, Reds, Or Success? (full title with subtitle)

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Related links:

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

Impasse In Iran | Manchester Evening Herald, June 23, 1951

The Big Point | The Olean Times Herald, September 21, 1951

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

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