Profile of Premier Mossadegh
June 10, 1951 — Kingsbury Smith (INS)

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | February 11, 2022                    

“...this man has a lily white reputation for honesty and incorruptibility.”

Joseph Kingsbury-Smith (1908-1999) was a distinguished journalist and newspaper publisher who interviewed a wide roster of world leaders in his career of six decades, including Dr. Mossadegh, the Shah, Ayatollah Kashani and Amb. Henry Grady.

Joseph Kingsbury-Smith (1908-1999) While reporting from Tehran in May-July 1951 he wrote this hot n’ cold profile of the Iranian Premier. At the time he headed the European bureau for International News Service, a division of the Hearst corporation which he worked for since 1924. He shared a Pulitzer prize in 1956 for his reporting on the Soviet Union. In 1958, when INS and United Press wire agencies merged as United Press International, he became its Vice President. In 1976 he took the position of national editor for the Hearst newspapers.

He was often credited as Kingsbury Smith or J. Kingsbury Smith — not to be confused with fellow newsman Howard Kingsbury Smith.

Mossadegh Holds Match
To World Power Fuse


TEHRAN — June 9 (INS) — The man who may hold the destiny of the world in his hands is a frail, ascetic-looking individual whose enemies claim he is insane and whose friends hail him as a great Persian patriot.

This man is Mohammed Mossadegh, prime minister of Iran and titular leader of the fanatical National Front group which wants the government to take over the British-controlled oil industry under a recently enacted nationalization law.

A FALSE MOVE by this man might cause violence in the oil fields that would lead to British military intervention to protect its interests and the lives of 2,500 Britons working there.

Such a move by Britain might precipitate a Soviet invasion of Northern Iran under the terms of the 1921 treaty giving Russia the right to send troops into this country if other powers do so.

Thus, the fate of the world may be affected by the actions of this strange, highly emotional man who secludes himself in a makeshift living room of the heavily-guarded parliament building for fear of assassination.

HE SPENDS MOST of his time in bed, suffering from a weak heart. There he holds dramatic audiences, such as the recent one with American Ambassador Henry Grady. It was on this occasion that the pajama-clad premier, raising himself on his elbows, told the American envoy he would be the “light of the world” if he could save the situation in Iran.

Grady, who looks and acts like a friendly grandpa, did his best. He persuaded the melodramatic Mossadegh to leave his bed and venture out to the American embassy residence for a cracker-barrel luncheon talk with the British ambassador and himself.

IT WAS NOT for want of Grady’s efforts that the talk failed to break the deadlock between the British and the Iranian governments. Mossadegh insisted the British must accept cancellation of their oil concession.

Sir Francis Shepherd, his Britannic Majesty’s ambassador to the court of the Imperial Shah of Iran, is not the type of British diplomat who would likely recommend to Whitehall that the Lion put its tail between its legs and silently steal away from a happy hunting ground on which it has grown fat for nearly fifty years.

Mossadegh went back to his bed and there he still ponders restlessly how to take over without resort to armed force the British-controlled oil fields which the nationalization law says now belong to Iran.

MOSSADEGH, who is considered somewhat more moderate than most of the national front leaders, claims he has no intention of using the Iranian Army to seize the oil fields. Since it appears doubtful that the British will hand them over, the situation remains highly uncertain.

It is tending to play into the hands of the communists, who are coming out into the open more daringly than at any time since their organization, the Tudeh Party, was outlawed early in 1949 following the attempted assassination of the youthful shah.

Mossadegh recognizes that the National Front movement is helping the Communists but he professes confidence they can be subdued. He is not communistic nor pro-Russian.

In fact, the oil nationalization movement actually had its origin in his fight to block the granting of oil concessions to Russia in northern Iran.

When the Soviets were trying to contain such concessions back in 1944, Mossadegh introduced a bill in the parliament, or majlis, as it is called. This bill forbade the granting of new oil concessions to any foreigners, with a penalty of eight years imprisonment for violators.

ALTHOUGH A MEMBER of the opposition at the time with no strong party backing of any kind, Mossadegh succeeded by an eloquent speech in rallying parliamentary support for passage of the bill.

From that moment on, he became a popular hero in Tehran and his fame gradually spread throughout the country.

A multi-millionaire himself, Mossadegh comes from one of the oldest and wealthiest land owning families, this man has a lily white reputation for honesty and incorruptibility. He is one of the few Iranian politicians about whom one can ask: “Who is he?” It is a standing joke in Tehran that, when inquiring about an Iranian political one generally asks: “To whom does he belong?”.

MOSSADEGH’S somewhat neurotic mannerisms, his spells of fainting in dramatic fashion at the conclusion of a speech and weeping not infrequently in the presence of visitors, coupled with a strongly irrational complex, has led his enemies to spread the rumor that he is touched with madness.

Some of the opposition newspapers in Tehran have even gone so far recently as to assert that his actions were not those of a man in his right mind. The fact that his daughter is in a mental institution is used as basis for insinuations that insanity runs in the family. [Khadijeh]

Western diplomats who have talked with him says he pays little attention to commonsense arguments of expediency when he is discussing such issues as nationalization of the oil wells.

HE IS BELIEVED to be about 74 years old, but his exact age is secret for more reasons than vanity. [He was 68] Iranian law calls for retirement of members of parliament when they reach seventy.

A narrow, long baldish head with close-cropped almost shaved white hair surmounts the frail body of this Gandhi of Iran.

Ambassador Grady and other Western diplomats testify to his personal charm and extreme politeness. He tells the British Ambassador in the most gentlemanly way that Iran is determined regardless of consequences to carry out what Britain views as nothing less than outright confiscation of its oil properties.

Alternate titles:

Madman Stays War


Related links:

Ambassador Henry F. Grady Meets New Premier Mohammad Mossadegh: May 2, 1951

Sweeping Victory Is Seen for Premier At Polls Tuesday | INS, Dec. 2, 1951

Mossadegh Still Hero To Iran Nationalists | INS, Oct. 7, 1953

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

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