Reds Light War Fuse in Iran

Joseph Alsop — May 25, 1951

The Mossadegh Project | May 31, 2023                      

“In brief, the Iranian oil dispute is to serve as the fuse which will blow up the whole explosive Middle East.”

Columnist Joseph Alsop (1910-1989)

Joseph Alsop (1910-1989), influential syndicated newpaper columnist, on the Iranian situation in his column for The New York Herald Tribune, Inc.

Kremlin’s New Gamble—Oil Crisis in Iran

By Joseph Alsop

LONDON—Although the American and British policy makers are plainly a bit vague about it, the evidence is overwhelming that the Kremlin is now using a most promising new gambit in its gigantic program of world conquest.

In brief, the Iranian oil dispute is to serve as the fuse which will blow up the whole explosive Middle East. When and if the explosion occurs, Britain will be fearfully weakened. Britain and America will be angrily divided. The Western Alliance will be demoralized. And the worst danger to the Soviet Union, the vital strategic airbases in the eastern Mediterranean, will be partly or wholly neutralized.

Then will be the time for the Kremlin to make its next move. The upset in the world balance of power that now threatens in the Middle East will paralyze the Western Alliance. And the risk of resistance to a well-planned new aggression, against Yugoslavia for example, will thus be reduced almost to the vanishing point.

This is the glittering opportunity for which the Kremlin is now waiting.

A Kremlin Maneuver

It should be understood, moreover, that the masters of the Kremlin have labored with unusual astuteness to create this opportunity. For a year and a half, they have done all in their power to make the more irresponsible Iranian Nationalists forget the Russian danger to the north, and to drive them onward in their wild career.

For example, after the murder of Gen. Razmara and the first nationalization vote, the order was given for the Communist Tudeh party to lead a wave of “anti-British” strikes all over Iran. [Premier Ali Razmara] The strikes precipitated an internal crisis. The crisis brought to power the totally irrational extremist, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, whose triumph ended all hope of reasonable settlement of the oil dispute by negotiation.

Whereas the Soviet Ambassador Sadchikov went to Mossadegh, to promise that the Russians would not move into northern Iran, even if the British landed troops in the south. [Ivan Sadchikov] This was the subtle final touch, here disclosed for the first time. Sadchikov’s extraordinary assurance was precisely what was needed to make Mossadegh throw caution to the winds. And thus was produced the present desperate situation.

One Ray of Light

As these words are written, there is only one ray of light. Some signs in Teheran suggest that the effort to replace the Mossadegh government with a more reasonable administration is not quite so hopeless as it appeared a few days ago, when the Shah was refusing to tackle the problem.

A new government with which reasonable negotiations can be carried on in a reasonable way is the only cheap way out.

It is to be hoped American influence has been joined with British influence to attain this end.

There is nothing cheap at all about the other supposedly cheap way out that some personalities in both the State Department and the Foreign Office are now mumbling about. This is the plan to “bring the Persians to their senses” by cutting off the Iranian government’s oil revenues.

Anyone who has met the leading personalities and smelled the peculiar air of Teheran knows that this plan will almost certainly work in reverse. With the oil revenues cut off, the army and civil service will no longer be paid.

Dr. Mossadegh may seek to meet the emergency by making Kerensky-like speeches, until the authority of the government simply dissolves and the Tudeh party takes over. Or more probably, he will go to Moscow for the loan Sadchikov has already hinted about: and he will get it on terms that will open the way for the Tudeh.

Easy Way Disastrous

In short, the betting is nine to one that this supposedly easy way will end with the Tudeh party in power in all of Iran, and with the vital oil resource under Soviet control.

Yet there is grave danger that the Foreign Office and the State Department will flabbily drift into this foolish course. The State Department is said to have delusions on the subject. Here in London, the precedent is set, since the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company has already suspended revenue payments to the Iranian treasury.

The British can hardly fail to retaliate if the Iranians expropriate their oil. They can hardly consider a landing without American moral support.

And so, the more you examine the situation, the bigger, the heavier, the more grave the American responsibility appears.

The U.S.-Britain Alliance To Erase Mossadegh Was Not Inevitable
The U.S.-Britain Alliance To Erase Mossadegh Was Not Inevitable


Related links:

Britain Can Risk War, Or Lose Her Oil | Joseph Alsop, May 25, 1951

How Britain Outsmarted Itself | Hamilton Butler, April 15, 1951

Mideast Goes Way Of China | Stewart Alsop, December 3, 1951

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

Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  Tumblr   Instagram