May 25, 1951 — Marquis Childs

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | June 3, 2015                      

Marquis Childs Early on in the Iranian oil crisis, syndicated columnist Marquis Childs formulated this frantic, three-point proposal to help stave off disaster through diplomatic channels. His concerns had as much to do with a potential oil shortage in the West as they did with Soviet encroachment in Iran.

None of these measures were ever implemented, but the column stands as a frank historical record of how perilous the dispute was viewed to be toward American interests at the time.

Washington Calling
Desperate Situation in Iran Calls for Action:
Three Steps Suggested

WASHINGTON — While it may be too late to do anything but sit and watch while Iran slithers toward the brink of destruction, there are steps which might still be taken. That is they can be taken if policy-makers in Washington had any understanding of the need to break out of the palsied pattern of the past.

Here are three moves which might help to avert or at least delay disaster with all that it means for the security of the West. If they have a somewhat desperate sound, it must be remembered that this is a desperate moment.

To supply enough oil from North and South America to keep Western Europe’s industry and military functioning — if Iranian oil goes — would mean gas rationing that would take 25 percent of all the motor vehicles in the United States off the highways.

1. Send an American mission to Iran at once headed by Justice William O. Douglas. In two trips through the Middle East and Southeast Asia, Douglas has shown that he is one of the few prominent Americans who understands what is happening in that part of the world.

Douglas’ speeches and writings since his return last fall have made a deep impression in Iran and other countries where fanatic nationalism wars against the remains of the old imperialism with Communism waiting to cash in on the struggle. Call the mission anything — a study mission. A survey mission. Douglas might even act as friendly and informal arbiter in the dispute over the nationalization of Iran’s oil. But move at once with such a pledge of friendship.

2. One of the great sources of unhappiness in Iran over American policy has grown out of the belief that special and favored consideration was being given to Greece and Turkey. At the same time, the United States was more less ignoring Iran with its strategic border with the Soviet Union of hundreds of miles. As Iranians point out, if Iran should fall under Soviet domination, then Turkey would be outflanked.

The feeling of unhappiness, of being left out, was accentuated when the State Department let it be known that the United States would work to bring Greece and Turkey into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This seemed not merely to exclude Iran but to distort the framework of NATO out of all resemblance to a regional pact for mutual self defense.

The urgent demands of the moment call for a quick shift in the diplomatic approach. This might take the form of a Middle East alliance with Turkey, Greece, Iran and perhaps Iraq joining the United States and possibly Great Britain in a pact that would stress the mutual interests and the need for mutual security of these powers.

This would require a radical revision of policy and diplomacy. But if our political-diplomatic machinery in the foreign field is not geared to swift changes in line with swiftly altering situations, then the machine itself had better be revised.

3. American oil firms with contractual arrangements to take oil from the Bahrein Islands in the Persian Gulf should voluntarily come forward to better that arrangement. Repudiating an ancient deal with Britain under which an independent sheikdom was set up on these islands. Iran lays claim to them. During the current crisis the fanatical mobs in the streets of Teheran have set a cry for restoration of the islands.

American contracts with the Bahrein sheikdom [Bahrain] are on a royalty basis. If the American firms were to offer a revision possibly along the line of the 50-50 contract which an American company negotiated with Saudi Arabia last December, such a demonstration would be likely to impress Iran of America’s good will. A British agent resident in the Bahrein Islands has a great deal to do with the governing of the sheikdom.

All this may sound visionary, wild eyed, harebrained, anything else you want to call it. But the area of choice left to the West has been narrowed close to zero. It is a question of trying almost anything before it is too late.

Those who know Iran believe that to send in troops would precipitate such violence and disorder that the flow of oil would certainly be cut off. If the world’s largest oil refinery at Abadan were to be seriously damaged or destroyed, it would be anyone’s guess how quickly oil could be started flowing again.

General Bradley told the senators that Iran was one of the danger points in relation to Soviet Russia. [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Omar Bradley] But, just as in Korea, the Russians do not have to fire a single Russian rifle. They can stay in the background and watch Britain and the United States drift nearer and nearer the brink of Niagara, huddled together in the same rickety canoe.

Alternate titles:

Proposed Solution For Iran’s Crisis
Desperation Measures — Suggests 3 Moves in Iran Crisis


Related links:

Danger Signals In Iran | The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 1, 1951

Harriman Must Show Great Diplomatic Ability | Edgar Ansel Mowrer, July 16, 1951

British Must Make Grim Choice In Iran | Joseph Alsop, May 23, 1951

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

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