Time and Again

January 10, 1952 — The Michigan Daily

The Mossadegh Project | December 22, 2023                    

Challenge of the East: TIME's 1951 Man of the Year Mohammad Mossadegh

An editorial on Iran in The Michigan Daily, the student newspaper of the University of Michigan. It was credited to Cal Samra, who became an editor and publisher of religious themed “holy humor” books.

Iranian Scramble

STRANGELY ENOUGH, Iran’s Premier Mohammad Mossadegh, for his selection as "Time" magazine’s Man of the Year, owes a great deal to an inconsistent American foreign policy.

The temperamental “Mossy,” who will long be remembered as the man who wept his way through the chaotic span of oil nationalization, never has been quite sure how the State Department stood on the Iranian issue.

At first, the United States was adding moral support to the British and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Once the dispute had gained momentum, accompanied by violence, Mossy’s tears, and parliamentary bombastics, the State Department’s support of H.M. Government became cautious. [His Majesty's Government]

Then, all at once awakening to the inauspicious possibility that the Soviet Union might step into the region if the Britons resorted to force, the United States assumed the role of a conciliator, sending Averill Harriman to Iran on a mediatory mission. [W. Averell Harriman] By now, the Administration was also showing grave concern that the Abadan oil fields would be completely shut down, cutting off a good share of the oil flow to Western Europe.

Harriman was greeted with a sea of tears and a rigid obstinacy on the part of both the Iranians and the British. His mission was unsuccessful.

The United States was left with another dilemna [sic—dilemma] on its hands. Backing the British would mean slighting the nationalistic will of a supposedly free nation. It would mean risking the good faith of Iran, and perhaps, of the other Moslem countries. It would mean that the priceless black gold might be diverted to feed the Russian war machine. And, as a point of justice, it would mean that the United States was supporting a company which was paying Iran much less than the British government took from the company in taxes.

On the other hand, Iran had neither the equipment, the capital, nor the technicians to operate her oil fields. If the British withdrew, political turmoil would be augmented by economic chaos, the oil revenues being so indispensable to the Iranian budget. The prospect of a Tudeh party coup particularly disrupted the peace of mind of U.S. officials. And, of course, no wanted to risk ill-repute with the British.

While the State Department wavered, Mossadegh, with unusual forcefulness, moved. The disgruntled British pulled out of Abadan, taking with them the customary pile of blue books, paper promises, and official documents—but no oil. The economic deterioration of Iran had begun.

Faced by an inflationary financial crisis, Mossadegh packed his bags and flew to Washington. Dean Acheson demonstrated another phase of American inconsistency by promising the sentimental premier a $2,000,000 loan. Mossy went back happily to the impulsive crowds of Teheran.

But the British didn’t appreciate the loan. It was contrary to their policy of starving the Iranians to the point where they would beg for re-admission of British controlling interests in Anglo-Iranian.

Meanwhile, the turmoil is assuming dangerous proportions. Iran’s economy is bloated to the breaking point. Her desperate government is negotiating with Czechoslovakia and other Communist governments in an attempt to sell the oil. What traces of democracy existing in Iran are slowly fading away. The government has instituted a reign of terror designed to squelch an opposition, which doesn’t know what it is opposing. Any attempt to conduct a peaceful parliamentary session in the Majlis is futile and usually ends up in a free-for-all fist-fight and impassioned crys [sic—cries] of “get the hell out of here, Mossadegh!”

And still, there is no idea where the United States stands, whether the State Department is backing Britain or the national aspirations of Iran.

The tragedy of the situation lies in the fact that American foreign policy toward Iran is exemplary of our policy toward the other countries of the Middle East — inconsistent and confused. The State Department has yet to formulate a positive policy for the Middle East area.

Undoubtedly, the American foreign policy toward Iran has contributed to the instability of that country. It also helped make Mossadegh “Man of the Year”.

—Cal Samra

Mossadegh & Arbenz & Lumumba & Sukarno & Allende... shirts

Mossadegh & Arbenz & Lumumba & Sukarno & Allende... t-shirts

Truman and Mossadegh’s First Messages on Iran Oil Dispute (1951)
President Truman and Premier Mossadegh's First Messages on Iran Oil Dispute (1951)

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Related links:

Iran, Test For Diplomats | The Daily Notes (PA), Aug. 15, 1952

Dr. Frank Kingdon on Iran | New York Post, 1951-52

Man Of The Year Choice Reflects Leadership Need | Fresno Bee, Jan. 6, 1952

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

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