No Candidates For Martyrdom

September 29, 1951 — The Star Tribune

The Mossadegh Project | April 23, 2021                    

Kenneth Ross, AIOC Manager, Abadan, Iran

Lead editorial on Iran in The Star Tribune of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Iranís Oil Grab

ďYOU CANíT ARGUE with blokes with bayonets,Ē the British manager philosophically observed as Iranian troops forcibly took over the British-owned oil refineries in Abadan. [Kenneth Ross] You canít argue, either, with a hysterical prime minister and a populace worked to a frenzy by months of wild rationalistic agitation. [Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh] So the Iranians have the billion-and a half-dollar British investment in their oil industry. And the free world is at loss to do anything about it.

POSSESSION of the Anglo-Iranian oil properties may satisfy inflamed nationalistic passions but it wonít provide Iranians with livelihoods or even oil. They havenít the technical skills to operate their expropriated oil industry. They canít find enough foreign technicians to operate it successfully on the sort of terms they have in mind. They couldnít market the oil to their advantage if they could produce it under existing conditions.

All these grim facts must be known to many intelligent Iranians. But intelligent Iranians havenít had any influence in Iranian affairs in recent months. It would have been an invitation to assassination to appeal to reason and no candidates for martyrdom manifested themselves before the troops were sent to Abadan.

The British presumably might have prevented seizure of property important to the free world as well as valuable to them by raising their bayonets first. They seem to have planned at an earlier stage of the crisis to defend their rights by armed force. The British didnít use force at Abadan for several reasons. They apparently didnít feel warranted in taking such a grave step because they couldnít count on military help from the United States if the situation got out of hand.

With Russia entitled to come into Iran if Britain came in, the landing of troops entailed a risk the British didnít want to take alone. Having conducted a long campaign to free the world of armed aggression, the British and our own government donít like to be put in a position of seeming to try to settle an issue by armed force.

The Labor government by principle and temperament is opposed to anything smacking of the 19th century gunboat imperialism, an attitude shared by the United States government. Britain is in the midst of an electoral campaign where any move entails electoral hazards, with anything risking war considered the greatest hazard at the polls.

RUSSIA WONíT GET any appreciable amount of oil from Iran for at least some years to come, whatever develops from this crisis. But it is a gain to Russia to have the western world deprived of so much oil and given such a black eye. What Iran has done is more likely to be attempted against major western powers in other countries as a result of Iranís ďsuccess.Ē

The economic and social distress and the political ferment, sure to grow in Iran as a result of the seizure of Abadan will make Iran a more fertile field for communism. In their distress and humiliation at the loss of so much wealth and prestige the British will seek scapegoats. They have some at home, the unperceptive management of the Anglo-Iranian oil company which offered too little far too late; the Labor government which didnít show wisdom and firmness when a little would have gone a long way, etc.

But a good many Britons are likely to blame the United States. They will argue that if we had brought more pressure to bear on Iran and less to bear upon Britain at an earlier stage the situation would not have gotten out of hand. They will accuse the United States of not standing boldly with them in a show of force to save the refineries. Such divisive attitudes are to be deplored at any time. They are particularly to be regretted when the United States and Britain need to stand together tightly for mutual defense against a common danger.

It is to be hoped that awareness of that continuing danger will outweigh all other considerations so that the two nations may face the aftermath of the Iranian debacle with the same solidarity they have shown in all other crises of the past decade.

Divvying Up the Loot: The Iran Oil Consortium Agreement of 1954
Divvying Up the Loot: The Iran Oil Consortium Agreement of 1954


Related links:

Meeting With Dr. Mossadegh at New York Hospital (Oct. 11, 1951)

Abadan Evacuation | The Morning Bulletin, October 5, 1951

Bad Poker In Iran | August 25, 1951 editorial

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — ďIf I sit silently, I have sinnedĒ

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