Stolen Goods
September 21, 1951 — The Olean Times Herald

The Mossadegh Project | May 31, 2022                      

Lead and sole editorial in The Olean Times Herald newspaper of Olean, New York.


It is gratifying to note that the latest three-point proposal of the United States to the Iranian Government, with the object of reviving the British-Iranian oil negotiations, makes clear one outstanding point — and one that quite possibly has not been sensed as fully as it might by our people in general.

This proposal has been presented to the Iranian Government by Presidential Assistant W. Averell Harriman, who declared in a communication to Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh that the view of the United States Government is that “the seizure by any government of foreign owned assets without [either] prompt, adequate and effective compensation or alternative arrangements satisfactory to the former owners is, regardless of the intent, confiscation rather than nationalization.” [September 15, 1951 letter]

That is something that should have been emphasized long ago.

Foreign capital is ready to go into any country to develop any given industry.

But it must have certain assurances. Certainly, it must have the assurance that after it has expended millions of dollars — probably hundreds of millions of dollars — in such development, and has erected vast installations such as those constructed by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in Iran, such properties will not be seized summarily by the government of such countries under the guise of “nationalization,” without adequate compensation.

Unless such compensation is forthcoming, what has been perpetrated is just a plain “steal.”

That is what the Government of Iran has been guilty of; and it is good to see that, no matter how diplomatically this country may have couched its latest representations, it is fully aware of the fact that Iran has not “nationalized” the oil industry that has been developed over the years by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, but has confiscated it.

The contract between the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and the Iranian Government should have been revised voluntarily long ago, so that Iran would receive a larger share of the proceeds of the very profitable operations of the company.

But the British were bullheaded in this matter. They had a duly signed and sealed contract with the Iranian Government; and they proposed to abide by that contract.

Now, they appear to be willing to do what they should have done when first the Government of Iran made its representations; but it may be too late. It is just a question whether any Iranian Government could conclude an agreement with Anglo-Iranian Oil which would savor in the slightest of backing down from an out-and-out nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, and stay in power.

Our own course in this matter has not been of the most enlightened character; as our ambassador, Henry Grady, pointed out so many times, and in so urgent a manner, over the past two years. Had we provided Iran with the economic and military assistance that we had promised but didn’t produce, the whole sequence of deplorable events might have been avoided.

As it is, a successful outcome of the present ‘impasse’ is possible but not likely. If it is not achieved, it simply means that the oil of Iran will be lost to the “western” nations, and that Russian fingers will pull the strings in Iran in the future.

That does not mean that Russia will get any substantial amount of Iranian petroleum in the foreseeable future.

The railroad lines from southern Iran to the north are inefficient, to put it mildly, and could not transport any great amount of oil; while the building of a pipeline from Abadan to the Caspian Sea would be a matter of years. But eventually both means of oil transportation will be improved.

In the meantime, both Iran and the “west” suffer. It is a forlorn hope but at least there is a hope that a satisfactory conclusion still may be readied. The oil revenues now available to Iran should appear quite enticing.

What Went Wrong in Iran? | Amb. Henry Grady Tells All (1952)
What Went Wrong in Iran? | Saturday Evening Post, Jan. 5, 1952


Related links:

Ernest Gross Advises British To Revise Approach on Iran | Oct. 2, 1951

Persia | Barrier Daily Truth (NSW, Australia), Oct. 6, 1951

Oil Troubles | The Day (New London, Connecticut), Oct. 13, 1951

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

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