Tempting World War III

September 29, 1951 — The Courier

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | July 18, 2020                    

Percival Leroy Prattis (1895-1980) The following column was penned by Percival Leroy Prattis (1895-1980), journalist, reporter, foreign correspondent, and executive editor of the nationally circulated black newspaper The Pittsburgh Courier.

Prattis attempted to summarize the Iranian justification for oil nationalization and theorized that Britain and America’s reaction could drive Iran toward the Soviets.

September 29, 1951

By P. L. Prattis

Britain’s Attempt to Force Iran to Yield on Oil May Provoke Third World War

IRAN can become more crucial so far as a third world war is concerned than Korea. The Koreans are in no position to be the masters of their fate. When the so-called police action began, they were a divided people. Iranian people are not divided, particularly geographically. Furthermore, they are an intelligent people with a proud tradition. They are determined to free themselves of foreign entanglements and domination.

The British, for reasons not too clear (for the British are smart), seem determined to make the Iranians perform tricks for them.

The big issue between the British and the Iranians, so far as the public is allowed to know, has been the nationalization of the oil industry by Iran and the taking over by the Iranians of the big refinery at Abadan.

WHY DID the Iranians nationalize the oil industry; that is, take over oil production and make it a national industry?

Iranian officials explained that oil production was the principal industry in the country. They argued that the oil belonged to the Iranians. They even went so far as to take newspaper men on a tour of the country so that they might see how poor Iranians are.

After displaying this poverty, they pointed out that it was their aim to try to eliminate some of this poverty by getting a just return tor the people of Iran from their principal product, oil.

They did not confiscate the property of the British Company. They did not fire the British employes. They offered to keep the British employes at the same salaries. They also offered to set aside a certain amount of the profits to pay for the oil properties.

•    •    •

ANOTHER THING which the Iranians made clear was that they wanted to get rid of British agents in their country, ostensibly working for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, but actually using that relationship to cover up political activities.

The nature of these political activities has become apparent in recent weeks as the news from Iran has diverted from oil to Iranian politics and the possibility of dissident elements unseating the present government. It has even been implied that an attempt might be made to use the Shah against the prime minister.

Iranian partisans charge that the British are bribing members of the Iranian parliament to establish a clique which will embarrass Mossedegh [sic] or throw him out.

In addition, the British are sending more armed warships and are attempting to establish a money embargo.

Every British move makes it clear that the British intend to use every resource at their command to FORCE the Iranians to do what the British want.

•    •    •

THE UNITED STATES is not entirely guiltless in this situation. When the situation began to grow tense earlier this year, the United States dangled something like twenty-five million dollars before Iranian eyes and seems to have suggested: “We are your friends. We know your problems. We’re willing to help you out, but we hope you can come to terms with the British.”

Then Averill Harriman was sent over. [sic—Averell Harriman] He is a good man. Harriman could have perfected an agreement, but for the British. Now, according to some sources, the United States is hinting that Iran may not get the twenty-five million dollars after all if she does not find a way to accede to British demands.

In the meantime, Iran is dickering for a trade pact with Russia. She has also made overtures to India as an oil customer.

•    •    •

THE CHANCES are that Iran is not going to back down. She may be forced to back into the arms of the waiting Soviets who line her Northern border.

If Iran ties up with the Communists, the entire picture in the Middle East will change. The status of the Western Powers will descend and that of the Communists will have been created.

A very serious threat to world peace will have been created. Who will be the cause of that if not the British? Why should we go along with a British policy of domination which is bound to lead to war? Americans may think Iran has little significance to them. But if war breaks out over Iranian oil and the Iranian desire for independence, we “ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.”

Journalist Percival Leroy Prattis on U.S.’ Iran Policy (1950’s)
Journalist Percival Leroy Prattis Denounced US' Iran Policy In 1950's

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Related links:

Trouble In Iran | May 22, 1951 editorial

Bad Poker In Iran | August 25, 1951 editorial

Iran: The Genie of the Lamp | The Morning News, June 22, 1951

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

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