Ivan H. “Cy” Peterman on Iran
October 2, 1951 — The Philadelphia Inquirer

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | November 24, 2014                               

“If Attlee’s spokesmen can truthfully claim they’ve carried the case to every court of appeal...Britishers might overlook the fact that nationalization began at home and boomeranged badly when the Persians got oil-conscious.” — Ivan H. Peterman

Ivan H. “Cy” Peterman of the Philadelphia Inquirer Ivan Hugh Peterman, aka “Cy” Peterman, (1899-1978) was an overseas World War II correspondent and sports writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who featured both his on-site news journalism and opinion columns.

The Wisconsin-born reporter and author, who had a Welsh wife, was the Inquirer’s United Nations correspondent at the time this commentary on the Anglo-Iranian oil dispute was published in 1951. This post was short-lived, however, because not longer after, he left the news business for the insurance industry.

Judging by the repeated wisecracks in this lengthy piece, perhaps he should have pursued a comedy career. Or not •••

The Philadelphia Inquirer — September 27, 1951

Ivan H. Peterman
Soviet Whets Knife for Iran Waif in U.N.

NEW YORK, Oct 1.

THE Iranian oil plot shifted to United Nations today, but it only became thicker and more explosive by the change in argumentative venue.

Nobody could understand why the British Foreign Office, or the Labor Party wanted to inject the case before a Security Council that still includes Russia’s propaganda veto.

Nobody could bet an Iranian rial (that’s a comparatively small coin) that any definite solution would emerge from the U.N., although the Security Council has voted to place the British complaint on its agenda. The West fears that Russia, licking her chops on the sidelines, would cast another veto, and then shout: “Looky what we’ve done for the down-trodden Persians!”

• • •

TO HEAD off this possibility, the United States and British delegations had a long, heart-to-heart talk this morning, instead of meeting at Flushing as planned. The afternoon was devoted to a Security Council discussion on whether it had jurisdiction, with Sir Gladwyn Jebb’s lengthy statement placed on record.

Opinion generally was that the British are pretty desperate, having announced plans to evacuate the oil technicians from Abadan’s huge refinery next Wednesday. So they have decided somehow to put the oil crisis before United Nations. Whether it is fully debated, or ever comes to decision may be secondary, but with the British election coming up in a few weeks, the Labor Party felt it had to do something to make a showing, and not wishing to land troops or create a military showdown, took this device of courting world opinion and domestic votes.

• • •

THAT most of the Security Council members were surprised and somewhat miffed, puts it fairly. Starting with the U.S., which certainly wants no more bonfires created while Korea blazes, there was an aloofness on Iranian oil that amounted to a cold sweat. The Turks want none of the subject. The Brazilians and Ecuador are equally irked, having had no chance to consult on what to do. Netherlands and France would also prefer no discussion, while Nationalist China and India, with their problems over Formosa and Kashmir, could hardly care less.

The sum of this indifference is that, except for France and possibly Holland, the United Kingdom resolution—calling for Iran to cancel the order expelling 350 British oil technicians, and demanding a hearing on Iran’s refusal to abide by the International Court ruling on the oil impasse—there is apt to be no support for Britain. The resolutions, if they ever come to a vote (which is doubtful) are not expected at this hearing to command the necessary seven votes.

But worse is the likelihood of another Moscow veto.

• • •

THIS undoubtedly caused the morning-long huddle among U.S. and British diplomats. It is a foregone conclusion that, after the usual harangues over lack of competency by U.N., Soviet Russia would abrogate the whole business by voting no. Settlement of anything detrimental to the Western Powers would entail full reversal of Kremlin policy, since Communist complicity has long been suspected in the waverings of Iranian Premier Mossadegh, the Security Council seems the last place to expect Soviet cooperation.

Quite clearly, Great Britain is trying to postpone the day when she must either move in or move out of Iran—and admit it at home. The oil problem was badly bungled from beginning; this is sure to be argued by the Conservatives when they open the political barrage.

If Attlee’s spokesmen [Prime Minister Clement Attlee] can truthfully claim they’ve carried the case to every court of appeal, The Hague, to Washington, to Tehran, to Flushing—Britishers might overlook the fact that nationalization began at home and boomeranged badly when the Persians got oil-conscious. This lends strength to the suggestion that Jebb just came here for the transatlantic ride, that Britain never had illusions about a Security Council maneuver.

• • •

THE only obscure part of the great Iranian oil drama is in Mossadegh’s expressed willingness to come here, too. Perhaps, he also is eager for travel. Any sort of foreign travel might ease his shattered nerves, if only it got him out of threat range. Mossadegh may feel that in U.N. there won’t be any telephone calls in the night, bombs from the alleys, or pistol shots in the rear. Someone said he might like it so well amid the “mosques” of Manhattan that, like several other U.N. characters in the last few seasons, he may ask for sanctuary, and forget oil to write his memoirs.

Should Mossadegh decide to visit U.N., he will become the oldest of active elder statesmen, not to mention the most lugubrious, to cry at its bar. Mossadegh’s age is variously given at 78 to 84, [he was 69!] but his platform performances range from Vishinsky vitriol to falling on his face in a faint. Security Council has displayed all kinds, but Mossadegh promises to add something not even contributed by the weird Mr. Wu.

• • •

MOREOVER, this could be the last U.N. act of consequence, since it plans to close local shop after Oct. 23. It will then go on the road, opening in Paris replete with Security Council and General Assembly, Nov. 6.

As the oil issue came before it, there was no reason to think United Nations would let it ignite, or get out of control. Most probable device would be a series of polite “postponements.” It was the sort of package from which prudent statesmen turn hurriedly, and walk briskly but with dignity in opposite directions.

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

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Related links:

Will We Wish We’d Saved Iran From Stalin? | The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 27, 1951

Oil, England, Iran & Shakespeare Country | letters in The Buffalo Courier-Express (1951)

Why Can’t the Black People of the World Play It Smart Like the Iranians Did? | Nov. 17, 1951

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

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