Political Boomerang
October 3, 1951 — The Philadelphia Inquirer

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | August 6, 2021                    

“Everyone knows about the recent and violent events in Iran, but who failed to foresee them, and who left the gates open for the terrorists to take over?” — 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.

Here’s Peterman on Britain, the UN and “the biggest political boomerang the Western world has lately beheld”.

The Philadelphia Inquirer — October 3, 1951

Ivan H. Peterman
Nationalization at Home
Haunts Britain in Iran

NEW YORK, Oct 2.

DURING the United Nations Security Council’s 10-day pause for “station announcements” from Tehran and London, with suggestions from uneasy bystanders to the Anglo-Iranian oil quarrel, there are bound to be new efforts toward a “settlement out of court.”

For, as Sir Gladwyn Jebb under-stated, if this one gets out of hand, “the free world will be much poorer and weaker, including the deluded Iranians themselves.” But the accord will take some doing.

• • •

It is obvious before they start, that the Security Council will pull no rabbits from this particular fez, with or without recourse to diplomatic mirrors. Soviet Russia, which loves nothing so much as to see its Western enemies broiling merrily in their own oil, looms the only winner, come no agreements. Uncle Joe Stalin, grinning greedily behind the Caucasus, is waiting patiently for the British-built oil works, with Iran’s wealth underneath, to fall like a ripe olive in his non-paying paws.

• • •

How did such a ridiculous situation come about?

Everyone knows about the recent and violent events in Iran, but who failed to foresee them, and who left the gates open for the terrorists to take over?

Such questions, directed to Britain’s unskilled Labor statesmen, raise the hackles almost as readily as when a blunt fellow approaches Mr. Dean Acheson and inquires: “Just what went haywire with American policy in China?”

• • •

The architects of such snafu are not flattered when reminded of the mess. They felt irritated. Their old school ties (or Socialist labels) come askew along with their jolly good tempers. A distressed diplomat is not a happy sight to see.

• • •

Consider, for instance, the picture of suave Sir Gladwyn, who operated for the British Foreign Office long before Messrs. Attlee, Bevin, Cripps, Bevan and Morrison took over, reading the remarkable papers of yesterday to the Security Council. [Clement Attlee, Ernest Bevin, Stafford Cripps, Aneurin Bevan and Herbert Morrison of the Labor Party] In it the Socialist Government gave Karl Marx a stiff boot in the economic theory, while upbraiding Premier Mohamad Mossadegh for interfering with private enterprise, because he copied the British Laborites’ program of nationalization. Furthermore, said Sir Gladwyn, if these silly Iranians didn’t quit galloping downhill after such economic rainbows, they would certainly commit national suicide.

• • •

When you take that all in perspective, silhouetted as it were against six years of British Laborite nationalization, expropriation, Government control, restriction, and seizure of private enterprise at home, you had better duck, and fast. For it comprises the biggest political boomerang the Western world has lately beheld, and offers as by-product the long-awaited solution to: “Who struck John?” John Bull, that is.

• • •

As the British spokesman reviewed the considerable profits and advantages reaped by the Iranian 48-percent holdings in the oil company, he sounded more like an old-fashioned imperialist, than the representative of a regime that believes in equal distribution of the shortages, with “fair shares” for all. As a matter of fact, he digressed once to remind his Iranian neighbor that in other days, force would have been used to settle this row, and His Majesty’s servants would hardly have troubled to ask permission to fetch a cruiser into the harbor to evacuate British nationals, kicked out without by-your-leave or even notice.

• • •

Moreover, said Jebb, he was fully fed with this harping on imperialism in an era when his Government, as part of the Free World, sought to construct a New Order. In so doing, however, he maintained the Old Order was not so bad, having balanced any excesses in the so-called imperialist policy by distributing over the earth technical achievements of the industrial revolution, with wide benefits to all areas affected.

• • •

“Let us rid ourselves of the fatal legacy of suspicions bequeathed; let us above all rid ourselves of the Marxist conception that, in the Free World, the only relations between nations can be those of exploiters and exploited, and the only solution to our difficulties is the imposition of the iron and all-embracing despotism, quite suitably known as the dictatorship of the proletariat,” he pleaded.

• • •

At this point of the indictment, it seemed that Sir Gladwyn had traded his Labor gown for the Conservative hat, and here from London a month ahead of the election, had come a man admitting Labor’s Great Experiment had laid an international egg.

• • •

Who could tar the British Administration with old-time Empire concepts, after noting what it had done in the subcontinent of India? What of the generous terms offered Iran on its oil in 1949 and since? What of Britain’s-casting loose of Empire restraints, and its espousal of the Truman Point IV program—abundance for all? It was a moving if belated plea. Dr. Tsiang of China, remembering Britain’s Leftist recognition of Red Peking, wasn’t impressed. Blandly he said the Iranian crisis wasn’t one of war or peace at all — it was a pure case of lost property. [UN envoy Tsiang Tingfu]

• • •

Sitting with his Egyptian colleague, the Iranian delegate smiled. And remarked only that he was surprised that Nationalizing Britain was so upset, now Iran was nationalizing, too.

The man with the bitten hand received scant sympathy.

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:

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

Iran and the World Court | The Shreveport Times, June 26, 1951

Nationalism | The Herald and Review (Decatur), October 26, 1951

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

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