Stallin’ Stalin—WWIII’s a Bust

September 27, 1951 — The Philadelphia Inquirer

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | September 9, 2014                   

“Iran is a pitiful country, shamefully exploited for years...”

Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin eyes Iran Dateline 1951: With Great Britain readying a potential invasion of Iran in response to the seizure of its oil installations, there was a deep concern that such an action could spark World War III.

A military maneuver, it was hypothesized, might even play right into the hands of Russia, who, in light of its pact with Iran to protect her from foreign invaders, would use the provocation as an excuse to step into the fray. Thus, the British threat was widely frowned upon in America and even in England, leading many observers to adapt an anti-war stance in response. Even in Iran, reports circulated of an alleged Tudeh plot to bait the Soviets into invading.

The influential, nationally recognized newspaper The Philadelphia Inquirer was, like most of the media, quite fixated on the Russian factor in the Anglo-Iranian oil dispute. With prudence and even-handedness, the editors politely urged President Harry Truman to stay the diplomatic course (Truman did, in fact, refuse to endorse any British aggression).

Imagine if the basic wisdom offered here had been pursued more thoroughly. Had America allowed Iran’s nationalist liberation movement to triumph, that would not only have staved off the dreaded spectre of Communism, but might have secured a relatively stable, democratic ally in the heart of the Middle East for generations to come •

The Philadelphia Inquirer — September 27, 1951

Will We Wish We’d Saved Iran From Stalin?

British Prime Minister Attlee [Clement Attlee] is reported asking President Truman [Harry S. Truman] for help in the oil dispute with Iran. Since we already have given diplomatic assistance, it is presumed that Mr. Attlee now wants us to support him in military action against the Iranians.

We respectfully urge the President to say: “No.”

Instead, we hope Mr. Truman will call upon Attlee to take swift steps to compromise the situation—which Secretary Acheson [Dean Acheson] says is “critical”—before Iran goes the way of China, behind the Iron Curtain.

The American people are spending billions, giving away other billions, to create military power to keep Stalin from taking over more of the non-Communist world.

Iran, however, is a perfect example of the fact that military power of itself is no cure for inept diplomacy.

Probably the most significant single element in the Iranian picture is the silence of the Kremlin. Patiently, Stalin is counting upon the West to do his job for him, to alienate Iran so it will come to him—as it already has begun to do in the new trade talks.

Russia never has been popular in Iran. Neither has Britain. The United States, which did enjoy Iranian good will, not only has given the impression of supporting Britain’s efforts to overthrow the Mossadegh government, but has also put on heat by holding up a $25,000,000 Export-Import Bank loan.

Iran is a pitiful country, shamefully exploited for years. Efforts of the present Shah to build schools and hospitals, encourage land reform, and bring a small measure of prosperity to the impoverished masses, are all bound up with the oil nationalization issue.

On the nationalization issue there is right on both sides, wrong on both sides. But it doesn’t matter which driver had the “right of way” if an accident brings death to both of them. It won’t matter much whether Britain or Iran is right, if Russia takes over.

That is why the United States must frankly refuse to pull Britain’s chestnuts out of any Iranian flames. That is why we must take a firm stand against risking a world war in Iran, just as Britain has in Korea.

Today we all wish we had been smarter, had done the necessary to keep China from easy conquest by the Reds. Will we be wishing the same about Iran two years from now?

This letter to the editor ran on Thursday morning, October 4, 1951 — opposite a new thematic editorial, West Can’t Afford Loss of Iran’s Oil to Russia.


To the Editor of The Inquirer:
Your editorial of Sept. 27 on the situation in Iran sure hit the nail on the head.

England forcing the government of Iran to do business with the Commies so as to make that down-trodden country look bad was of course a trick to gain American aid in the event of trouble.

Philadelphia, Sept. 28.


Related links:

Twenty Four Million To Iran | Letter to The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 24, 1952

(VIDEO) Planned British Naval Invasion of Abadan, 1951 | BBC Timewatch

Will Iran Be Another Korea? | Newsweek, August 31, 1953

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

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