National Suicide
December 15, 1951 — The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Mossadegh Project | February 21, 2014                    

The title of this editorial takes its inspiration from a Dec. 13th New York Times article by its foreign correspondent C. L. Sulzberger, "Middle East Is Held Duped By Moscow’s Double Game". It’s an allusion to the Night of the Long Knives in 1934 Nazi Germany.

Knives For the Night

THAT THE MIDDLE East is an orgy of national suicide seems the more certain with each new report from that area. Take the latest word from Iran. There the government of Premier Mossadegh has served notice on Iran’s former oil customers in the West that they have until December 22 to buy oil on Iran’s terms -- or else. The “else” being a broad hint that Iran will let her oil go to the Soviet bloc.

Mossadegh is playing wild poker, gambling that he can make Iran’s seizure of former British oil property stick and win American dollars by threatening to do business with the West’s cold-war enemy. The game is being played mid deepening economic misery and increased rioting in his country.

To date the rioting has for the most part been directed against the British. But the rulers in Iran – and in Egypt, where the government has stirred mob wrath against Britain’s presence in the Suez Canal area – don't seem aware of how dangerous their policies are. True, they have taken the heat off the rich and corrupt class they represent by diverting popular discontent against the foreigner. But in doing so they are making their own domestic position more precarious.

Why this is so has been pointed out by C. L. Sulzberger of The New York Times, who suggests that the Kremlin stands to win most from the present Middle East game. He writes:

“What the governing classes from Cairo to Tehran not seem to realize is that Moscow’s aims are dual. First, the Russians wish to destroy all lingering friendship between the Middle East and the West, effectively isolating the area. Then, in the resulting and inevitable chaos, they wish to destroy the governing classes themselves. The pashas are now engaged in the process of sharpening the long knives that are to be used against them one night.”

Everything that is happening in Iran supports this thesis. The outlawed but effective Communist Party there has long been active in fanning the nationalist flames that have scorched the British. Now, with the British gone and with Iran’s oil revenues shut off, that highly disciplined party is in position to capitalize on the nation’s chaos. Meanwhile, the Russians pose as champions of Iran’s nationalism and have dangled before the Iranians the bait of trade with Eastern Europe–reportedly for such concessions as Iran’s legalizing the Communist Party.

It may be that the United States, at the price of large-scale financial aid, can bring Middle East governments to reason. But it’s hard to reason with a man who delights in threatening you by pointing a loaded pistol to his own head.

70th Anniversary of TIME’s Man of the Year Article
Challenge of the East: TIME's 1951 Man of the Year Mohammad Mossadegh


Related links:

Inaction Greatest Power | Letter to The Afro-American, October 27, 1951

Reserve and Recourse? | The Cornell Daily Sun, October 18, 1951

Intent On Evicting West, Iran Virtually Asks Russia In | The Buffalo Courier-Express (1952)

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

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