Middle Eastern Menace Eyed

May 8, 1951 — Ray Tucker

The Mossadegh Project | October 22, 2017                    

Syndicated columnist Ray Tucker on Cold War geopolitical dynamics in the early days of the Iranian oil nationalization affair.

National Whirligig
Russia Needs Oil To Fight


WASHINGTON, May 8—Despite actual war in Korea and Russian thrusts against us in Central Europe, Washington regards the current disturbances in Iran, Iraq and Palestine as equally dangerous toward world peace. It is an especially menacing situation because our principal ally, Britain, is thoroughly hated in that region, and we are not yet prepared to mount a strong anti-Moscow counteroffensive there.

One of the most frequently thumbed documents in State Department and Pentagon files serves as an constant reminder to Secretaries Acheson and Marshall that Stalin covets the oil-rich territory of the Middle East. [Sec. of State Dean Acheson and Sec. of Defense George Marshall] According to our military strategists, he will not dare to precipitate a global conflict until he has obtained control of these petroleum resources, which provide one-quarter of the world supply.

CALAMITOUS — At this very moment Stalin is urging the Iranian government, which has nationalized the wells in the face of British protests, to let Russian experts operate them. [Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin] He has dangled a tempting offer before Mohammed Mosedagh, [sic—Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh] the new anti-British premier. [This “offer” is made up. Never happened.]

The loss of this fuel to Moscow would be calamitous to our side. Besides fuelling allied fleets in the Eastern Mediterranean, Iranian oil supplies the “free” nations of Southern Europe, which we are trying to keep out of the Russian orbit through the Marshall Plan and other forms of aid.

BLESSING — Although it is supposed to be a secret, a prominent American Senator, recently defeated, paid a quiet visit to Iran within the last few weeks. It is understood he represents an American petroleum group which would be willing to take over management of the industry, if Premier Mosedagh and the British will agree. Although a private undertaking, the venture has the unofficial blessing of the State Department.

The Truman Administration cannot show its hand too openly in these negotiations for several reasons. [U.S. President Harry S. Truman] It would further antagonize the British at the very moment when the Labor Party is split because of prominent members belief that London is the tail of the American diplomatic dog. But the United States in striving desperately to win the struggle for Middle East oil.

DIVERSIONS — The well-read document which reveals Stalin’s overshadowing interest in possession of Middle East oil suggests that his Korean and West German offensives are preliminary diversions to overrunning the Asia Minor nations now in turmoil. It consists of a memo from Schulenburg, the German Ambassador at Moscow, to Hitler’s Foreign Office in Berlin. [Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg] It is dated November 26, 1940.

Schulenburg reported that Foreign Minister Molotov [Vyacheslav Molotov] had agreed to enter a four-power pact (Germany, Russia, Italy, Japan) on four conditions. The first demanded withdrawal of German troops from Finland, and Hitler’s recognition that this area constituted a “Russian sphere of interest.” The second insisted on partial Russian control of the Dardanelles Straits through a pact with Bulgaria, a Hitler satellite, and establishment of Russian naval and air bases within striking distance of the Bosporus.

But it is the third and fourth conditions which have current interest, in view of the Korean war and Stalin’s moves in the Middle East.

EFFRONTERY — Schulenburg said Molotov would agree to the four-power alliance only “provided that the area south of Batum and Baku in the general direction of the Persian Gulf (which would also include Saudi Arabia—Ed. Note) is recognized as the center of the aspirations of the Soviet Union.”

The fourth Molotov stipulation, which explains why Stalin seeks conquest of all Korea, and eventually Japan, insisted that “Japan renounce her claim to concessions for coal and oil in the North Skahalin Islands.”

It was Stalin’s effrontery in making such demands that first made Hitler suspicious of the man in the Kremlin, and led to Germany’s attack on Russia in June of 1941. Britain and the United States can no more allow Russia to gain control of these areas than Hitler could.

REJECTED — In view of this background, Truman-Acheson policies have been assailed on the ground that they offer no inducement to Iran and Turkey to stick to the western powers in a forthcoming showdown. The Shah of Iran himself came here to ask for a substantial loan for his poverty-stricken people, but went away empty-handed. Turkey has been denied membership in the North Atlantic Alliance, and her proposal for a defensive—offensive agreement has been rejected.

Unless the United States shows greater concern for these countries’ welfare and military reconstruction, and backs it up with fairly generous loans, it is feared that they may be forced to cast their lot with Russia.

CONCERN — Stated spokesmen, however, refute this charge. Iran is getting help slowly, but will be given a large loan as soon as London has had a chance to negotiate new agreements for the nationalized oil industry. Meanwhile, Ambassador Henry F. Grady has assured Premier Mosedagh [sic] of our deep concern in Iran’s problems. Mr. Grady was one of the new premier’s first callers. The Russian Ambassador, however, got there first. [How does he know this, and what does it matter even if true?]

We cannot now enter the Mediterranean pact, comprising Turkey, Greece, perhaps Yugoslavia, Italy and eventually Spain. Even if we did, it would he meaningless because of the need to rearm Europe, reinforce our Army in Korea. But if Russia will hold off until planes, tanks, artillery and Garands begin to roll in from the assembly lines in large quantities, possibly late in 1952, the United States will transform the Eastern Mediterranean into another “American Lake” as MacArthur says we must do in the Far Pacific. [Gen. Douglas MacArthur] But will Russia wait that long?

Alternate headlines:

Washington Worried About Middle East Oil Struggle

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Related links:

How Western Powers Might Save Iran Oil — Marquis Childs, May 25, 1951

The Ambassador in Iran (Grady) to the Department of State — May 7, 1951

Adding Insult to Injury — May 26, 1951 U.S. editorial

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

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