Exit, Victorian Imperialism
June 13, 1951 — The Salt Lake Telegram

The Mossadegh Project | April 15, 2022                     

Lead editorial on Britain and Iran in The Salt Lake Telegram newspaper of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Last Gasp of British Arrogance?

The news from Iran is highly encouraging. The reply of Prime Minister of Iran to President Truman’s appeal to both Iran and Britain for or moderation and friendly effort to reach reach a settlement of their differences on Iranian oil was moderate and conciliatory. The premier assured the President that nationalization of the Iranian oil industry would not jeopardize the worlds world’s oil supply nor imperil international harmony. Particularly significant was the statement there will be no trespass against international law in the taking over from the Anglo Iranian Oil Company. [Premier Mossadegh’s reply to Harry Truman on June 11, 1951]

Many observers had hoped that given given a little time for or tempers to cool and for the fires of anti-British feeling in Iran to die down some settlement could be worked out. After all the basic interest of the Iranian people is not to destroy the oilfields or to break the ties which link Iran through this oil production with the west.

The Iranians cannot use the oil themselves. They cannot sell it to Russia because there is no way to transport it readily. And Iranians are certainly no more anxious to be under Russian domination than British. Nevertheless the situation was loaded with dynamite. As a matter of fact it still is because there is no assurance there will be a satisfactory settlement despite the conciliatory tone of the reply.

A deal must be worked out and there will have to be compromises on the side of both Iran and Britain. Iran could yet prove the spark to set off a third world war war but the situation is much more hopeful than it was a few weeks ago. While American pressure on Iran has been an important factor in easing the tension no less significant has been pressure on Great Britain. The British for all their vaunted skill as diplomats and jugglers of international hot potatoes have not made made a very good showing in Iran.

Peter Edson, Washington columnist, says the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company management brought most of the trouble on itself by trying to settle the dispute in the traditional high-handed manner of the century Victorian imperialism. There is good reason to believe that this is true. And it is a black mark on the record of the British Labor government that while going merrily on the way to nationalization of industry in Britain it brusquely refused to even consider Iran’s right to do the same thing. And it must not be forgotten that the British government which controls more than 50 per cent of the stock of the Iranian Anglo-Iranian company was the real determiner of company policy.

Furthermore the Iranian Anglo company company was not following the more enlightened modern policies of developing backward areas whose resources are being tapped. It continued to exploit on the old colonial pattern buying freedom from local interference by keeping local politicians in the company’s pocket. One would think the British would have learned their lesson in Burma and India. But apparently British arrogance dies a slow death. We trust the Iranian fiasco is the last gasp.

Truman and Mossadegh’s First Messages on Iran Oil Dispute (1951)
President Truman and Premier Mossadegh's First Messages on Iran Oil Dispute (1951)

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Related links:

Underwriting Colonialism | Hamilton Butler on Iran, Jan. 6, 1952

The Bully's Role | The San Francisco Examiner, August 12, 1953

We Lead In All But Leadership Says U.S. Foreign Policy Critic (Jan. 1952 Letter)

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

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