Just One Spark

September 30, 1951 — The Salt Lake Tribune

The Mossadegh Project | February 16, 2022                    

An editorial on Britain, Iran and the threat of war in The Salt Lake Tribune newspaper of Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Salt Lake Tribune (Utah) masthead

Grave Danger in Iran

The Iranian oil crisis has now reached the point where a very small spark is capable of setting off a very large war. The Mossadegh government has ordered British oil technicians to leave by midnight next Wednesday. If the British use force the consequences could be disastrous, since the Russians under a 1921 treaty would then be empowered to send troops into the country.

In this delicate situation Britain appealed to the United States for counsel and President Truman reportedly told Prime Minister Attlee to avoid the use of force. [Harry Truman to Clement Attlee] At the same time the State Department urged Iran to revoke its order expelling the technicians. Later another American attempt may be made to mediate the dispute, but it this is done care should be taken that British responsibilities are not shifted to U.S. shoulders. Our oil operations in other Middle East countries cannot be jeopardized by British failures.

From the first the West has mismanaged the whole Iranian affair. Britain, which nationalized industry at home, objected to nationalization abroad. The U.S. was slow and hesitant. It was only when the crisis had reached a danger point that W. Averell Harriman was named as mediator and his patient efforts resulted in a British offer which Iran was unable to accept.

Iran feels that she has been exploited. As an Iranian editor, visiting Salt Lake City, put it, “Exactly one year the Anglo-Iranian oil Company made a profit of 100,000,000 pounds ($280,000,000) We received 9,000,000 pounds. The British government’s tax was 30,000,000 pounds.” The British offer made during the Harriman negotiations was not all that it seemed. Anglo-Iranian offered to split profits 50-50—after taxes. That is an example of the kind of chicanery which has raised the threat of another world war.

We hope that it is not now too late to find a solution. If one is reached it will have to be through American efforts. Iran will be difficult to deal with, but Britain will be the bigger obstacle unless she is able to forget imperialism and double dealing. The Iranian crisis calls for statesmanship and the understanding of the people of a fanatically nationalistic country.

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Related links:

Fruits Of Folly In Iran | Miami Daily News, December 7, 1951

Mossy and the Pistol | The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 2, 1952

Mossadegh Backers Bar Iranian Reds | June 19, 1953 (AP)

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