Internal Affairs
October 17, 1951 — The Schenectady Gazette

The Mossadegh Project | February 20, 2019                      

This lead editorial in a New York newspaper considered the inverse scenario regarding Iran’s stance toward the jurisdiction of the United Nations in the Anglo-Iranian oil dispute.

What Is ‘Internal’?

The objection raised by Premier Mossadegh to UN security council action in the British-Iranian oil dispute is not a new kind of complaint. And it is sure to be used frequently in years to come by governments which fear that the UN may decide against them in disputes. Premier Mossadegh says the oil dispute is an “internal argument” and the UN has no business interfering with it.

The point he raises has to be considered very carefully by the security council. The UN has enough trouble dealing with international disputes that jeopardize peace and security without trying to be an arbiter in arguments purely internal. The question then, today, is, as it has been in some other disputes the UN has concerned itself with, whether the Iranian oil argument is in fact internal.

If one accepts the view that foreign companies and governments have operated in Iran by sufferance of the Iranian government—that the presence of the foreigners is a right which the Iranians gave and which they can take away, it strengthens Mossadegh’s case. The foreigners, however, and primarily the British in this case, contend they too have rights, and they can point to contracts, pacts, treaties or other formal agreements under which they have operated, presumably trusting in the good faith of the Iranian government. It can be argued therefore that the Iranian oil dispute, being a dispute between the agencies of two sovereign governments, is not internal but international and that it is of such nature that it warrants UN security council consideration.

[The dispute was not “between agencies of two sovereign governments”, it was between one sovereign government and a foreign company, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company aka British Petroleum. Hence, the UN’s ultimate conclusion—validating the Iranian position—that the matter was outside its jurisdiction.]

One thing which Iran, and any other government using the same complaint, should guard against is to establish a pattern which might easily boomerang in future disputes. If Mossadegh convinces the UN security council that a British-Iranian dispute over oil is simply an Iranian internal affair, the UN would not only be justified but logically required in the future to look upon any comparable Iranian difficulties in the same light. We envision a day, for example, when Soviet Russia may give Iran considerable trouble, to put it lightly, over Iran’s oil and when that time comes, Iran may be far more anxious to get the Russians out than it has been to kick out the British or to get a bigger cut from the British. The UN might reasonably conclude, if Mossadegh is too convincing in today’s argument, that anything Russia does in Iran is an “Iranian internal dispute.” We wonder if the premier has thought of that.

What Went Wrong in Iran? | Amb. Henry Grady Tells All (1952)
What Went Wrong in Iran? | Saturday Evening Post, Jan. 5, 1952


Related links:

Leaders Needed | The Schenectady Gazette, June 19, 1951

Not An Iranian Problem | The Lethbridge Herald, Oct. 12, 1951

Hague Considers Iran Oil Question | The Spokesman-Review, June 23, 1952

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

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