Pawn In the Game

October 7, 1952 — The Morning News

The Mossadegh Project | October 31, 2021                  

Lead editorial on Iran in The Morning News newspaper (Wilmington, Delaware).

Iran’s Opportunity

The seemingly endless notes to Iran over her paralyzed oil industry continue, but the situation represents an improvement: Negotiations of a sort are continuing on a basis that would have been impossible a few months ago.

The new American and British notes represent a careful attempt to keep the door open, despite the recent expiration of Premier Mossadegh’s unacceptable 10-day ultimatum. Both explain with great patience that the joint Churchill-Truman proposal of Aug. 30 did not mean what Mossadegh thought; they meant it recognized nationalization of Iranian oil as an accomplished fact, it proposed no monopoly of purchase or sale of oil, and its terms for adjudicating compensation were tentative and not a condition.

Though both notes take extreme pains not to end the discussion, their approach is different. Britain emphasizes the assertion that there is no foundation to Iran’s fears on the points listed above. The United States says that Iran must have misunderstood that we sincerely believed the joint proposal met all the conditions specified by Mossadegh. Both notes are brief; both invite a response.

The Persian premier has shown indications recently that he would like to keep talking, but his position is difficult. He is not genuinely free to do what he likes. Political irresponsibles are eager for the chance to oust or even assassinate him on the ground that he is “pro-British.” Any agreement he reaches must therefore be one that can be represented as a humiliating defeat for the British whom Mossadegh in fact cordially dislikes anyhow.

At the root of the difficulty is the fact that for a century Iran has not been genuinely free, but a constant pawn of great-power politics. Britain and Russia have been the principal protagonists in the struggle, from time to time dividing Iran into respective zones of influence.

British interest in the area as a gateway to India prevented outright Russian domination, but otherwise ignored Iran’s welfare. The result was an Iranian government skilled at playing off the powers against one another, but otherwise pretty inept. For a time Germany was an important factor in this game; now the United States is involved. But the stakes are changing, and if Iran can discern her own interests clearly, she has the opportunity for genuine independence. To get it, however, she must be able to act more responsibly than past experience has taught her to act.

“If I sit silently, I have sinned”: A guiding principle
The untold story behind Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh's famous quote “If I sit silently, I have sinned”


Related links:

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

Iran: Enemies of the People | The Morning News, April 18, 1951

The Shadow For The Substance | Newcastle Morning Herald, Sept. 1952

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

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