IRAN: Empty Hands
TIME magazine — November 26, 1951

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | June 25, 2012                     

TIME’s cynical take on the speech given by Mossadegh at DC’s National Press Club on November 14, 1951 was completely typical — of itself and the media at large.

The Christian Science Monitor called Mossadegh’s delivery “a long harangue that shed no light and probably cost him considerable sympathy”. The Washington Post found it “dismal” while Billboard pegged it the “most unusual walk-on performance of the week”. The Magazine of Wall Street and Business Analyst noted that despite pulling crowds second only to British Premier Anthony Eden and General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mossadegh’s speech was a “boresome disappointment” and his U.S. visit “a flop, largely because he made it one.”

TIME magazine archive
Media archive

TIME magazine, November 26, 1951

For his farewell appearance in the U.S., Premier Mossadegh used Washington’s National Press Club as a rostrum, and drew as big a crowd as had Clement Attlee. Everyone wanted to see the faint-prone wonder. About all that most got out of it was a glimpse of a man with a Durante nose and a gleam of cunning in his eye. Less than half the crowd stayed through his 40-minute speech in Persian. Those who waited for the translation got only a tired tirade against the British, and one Mossadegh proposal, to wit, that the U.S. should lend him money.

President Truman replied that “careful consideration” would be given Mossadegh’s request for $120 million, which is diplomatic talk for promising nothing. The fact was that, after 41 days in the U.S., Mossadegh was going home emptyhanded. His spokesman, Deputy Premier Hussein Fatemi, told the press that Iran and Britain are engaged in a contest of “pressures.” Iran will win, Fatemi said, because “I don’t think the economic situation in Great Britain is any better than ours.”

While the contest went on, it seemed, Mossadegh wanted the U.S. to foot Iran’s bill. Asked the New York Times: “Is it really conceivable that the U.S. should reward Iran for breaking her oil contract? What about the reaction in Great Britain if that country should now see us bail out Iran after the British had lost a billion dollar industry through confiscation? Who is our greatest ally in the defense of the West, Britain or Iran?”

The State Department now seemed prepared to follow Britain’s Micawberish line: let Mossadegh fall, perhaps his successor will be more tractable. Mossadegh flew off home, scheduling a stop en route at Cairo, where he and the Egyptians could make muscles at the British together. That might divert his homefolks from his empty hands.


Related links:

Billboard magazine on Mossadegh’s National Press Club speech | November 24, 1951

Message to Mossadegh: Blackmail Does Not Pay | November 19, 1951

Mossadegh Loses Friends | TIME magazine, Jan. 19, 1953

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

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