IRAN: Gift Horse
TIME magazine — July 12, 1954

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project
| January 23, 2013       

Lying by omission, a standard propaganda technique, is on full display in this 1954 TIME piece, inappropriately riffing on the old proverb “never look a gift horse in the mouth”.

Their use of the phrase suggests a skewed understanding of its actual meaning — essentially to appreciate what you’re given without comparing it to some pre-conceived standard or expectation. Instead, TIME wrongly equates a gift horse with a trojan horse; i.e., a trick.

Offering up a cornucopia of Russian crimes against Iran, the magazine conveniently skips over the rich history of interference by Great Britain, who had divided up Iran with Russia in 1907 (one DC insider claimed that Churchill had aimed to repeat this arrangement in 1951). Any British hand in Iranian misery goes overlooked, as if Iran’s bitter, internationally known oil dispute with Britain did not even warrant being categorized as a legitimate grievance.

The claim that Iranians living in Russia were returned to Iran to spread Communism is certainly unusual and difficult to verify. One has to wonder, though, why this turnover program would resume under the Shah’s Western-backed coup regime, and not the supposedly “Communist-coddling” Mossadegh.

TIME also added that the USSR had promised to give back tons of gold owed to Iran. This sharply contradicts that old yarn about the Soviets supporting the financially ailing government of Mossadegh, which could have used the dough a hell of a lot more than the post-coup military regime, flooded with millions in new U.S. financial aid •

TIME magazine archive
Media archive

TIME magazine, July 12, 1954

Seldom have the Russians—Czarist or Communist—given their Persian neighbors anything but trouble. In the past half-century, they have invaded the country six times, looted its Caspian caviar and its Treasury. Only the collective wrath of the infant U.N. made the Russians desist from setting up a little soviet in Azerbaijan province right after World War II. A year ago, in the last days of Mossadegh, the Communist Tudeh Party almost took over Iran. After all this, to Teheran’s amazement and consternation, Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Lavrentiev last month promised a “great Russian favor”: the return of 300 Iranians detained in Russia.

Accustomed to looking Soviet gifts in the mouth, Iran recalled the last time such a favor was extended. In 1938 and ’39, the Reds sent back some 4,500 Iranians living in Russia; most of them turned out to be well-trained spies and Communist agitators. The new crop of Iranians will be turned over at the rate of 40 a week, each to give up all his Russian clothes and belongings at the border and, in new clothes provided by the Iranians, to be sent to a screening camp near Meshed, [Mashad] where their mental baggage will be inspected.

The Soviets also promised to return the eleven tons of gold they have owed the National Bank of Iran since World War II. With cynicism born of long experience, Teheran sat back, waited for the gift horse to bite.

Related links:

Caviar A La Mossadegh — U.S. editorial, February 4, 1953

Iran To Russia: “Hands Off!”The Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, August 16, 1953

Reds Shout Demands For Soviet RuleUPI, August 18, 1953

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

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