Oil Diplomacy

May 4, 1951 — Toledo Blade

The Mossadegh Project | November 30, 2015                  

An interesting editorial in The Toledo Blade newspaper of Toledo Ohio, mere days after the election of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh as Premier.

The Toledo Blade (Toledo, Ohio)

A Lesson In Oil

THE BRITISH were so busy mining oil in Iran that they forgot that one major use for this product is lubrication.

They let the engine of nationalism run too hot in this strategic Middle Eastern country without effective steps to cool it off. This is one reason why the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., most of whose stock is owned by the British government, now faces the loss of its huge concessions, lock, stock and oil barrels.

The deal Anglo-Iranian made with the Iranian Government several years ago on profit sharing may have been just as good, in its way, as the one American oil companies made with Iran’s neighbors. But the simple American formula of going “50-50” sounded pleasant to Middle Eastern ears. Anglo-Iranian didn’t even try to convince the Iranian people that it was turning over a fair share of the oil to their government.

Large advances of oil royalties from Anglo-Iranian have stood between the Iranian government and something like insolvency. But these advances were secret even as far as the English public was concerned, much less were they known to the people of Iran. There was no reason for the Iranian government to publicize the facts.

Development of oil resources has brought tangible benefits and higher wages for one section of the population, health and educational benefits. But the population of Iran, which know so little of the relations of its government with the oil company, has all too little reason to suppose that the country’s oil has been exported to the general advantage of the people. The British themselves used the frittering away of oil royalties by the Iranian government on socially useless things as an excuse for many years of delay and granting a more equitable share of profits.

Anglo-Iranian failed badly in dealing in the old oil diplomacy and not recognizing that it had to reckon with new forces. It fell an easy victim to the excitable, ill-informed propaganda of the Iranian Nationalists, aided and abetted to some degree by the Communists, no doubt. To these extremists, full of the pride of independence and of prejudice against the British, the nationalization of the oil on the street was simply a matter of preventing exploitation by a foreign interest.

Unquestionably the Iranians are behaving badly in breaking in international agreement. Probably, in view of their lack of technical knowledge and their political instability, they’re behaving foolishly as well. Yet “young” nations must be permitted to make fools of themselves in their own way. Nobody particularly relished the expropriation of oil in Mexico either.

In this oil crisis, which will have its effects throughout the Middle East, there are still Colonel Blimps of the Empire who urged that English warships maneuver in Iranian waters “since all Muslims respect a show a force.” [character created by British political cartoonist David Low, which also inspired the 1943 English film The Life & Death of Colonel Blimp] If a bad situation is to be made better, much will depend upon how well the British—who have done considerable nationalizing themselves—control their tempers in working out a settlement with the Iranians.

Truman and Mossadegh’s First Messages on Iran Oil Dispute (1951)
President Truman and Premier Mossadegh's First Messages on Iran Oil Dispute (1951)

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Related links:

Danger Signals In Iran | The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 1, 1951

Harriman Mission Stirs Hope In Iran Oil Crisis | The Brooklyn Eagle, July 12, 1951

The Counsel Is Sound | The Buffalo Courier-Express, May 28, 1951

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

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