Moderate Zealotry

August 12, 1952 — Washington Evening Star

The Mossadegh Project | January 22, 2022                    

An editorial in The Washington Evening Star newspaper in Washington, DC.

Dictator Mossadegh

Now that the Iranian Senate has followed the Chamber of Deputies in voting to grant him extraordinary powers for the next six months, Premier Mossadegh has become a virtual dictator with full legal authority to rule by decree on practically every great issue confronting his tense and sorely troubled country. This authority has not been thrust upon him against his will. On the contrary, it has been handed over to him with considerable reluctance and misgiving—and with a fixed time limit—because he has vehemently demanded it as something absolutely essential to his plans for heading off economic and political chaos.

Up to now these plans have not been revealed. Dr. Mossadegh has referred to them publicly in only the most generalized terms, and presumably their real nature will not be known until he starts issuing decrees to put them into effect. Apparently, however, judging from his vague comment on them thus far, they will include measures aimed at increasing taxation, instituting governmental and fiscal reforms, settling the Anglo-Iranian oil dispute, and strengthening internal security against the threat of subversion. On the latter point, despite the opposition, of the Chamber of Deputies, he has made clear that he wants an extension of martial law—chiefly, it seems, to guard against the possibility of a coup by the Kremlin-serving Communist Tudeh Party.

Given his dictatorial powers, plus control of the army to bulwark internal security, it may be that Dr. Mossadegh will be able with such measures to abate and end the Iranian crisis. But his past record does not encourage optimism on that score. After all, ironically enough, the threat of chaos which he is trying to dissipate stems primarily from the instransigence, [sic] incompetence and lack of realism he has displayed in the oil controversy with Britain—a controversy that has dried up the country’s greatest single source of revenue and come close to causing complete national bankruptcy. Moreover, in his latest offer to negotiate with the British, he has taken a position suggesting that his attitude—which cannot be shaped without regard to the extremists around him—continues to be much too uncompromising to augur well for an equitable, common-sense settlement.

With all that said, however, the fact remains that Dr. Mossadegh seems to be the only Iranian leader who has a chance at this time to check the drift toward conditions that could end in a Communist coup. Although he is an extremist in Western eyes, he nevertheless occupies a kind of middle ground in his own land between the outlawed Tudeh Party on the far left and the unreasoning ultranationalists and terroristic religious fanatics on the far right. In that sense he is a “moderate,” and if he falls he will almost certainly be succeeded by somebody much worse. That “somebody” might well be a fiery rightist zealot whose policies probably would turn Iran upside down. And in that case the native Reds—even though their present strength possibly has been exaggerated—would be in a good position to make a major effort to seize power and drag the country behind the Iron Curtain.

In such circumstances it labors the obvious to say that the United States and Britain should do everything possible, within reason, to strive for an understanding with Dr. Mossedegh. [sic] True, even in his dictator’s role, he may be a weak reed to lean upon, but this is a situation in which there is little or no choice left to the West. Accordingly, both as regards the oil dispute and economic aid, there must be a concerted Anglo-American effort to work with him if he shows any willingness to co-operate. The stakes involved are very high.

Eisenhower - Mossadegh Cables: Complete Exchange of Messages
The Eisenhower - Mossadegh Cables: Complete Exchange of Messages


Related links:

Mossadegh Is Bad Medicine | Ogden Standard-Examiner, Aug. 3, 1952

Dictator Mossadegh | Washington Evening Star, July 22, 1953

Hope In Iran | The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 29, 1952

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

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