After the Smoke Clears

July 27, 1952 — The Washington Evening Star

The Mossadegh Project | July 6, 2022                    

July 27, 1952
The Washington Evening Star

It Remains to Be Seen Whether
the Reds Will Get Far in Iran

By Earl H. Voss

The thing the West has been hoping wouldn’t happen—and the thing that Premier Mossadegh used to assure us never would—happened last week in Iran. The Communist Tudeh party joined a “united front” with some of the ultranationalists who back Dr. Mossadegh.

That was the most ominous news from Teheran last week. But the period was loaded with grim developments, especially for Great Britain:

1. Hope for early settlement of the year-long Anglo-Iranian oil dispute suffered a new setback when Mossadegh was returned to power. In the British view, Mossadegh, who has risked national ruin with the ardent backing of large ultranationalist groups, symbolizes the hopelessness of the Anglo-Iranian oil wrangle. Mossadegh hinted about a new try at reconciliation, but this was not greeted with any noticeable optimism in Britain.

2. The World Court, which was requested by the British to consider the oil impasse, decided this was an internal problem, as Dr. Mossadegh had argued.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party in Iran got a bid from the powerful Moslem ultranationalist, Ayatollah Kashani, to organize a joint campaign against “imperialist colonization of Iran,” presumably in recognition of Tudeh aid in the riots that unseated Qavam. Mossadegh conferred with Red leaders Friday.

Differences Remain

There are still significant differences between the Communists and the ultranationalists—chiefly those concerning foreign interference in internal affairs and the attitude toward the Shah. But the Reds now march with the ultranationalists. They are already influencing some of Mossadegh’s National Front backers, chiefly increasing anti-American bias.

Since Mossadegh kicked the British out, and his country’s oil proceeds with them, Iran has been going downhill financially. The country is not self-sufficient. It needs foreign exchange, most of which used to come from Anglo-Iranian Oil Company operation. With the refineries shut down for lack of operating personnel, Iran has run through its foreign exchange and gold reserves. Meanwhile, the government has made little progress in economizing.

All these developments had seemed to portend the success of Great Britain’s waiting game. It was reasoned that Mossadegh couldn’t go on forever. Sooner or later he was expected to see the light and come to terms with the British, or he would be cast aside by his people for another leader who could get the refineries running again.

It looked like the time for the payoff on this strategy had arrived earlier this month. Mounting political unrest was coupled with parliamentary backtalk at Mossadegh’s increasingly desperate requests for more power. When Mossadegh asked the young Shah of Iran for absolute control over the army and police, the Shah refused. Mossadegh resigned. The Shah named Ahmed Qavam, a more moderate leader, who set about reopening negotiations with the British. [Ahmad Ghavam]

Four-Day Term

But the ultranationalists who had brought Mossadegh to power in 1951 didn’t take this lying down. Rioting increased in intensity. Qavam lasted only four days. The Shah turned back to Mossadegh, and this time made no objection to his plans to take virtual dictatorial powers over the country’s army and police.

One of the first things Mossadegh was expected to do was to cut the size of the army in half. This would further reduce the effectiveness of an already weak instrument to resist the kind of mob psychology that the Mossadegh ultranationalist followers liked to use.

Prospects for the future of Iran now are the kind that make the Kremlin’s politburo members rub their hands. The economic crisis seems certain to heighten. And the Communists are expected to bid for more influence in Mossadegh’s “National Front.”

There is still no clear indication that the Communists can make much of their opportunistic entry into the alliance with Kashani. The Iranian Premier has had little time for the Reds in the past. Broadly speaking, he has followed the traditional Persian policy of playing off one foreign power against another, thus avoiding undue influence by either. He and his countrymen know that the Communists get their orders from Moscow. And presumably all Iranians shudder at the thought of Soviet domination. It was only a few weeks ago that the Communist Tudeh party leaders were using the slogan “Down with Mossadegh.”

But the high-tension, emotion-packed game that Mossadegh plays could get out of hand. And if Mossadegh were to find himself someday beholden to the Communists, there probably would be a sharp reaction from America.

Strategic Importance

Iran, of course, is the pivot of the Near East. Besides having strategically important oil, it has strategically important position. It lies astride the historic crossroads of the Asiatic and European conquerors. If the Soviet Union were to make a drive for the Suez or the Mediterranean, it probably would come through Iran instead of through the rugged Turkish mountains, defended as they would be by Turkey’s stout army.

America’s present policy toward Iran is simple and well publicized. We want the country to remain completely independent. We have gone out of our way to cut any strings that Mossadegh may think are attached to our military and economic aid.

American Embassy reports from Teheran don’t have the urgent tone that some of the news stories out of Iran have had. And some United States officials would not be surprised to learn that, after the smoke clears, it turns out to be the Communists, not the Mossadegh ultranationalists, who had been “used” in Iran.

Mossadegh’s new chief of police, Brig. Shiebani, hinted as much in a speech last Wednesday in Teheran. He warned his “compatriots”:

“As you have noticed, some foreign agents have already changed their masks and mixed with the nationalists. You must be careful about them. You must be fully aware of the fact that these people are actually furthering their own vile plans.” [Brigadier Kazem Sheibani]

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


Related links:

Boiling Point Near In Iran | Alsop Brothers, July 30, 1952

Iran’s Hero | Washington Evening Star, November 27, 1951

William E. Warne: My Visit With Ayatollah Kashani (Aug. 1952)

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

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