“Wishful Thinking” Re: Mossadegh
Iranian Embassy Replies To DC Editorial (1951)

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | February 14, 2022                    

Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh (1882-1967) Soon after Premier Mohammad Mossadegh returned to Iran from America, The Washington Evening Star, a newspaper of record founded in 1852, published a long editorial predicting (agitating for?) his imminent political demise.

This prompted a quick response from Dr. Hossein-Ali Nouri Esfandiary, Cultural Attaché at the Iranian Embassy in nearby Northwest DC. Esfandiary was not only a diplomat but a German-trained physician and former army general. In 1949 he edited a trilingual, illustrated edition of The Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam. He was also related to the Shah through Queen Soraya Esfandiari Bakhtiari, whom the monarch married earlier that year.

Brig. Gen. Esfandiary’s letter to the editor, which ran alongside a new editorial titled Iran’s Hero, called the paper’s views “wishful thinking” and their grasp of the facts “sadly lacking”. Noting his overwhelming vote of confidence in the Majles, they found the Premier “apparently unbeatable” at the moment, but still held out hope for an upset.

In effect, The Star’s forecast of a deposed Mossadegh eventually came true, though it required the meddling of the U.S. and Britain. As for Mr. Esfandiary, he remained at the Cultural Attaché post for at least a decade. Bankrupt, The Washington Star met its end in 1981.

November 25, 1951
The Washington Evening Star

Mossadegh on the Way Out?

Although he has been hailed as a hero on his return to Teheran, it is by no means inconceivable that Premier Mossadegh will fall in the relatively near future, with the cheers still echoing in his ears. Up until recently, our State Department—in contrast to the British Foreign Office—appears to have been convinced that the critical Anglo-Iranian oil dispute could be settled fairly and realistically only on the basis of negotiating with him and that if he and his government were tossed out of office, the Communist Tudeh Party might then take over. Now, however, there is some reason to believe that the Washington view is more in line with London’s.

That is to say, London’s attitude—a belief that Dr. Mossadegh will eventually run his emotional intransigence into the ground and be succeeded by level-headed government at Teheran—seems more justified and less wishful than it did a month or so ago. At any rate, after their weeks of mediating talks with him here in Washington, our American experts can hardly fail to have found in the weepy Premier an almost hopeless inability, or unwillingness or incompetence, to recognize the hard realities of the situation and co-operate in working out a settlement that would be genuinely good for his own country and at the same time fair to Britain. Instead, having won victory of principle in establishing Iran’s right to be master of its great petroleum resources, he has shown blind disposition to disregard the fact that that victory will be Pyrrhic unless it is backed up with an agreement that will get the oil out of the ground and into world markets.

The truth is that Dr. Mossadegh has returned home with empty hands. All he has to offer now is completely vague talk about some kind of producing and marketing “plan” that will bring prosperity to his country. Further than that, in giving an account of his accomplishments on his extended trip abroad, he can defend himself with little more than 1) extremely feeble suggestions that maybe he will be able to get American aid and 2) silly statements about retaking non-Arab Iran an economic, cultural and military ally of Egypt and the Arab League in general. What will happen when he appears with this sort of stuff before the Parliament in Teheran? How will he respond to questions about what is to be done to head off the national bankruptcy that his uncompromising and wholly unrealistic policy is rapidly bringing on? The answers, of course, are not certain, but this much is clear enough: He faces a growing non-Communist opposition bloc and there is at least a chance that he will be toppled with a vote of no confidence.

And what would happen in that case? Again, nobody can be certain. But there have been indications from rather authoritative sources in Teheran that the British viewpoint would be vindicated—that the Shah would replace Dr. Mossadegh with an anti-Communist, pro-Western leader fully capable of protecting Iran’s interests with a realistic and just agreement that would start the oil flowing again, prevent economic chaos and put an end to terrorism. The man most mentioned in that respect is Ahmed Qavam, the able, strong-minded former Premier who stood up against the Kremlin in the Azerbaijan crisis of 1946. [Ahmad Ghavam] Perhaps it is over-hopeful to speculate along these lines, but the possibility nevertheless seems to exist, and if it materializes the outlook for a good settlement certainly will be far brighter than it has been for many a month past.

November 27, 1951
The Washington Evening Star

Dr. Mossadegh and the Iranians

Your editorial in The Sunday Star indicates that the true facts concerning the question of nationalization of the oil industry in Iran and especially concerning the ability of our Prime Minister are sadly lacking.

In the first place, I can assure you that it is the will of the Iranian people that Dr. Mossadegh remain their Prime Minister; a vote of confidence by the Majles has already established this fact in a remarkable way. [90 out of 107 voting and abstaining members on Nov. 25, 1951]

It is apparent that those who believe, or pretend to believe, that Dr. Mossadegh was on his way out are simply giving way to their wishful thinking. Dr. Mossadegh was indeed, as you stated, given a hero’s welcome upon his return to Iran; the people are still as solidly behind him as they have ever been, and will continue to be until their long-cherished national ambition is achieved.

You also indicate that Washington is coming around to the London viewpoint concerning Iran’s nationalization of the oil industry. Time will prove that Washington’s original viewpoint is nearer to the truth. In all fairness, do you not think that Dr. Mossadegh knows better than others what is best for Iran and its people?

The Iranian people can make and are ready to make sacrifices necessary to carry through their present program and the present Prime Minister’s government is quite capable of accomplishing that objective.

H. A. Esfandiary,
Cultural Attache to the Iranian Embassy.

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Related links:

Robert Gulick, Jr.: In Defense of Iran | Washington Star, July 1951 Letter

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

Dictator Mossadegh | Washington Evening Star, July 22, 1953

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

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