Henry Grady on Colonialism

Letter to The Washington Post (March 20, 1953)

The Mossadegh Project | June 22, 2022                     

The retired former U.S. Ambassador to Iran wrote this letter to the editor in the early months of Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first term, unaware that the administration had already begun scheming with Britain to overthrow the Iranian government.

On March 25th, Sen. Dennis Chávez (Democrat, New Mexico) had Grady’s “very fine letter” entered into the Congressional Record.

March 20, 1953
The Washington Post

United States and Iran

Henry Francis Grady, U.S. Ambassador to Iran The Iranian situation is symptomatic of what is happening throughout what has been and to a degree still is the colonial or semicolonial part of the world. The manner in which we handle this general problem will, in my opinion, determine whether we win or lose the cold war. The joint British-American failure in Iran should serve as a case study. I am not concerned with blaming, but I am concerned that when a tragic political failure has occurred we should take stock and try to prevent it happening again. It could happen again in any one of a dozen countries. It is accentuated in Iran because of that country’s petroleum resources, but the basic problem is not oil but the traditional and persistent attitude of the Western powers toward the underdeveloped countries of the world.

When we, with our allies, fail in the military sphere as we did in the case of the Bulge, we say our “mea culpas” and endeavor to correct the mistakes that led up to the disaster. [Battle of the Bulge, WWII] Too many Bulges would have lost the hot war. Too many Irans will lose the cold war.

Colonialism in any form is, historically speaking, as dead as the dodo bird, but despite our long-standing commitment to the principle of the self-determination of peoples, we are actively supporting British and French colonialism wherever that support is needed, particularly in the Middle East, Egypt, and North Africa. We are helping to resist the efforts of people fired by the passion for independence to become free.

This is not traditional American policy. Unless we insist that the British and the French adjust their policies to the realities of today and refuse to support in any way their colonialism if they persist in it, the vital underdeveloped areas will abandon their historic friendship toward the West and become in effect part of the Soviet Empire. This is as certain as that the night follows the day.

When Mountbatten turned over power in India to the Indians, he did it in a manner greatly to raise British prestige. [Louis Mountbatten, former Viceroy of India] If the Mountbatten attitude is wholeheartedly accepted, not only in India but wherever the British have exercised political power, it could increase rather than decrease British trade and constructive influence. This could be true even in Iran if it is not too late. But it is certainly not too late elsewhere. Such a consummation would be all to the good for Great Britain and the world.

If British prestige and trade suffers anywhere, the Western World suffers. Aside from everything else, we have a vested interest in the British balance of payments. A complete debacle in Iran can mean a loss in the British balance with the world of $300 million. It is not important that we and our allies are as one in the methods of carrying out our policy of stopping Soviet aggression, as is the policy itself. The key to that is economic advancement in the underdeveloped countries, not economic disintegration brought on for whatever reasons by economic pressures and sanctions.

Former United States Ambassador to Iran.
San Francisco, Calif.

What Went Wrong in Iran? | Amb. Henry Grady Tells All (1952)
What Went Wrong in Iran? | Saturday Evening Post, Jan. 5, 1952

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Related links:

Statement on AIOC Mission to Iran | House of Lords, June 20, 1951

The Spirit of Mossadegh | Letter to The Washington Post, Dec. 1979

Letter: Negotiations In Iran | The Washington Post, Aug. 6, 1951

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