After Mossadegh The Deluge
The Alsop Brothers — August 13, 1952
Famed journalist duo the Alsop Brothers — Joseph Alsop and Stewart Alsop — assess the danger in Iran.
“The total economic collapse of the Mossadegh regime cannot be allowed to happen, simply because the alternative would almost certainly be a great deal worse than Mossadegh.”
Iranian Situation Termed ‘Desperate’
BY JOSEPH AND STEWART ALSOP
WASHINGTON D.C.—The danger in iran is now rated “desperate” by the State Department. The danger is, of course, the capture of Iran by Iran’s Communist-controlled Tudeh party, which would drastically alter the world balance of power in favor of the Soviet Union. The problem of dealing effectively with this danger is so immensely difficult that it has already split the American Government from top to bottom, and threatens to cause an open break on Middle Eastern policy between this country and Great Britain.
In order to deal with the danger, the State Department has actually proposed Anglo-American economic support for the regime of Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh to the British Foreign Office. The British Cabinet is now anxiously discussing this American proposal. It goes without saying that the notion of supporting Mossadegh, the very symbol of Middle Eastern nationalism and hatred of Britain, is hardly welcome to the British. But what has happened very recently in Iran explains why the American proposal has been made.
Since the ignominious collapse of the short-lived regime of former Premier Ahmed Qavam [Ahmad Ghavam] a few weeks ago, the only remaining visible alternative to Mossadegh in Iran is a wrinkled old man with a long beard and a permanent grin, the Mullah Kashani. [Ayatollah Seyed Abolghassem Kashani] Kashani wants to turn the Iranian clock back all the way to the fifteenth century, transforming Iran into a Moslem theocracy, ruled by the Mullah Kashani. His chief instrument to this end is the Fedayan Islam, [Feda’ian Islam] a "Murder Inc." consisting of the slum-dwelling bully-boys and priestly assassins. But in order to gain power, Kashani is perfectly willing to ally himself with the Communist Tudeh party. He did just this when the Fedayan Islam and the Tudeh together rioted bloodily in the streets to force Qavam out of power.
Qavam went to the palace to plead with the Shah to call out the army. The Shah was afraid to do so—one exasperated diplomat in Tehran was heard to observe “when they took out the Shah’s appendix a few months back they must have taken out his guts with it.” After four days in power, Qavam fled for his life, and Mossadegh came back. Instantly, Kashani took full credit for this outcome. He dictated his own election as President of the Iranian Parliament, and he is so powerful that Mossadegh is now in danger of becoming a mere captive of this ignorant and bloodthirsty old man.
This is the real reason for Mossadegh’s demand for dictatorial powers and martial law. Mossadegh and Kashani have long been joined in an uneasy alliance, because Kashani’s thugs have been useful in putting the fear of God into Mossadegh’s opponents. But Mossadegh has long suspected Kashani’s real purpose—about four months ago he even promised the Shah to kick Kashani out of the country. [based on what evidence?] And now Mossadegh badly needs the means to control Kashani—and Kashani’s Communist allies. Kashani professes to be anti-Communist, but he often talks something very close to the straight Moscow line, as he did to one of these reporters in Iran last autumn. He says airily of the Communists “I will chew them up and then swallow them and spit out the parts I don’t want”. Observers on the spot have no doubt at all that the Communists would ultimately do the swallowing. Meanwhile, Kashani and his fanatical Moslem followers are preparing the way for the Communists, busily stirring the peasants and the slum-dwellers to a mood of revolt. Kashani is, in brief, the very prototype of a Middle East Kerensky. [deposed Russian leader Alexander Kerensky]
Yet Mossadegh’s regime is in immediate danger of economic chaos and disintegration. If it collapses, the way will be open to Kashani—and Kashani’s unswallowable allies. This prospect recently caused the State Department policy makers to study carefully the probable consequences of a Communist capture of Iran. They decided that it “could not be tolerated.” Communist control of Iran would make up the Soviet oil deficits and give the Soviets an almost unchallengeable position in the strategically vital Middle East.
At the same time the Joint Chiefs of Staff also considered Iran. They had a good look at American world commitments and they ruled that no American forces could be spared to prevent an internal Communist seizure of Iran. This left the American government saying that a Communist capture of Iran could not be tolerated, but that nothing much would be done to prevent it. The planners were reduced to considering such hopeless experiments as covert support of the Iranian tribesmen, in case the Communists took power. The conclusion was obvious. The total economic collapse of the Mossadegh regime cannot be allowed to happen, simply because the alternative would almost certainly be a great deal worse than Mossadegh. Hence the proposal to the British.
The probable British reaction may be judged from the fact that British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden recently protested angrily to Secretary of State Dean Acheson against the American Point 4 program in Iran, on the grounds that the program strengthened the villainous Mossadegh. Moreover, the British have perfectly solid ground for complaint against past American policy in Iran. But as things stand, there is surely logic in the American view that it is more important to keep Iran out of Soviet hands than to pay off old scores against Mossadegh.
Old Man and Young Man — Stewart Alsop, December 10, 1951
Iran Flirts With Reds Again — The Independent Record, October 11, 1952
Iran Stays on Skids — U.S. editorial, July 25, 1952
MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”