It’s Time to Face Facts About Iran
The Alsop Brothers — August 25, 1951

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | March 28, 2021                               


“...whether we like it or not, America is going to have to stick by Britain in this hideous business in the U.N. and elsewhere.”

The Alsop Brothers — Stewart Alsop (left) and Joseph Alsop

Joseph Alsop and Stewart Alsop — the Alsop Brothers — grimly assessed the Iranian political situation in their syndicated newspaper column Matter Of Fact for The New York Herald Tribune, Inc.

When The Boston Globe published the column, they replaced several paragraphs with new ones (highlighted) and removed some text altogether.

They actually took the liberty of tampering with the brothers’ work and then asserting copyright to "Boston Globe-New York Herald Tribune. Inc.", although readers would not have known of these changes or which parts they wrote. Highly unorthodox, to say the least.




American Obligations in Iran


BY JOSEPH AND STEWART ALSOP

Washington — The storm signals are out again all the way around the world, from Kaesong to Tehran. In the long view, moreover, even breakdown of the Korean truce talks is quite likely to prove less grave than breakdown of the oil talks between the British and Iranians.

The British government is reported to hope that W. Averell Harriman may still manage to patch up some sort of solution of the oil problem. The American policymakers’ feelings about Harriman are the feelings of a busted horse-player about an extreme long shot that may just possibly save the day by beating the favorite in the eighth race. But since miracles cannot be relied on to occur with any regularity, the coarse facts of the Iranian situation had better be faced.

First, if the government of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh cannot be persuaded to accept a sensible oil settlement, the next step will probably be an effort to make a more rational government in Tehran. Delay, self-delusion and other follies have caused the position in Tehran to deteriorate so much that this effort must now be made under the worst imaginable auspices. The British can no longer usefully participate. Thus the whole onus of what will necessarily seem a rather crude intervention in Iranian politics will have to be borne by the Americans. There will be serious disorders, perhaps bloodshed. And the effort may well fail.

Second, if it proves impossible to get an oil settlement by replacing Dr. Mossadegh, the British decision to move troops to occupy Abadan Island (the site of the vital oil refinery) will come into operation. One of these reporters predicted long since that the British would be forced to this decision, if only as an object lesson to the Egyptians and others who are longing to imitate the Iranian experiments with twisting the lion’s tail. In the lull secured by Averell Harriman’s efforts, it leaked out in London that the decision to move troops if need be had actually been taken by Prime Minister Attlee and Winston Churchill in bi-partisan consultation. [Clement Attlee]

Third, if the British move their parachute brigade from Cyprus to Abadan, there will certainly be hard fighting, at least for a while, although the fact that Abadan is an island should prevent a recurrence of the Korean pattern.

Fourth, the Soviets are quite likely to take a British troop movement into south Iran as a pretext for sending Russian troops into north Iran under the vague clauses of the 1921 treaty. Or if the Soviets hold their hands, the Iranian nationalists are even more likely to be replaced at Tehran by the Communist Tudeh party — for the shaky existing structure of the Iranian government can hardly hold together after the shock of a British landing in the south. Meanwhile, the rest of the Middle East will be plunged into sympathetic convulsions.

Fifth, and finally, whether we like it or not, America is going to have to stick by Britain in this hideous business in the U.N. and elsewhere. American strategic-political interests in the Middle East are quite as important as British economic interests. In short, we are in the mess too, up to our necks.

Under the circumstances, prayers for Averell Harriman’s success seem to be in order. So are bouquets for what he has accomplished already, for it must be understood that when the Harriman mission to Iran was first despairingly proposed by Assistant Secretary of State George McGhee, the position seemed even more hopeless than it does today. Most of the American policy makers actually opposed the project at that time, on the ground, so to speak, that there was no use throwing a good Harriman after bad diplomacy.

For years the British had done everything possible to produce an Iranian crisis. Then when the crisis began with the assassination of Gen. Razmara, we on the one hand did everything possible to make the British neurotic and irritable, from indulging in “I told you so” to talking behind their backs. [Premier Ali Razmara, killed March 7, 1951] And on the other hand, we also did everything possible to make the Iranians irrational and intractable, from giving the impression that we would prevent the British from sending troops, to beseeching Dr. Mossadegh to accept American economic aid as a great favor to us.

In the resulting, circumstances, it was no wonder that Harriman was checked, as he now has been, in his effort to bring the British and Iranians together. The wonder is, rather, that he managed to achieve eveh a short interlude of reasonable discussion of the oil problem. It was a little short of miraculous for Harriman to accomplish anything at all. Perhaps, therefore, we may hope that he will now accomplish the larger miracle of finding a way to avoid the chain of consequences outlined above.


The Boston Globe — August 26, 1951

Storm Signals Pointing From Kaesong to Tehran


BY JOSEPH AND STEWART ALSOP

Washington — The storm signals are out again all the way around the world, from Kaesong to Tehran.

In the long view, moreover, even breakdown of the Korean truce talks is quite likely to prove less grave than breakdown of the oil talks between the British and Iranians.

The British government is reported to hope that W. Averell Harriman may still manage to patch up some sort of solution of the oil problem.

The American policymakers’ feelings about Harriman are the feelings of a busted horse-player about an extreme long shot that may just possibly save the day by beating the favorite in the eighth race.

But since miracles cannot be relied on to occur with any regularity, the coarse facts of the Iranian situation had better be faced.

First, since the government of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh has refused to accept a sensible oil settlement, it is hoped that the Shah of Iran may be able to bring in a more rational government. The Harriman mission has certainly cleared the air at Tehran enough to make this possible.

Leading Iranians (including probably the unfortunate Dr. Mossadegh himself, who is a prisoner of his own demagoguery) now at last understands the realities of their situation. The Iranian treasury is barer than Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard. It can be richly replenished with 50,000,000 pounds annually by a deal with the British.

These facts alone are enough to exercise great and persuasive pressure for governmental changes. But it is also possible that the cornered Dr. Mossadegh will seek economic aid from the Soviet on suitable terms, of course or that he will obstinately cling to power until the bankrupt state machinery simply disintegrates, making way for the Communist Tudeh party.

Even if the Shah changes Prime Ministers, the situation has been permitted to deteriorate so long and so seriously, that there are certain to be grave Tudeh-inspired disorders, and perhaps a revolution, attempted or successful.


The British can no longer usefully participate. Thus the whole onus of what will necessarily seem a rather crude intervention in Iranian politics will have to be borne by the Americans. There will be serious disorders, perhaps bloodshed. And the effort may well fail.

Second, if it proves impossible to get an oil settlement by replacing Dr. Mossadegh, the British decision to move troops to occupy Abadan Island (the site of the vital oil refinery) will come into operation.

One of these reporters predicted long since that the British would be forced to this decision, if only as an object lesson to the Egyptians and others who are longing to imitate the Iranian experiments with twisting the lion’s tail.

In the lull secured by Averell Harriman’s efforts, it leaked out in London that the decision to move troops if need be had actually been taken by Prime Minister Attlee and Winston Churchill in bi-partisan consultation. [Clement Attlee]

Third, if the British move their parachute brigade from Cyprus to Abadan, there will certainly be hard fighting, at least for a while, although the fact that Abadan is an island should prevent a recurrence of the Korean pattern.

Fourth, the Soviets are quite likely to take a British troop movement into south Iran as a pretext for sending Russian troops into north Iran under the vague clauses of the 1921 treaty.

Or if the Soviets hold their hands, the Iranian nationalists are even more likely to be replaced at Tehran by the Communist Tudeh party — for the shaky existing structure of the Iranian government can hardly hold together after the shock of a British landing in the south.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Middle East will be plunged into sympathetic convulsions.

Fifth, and finally, whether we like it or not, America is going to have to stick by Britain in this hideous business in the U.N. and elsewhere.

American strategic-political interests in the Middle East are quite as important as British economic interests. In short, we are in the mess too, up to our necks.

Under the circumstances, prayers for Averell Harriman’s success seem to be in order. So are bouquets for what he has accomplished already, for it must be understood that when the Harriman mission to Iran was first despairingly proposed by Assistant Secretary of State George McGhee, the position seemed even more hopeless than it does today.

Most of the American policy makers actually opposed the project at that time, on the ground, so to speak, that there was no use throwing a good Harriman after bad diplomacy.

For years the British had done everything possible to produce an Iranian crisis. Then when the crisis began with the assassination of Gen. Razmara, we on the one hand did everything possible to make the British neurotic and irritable, from indulging in “I told you so” to talking behind their backs. [Premier Ali Razmara, killed March 7, 1951]

And on the other hand, we also did everything possible to make the Iranians irrational and intractable, from giving the impression that we would prevent the British from sending troops, to beseeching Dr. Mossadegh to accept American economic aid as a great favor to us.

In the resulting, circumstances, it was no wonder that Harriman was checked, as he now has been, in his effort to bring the British and Iranians together.

The wonder is, rather, that he managed to achieve eveh a short interlude of reasonable discussion of the oil problem. It was a little short of miraculous for Harriman to accomplish anything at all.

Perhaps, therefore, we may hope that he will now accomplish the larger miracle of finding a way to avoid the chain of consequences outlined above.

Alternate titles:

Thunderheads
THUNDERHEADS IN IRAN
Fighting Feared In Iran
Facing Facts in Iran — Only a Miracle Will Save Critical Situation From Becoming Fatal



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Related links:

Iran Highlights Middle East Unrest | Alsop Brothers, March 5, 1953

Grady to Report U.S. Must Lead In Middle East | Doris Fleeson, Sept. 26, 1951

Point Four Activities in Iran Under Heavy Fire | Constantine Brown, Aug. 12, 1952



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