“Mossadegh...handles affairs of state with a flair bizarre even by Oriental standards.” — Associated Press, August 26, 1951
“Mohammed Mossadegh est un Oriental typique...” [typical Oriental] — La Patrie, July 24, 1952
“...it seems unnecessary to pretend that this W.O.G. (Wily Oriental Gentleman) in British parlance, is the head of a great democracy or a friend of freedom.” — John Franklin Carter on India’s Jawaharlal Nehru, Sept. 2, 1953
At a time of high Anglo-Iranian tensions, Britain named 46 year-old diplomat Robert Hankey to succeed Sir Francis Shepherd as Ambassador to Iran.
The Iranian government’s rejection of his assumption of the sensitive post was characterized as a slap in the face at the time. Given his past foreign service career, including in Tehran in the early 1940’s, Hankey, despite being the only candidate who spoke Persian, was apparently seen as a man who served colonial British interests and hence unsuitable to help resolve the oil dispute.
The Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat in New York reacted by calling out Premier Mossadegh’s “attitude”, which they attributed to inborn racial tendencies indicative of the crafty Eastern mind, in this editorial published Wednesday, January 23, 1952.
CUTE ORIENTAL TRICK
The news that Iran has refused to accept Robert Hankey as Britain’s Ambassador to Tehran is not only disappointing to Downing Street but should produce some misgivings in our own State Department. Such a rejection is unusual in so far as diplomatic procedure is concerned. That it will further strain the already difficult relations between the two principal governments is certain, and this is a matter for general regret throughout the Western world.
It will be recalled that we ourselves have just given Premier Mossadegh and his government something like $24,000,000 under the Point Four program, without getting in exchange any formal consent to compliance with the conditions laid down in the Mutual Security Act, by the terms of which nations which receive such aid agree to join in promoting international goodwill, and in eliminating causes of international tension.
Mr. Mossadegh’s excuse for his attitude is that it would compromise his country’s independence and its neutrality. From this distance it looks as though the gentleman is playing the United States off against the British, which may be a cute Oriental trick but is hardly the honorable thing to do.
It may be that our strategy is primarily to aid the Iranian people, who unquestionably are being exploited by their own ruling classes, but if this is the case, we may well have our doubts as to the efficacy of our own government’s plan. If Iran is to get the help it really needs, it will have to look to private enterprise rather than to Washington. And investors are not going to be enthusiastic about sinking their money into projects like Iranian oil if the people themselves do not insist that their government shall honor the contracts and agreements into which it enters.