Oil • England • Iran • & Shakespeare?
Foreign Concessions of Resources
A Series of Letters in The Buffalo Courier-Express (1954)
“One wonders where Mexico could be today if she had not pulled a Mossadegh some years ago...” — Courier-Express reader, 1954
Near the very end of the year 1953, the deposed Prime Minister of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, was sentenced in military court to three years of solitary confinement. The whole sorry tale had begun in April 1951, when his government nationalized the oil installations of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), enraging both the English firm and its principal (51%) owners, the self-entitled British government.
Mossadegh’s political epitaph sparked a lively discussion in the "Morning Mail" section of the historic Buffalo, New York newspaper The Buffalo Courier-Express, beginning with a pseudonymous letter to the Editor from Arcturus. The letter was replied to by one Stan Cowie, who, sorely misinformed about Iran’s intentions when it nationalized her oil, objected to the practice completely. One stray comment there set off literary connossieur and consummate anglophile Katharine Newell on an unbridled Shakespeare tangent, whose passion for the bard and the Engish countryside from which he once roamed could not be contained.
Oil, paleontology, international commerce, and William Shakespeare...there you have it.
Tuesday, December 29, 1953
Britain’s Gains from Iranian Oil Draw Censure . . .
No Extra Holidays Wanted . . . Prayer, Strength
Asserts Britain Got Riches Through Antiquity’s Doings
Editor, Buffalo Courier-Express:
It is small wonder that the British were rich for a long time when you think of the fact that Great Britain not only made money out of current trading for hundreds of years but even took advantage of what occurred in the Paleozoic and Mezazoic geological ages. And it is no wonder that former Premier Mossadegh got angry and cancelled the concessions of Britain in Iran.
I came upon some interesting information in Colliers encyclopedia while reading about Iran recently. The article said:
“During the Paleozoic and Mezazoic geological periods, the depression of which the Persian Gulf is the remnant, often extended far north into modern Turkey and westward to the great Arabian Shield. Frequent lateral pressure caused a progressive lowering of the trough, which received continuous deposits of sedimentary material including huge quantities of organic compounds. These formations eventually reached an over-all depth of 6,500 feet. With the upthrusting of the Iranian Plateau, these sedimentary rocks were folded, raised and slightly eroded. The organic materials were compressed and changed into petroleum which evaporated in some areas, but which elsewhere was caught in traps and domes along the anticline. Which follows the contours of the Iranian foothills.”
When you begin making money, even under contract, in someone else’s country because of what happened in antiquity, you might be on the right track to wealth but you’re only too likely to run into political trouble. I’ll bet Britain wouldn’t sell us the Shakespeare country as a tourist attraction even though the Bard’s works are now practically considered a common heritage.
Monday, January 4, 1954
Says New Year Greeted More Noisily in 1930s. . .
Resolution for Phoning . . . Nations, Resources
On Developing Resources
Editor, Buffalo Courier-Express:
In Countries of Others
In answer to Arcturus’ letter regarding Britain and Iran, I should like to add: If a country does not have the means, or is so indolent that it cannot or will not develop its resources, it has the choice of bartering the material with outside interests and receiving the benefits therefrom or leaving them untouched. Iran took the former course and British interests were the buyers. They poured millions of dollars into this business. Then Mossadegh approaches with his rule-of-thumb methods and offers them a paltry sum to sell out or else. All considered the sum offered didn’t even cover the cost of plant.
Overlooking the legal contract, one can point the finger at Britain and say that for the profit she was receiving in the world market she failed to compensate the Iranians fully, although what she had been doing for local education and other social improvements was considered quite beneficent by other oil companies.
Had there been a rambunctious ruler in Arabia this could have been the lot of our interests there; instead we took the cue and gave the Arabs bigger shares. That Arcturus should expect, and condone, this grabbing attitude without arbitration, even to the extent of the International Court, is most unfortunate and contrary to our ideals which we think are best. If a man invests his money and energy in a business he should receive a just return.
What a pathetic state the world would be in today if Mossadeghs kept popping up at every transaction. Canada, Venezuela, Mexico and Arabia are on the march today with progress because they negotiated their resources properly. One wonders where Mexico could be today if she had not pulled a Mossadegh some years ago.
Where “antiquity” comes into the picture, I don’t know. When I buy my gas I like to hear a good price: not a story explaining “How Persian plankton swam here.”
As for selling Shakespeare’s country, I can’t see that happening. We have only to look to the four corners of the earth and see these industrious people to realize that this will never materialize.
To give it away for the benefit of mankind, yes.
Friday, January 8, 1954
Mournful Train Whistles. . .Shakespeare’s Country
. . .Unskillful Driving. . .Kefauver for President
Shakespeare’s Country Recalled
Editor, Buffalo Courier-Express:
in Terms of Bard
Your correspondent, Stan Cowie, writes: “As for selling Shakepeare’s country, I can’t see that happening”—but then he adds: “To give it away for the benefit of mankind, yes.”
This is baffling. How could England give away “Shakespeare’s country?” That is unthinkable, because Shakespeare belongs to the world, and in all languages seems to be liked. Shakespeare is the one man who gave a true picture of Englishmen, unknown to Europe. They were wise, witty, ribald and very human.
This is Shakespeare speaking of his native land: “Set in a silver sea . . . against the envy of less happier lands, this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.” His love of this “blessed plot” was repeated many times in his plays and the wonder of Shakespeare in that as far as we know he traveled little, and yet he could paint the beauty of the seasons, birds and flowers, just as vividly as he did scenes of royal pageantry, or the simple faith of the then very rural peasant. Shakespeare never tried to shut out God.
Shakespeare’s country would not exist outside England. I know the gentle countryside of Kent, Surrey etc. “England bound in with the triumphant sea, whose rocky shores beat back the envious siege.” Where even now the cuckoos echo madly in the woods, larks and nightingales sang above the bombing. I’m told, and “protection” is given to the “pale primrose” and alas the “banks where the wild thyme grows, where ox-lip and the nodding violets grow, etc.,” are being given over to the vegetable growers. Let us who go to England be glad this “blessed plot” of Shakespeare’s country has been spared the ravages of war.
KATHARINE GLASSE NEWELL
Reader Suggests An “Oil Management Plan” For Iran — The Binghamton Press, July 6, 1951
Pres. Eisenhower’s Note Tells Mossadegh the Score — The Buffalo Courier-Express, 6/10/53
Oil Peace in Iran — The Philadelphia Inquirer editorial, November 8, 1954
MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”