Blood, Oil and Tears
August 21, 1953 — The Indian Express
While not particularly well crafted, this front page commentary penned one day after the 1953 coup was certainly atypical. It was written by British journalist Norman D. Cliff of London’s News Chronicle, a World War I combat veteran who had not only interviewed but befriended Mahatma Gandhi.
Unlike the majority of the media which cheered for Mossadegh’s replacement, Cliff had little faith in the new Premier, Gen. Zahedi. Neither, ultimately, did the Shah.
NEW PREMIER MAY PLUNGE
IRAN IN BLOOD & TEARS
(By Norman Cliff)
LONDON, August 20.
There is many a slip. Who could have predicted that just as seemingly irrepressible Mossadeq was about to sip the heady wine of absolute power over Iran, the cup would dash from his lips?
Whereas in Egypt the military acted in order to expel a monarch they despised, [King Farouk, 1952] in Iran the soldiers have risen to reinstate a king to whom the higher army class at least is devoted. [Mohammad Reza Pahlavi]
Communism has infiltrated mainly in the rank and file and junior officers who have been unable to rely on regular army pay.
The leader of the Royalist movement, Gen. Zahedi, [Fazlollah Zahedi] has all the daring and cunning needed to outwit Mossadeq, and may prove to possess the ruthlessness necessary to maintain power.
His strength lies: In his position as chairman of the Ex-Officers Association, an influential group to which serving officers also belong.
In his friendly relationship with South Persian tribes whose loyalty to the Shah is reinforced by the fact that he chose the daughter of one of the most powerful tribal chiefs as his second Queen. [Soraya Esfandiari-Bakhtiari]
And in his past experience of political office.
Friends Fall Out
Gen. Zahedi is one of the long list of friends with whom Mossadeq has quarrelled. In the agitation against the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, Gen. Zahedi had to give support to Mossadeq’s National Front. The pair fell out and Gen. Zahedi had to take refuge in the Majlis building. Later, when it was reported that the Shah intended to leave the country, although the ruler relented after the popular outcry, Gen. Zahedi was accused of having engineered the Royalist plot and was arrested.
On being released, Gen. Zahedi went to the hills and it appears he made sure his next plot would be more carefully organized.
A buccaneering type of man inclined to elegance in attire, the new boss of Iran has not exactly endearing qualities.
Although well-traveled and fluent in French but weak in English, he has no particular liking for foreigners; and, past experience is not calculated to cause him to entertain any strong passion for Britain.
When in command of Iranian forces in Ispahan [Esfahan] in 1942, during World War II, Zahedi he was suspected to be planning with Germans rising against allied occupation forces. The plot was nipped in the bud and Gen. Zahedi was kidnapped by Brig. Fitzroy MacLean, now a conservative M.P. in Britain.
Describing “Operation Pongo” in his book “Eastern Approaches,” MacLean wrote: “As we approached Zahedi’s house at the gate the sentry was in deep conversation with Laurence Lockhart, a Persia linguist from the R.A.F. Intelligence, [Royal Air Force Intelligence] whose services I had enlisted for the occasion. On our appearance the sentry reluctantly put out the cigarette Lockhart had given him, broke off his conversation and presented arms. We went on up the drive and drew up in front of the house.
When, a couple of minutes later, Zahedi, a dapper figure in tight fitting grey uniform and highly polished boots, entered the room, he found himself looking down the barrel of my colt automatic. Then I took away his pistol and hustled him through the window into a car. As he passed the guardroom, the sentry want to get interrupted his conversation to present arms and Zahedi, sitting upright with my pistol pressed against his ribs, returned the salute.”
He was released in 1945 after the Allied victory in Europe.
Now he strides the Persian stage as leading actor and, holding out promises of reforms to the peasantry of the benighted land, reveals himself as a shrewd calculator.
For, only if ruthlessness is tempered by radical remedial measures will the regime stand any chance of surviving.
Mossadeq cost Iran dearly in cash. Zahedi may cost an incalculable sum in blood and tears. The Iranian people are the sufferers whichever way it goes.