Newspaperman Marquis W. Childs (1902-1990) reacts to news of the overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran in his nationally syndicated column. Childs, who viewed Mideast nationalism as a threat to Western economic interests, had previously described the popular Premier as “weepy”, “shaky”, and “muddled”.
WASHINGTON — Now that the dust has settled in Iran, policymakers here are studying reports from Americans on the scene. They have come to two conclusions.
Iran’s New Regime -- The West’s Last Chance
1. The new regime backing Shah Riza Pahlevi [sic—Mohammad Reza Pahlavi] is secure in most of the country. One or two wavering tribes were considered a threat for a time but even this threat is believed subsiding. The leaders of the pro-Communist Tudeh Party are going underground.
2. The new government of Gen. Zahedi [Fazlollah Zahedi] is a fortuitous last chance for the West. Without a quick rescue operation and a realistic settlement of the oil dispute with Britain’s Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, its lease on life will be short.
When the shah said that Iran was broke, he didn’t know the half of it. An examination of the government’s books will reveal a financial condition worse than the young ruler could have known in the months when he was a virtual prisoner in his palace. While former Premier Mossadegh wept and fainted and procrastinated, the country’s financial reserves melted away. In the State Department it is believed that temporary aid can be furnished Iran to see the government through the immediate crisis. Far more difficult is a settlement of the three-year-old oil dispute.
Americans following the situation from day to day and almost from hour to hour are warning against any easy assumption that opinion in Iran has switched in favor of the British. They say that nationalism is just as intense and the hatred of the foreign policy company correspondingly great. On the news of Mossadegh’s overthrow Anglo-Iranian stock bounced up eight points from a low of 12. But Americans believe the optimism this reflects is, to say the least, premature.
GEN. ZAHEDI, the new premier, has had a checkered career and the West can bank on his loyalty just as long as the West gives him tangible support. The general was the central figure in one of the fantastic cloak and dagger episodes of World War II.
At the time that the Nazi forces were pressing the British hard in North Africa, there was also a threat that Hitler would try to take Iran with help from within. Fitzroy MacLean, now a Conservative member of Parliament and then one of Britain’s chief intelligence operators, was in Iran to try to help foil just such a plot. Word came that Zahedi was working with Nazi agents in preparation for a coup opening the way to drive out the Allies.
MacLean received orders to kidnap Zahedi, preferably alive, and get him out of the country for the duration of the war. As he tells the story in his memoirs, it was high adventure with touches of comedy. Although his residence in Isfahan was surrounded by guards, Zahedi was seized at gunpoint, driven to a secret desert air field and flown to Palestine.
A search of his rooms was revealing. MacLean found opium, an illustrated catalogue of the prostitutes of Isfahan, much silk underwear and most significantly the documentary proof of his working alliance with the Nazis. The kidnapping had come just in time.
WHAT HAPPENS in the next days and weeks in Iran will be watched with the closest interest throughout the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The question will be whether America will now go to bat for a government at least temporarily friendly. Here is a quick appraisal of three of the trouble centers in the vast area where the balance between chaos and stability, Communism and at least a relative freedom, is so narrowly held.
Egypt—The talks between the Egyptians over the British position in the Suez Canal Zone are believed to be going better. The Egyptians are deeply suspicious of a plot entered into by American and British oil companies to control Iran and the Middle East. As with Zahedi in Iran, the government of Premier Naguib [Gen. Muhammad Naguib] is probably a last chance for the West. There is great impatience with the small amount of American aid.
India and Pakistan—Ten days ago the dispute over Kashmir was at such a boiling point that observers believed widespread rioting and bloodshed, not unlike that at the time when Pakistan was partitioned, would occur. The agreement on a plebiscite in Kashmir has eased the tension. The American stand against India participating in a Korean political conference has brought Arabs and Asians closer in a common bond of resentment.
Indonesia—A new government headed by Ali Sastroamidjojo, former ambassador to Washington, is trying to bolster the shaky government apparatus. There is deep resentment over the fact the United States has not named a new ambassador, the position having been vacated last November.