June 28, 1951 — The Sydney Morning Herald
The Sydney Morning Herald of Sydney, Australia presents their opinions on the oil nationalization fight between Iran and Britain in this vintage 1951 editorial.
The Road To Disaster In Persia
When the U.S. Secretary of State, Mr. Acheson, [Dean G. Acheson] declared that the oil situation in Persia was moving “directly along the road to disaster,” he voiced the fears of millions of people in all the democracies. Mr. Morrison, however, still tries to keep his judgment suspended between the heaven of hope and the cruel earth of reality. [British Foreign Secretary Herbert Morrison] Even now he is content to describe the latest developments in Persia as “very serious.”
The facts go far beyond this understatement. A complete cessation of operations at Abadan is inevitable within a few days, unless the Teheran Government drastically revises its policy. Of that there is not the slightest sign. Dr. Mussadiq recently proclaimed that he would sooner do without any oil than have dealings with the Anglo-Iranian Company, and he and his colleagues have pursued that line of bankrupt statesmanship. It is not nationalisation alone that the Persian politicians want, but naked and unashamed expropriation as well.
All the thunder and lightning about national rights cannot divert attention from the central legal fact. This is that the exercise of sovereignty in oil nationalisation is not more valid than the expression of that same sovereignty in a freely negotiated agreement. [It was not “a freely negotiated agreement.”] Persia’s unilateral abrogation of a binding international contract has been correctly challenged in the World Court at The Hague. But the Court’s jurisdiction is flouted by the Mussadiq Government.
The Attlee Cabinet [Prime Minister Clement Attlee] has shrunk from using force to safeguard the company’s installations at Abadan and elsewhere in the concession. The warships and troops that are now “handy” appear to have no other duty than the protection of lives, should the present precarious position of the British technicians and their families become positively dangerous. Meanwhile, every foreign worker, and any Persian loyal to the company, is threatened by the drastic penalties of the so-called Anti-sabotage Bill.
Two circumstances, among others, seem to have influenced the British Foreign Secretary in his excessive caution. One is that the necessary military forces are not available, the other, that he fears Russia may use British intervention in Southern Persia as a pretext to occupy other parts of the country. But surely abandonment of Abadan will cause such dislocation in Persia as to create the most favourable conditions for a Communist coup. The establishment of a Government dominated by the Tudeh Party would open the way for Soviet control far more dangerously than the armed protection of British interests.