The "People of the Week" section of this issue of weekly magazine U.S. News & World Report profiled Soviet diplomat Jacob A. Malik and Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, the new Iranian Premier. It observed that despite appearances, Mossadegh is a man who must be taken seriously.
WEAK MAN, STRONG MAN
> Mohammed Mossadegh, the aging Prime Minister of Iran, took office scarcely two months ago as an international laughing stock.
His reputation was that of an Oriental fanatic, an ascetic given to demagoguery, emotional speeches, outbursts of weeping and spells of fainting. He was known as a foe of all foreigners and leader of the movement to expropriate the country's rich, British-controlled oil industry.
On balance, Mossadegh was put down as comic relief in a growing crisis, a weakling tossed up by the turbulence of Iranian politics, one who would not last long. Now, however, Mossadegh has forced much of the world to alter that opinion of him.
In the Iranian oil crisis, he proved a man of immovable determination. He withstood the heavy pressures that a worried U.S. and Great Britain piled upon him. Mossadegh had been preaching nationalization and Iran for the Iranians too long to come readily to any modification of his stand.
With a mind unworried by the details of international economics, he simply believes that, if Iran owns and sells its own oil, all of that country's problems will be solved. Without any foreign assistance, which he opposes, Iran, he thinks, then can institute the reforms he long has expounded–better housing, improved agriculture and sanitation, and increased food supply, reduced illiteracy.
Mossadegh has urged this program over the decades, without many to listen to him. But his emphasis always has been on oil as the master key. And recently his program has provoked heady medicine for the underprivileged masses of his nation, attuned to the rising nationalism of the East and Middle East.
For years, Iran has been dominated by ex-businessman, bankers, landlords and officeholders, about one sixteenth of the population. These groups, and not the masses, have been represented in the Majlis, or national assembly. Despite receipts from oil, the Iranian budget has been badly out of balance. Salaries of officeholders account for some 85 percent of expenditures. Raging inflation has multiplied graft and corruption.
There are no political parties in the Western sense, merely groupings about popular leaders, or powerful cliques. One of the popular leaders of late has been Mossadegh. His National Front group holds only seven seats in the Majlis, but it is commonly said that these seven are the only members to have been elected honestly.
Then there is the Tudeh Party, Communist dominated and banned by the Government, looking to nearby Russia for help. Its numbers are small, but it is tightly organized. Experts on Iran believe it is strong enough to take over the country in a period of turmoil and perhaps eventually provide Russia with a large oil supply and a gateway to conquest in the Middle East.
Mossadegh is as firmly opposed to Russia as he is to Great Britain and the U.S. [?] He simply is against foreign intervention, and he came to power through a recent alliance with like-minded Moslem priests, who added an aura of sanctity to his already popular movement.
The Prime Minister, product of a wealthy family, educated in Paris, Brussels and Switzerland [correction — not Brussels], has been in and out of the Majlis since 1921. At intervals he also has held several Cabinet posts.
But he always was for reform. He heckled the father of the present Shah so vigorously, at one point, that he was exiled.
He returned during the last war to find Iran overrun with Allied troops. Back in the Majlis by 1944, he renewed his antiforeign campaign. In recent tumultuous months, one Prime Minister was assassinated and another forced out of office for opposing oil nationalization. Mossadegh fearfully took the job.
In a trembling, teary speech he told the Majlis that his life had been threatened, and disclosed, to the laughter of many members, that he was packing a revolver. Then he fainted. For the next fortnight, for safety’s sake, Mossadegh lived in the Parliament building.
Many contend that the Iranian crisis would have been averted if the British had been more generous in their oil terms and the U.S. had supplied big Point Four loans. Now, if Mossadegh has his way, it is too late for such measures. He has a long record of opposition to loans from the United States. And now the strength of will that underlies the trembling, the tears and the fainting has been put to a stern test.