Tudeh: Iran’s Pro-Soviet Nuisance

Mossadegh Reprimands Misguided Communists (1944)

Ebrahim Norouzi, MD

The Mossadegh Project | October 11, 2011                    

Soviet oil concession map

Years before the challenge of oil nationalization in Iran, another thorny subject — that of the Soviet Union’s oil concession demand in Iran’s northern territory — came up for deliberation in the 14th Majles.

The odd thing was, there was no guarantee that the “north oil” reserve the Soviets coveted had even been proven to exist. To many observers, their intent had less to do with oil than Cold War maneuvering; an attempt to acquire a foothold across northern Iran, from Azerbaijan to Khorasan, amounting to a strategic buffer zone.

These developments alarmed the first Tehran deputy in the Majles, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh. Arguing strongly against such measures, he said that if the Soviets are really interested in Iranian oil, they should make a commercial agreement to purchase it. To forestall any rash decisions by the Iranian government, Mossadegh fast-tracked a bill through the legislative body forbidding any discussion about oil concessions to any country without the Majles’ prior consent. The bill passed with broad support, despite noisy protest by Tudeh (Communist) party representatives.

Actually, the issue placed Tudeh party leaders in a typically absurd position: defending the Soviets, while simultaneously opposing oil concessions to America for the Baluchestan region, and calling for the nationalization of the British owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (which they had previously opposed). The British, too, were encouraging then Prime Minister Ahmad Ghavam to go along with the Soviet’s request, fearing that its rejection would weaken their own southern oil concession in Abadan.

In response to the Tudeh’s pro-Moscow agitating, Dr. Mossadegh was compelled to directly address its deputies during a December 20, 1944 Majles session:1

“I am all in favor of the rules that protect the struggling class. I have no other ideology except that. I don’t want to allow any worker to become poor and destitute for the sake of higher profit for any financier. My criticism of you is that you do not separate ideology from politics. Every country has parties and each party has its own ideology. Sharing ideology with any party in any country does not mean a common policy... Therefore there is no problem sharing the idea of helping the underclass with others as long as the policies are tailored to one’s national character.

Simply put, if you claim to be Socialist, then why are you ready to sacrifice the interest of your own country for the sake of Soviet Russia?”

The Tudeh’s notion that the Northern provinces should be recognized as the legitimate right of the Russians further infuriated Mossadegh. Ehsan Tabari, the leading hard-line Tudeh theoretician, summed up this view in a party newspaper at the time, “...We should once and for all learn this truth that the northern part of the country is tantamount to the Soviet’s “Security Zone” and this government [Soviet Union] will never accept the creation of a hostile set up there against it in the name of oil”.2

Forty-five years later, Tudeh leader and former Majles member Iraj Eskandari recalled this period — and the position his party took — with profound regret. In his memoirs,3 he told of a particular episode between him and Dr. Mossadegh that affected him:

“One day we went to talk with Dr. Mossadegh at his house...I said to him that ultimately this issue [should be considered] as part of the Soviet’s Security Zone.

Dr. Mossadegh said to me:“What did you say? The Security Zone?” ...He then took out a ghalam tarash
[small folded knife used for tasks like sharpening pencils], opened it and told me: “You are like my son, but if the word “Security Zone” comes out of your mouth one more time, I’ll cut your tongue with this!”

I replied, “How come?” He said,“The north is Russia’s security zone and the south is the British security zone and who knows who owns the west, then what belongs to us? Where is Iran’s Security Zone? Why are you uttering these words? ...You [should] protect your country...these are not honorable things to say.”

After hearing Mossadegh, Eskandari wrote, “For the first time, I thought about what he said and realized that he is correct, why we are expressing this? I apologized to Mossadegh...and tried to never use those words again.”


1 The Fate of Dr. Mossadegh’s Companions — Abdolreza Houshang Mahdavi, Tehran 2004
(Translated by Ebrahim Norouzi © The Mossadegh Project)

2 Ehsan Tabari in People for Intellectuals newspaper, #12, November 10, 1944
(Translated by Ebrahim Norouzi © The Mossadegh Project)

3 Political Memoirs — Iraj Eskandari, Tehran 1989
(Translated by Ebrahim Norouzi © The Mossadegh Project)

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