Fishy Business

February 4, 1953 — U.S. Editorial

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | May 24, 2018                   

When Iran opted not to renew its longstanding concession to Russia for the rights to fish in Iranian waters to produce caviar, pundits noted Mossadegh’s firm stance with the Soviet Union approvingly.

This non-syndicated “editorial”, however, turned that narrative on its head, acting as though Mossadegh had given the Soviets preferential treatment — a shameless fabrication.

Bizarrely, another non-syndicated editorial, Caviar A La Mossadegh, distributed in U.S. newspapers simultaneously, took the opposite stance, portraying Iran as principled. The true authors of both uncredited “editorials” probably derived from the same source!

Besides, Iran did not “nationalize” her fisheries, she merely halted the renewal of a contract to extract caviar from them.

Caviar and Oil

Will Iran nationalize the Soviet-Iranian Fisheries Co.? So she says, but when she nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. she didn’t ask the British if she might — she told them. But now she is negotiating politely with Russia.

Iran’s 1927 contract with the Soviet Union provides for nationalization after 25 years, with Iran taking a half interest in the caviar company without compensation and busing the other half from Russia. Now, despite the nationalization announcement, Iran is still engaged in friendly negotiations with Moscow regarding compensation and a possible sales monopoly.

Britain—or rather Anglo-Iranian Oil—had a contract too. Under it the oil properties would have reverted to Iran about 40 years from now. The oil nationalization act broke that contract, in effect saying to the British: “This is ours. We’ll decide for ourselves what is fair compensation. Now get out.” Russia is getting better treatment on the caviar concession.

The oil contract, Iran and Russia smugly agree, was an instance of “imperialist exploitation.” That is debatable. Iran, at any rate, was getting a substantial income from the oil company, and had only to wait to own a billion-dollar property, with no argument about it. The caviar contract with Russia wasn’t as good a deal. It gave Russia 90 per cent of the caviar produced, by the joint company, paying Iran 10 per cent of the profits. What kind of exploitation is that?

Russia isn’t saying. The Russian ambassador in Tehran is quietly negotiating with Premier Mossadegh, and Mossadegh is playing along, with no rabble-rousing talk about unilateral fixing of compensation by Iran. It is interesting to speculate what would have happened if the Russians had held the oil concession and the British and caviar concession, instead of vice versa.

Newspapers that published this editorial included:

The Lebanon Daily News (Lebanon, Pennsylvania) — February 4, 1953 (title: Better Deal For Russia)
The Niagara Falls Gazette (Niagara Falls, New York) — February 5, 1953
The San Mateo Times (San Mateo, California) — February 10, 1953


Related links:

Caviar A La Mossadegh | February 4, 1953 editorial

Persian Caviar | Looking At Life by Erich Brandeis (Feb. 28, 1953)

Iran Oil to Russia | September 26, 1951 editorial

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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