He Wants the Whole Cake

October 17, 1952 — The Calgary Herald

The Mossadegh Project | May 30, 2023                

A scorching editorial on Iran in The Calgary Herald newspaper (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), followed by a far more judicious letter to the editor.

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Persia has broken off diplomatic relations with Britain, which should demonstrate once and for all the utter futility of trying to do business with a madman.

For the past eighteen months, ever since Persia stole one billion dollars worth of British property, the world has watched with incredulity the nonstop Tehran performance in which tears, hysteria and generally psychopathic antics have been substituted for the calmness, fairness, honesty and sanity essential for any settlement of the oil dispute.

The plain fact, which was plain long ago to practically everybody but the American State Department, is that it is a waste of time and energy, trying to deal reasonably with Persia as long as Persia remains in the trembling hands of a man as mentally irresponsible as Mossadegh obviously is.

The reactions of London and Washington to Mossadegh’s latest tailspin are precisely what one would have expected. London was not the least surprised. London has never been surprised by the whirling dervish in Tehran. Washington was shocked and surprised. The diplomatic break “knocked sky high” efforts to find a solution, and it was really “most unfortunate.”

We wonder if the State Department, at long last, will now realize that dangling dollars and appeasement in front of Mossadegh will get nobody anywhere. The man does not merely want a large slice of the cake. He wants the whole thing. He is not content to meet Britain and discuss a settlement. He insists that Britain pay first and then he will negotiate, afterwards, maybe. Britain, which has forgotten more about dealing with the Middle East than the United States has yet learned, quite rightly will have nothing to do with such ridiculous proposals.

It is difficult to see what Mossadegh hopes to accomplish by his newest move. It will make communication more difficult than ever, but he is surely childishly sanguine if he thinks that the throwing out of British diplomats will cause Britain to relax her vigilant watch over what happens to Persian oil stocks. The blockade will continue, Persia will continue on its idiotic way to national bankruptcy, and there is just a possibility that some group in Persia will become fed up enough to grasp Mossadegh firmly by the scuff of the neck and throw him out. There is no guarantee that any successor could get away with being too friendly toward Britain, but almost anybody would be better than he is, and obviously nothing can be done as long as he remains.

Power is the issue in Persia, and the US should support Britain unwaveringly in forcing a showdown before Russia moves in to fill the vacuum. One thing it might have done recently would have been to restrain some of its fast-cash-hungry nationals from dickering with the crazy man and making the State Department’s stern face look a little silly.

Letter To The Herald
November 3, 1952

The Persian Problem

Editor, The Herald

Persia again. The power of this subject to incite the editor to such emotional tirades aroused my curiosity. Research in a general world history, a set of encyclopaedia, and several current offerings proved most interesting.

The Persian situation has its counterpart in many places in our troubled world, and none of these problems will be solved by ignoring the facts and appealing to emotions, prejudices and natural political friendships or enmities. It would seem most sensible to drop the moral approach (that Persia is stealing) as it is doubtful that Britain’s case would stand close scrutiny on this score. The rationalization that “Britain has forgotten more about dealing with the Middle East than the US has learned,” in the sense that The Herald wishes to imply, is not much help either. It appears that they have forgotten the things they should have remembered.

Using merely the plain historical facts and ignoring national pride and the biased pro- and anti-Asiatic prejudices of today, the hard, cold facts of Britain’s dispute with Iran are these — the British built a very profitable (and now strategic) industry over a period of years, at considerable cost, on a precarious concession, in a country of unstable politics, without ever managing to obtain a clear title.

The problem — how can Britain salvage any of the investment without driving Persia toward Russian domination or plunging the world into a grave international crisis? All we need is a Solomon; does anyone know where the West can get a large, economy-sized model?

A. J. B.,

70th Anniversary of TIME’s 1951 Man of the Year
Challenge of the East: TIME's 1951 Man of the Year Mohammad Mossadegh

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Related links:

Jurisdiction Limited? | St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Letter), Aug. 30, 1951

The Monetary Fund Stabs the British | Calgary Herald, Nov. 15, 1951

Iran’s Oil | The Baltimore Evening Sun (Letter), May 30, 1951

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

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