Sincere As Well As Stupid

May 16, 1951 — Douglas Wilkie

The Mossadegh Project | January 12, 2018                           

Biased, oversimplified commentary, filled with inaccuracies, from Australian journalist Douglas Wilkie of The Sun News-Pictorial in his syndicated column on foreign affairs.

Australian media archive

As I See It
By Douglas Wilkie

If British paratroops move into Persia it will be in the role of police more than soldiers. Their mission will be to protect British lives, and to save the world’s largest petrol refinery, with its £300m. worth of equipment, from being reduced to rubble by riot and arson.

An operation of this kind is extremely ticklish. There’s nothing in Persia, save bad communications, to prevent 4,000 resolute troops going where they will and occupying any point they choose.

The Persian army is a rabble, the townsfolk cowardly, and national morale non-existent. The gunmen behind Premier Mossadeq have terrorised the Government, but they would skulk in hiding at the first real show of force.

Only the rural tribes have any martial ardor, and most of them would be just as happy cutting the throats of politicians in Tehran as opposing the British, or, for that matter, the Russians.

But Britain cannot, at this stage of history, set about the full military invasion of a vast country like Persia. It would involve them in unlimited garrison commitments. It would provoke nationalist sentiment, not merely within Persia, but throughout the Middle East.

Last but not least it would give the Russians a pretext to march into North Persia to help in the task of ‘restoring order.’

The Russians, unlike the British, have a well organised fifth column in Persia to whom they could hand over the ‘order’ they had restored.

The revolutionary Tudeh Party is not Communist in Stalin’s concept of the term, but good enough for his purposes.

Premier Mossadeq is a rich, educated landowner, over 70, [he was 68] who has dedicated his life to ridding Persia of all foreigners. He thinks that nationalisation of the oil industry is the best way to achieve his ambitions.

He attributes all Persia’s poverty to foreign intrigue and influence, and in this he may be sincere as well as stupid; but he is surrounded by a gang of criminals, religious fanatics and adventurers who are using him for their own purposes.

The volatile populace of Tehran has no chance of judging the dispute on its merits, because all the news papers have swung to the support of the Mossadeq gang. Persian editors are always willing to print any thing as long as suitable payment is made, and threats of assassination have made them even more amenable than usual.

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It is also easy to buy a ‘student riot’ in Tehran or Abadan for a small sum, and it only remains for someone to buy the police and army as well, or lose control of them, and oil wells and refineries could go up in flames overnight.

This would be the ruin of Persia, which draws £2m. a month in oil royalties, but national ruin is of small account in the reckoning of fanatics like Mossadeq.

Not only is Britain’s largest oversea investment at stake, but the whole structure of Western policy and strategy in the Middle East.


Related links:

Mossadeq’s Dream | The Goulburn Evening Post, May 23, 1951

As I See It by Vee Cee | Sunday Times column, 1951-1953

A Lesson In Oil | The Toledo Blade, May 4, 1951

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

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