High and Dry

October 21, 1952 — Douglas Wilkie

The Mossadegh Project | June 13, 2021                          

A commentary on Iranian oil by Australian journalist Douglas Wilkie of The Sun News-Pictorial in his syndicated column on foreign affairs, As I See It.

Australian media archive

As I See It
By Douglas Wilkie

Some oil experts are playing with a fascinating possibility.

The huge expansion of output at the Kuwait oil fields on the other side of the Persian Gulf, opposite Bahrein, can’t be explained, they argue, merely by Anglo-Iranian’s anxiety to make up on the Kuwait swings what they lost on Mossadeq’s roundabouts. [Bahrain] It is probably due to the fact that oil is flowing there under the sea from the disused Persian fields.

If this goes on, Mossadeq will be left high and dry. The theory is feasible. Oil, like Australia’s artesian waters, exists in vast regional basins. Draw it off in one place, and the gush loses its force in another.

By the same token, Russia’s fear of Western oil exploration in North Persia is scientific as well as strategic. Take oil out of the ground one side of the Caucasus, and Russian wells on the other side near Batum, which, are already showing signs of exhaustion, might run dry overnight.

The idea of the tear-jerking Mossadeq being left high and dry is amusing, of course, except to impoverished Persians. What spoils the laugh is the certainty that almost every other party to the dispute would be left high and dry politically. Britain is well aware of this.

The Foreign Office has failed in its policy of leaving Persians to stew in their own unrefined juice. It has failed in attempts to obtain adequate “compensation” for the loss of Abadan.

Although huge sums are involved, the money is not so important as the prestige.

Give way to Mossadeq in Persia, runs the British argument, and all the other oil-producing countries in the Middle-East will set about driving out foreign concessionaires.

At present these Arab States view Mossadeq’s plight as unenviable. But come to terms with him, and he would be in a position which all good Arab nationalists would envy.

Americans see this danger, too, but the State Department, if not the US oil companies, believe that it can be overcome. Hence those anxious US efforts, both direct and indirect, to bring Mossadeq and the British together.

Even if Mossadeq has to be dangerously “appeased” the position in Arabia and Iraq can still be saved, the US State Department believes, if the local people there are given a spectacular share of technical and managerial effort, no less than a division of the spoils by way of royalties.

The question now is the time factor. If the Mossadeq regime falls to Communist social revolution in the next few weeks there may be no time for the West to sponsor a social revolution of its own in Iraq and Arabia before the whole Middle East bubbles over in sympathy with Persia and Egypt.

Mossadeq is aware of his own peril in this 11th-hour skin game. He is desperately trying to force through a programme of land reform, to forestall his Tudeh enemies. But he lacks young and patriotic army officers to help him — of the type who backed Naguib in Egypt. [Gen. Mohammed Naguib]

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Related links:

More Oil in Middle East | Lawrence Daily Journal-World, Dec. 29, 1951

“If British paratroops move into Persia...” | Douglas Wilkie (1951)

Persian Oil | The Geraldton Guardian, September 1, 1951

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

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