“Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish...”
Edgar Ansel Mowrer, Unprincipled Journalist
Slandered Mossadegh With Impunity For Over a Decade

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | June 13, 2014                    

Edgar Ansel Mowrer — journalist, foreign correspondent and commentator Edgar Ansel Mowrer (1892-1977) was a foreign correspondent, author, lecturer and columnist who in 1933 won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize, completed the anti-Nazi book Germany Puts the Clock Back, and was elected president of the Foreign Press Association.

Traveling the world and encountering leaders from Benito Mussolini to General Douglas Macarthur, Mowrer was particularly known for his writings on Italy, France, China, Germany and America.

“[Mowrer] is often referred to as the most distinguished of all reporters on world affairs”, wrote The Salt Lake Tribune in 1952, and “he has many close friendships with high ranking U.N. and government leaders in this country and abroad”. According to a 1962 Current Biography yearbook, Mowrer was widely regarded as “the dean of American foreign correspondents.”

Yet Mowrer’s integrity as a journalist needs a serious review, judging from his astonishingly libelous attacks on the Prime Minister of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, during and after the Iranian oil dispute. In fact, Mowrer so burned with contempt for the man, he maintained his slander campaign as long as nine years after his overthrow (at least eleven years total).

July 16, 1951

Mowrer was critical of Mossadegh from the beginning of his appearance on the international scene. When it was announced that U.S. Ambassador W. Averell Harriman would travel to Iran as a mediator, Mowrer wrote:

“Hitherto, Mr. Mossadegh has preferred invective to negotiation. He has been doing a sort of dervish dance over the nationalized properties, whirling and shouting rather than arguing.”

Mowrer then explained why he opposed nationalization in principle—not only in Iran, but any country in the region...

“[Iran’s] manner of unilaterally breaking a contract with the company cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged. If it does, it will stop any further foreign investment in the spirit of the Point Four or Colombo programs. It will encourage “nationalists” throughout the Middle East to throw aside any considerations of law or contract and simply seize any and all foreign holdings on their territories. This would be harmful to everybody.”

September 28, 1951

Edgar Ansel Mowrer — journalist, foreign correspondent and commentator The most obvious example of Mowrer’s bias may be the piece alternatively titled in newspapers "Iran Premier Appears Mentally Ill", "Mossadegh Throws Away Sympathy of Americans" and "Scared or Crazy, Mossadegh a Menace to Iran" (shown in all its puerile glory below).

The column made four outrageous charges, all milled from gossip and hearsay, deriving from alleged “foreigners in Tehran”. Suggesting that Mossadegh, a “pixilated exhibitionist”, was mentally unbalanced, Mowrer told readers that he faked needing crutches for show (what crutches?), had two doctors on hand monitoring his blood pressure during every minute of his meetings with diplomats, laughed like a loon in discussions with Ambassador Harriman, and hurled a hysterical, ultra-paranoid, anti-British tirade at British envoy Richard Stokes. Not even Stokes himself would have (or ever did) make such a claim.

October 26, 1951

Mowrer kept it wacky in a subsequent column:

“...the weeping Mossadegh should be told that until he has agreed to compensate the former British owners in full land with no mythical counter claims, he should expect no aid of any kind from us. The chances are he will understand and pipe down. Should he not, should he start nibbling at communism and get hooked, well, let him.”

February 22, 1952

An alarmed Mowrer warned that Communists were “cooperating with tyrannical and reactionary regimes” all across the world:

“Communists did not of course induce the weeping Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh to insist on expropriating British oil interests regardless of cost. They certainly have underwritten his efforts, have fomented and widened and exacerbated riots and roughhouse, in favor of the “nationalist” frenzy. What is more, local Communists have done this at a time when Moscow and the satellite radios were savagely attacking Mossadegh of Iran and Nahas Pasha of Egypt as “reactionary tools of the Imperialist West.”

June 16, 1952

In June 1952, Mowrer commenced a second syndicated column, "What’s Your Question on World Affairs?", exclusively replying to reader questions. In one of the first columns, Mowrer answered a doctor’s query, “What makes Iran’s Mohammed Mossadegh weep and faint in public?”:

“Mossadegh’s health seems to improve whenever he leaves his native Iran. Neither in the United States, nor in the Netherlands where he has gone to plead Iran’s case before the World Court, has he ever wept or fainted in public. The American doctors who recently examined him in a New York hospital found nothing wrong except abnormally low blood pressure. Therefore, the explanation that insane hatred overcomes him every time he thinks of the “wrongs” Britain has done his country sounds pretty hollow.

More plausible to me is the theory that he puts on an act in which regularly impresses his excitable countrymen with the intensity of his patriotism.”

August 5, 1952

Shortly after his return as premier with the backing of Ayatollah Kashani, Mowrer called it a “successful coup d’etat” and described Mossadegh as:

“a demagogue...who has schemed and wept himself into the hearts of the mob...”

Yet Mowrer concluded on a hopeful note:

“There is however one ray of hope in the dark picture. Neither Mullah Kashani nor Premier Mossadegh are friends of communism. They know well that under Communist rule, their personal lives would be forfeit in less than a month.”

August 17, 1952

The continued efforts of U.S. mediation in the Anglo-Iranian oil dispute confounded Mowrer. “It disturbs me”, he vented.

“Reports that the United States may support Dictator Mossadegh of Iran are not surprising. There have always been Americans in the Near East—beginning with ex-Ambassador Henry Grady and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who have believed the United States should supplant “British imperialism” in that area.”

October 15, 1952

The economic implications of oil nationalization rankled Mowrer considerably:

“It is not in the interest of the American people that property should be seized anywhere without due compensation, or that weakened Britain should be further flouted, or still less that feeble Iran should humiliate the West. For if Iran gets away with these aims, it will not be five years before every Middle Eastern country tries the same trick.”

December 16, 1952

The protracted oil dispute remained “dark and stormy”, commented Mowrer near the end of 1952:

“Now as 20 months ago, Iran’s premier stands on his conditions: Iran to pay no more compensation “than it can afford” for the confiscated oil properties; the Iranian government to remain in full control of properties and policies; foreigners to have charge only of management and techniques—presumably salaried foreigners; foreign oil companies to return to Iran a share of the world oil market at a profitable price; a big loan to enable Iran to pay its outstanding bills. Rather than take less Mossadegh would—he repeats—prefer to see Iran go broke and go communist.”

July 29, 1953

In a column urging the U.S. to arm Syrian dictator Adib Shishakly, but tread carefully, Mowrer lumped in Iran as an “Arab” country:

“President Eisenhower’s refusal to subsidize more heavily Iran’s lachrymose Premier Mossadegh may be the beginning of a new and constructive policy toward the Arab world. For it is evident that the old policy of favors with nothing in return was leading to Arab blackmail and had to be stopped. So long as cunning old Mossadegh thought that he had only to wave the red flag of Communist danger and receive help from the United States, he could refuse to make a constructive and ethical settlement of his confiscated oil holdings.”

August 26, 1953

Mowrer was predictably thrilled by Mossadegh’s demise after the coup, and, viewing it as an outcome largely enabled by tough U.S. policy toward non-aligned countries, strongly urged it usher in a trend:

“The Shah of Iran’s overthrow of the treacherous weeping Mossadegh is a first vindication of the new U.S. policy of rewarding friends and cold-shouldering dubious “neutrals.”
Above all, Mowrer believed the coup demonstrated that it was in America’s best interest to project toughness and be feared, particularly citing Arab, North African and Asian nations:

“Our business is — as stated a dozen times in these columns — to show that it pays to be friends with Uncle Sam — and does not pay to cross him.”

October 1, 1953

Comparing the foreign policy methods of Eisenhower-Dulles with Truman-Acheson, Mowrer observed:

“U.S. efforts, since the Shah of Iran arrested the pro-Communist and fanatical Mossadegh, seem to be directed toward bringing about an understanding between Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, on Russia’s borders, three stalwart peoples with an acute sense of the Communist danger.”

November 18, 1953

After Mossadegh was overthrown, Mowrer was elated, and threw his full support behind the coup regime. He accused the “weeping fanatic” of treason, and praised the royalist government for doing themselves, the United States and the world a great favor in ousting the “Mossadegh-Communist faction”—because after all,

“Mossadegh hates the West in general and the British in particular...”

March 10, 1954

At a ski resort near Tehran in February 1954, Mowrer conducted a 75 minute interview with the Shah on the condition that he not be quoted directly. Mowrer had been invited by court minister Hossein Ala, whom he called “my friend”.

“This young man is the decisive voice in Iran today. It was for his sake that the Iranian people last August hounded the wrecker Mohammed Mossadegh out of office. From His Majesty, more than from anybody else, I might hope to get the decisive word of Iran’s hopes and possibilities...”
In addition to the Shah, Mowrer got interviews with new Premier Fazlollah Zahedi, who spoke “scornfully” of Mossadegh, and Foreign Minister Abdollah Entezam, “a professional looking man who understands the world.” Mowrer also admired Zahedi’s physical presence:

“He is a soldierly-looking man, handsome in his general’s uniform, with a charming smile. He has a sense of humor unexpected in one who has been called his country’s “chief policeman”, a title he earned by his effective suppression of Communist plots and riots.”

October 27, 1954

Mowrer used Iran and Yugoslavia to illustrate his foreign aid recommendations to the U.S. Congress:

“In August, 1953, Iran was still being ruled by a xenophobic lunatic. Mohammed Mossadegh, who had started giving the country to the Communists. The Shah was in exile. Mossadegh had literally pillaged the country’s resources in his desperate effort to give no compensation for the confiscated oil properties. Iran was on the verge of ruin.

Then a group of patriots overthrew Mossadegh and recalled the Shah. The new Premier, Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi, and the Shah, working together, put down the Communists. And since then they have gradually been working the country back from the edge of total destruction.”

October 21, 1955

Edgar Ansel Mowrer Recalling how Iran had been “ravaged by the follies of the weeping Mossadegh”, Mowrer verbally toasted the Shah and Sec. John Foster Dulles after Iran agreed to join the Northern Tier Alliance (a military pact).

“...another step for American diplomacy was helping Iran get rid of the fanatical and increasingly pro-Russian Premier, Mohammed Mossadegh. This was done with consummate diplomatic skill. But Iran needed time to recover some degree of economic health and military potential.”

August 1, 1956
Mowrer’s venomous depiction of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, “the Egyptian pest”, and condemnation of his seizure of the Suez Canal sounded familiar...

“Obviously, the United States government must here give full support to Britain, and seek, not to mediate (as it sought vainly to mediate the British oil holdings in Iran after they had been confiscated by the equally swollen-headed Mossadegh) but to put the squeeze on Egypt’s little Hitler.”
Then he wrote more threateningly:

“Either Nasser pipes down and reverses himself (he seems to have gone too far for that) or Nasser must get out. At the next diplomatic mooting, an American or British diplomat might quietly remind the Egyptian hothead of what happened to that other hothead, Mossadegh. American diplomacy then acted with admirable skill and dispatch. So long as Mossadegh merely held the British oil properties and waited for somebody to come and bail him out, we did nothing. When, however, after failing to raise money to keep the country going, he sought an alliance with the local Communists, Washington pulled the plug on him.”

August 22, 1958

An August 18th speech by John Foster Dulles advocating that America base its conduct “on principles of law and justice” incensed Mowrer, who called it “a form of hypocrisy” and “...one of the most dangerous and unclear policies ever accepted by a leading government. For it assumes...that principles of justice are the same to all countries.” Then Mowrer spilled the beans about a couple of recent illegal U.S. maneuvers:

“And finally, the Dulles policy assumes that in all matters the United States will observe its own rules. We did not do so when we (very rightly) helped overthrow the pro-Communist government of Guatemala and eliminate the weeping Mossadegh of Iran.”


In his 1961 book An End to Make-Believe, Mowrer renewed his smear tactics against the deposed Prime Minister. Though he had previously portrayed him as allergic to Communism, and stated that Moscow had been “savagely attacking Mossadegh”, this time the ex-Premier was repeatedly labeled “pro-Communist”:

“The weeping Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran, having confiscated the great British oil holdings, was plotting with the local Tudeh and with Moscow to oust the West completely.”

Later in the book, Mowrer redoubled his attack:

“The next victory came in August, 1953. Then, thanks to the brilliant diplomacy of the American Ambassador in Teheran, Loy Henderson, anti-Communist Iranian officers eliminated from power the pro-Communist Mossadegh. Soon thereafter, the foreign oil companies negotiated a new and generous oil contract with the Shah. The way was open for Iran to join its neighbors in a common front against Communism.”
Wasting no opportunity, Mowrer even used the index section to brand his victim: “Mossadegh, Mohamad, pro-Communist Iranian Minister”.

August 30, 1962
For the sake of stability, Mowrer proffered, dictatorships can often be preferable to democratic regimes. And after years of wearing out the “weeping Mossadegh” line, Mowrer got really creative with the “weeping, pro-communist” combo-insult:

“Turkey and Iran are a long way from democracy but the Shah of the latter is marvelous in comparison with the weeping, pro-communist Mossadegh who ruled before him.”

Edgar Ansel Mowrer — September 28, 1951 Given Edgar Ansel Mowrer’s relentness hatred of Dr. Mossadegh, willingness to fabricate and/or pass on unsubstantiated stories, and his own past experience as reporter-spy, it’s entirely plausible that he was, like many journalist colleagues of his generation, a compensated government propagandist.

During World War II, in order to track Japanese movements, Mowrer was dispatched to Asia by Office of Strategic Services (OSS) head William Donovan as a secret agent using his Chicago Daily News correspondent role as a cover. The OSS, of course, soon evolved into the Central Intelligence Agency, the department largely responsible for crushing Mossadegh in 1953.

Regardless of the motivation, Mowrer’s shameless anti-Mossadegh rants are a good record of the high degree of unprofessionalism tolerated for far too long in American journalism.

Scared or Crazy, Mossadegh a Menace to Iran

[September 28, 1951]

THE STUBBORNESS of Iran’s premier, Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran, in insisting on inacceptable terms for a settlement of the dispute with Britain is costing the Iranians the original sympathy of the American people. Ambassador Harriman’s blunt charge that in his “ultimatum” to the British, Mossadegh went back on terms previously discussed at Teheran explains why.

In addition, doubts have arisen in Western minds as to the mental health of the Iranian leader.

Such doubts have arisen from the following stories being told by foreigners in Teheran:

*    *    *

WHEN MOSSADEGH first received Britain’s emissary, Richard Stokes, Lord Privy Seal of Britain, he ignored the oil dispute and instead launched into a hysterical diatribe against the British people. In a loud voice he accused Britain of “murdering Iranian children,” of deliberately impoverishing Iran, and of other nameless crimes—all in shrill French.

Mr. Stokes, who understood, answered in a single phrase: “Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish.”

Yet Mr. Stokes came from the interview with the fear that Dr. Mossadegh really believed his preposterous charges.

*    *    *

HERE IS an authentic description of the premier’s reception of Ambassador Harriman. [W. Averell Harriman]

Outside the premier’s well-guarded bedroom, President Truman’s emissary was met by a physician who told him that Mr. Mossadegh is “an old and very sick man.”

Full of sympathy, Mr. Harriman entered. There, curled up on the bed in cotton pajamas, was Mr. Mossadegh. Feebly crawling across the broad counterpane, he shook hands. Then two physicians approached. One held the premier’s wrist and never stopped counting his pulse. The other applied a blood-pressure apparatus to Mr. Mossadegh’s other arm. Each time that the conversations began to get hot, the second physician interrupted:

“Excuse me, Mr. Harriman, but His Excellency’s blood pressure has reached a dangerous level. We must interrupt the conversation.”

This performance was repeated day after day. Once, however, glancing behind while departing, one American saw this aged and “dangerously ill” statesman leap from his bed and seize the telephone.

*    *    *

ON ANOTHER occasion the Premier first hobbled from the room on crutches, then forgetting them outside, returned walking quite normally. A physician hastened to force the crutches upon him.

At their final meeting, Mr. Harriman tried to impress his Iranian friend with the seriousness of the decision to break off negotiations.

“Do you realize,” the American ambassador asked, “that no outside country will buy your oil?”

“I know, I know,” Mr. Mossadegh answered and laughed.

“Have you thought,” the startled ambassador continued, “that this will mean a drastic cut in the national revenues?”

“Surely,” the premier said, and laughed again.

“And are you considering the effect of this upon your country’s political position?” Mr. Harriman insisted.

“Yes, yes, yes,” the Iranian said and then went into a paroxysm of laughter which followed the American into the hall.

*    *    *

HOW DO WE interpret such antics? Foreigners in Tehran, familiar with these and other incidents, have just one explanation: either Mohammed Mossadegh is putting on an act in order to escape assassination by Moslem fanatics, [Feda’ian Islam] or he has really gone a little daft.

In the first case, they insist the Iranian Shah had better jail the would-be assassins and take the pressure off the premier. In the second, he had better replace his premier, and pronto.

Certainly, Iran’s failure to reach an agreement with Britain whereby extraction, refining and marketing of Iran’s oil remains in the hands of an experienced British company (with full Iranian participation, of course) can end only in an international catastrophe whereof Iran (including Mohammed Mossadegh) will be the first victim.

Sober and patriotic Iranians can no longer afford to risk their country’s very existence in the hands either of a terrorized old man seeking to escape death by clowning or of a pixilated exhibitionist.

What Went Wrong in Iran? | Amb. Henry Grady Tells All (1952)
What Went Wrong in Iran? | Saturday Evening Post, Jan. 5, 1952

Search MohammadMossadegh.com

Edgar Ansel Mowrer Columns:

Harriman Must Show Great Diplomatic Ability | July 16, 1951

Stalin To Be Only Real Gainer in Iran Dispute | October 4, 1951

“Do you think Iran should be bailed out and if so, why?” | Aug. 26, 1952

Mossadegh Unaware Of Dangers in Dual Play | October 15, 1952

Oil Dispute Settlement Is Just Rumor | December 16, 1952

Christian A. Herter Asks: “What Shall We Do In Iran?” | February 3, 1953

Iran Coup Vindicates Tough U.S. Policy | August 26, 1953

Related links:

Black Journalist P. L. Prattis Laments Fall of Mossadegh, “Savior” of Iranians | Sept. 1953

Columnist Marquis Childs on Mossadegh, the Shah and Iranian Revolution | 1951-1979

Mossadegh Is First Problem U.N. Must Solve In Oil Crisis | Peter Edson, October 15, 1951

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

Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  Tumblr   Instagram