On TIME’s Man of the Year

January 4, 1952 — S. Miles Bouton

The Mossadegh Project | May 11, 2023                 

Challenge of the East: TIME's 1951 Man of the Year Mohammad Mossadegh

Stephen Miles Bouton in his column for The Jamestown Post-Journal newspaper (New York) responded to the selection of Premier Mossadegh as Man of the Year by TIME magazine. Born in 1876, Bouton was a journalist, foreign correspondent and author.




Time magazine announces that its choice of “the man of the year for 1951” is, “sad to relate,” the aged Mohammed Mossadegh, Premier of Iran. Its man of the year is the one who had “done the most to change the news for better or worse,” and it finds that the head of the Iranian Government fits that description better than any one else. The Communist threat continued in 1951 with nothing new added and little subtracted, so the situation made no news.

“But the news of 1951 was this other danger in the Near and Far East. In the center of that spreading web of news was Mohammed Mossadegh.” He pointed up the new threat to world order—”the split between the West and the non-Communist East,” and the West failed to cope with a “weeping, fainting leader of a helpless country” and did not develop the “moral muscle” to define its goals and responsibilities in the East. The essay added;

“In its leadership of the non-Communist world, the United States has some dire responsibilities to shoulder. One of them is to meet the fundamental moral challenge by the strange old wizard.” [“...who lives in a mountainous land and who is, sad to relate, the Man of 1951.”]

Hardly a Moral Challenge

Just what the Time writer has in mind speaking of a “moral challenge” is not clear to me. The old wizard’s confiscation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s property, violating both an existing treaty and the good faith upon which alone international relations can flourish, seems to me profoundly immoral, quite apart from the legal phase. It was also an exhibition of crass ingratitude. The company had spent more than $50,000,000 developing its oil fields before it could earn a penny of profits. Left to itself, Iran could never have accomplished the great work.

But if one accepts the confiscation as the accomplished fact which it is, and views the present situation without regard to the moral side, Mossadegh has done more than to point up the split between West and non-Communist East. Despite the fact that Iran is virtually defenseless, existing under the shadow of the Soviet Union, he refuses to concede one splinter of its independence.

American Aid Rejected

The United States, through the World Rank, has offered Mossadegh $23,000,000 and also military aid. But the offer is accompanied by conditions. One is that Iran will “contribute to the defensive strength of a free world,” meaning apparently there must be at least no acts which could advantage the Communist world. American military would be conditioned likewise on Iran’s continued neutrality.

If those conditions be accepted, Iran’s oil industry could be revived. The country’s finances are non-existent. It has offered to sell oil to Russia, Poland and Czechoslovakia, but difficulties of transport have not been overcome. The World Bank’s proposal calls for division of the proceeds of sales of oil between Iran and the “biggest purchaser,” which would be the AIOC, with the remaining proceeds to be placed in custody of the World Bank.

Premier Mossadegh has rejected all the conditions. Iran, he told Vice President Robert L. Garner of the bank, the president of an American Oil Company and another man representing the bank, would accept no degree of foreign control of the oil industry’s operations. Her complete independence, he declared, must be maintained.

The American Embassy in Tehran is reported as saying that Mossadegh, by his intransigent attitude, has moved his country closer to the Soviet orbit. That, however, is a conclusion supported by nothing concrete as yet reported.

The Iranian General Staff is reported to have termed the policy “catastrophic.” It does look that way. But it seems to me that it calls in one respect for admiration, stupid though it is. Probably Mossadegh never heard of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and his defiant, “millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute,” but it’s the same spirit.

[Except Pinckney never uttered that famous quote, it was Robert Goodloe Harper.]

At First, the U.S. Was Optimistic About New Premier Mossadegh
Estimate of the Political Strength of the Mosadeq Government (U.S. Embassy in Iran, May 1951)

Search MohammadMossadegh.com

Related links:

U.S. Fumbling Big Opportunity In Not Organizing Middle East | Joe Alsop, May 7, 1951

Iran to the Communists? | The Muncie Star, September 21, 1951

Will Iran Be Next Before Korea Is Over? | E. F. Tompkins, Aug. 14, 1952

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

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