Like A Shooting Star
October 5, 1951 — The Morning Bulletin

The Mossadegh Project | January 29, 2021                      

Lead and sole editorial on Iran in The Morning Bulletin newspaper of Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia.

Australian media archive


Dramatic events have taken place in Persia, leading to the evacuation of the remaining Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s personnel at Abadan and their repatriation to Britain. This proceeding must have grievous results for many individuals, but it is the larger national issues that give most concern. The climax was reached unexpectedly. In spite of the stubborn rejection of all British offers and the sullen response to American mediation, there always remained a hope that some eleventh hour development would result in the British remaining in Persia and retaining control of the great oil industry built up over 50 years by their brains and capital. These hopes were supported by reports from the Ambassador at Teheran that the Government was almost certain to fall, when an administration less unfavourable to British interests would be set up. [Francis Shepherd] Non fulfillment of that forecast, augmented probably by other events that have not come to the surface, hastened the decision to drop further parley and leave the country.

Such a course could not be adopted by any Government without considerable embarrassment, involving it in loss of face abroad and bitter criticism at home. It certainly is is humiliating to national pride to leave in such circumstances—the evacuees ferried to a waiting warship in their own launches commandeered by and flying the flag of hostile government. It was a triumph for Premier Mossadeq certainly; but these triumphs and the fame won thereby often prove of the shooting star variety. Britain may have lost some prestige in other Middle East countries, but it might be advisable for her to wait and see how Persia fares with her confiscated oil industry before being in a hurry copy her example.

Notwithstanding that it comes under heavy fire for its handling of the Persia oil business during the past six months, the Attlee Government is entitled to some sympathy. [Clement Attlee and Labor] It cannot be charged with having failed to resort to every means that could have led to an honourable settlement. In vain it took the case to the international judicial tribunal existing for such matters, offered Persia generous concessions, invited independent mediation and appealed to honour and fair dealing. All that was left was resort to force and land troops. Loud as the condemnation of the Government for “fleeing the oilfields” it has to be remembered that any armed intervention, which would have to be on an adequate scale, could not have been undertaken without the concurrence an support of the United States. The possibility of intervention by Russia had also to be faced. Neither Britain nor America wanted another Korea on their hands at this juncture, so the evacuation with all its consequences may in the long run prove to have been the wise course. New oilfields can opened up, new refineries larger than Abadan erected; they are cheaper in lives and treasure than a third World War. If these were the considerations that swayed the people most concerned the position can be appreciated, not envied.

Thus ends a 50 year association in which British capital and industry raised a backward country from poverty to wealth. The monetary loss sustained will be heavy, but that is the least consideration. The extent to which Britain’s essential oil supplies are affected is the vital question. Apparently her oil position is not irreparably imperilled. The six months spent in negotiation have not been wasted. New oil-fields are being discovered—there is one in Canada capable of taking the place of Persia—new refineries are being hurried on. One thing the Persians cannot steal, nor the technicians imported to man the wells and refinery give them, is the vast marketing and transport organisation that constitutes an important a part of the oil industry. The Persian nationalists have won a triumph, but at what cost to themselves and their country must be left to time and circumstance to unfold.

Such happenings invariably bring retribution to those who act ignobly and demonstrate the truth of the adage that it is an ill wind that blows no good. It was announced this week that the Anglo-Iranian Co. plans to build a £40,000,000 refinery in Australia capable of converting up to 3,000,000 gallons of crude oil daily. Technicians are already here and when completed the refinery will give permanent employment to a staff of 1,500. The Persian oil crisis is a bitter pill to swallow, not only for the British Government but for the whole Commonwealth. Its reactions may bring compensations that will enable it to be viewed in a mellower light than is not possible.

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


Related links:

TOPICS OF THE DAY | Morning Bulletin column on Iran (1951-1953)

Initiative Now With Persia | Newcastle Morning Herald, Oct. 12, 1951

Britain Cannot Afford More Concessions | The Northern Star, Sept. 29, 1951

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

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