Strategic Bargaining Position

October 11, 1951 — The Philadelphia Inquirer

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | August 9, 2023                   

“Perhaps the Iranians would like to “high pressure” someone into a settlement, and that is why frail, hypochondriac Mossadegh has undertaken this long trip.” — Ivan H. Peterman

Ivan H. “Cy” Peterman of the Philadelphia Inquirer Ivan Hugh Peterman, aka “Cy” Peterman, (1899-1978) was an overseas World War II correspondent and sports writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who featured both his on-site news journalism and opinion columns.

The Wisconsin-born reporter and author, who had a Welsh wife, was the Inquirer’s United Nations correspondent at the time this commentary on the Anglo-Iranian oil dispute was published in 1951. This post was short-lived, however, because not longer after, he left the news business for the insurance industry.

The Philadelphia Inquirer — October 3, 1951

Ivan H. Peterman
Security Council Dodges
Iranian Oil Showdown

NEW YORK, Oct 11.

A WEEK’S delay, with continuing talks among the British, Pakistan, Egyptian, American and Iranian delegates, has served to pour oil on the troubled relations in the Middle East.

Iran will speak its piece on the oil dispute Monday, but it’s expected to be a mild monologue. The British have agreed to submit a new and innocuous resolution that may not even come up for a vote, much less a Soviet veto. The Western bloc is working hard to prevent petulant Premier Mohamad Mossadegh from peddling his nationalized but unpumped oil to the non-paying, aggressive Russians.

• • •

It is now obvious the Security Council wants no long and involved discussions of a private, if international, company’s woes, for two reasons:

           1. United Nations feels it already has enough red-hot irons in the Security Council fires, Korea, Kashmir, Suez and possibly the Sudan coming up.

           2. The Council fears that by considering the British complaint on Iran’s failure to abide by the International Court’s decision (status quo, until settlement can be made) will open a whole new category of headaches. It prefers not to set new legal precedents.

• • •

The sentiment therefore is to hear Mossadegh, his deputy and his U.N. spokesman, Ali Gholi Ardalan, on Monday, and then hope the dispute is eased, and can be wound up when U.N. gets to Paris. Dr. Mossadegh is hoping to accept President Truman’s invitation to visit the White House soon after he speaks to the Security Council. It is another good time-killer until the ruffled surfaces are smoothed.

• • •

From those who have visited the tired Persian in New York Hospital, his refuge and rest while here, one gets the idea that Dr. Mossadegh wants to make sure the United States gets the right notion about Iran. He also would like to hear a few offers for the oil he hopes to produce, with or without the aid of British technicians. Of the latter, his deputy, Dr. Hussein Fatemi, says there have been one or two, including oil tankers to haul the product away from Abadan. [Hossein Fatemi]

• • •

When pressed for details on these offers, Fatemi was evasive. He said to publicize them would invite discouragement and counter-action by “the former company,” meaning Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., which has been nationalized. In the Iranian view, it no longer exists.

Neither is Fatemi nor his boss very specific on their plans to get the oil produced, without help from outside. They are beginning to realize they are stuck with a big project, but they still would like to operate without the British majority-owners and builders of the $500,000,000 property.

• • •

Neutrals feel the Iranians have countered Britain’s Security Council move very well. They couldn’t understand why Britain wanted to try the Council, which had no stomach for the oil dish, and now they can see why the Iranians came, protesting all the time they would walk out if the case was taken up. By this threat to project another row of delicate implications, they have fetched all sides running, and are in a strategic bargaining position.

• • •

Worst of all from the British viewpoint, is the imminence of a new election in the United Kingdom. There is a wide difference in outlook on Iran, between the two major British parties, Labor and Conservative. Perhaps the Iranians would like to “high pressure” someone into a settlement, and that is why frail, hypochondriac Mossadegh has undertaken this long trip.

In addition to Sir Benegal Rau and Zafrullah Khan of India and Pakistan, Mossadegh has talked in the hospital on two occasions with the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East affairs, George C. McGhee. But it’s hard to find out if they made more headway than did Averell Harriman.

• • •

Fatemi has seen everyone. He has held several press conferences, at which the same stuff is chewed over; mainly the Iranian viewpoint that it’s their oil, it’s their poverty, it’s their nationalization attempt to pull their people out of the distressful conditions which, for 3000 years, nobody did much about.

• • •

There is some curiosity among U.N. observers whether this visit to affluent America, with the various reactions to the oil crisis he sees in press, radio and by word of mouth, will level off Mossadegh’s thinking, or fan his fanatical aims for Iran, which has been yearning for a long time; failure to take the economic urges of the people more into their thinking, certainly cramped the Labor Government’s negotiators’ chance for success.

At any rate, the two principals remain apart. London wants the status quo resumed, according to the International Court’s decision. It is willing to haggle while the oil flows as usual into British tankers.

• • •

Iran wants none of this, but a new deal at once, under its nationalization maneuver. But it cannot seem to get agreement on that. Moreover, it left something of a vacuum by ousting the oil operators, technicians and officials. Now it holds a barren refinery which, even if producing, would have no place to pipe its oil. The tankers were British owned. And the United States has plenty of oll supply from Iran’s neighbors, even if it did pledge not to move in as competitor for the oil.

Except that calm seems to be coming back to the discussions, the solution appears still to require a rubbing of Aladdin’s Lamp—a device the mystic people of Persia understand, but have no great prosperity to prove it works.

Divvying Up the Loot: The Iran Oil Consortium Agreement of 1954
Divvying Up the Loot: The Iran Oil Consortium Agreement of 1954


Related links:

Meeting With Dr. Mossadegh at New York Hospital (Oct. 11, 1951)

Iran Seeks To Drive a Hard Bargain | Ivan Peterman, Oct. 8, 1951

Warren Austin: Right of U.N. To Consider Anglo-Iranian Dispute

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

Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  Tumblr   Instagram