What It All Boils Down To

August 25, 1951 — The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Mossadegh Project | March 17, 2022                    

An urgent, forceful lead editorial in The Philadelphia Inquirer on the danger of war over Iran — Saturday morning, August 25, 1951.

U.S. Must Not Back War Risk in Iran

The United States must tell Great Britain that we will not support her if she uses armed force in Iran, and risks a quick outbreak of World War III.

The British Foreign Office has threatened to use force if the Iranians take over the Abadan oil refinery. Many British newspapers are calling for use of British naval and military units now mobilized near that refinery. The Labor Party Daily Herald cries that “more warships from Malta and Ceylon can be sent if needed.”

Those same newspapers are leading the British people to believe that the United States is prepared to back up such military action in Iran.

Our State Department should dispel that illusion at once.

In Korea, the United States has gone along on the principle that decisions there must be based on the interests, wishes and security of all the free nations. That policy has led to controversy in this country. General MacArthur was fired, in part, as a result of it. [Douglas A. MacArthur, removed by Truman in April] But the United States has stood firm.

That same policy should apply in Iran.

We feel no hesitancy in commenting frankly on this crisis because our Nation’s peace and future are at stake. Also, because not very long ago the British press was telling the United States that bombing Manchurian bases would risk World War III, since Red China has a pact with the Soviets.

That equally is true in Iran. The 1921 Soviet-Iranian treaty is still in effect. It permits Russia to send in troops if Iran is invaded by the forces of any other power. The Communist Tudeh Party has been a leading promoter of strife in Iran. If the Reds move in, and British occupation brings turmoil in Tehran, a Red coup—and a major war—would be very real possibilities.

Up to now, this country has gone along with Great Britain, backed her position to a large extent. Our Government has given the impression that if Iranian oil were lost to the West, the needs of Britain would be made up in large part from the resources of the U.S.A. One Federal official “hopes” oil and gas rationing would not be necessary here. But he is not sure.

This country has gone to extraordinary lengths in backing Britain in spite of the fact that Iranian crisis developed in the beginning as a direct result of mid-Victorian attitudes applied to a 20th century problem; in spite of the fact that the British refused, until too late, to give the Iranians anything like the fair take on oil that Iran’s neighbors were getting from the U.S. and others.

Now the time has come for a halt. The crisis really boils down to this:

Is the United States to risk the danger of being engulfed in World War III over the issue of whether a Britisher or an Iranian is to control the company operating the nationalized oil fields?

Such an issue appears trivial compared with the issue of naked aggression in Korea, where Britain has been such a reluctant participant. Premier Mossadegh, whether we like it or not, is the captive of a great wave of nationalist emotion, fanned by the Reds, but born of Iranian poverty amidst plenty from oil. When the British negotiator handed him what amounted to an ultimatum, he simply dared not accept it. Even if the Iranians were 100 percent wrong—and they are not 100 percent wrong by any means—the Abadan refinery would not be worth a war.

Let our Government make all this clear to our British friends.

Let them be reminded Uncle Sam has been holding the bag in this matter. Britain’s strongest bargaining cards have been the assurance that we would make up a large part of the Abadan loss from our own petroleum resources, and the implied promise of financial aid if Britain lost her sizable revenues from Iranian oil.

Let it be plainly stated that we will provide neither oil nor loans if Britain persists in using force. We will not be Johnny-at-the-rathole for John Bull.

If we have to be firm, let us be firm. The peace must be kept in Iran.

Political cartoon by Hugh Hutton in The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 25, 1951

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Related links:

Australian House of Representatives | IRAN | 1951

Grave Danger in Iran | The Salt Lake Tribune, Sept. 30, 1951

Iran Could Be Tip-Off Of War | Miami Daily News, March 21, 1951

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

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