Tinder Box
June 22, 1951 — The Advertiser

The Mossadegh Project | August 24, 2021                      

Lead editorial on the situation in Iran (and a good word for the British Commonwealth) in The Advertiser newspaper of Adelaide, South Australia.

Australian media archive

The Advertiser (Adelaide, South Australia) newspaper


One of the few things that can now be hoped for in Persia is that force will be avoided on both sides.

By their decision to proceed with the taking over of the Abadan refinery, Dr. Mossadeq and his colleagues have gone perhaps to the point of no return. It is now their responsibility, as Mr. Middleton has warned them, to ensure that the seizure of the refinery brings no harm to the British employes and their families. [British Charge D’Affaires George Middleton] The Prime Minister is clearly anxious to prevent trouble. He has appealed to the Persian people to keep calm and, more pointedly, has announced his intention of imposing the death penalty for sabotage on the oilfields.

Nevertheless, it is he who has to make the first move. The British employes have been instructed to remain at their posts until the last moment — which would seem to mean, until the supply of oil to the tankers at Abadan is cut off. They have the assurance that if violence is used against them British airborne and naval forces will move in to protect them while their evacuation is being arranged.

In this tindery situation, with one side waiting on the other, a single spark would be sufficient to produce an explosion. It could come from the sort of demonstration that, with Communist, nationalist or religious prodding, is so easily started on the oilfields.

The British mission’s offer — which was refused — went far beyond willingness to help Persia financially pending a final agreement. The British delegates are reported to have accepted nationalisation on the understanding that Britain should be represented on the directorate of the State-owned company. But apparently there was no one in the Persian Government with courage enough to stand in the face of the demand for no compromise.

Both countries will pay an enormous price if their partnership is finally dissolved. For her part, Persia would be left with an industry which she lacks the skill to work and whose, tanker fleet and overseas selling organisation she could not possibly replace. She would have sacrificed the substance for the shadow, and the consequences of impoverishment, civil discord and national weakness would probably pursue her for many a long day to come.

For Britain and the Commonwealth, too, the impending loss would be a heavy one. The oil fields have been one of their most important material assets. They have been, moreover, an integral part of the vital system of Western defence in the Middle East and, indeed, throughout the whole of the free world. Their surrender would leave an ominous gap.

SAFER AT HOME: U.S. Implores Shah To Stay In Iran (Feb. 1953)
SAFER AT HOME: U.S. Implores Shah To Stay In Iran (Feb. 1953)

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Related links:

Nationalism And Oil | The Argus (Melbourne), June 22, 1951

New Hope In Persia | The Advertiser, September 10, 1953

Iran Paper Assails Joining In Oil Dispute Proposal With English Minister (Sept. 2, 1952)

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

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