Who and What is This Persian Leader Mossadeq
June 23, 1951 — The Age (Melbourne)

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | October 22, 2020                    

Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, Prime Minister of Iran (1951-1953)

This odd, unsigned Australian profile of the Iranian Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, ran on page 2 of Melbourne’s The Age newspaper on June 23, 1951. Mossadegh was described as “brave”, “honest”, and “genuinely popular”, but also pegged as a “pathetic”, “short-sighted” Communist dupe...“truly a Frankenstein”.

On June 28th, The Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative reprinted The Age’s piece on their front page under the dehumanizing new title “Who and What is This Persian Leader Mossadeq”. Opposite it were several of their own editorials.

On the Korean War, they wrote: “The Koreans are a mongrel race, merciless and bloodthirsty....the sooner white troops quit Korea the better.” Another editorial bashed the Socialist government in Britain, arguing that Iran was merely following her example by nationalizing its oil industry.

Australian media archive

A Confused Leader
Persia’s Future at the Cross Roads
By A Special Correspondent

Tension-ridden Persia has quietened for the moment since Dr. Mossadeq, the Prime Minister, was given a vote of confidence in the uncompromising stand taken by his Government in the present oil crisis.

But Mossadeq is a sick man — a tragic political figure, and surrounded by crooks, adventurers and madmen. Some regard him as a stop gap until Communism takes over the country.

IN TWO DIFFERENT respects Persia’s Prime Minister is rather like an elderly Robespierre. He is an incorruptible fanatic. He is an admired figurehead though set up by stronger and less attractive men.

In another respect he is likely to prove an involuntary Kerensky, since it seems more than probable that his regime will be the threshold to a Communist one. [Deposed Russian leader Alexander Kerensky]

Dr. Mossadeq has admitted that his policy is helping the Communists, but asserts, as have others, that he will be able to subdue them when the time comes. [Inaccurate]

He has been bashful about revealing his age, and estimates range from 60 to 90. About 75 seems to be a fair guess. [He was about to turn 70]

He comes from one of the oldest, richest and most princely families in Persia, and is himself among the largest landlords in this country of vast estates.

He had a [sic] legal training at the Sorbonne when he was a young man, and has been spasmodically practising law and politics since that time. [Sciences Po in Paris, but not the Sorbonne]

It was not until 1944 that Mossadeq first captured the headlines of the Western press.

In October of that year he brought before the Persian Parliament a drastic bill to prohibit the granting of new oil concessions.

“The Fanatic”

Overnight Mossadeq had become a triumphantly popular figure in Teheran and, since the bill was quite openly directed against the Russians, a minor hero in Britain and America.

The “fanatic” of today was then a “loyal patriot!”

The Tudeh press accused Mossadeq of being a corrupt traitor in the pay of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., and their mildest description of him was “an aspirin which relieves pain but never kills it.”

Western observers may be tempted to see Mossadeq as a purely comic figure.

His dramatic swoons in the Majlis, the intemperance of his language and gestures (even in private conversation) and his apparently neurotic retirement to the sanctuary of the Majlis make him seem irresistibly absurd in British and American eyes.

Yet Mossadeq, despite his rather ignominious retreat from real or imaginary assassins, is a brave man, an honest man, and, most important of all, a genuine epitome of his countrymen’s qualities.

In spite of their long and bitter experience of nationalists, it seems impossible for the British to realise that Mossadeq would rather Persian oil ran into the sea, as it certainly would do if the company were expropriated, than that foreigners should continue to exploit it.

Although he may speciously claim that the expropriation of the company would bring benefits to the poor of Persia, he is really quite indifferent to its results. The expropriation is an end in itself. [Nonsense]

A Stop Gap

But the most important reason for taking Mossadeq seriously is that he was a genuinely popular and representative figure in Persia.

His long period of captious and monotonous opposition did indeed do something to lower him in public esteem, but it is now felt that his consistency has been rewarded, and that his record has been somehow justified by its culmination in the premiership. In addition, he and his National Front — a somewhat divided group of eight in the Majlis — are the only members of Parliament with any claim to have been freely elected.

All are members for Teheran, where there is a relatively educated electorate (by comparison with rural areas where the peasants are brought to the polls in cartloads by landlord-politicians).

In reality, Dr. Mossadeq is not so much an absurd as a tragic political figure.

He is truly a Frankenstein, and it may well be that the monster of religious and patriotic fanaticism which he did so much to create is insane reality, preparing to destroy him.

His sinister and insubordinate underling, Kashani, would weep very few tears if his chief were removed at a suitable time. [Ayatollah Kashani, powerful Islamic cleric, was no underling]

But this is not the only factor which makes Mossadeq pathetic. He is a bewildered and desperately short-sighted man, with only one political idea in that gigantic head.

His emotion is certainly being used by the Communists for their own hidden ends. Everything suggests that their power has increased in Persia at the rate of a galloping consumption, and that they are simply using Mossadeq as a convenient stopgap before taking power themselves.

And stopgaps seldom survive their usefulness very long.

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

Search MohammadMossadegh.com

Related links:

Time To Draw A Line | The Mercury, September 28, 1951

Peter Russo probes the miseries of Mossadeq | The Argus, (Jan. 19, 1952)

Persian Oil Crisis A Serious Threat | The Age, June 22, 1951

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

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