Skin In the Game

October 2, 1951 — The Argus

The Mossadegh Project | April 10, 2022                     

Lead editorial on Iran in The Argus newspaper of Melbourne, Australia.

Australian media archive


THE world watches Persia’s reaction to British overtures with growing impatience and rising irritation. The spectacle of Britain being humiliated by an incompetent, unrepresentative government of feudal landlords is not pretty. Britain has been patient, as usual. She is patient, because a great deal is in the balance. As a final result of precipitate action world war or peace could be at stake. No doubt there is fear in Whitehall that military embroilment in Persia could involve a clash with Russia, leading to World War III. Britain must also avoid offending the Mohammedan powers of the Near East. Although their military force is negligible, their passive hostility would be a dangerous element to lie across the Suez lifeline.

Playing a dangerous game

On the other hand, Britain’s prestige in these regions will decline disastrously if she succumbs to blackmail. These are the rocks she must steer between.

In the meantime, valuable British assets are lying idle, and the vital flow of oil has been halted. Had the Persian Government showed a little intelligence and good faith, the oil would have been flowing again long since, to the advantage of both parties. But Persia has shown neither intelligence nor good faith. She has shown only her capacity for the dangerous game of blackmail, with world peace the pawn. Blackmail is a dangerous game. Persia’s fall could be even greater than the stakes her Government is playing for. If Britain is driven into resorting to force, then whoever wins it will not be Persia.

Result vital to Australia

We in Australia should not imagine that this is purely Britain’s struggle. We cannot sit on the sidelines and watch the result with polite interest. The Middle Eastern crisis has a direct bearing on Australia’s prosperity and military safety.

The Suez Canal area is a vital strategic point for us. Persia sits near it, and her friends, the Arab States, are astride it. Once lost, we would be virtually isolated from Britain.

Moreover, any weakening of Britain and British prestige weakens Australia. Particularly as far as the Mediterranean is concerned, Britain’s struggle is our struggle. Is Australia supporting Britain’s attitude in Persia? In the absence of any official pronouncement, we cannot know. The sooner some such pronouncement is made the better.

Richard Stokes’ Second Thoughts on Iranian Oil (1951 Letter)
Richard Stokes' Letter to Clement Attlee, Aga Khan Concurs (1951)


Related links:

Australian House of Representatives debate Iran, oil (1952)

Nationalism And Oil | The Argus, June 22, 1951

Persian Oil Outlook | The Kalgoorlie Miner, Sept. 1, 1951

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

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