Be wise and help to nationalise!
Peter Russo in The Argus — June 5, 1951

The Mossadegh Project | August 8, 2018                                

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

The following column by Australian journalist, ABC broadcaster, academic and commentator Peter Russo (1908-1985) ran in the Melbourne newspaper The Argus.

Be wise and help to nationalise!

PRESIDENT TRUMAN’S intervention in the Persian oil dispute may have been “rebuffed” but it was timely, discreet, and it served its purpose.

It gave Dr. Mossadeq, Persia’s Prime Minister, the opportunity to clarify the distinction he drew between the Anglo-Iranian Company and the British Government, and why he preferred to deal with the former. [Anglo-Iranian Oil Company — AIOC]

As matters were, few of the Anglo-Iranian Company’s arguments could have stood up to a Persian showdown. The company’s thesis that it was the most efficient and profitable organisation in Persia was itself a standing provocation to the extreme nationalists.

Abadan, the company’s lush and thriving centrepiece, was a continual reminder that no Persians had been sufficiently trained to run their own oil-fields.

Again, the Anglo-Iranian plaint, reasonable from our viewpoint, that Britain would face great hardship without Persian oil could hardly have disturbed the Persians.

They now demand, like nationalists everywhere, that home produce must cushion home economy first, and foreign requirements can wait.
IT is no use trying to break down these great expectations with Western blueprints of what is or is not feasible Nationalism, when it becomes strong enough to bargain with power politics, rises above any law or consideration which may question its sovereignty.

Anglo-Iranian, which by now should have absorbed these political facts of life, made no practical headway by appealing to an international court.

The company might have had its legal position upheld, which, in the circumstances, would have made as much sense as the pronouncement that the patient died cured.

If, as reported, President Truman has recommended that the negotiations be on a basis of nationalisation, the omens are favorable. By comparison with the substance of oil, nationalisation is but the shadow which the Anglo-Iranian should be smart enough to dovetail with its own interests.

Indeed, the company might find it wiser actually to promote nationalisation. It is no coincidence that, after Britain’s far-sighted policy in India, the Indians now prefer British experts to help with national development.
THERE is one antiquated objection to this kind of compromise and it follows the MacArthur theme that “nothing impresses the Oriental mind more than demonstrations of power.” [This quote appears to be falsely attributed to Gen. Douglas MacArthur]

MacArthur’s premise is right, but his conclusions are dangerously wrong. Demonstrations of power do impress the Oriental. They impress him with the necessity of biding his time (of which he has plenty) until he can match strength with strength.

These colored upheavals are largely Western crows coming home to roost. We have taught better than we knew, and it requires tact and patience now to learn the lesson in reverse.

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


Related links:

Political Flames Plus Oil Can Equal Devastation, Too | Carteret County News-Times (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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