Unpleasant Alternative
October 3, 1951 — The West Australian

The Mossadegh Project | August 2, 2021                     

Lead editorial on Iran in The West Australian newspaper, based in Perth.

Australian media archive


The British position and prestige in the Persian oil dispute cannot fail to have been adversely affected by the British Government’s decision to withdraw the last of the oil technicians from Abadan in the face of Persian threats. The alternative was certainly an unpleasant one. It was to refuse to accept the Persian expulsion order and to be prepared to use armed force (immediately available from the warships standing by) to protect the British oil staffs in continued occupancy of the Abadan refinery area.

In the event of Persian resistance, the consequences of hostilities—and possible international extension—would have been unpredictable and there is a strong presumption that the United States Government used its influence to dissuade the British Government from forcing a showdown through protective action in Abadan. But it is starkly plain that, in this gloomy climax to the long negotiations which have been made abortive by the insensate nationalist policy of the Mossadeq Government, Britain has broken the last physical link with her vast oil interests and assets in Persia. The last advantage to be derived from continuance of tenure, however restricted, has been abandoned under duress.

The British case, and the prospects of making it good, now rest in the hands of the Security Council. It is a strong case. It was ably presented by Sir Gladwyn Jebb when the Council met at short notice on Monday to consider the British resolution calling on Persia to comply with the terms of the interim injunction issued by the International Court of Justice for maintenance of the status quo in oil operations pending a final Court decision. The explanation offered for the Abadan evacuation prior to expiry of the Persian ultimatum is the approach to the Security Council. The British Government has now placed itself in a position where it will become increasingly difficult to recover any grip on the oil interests in Persia unless the Council reaches a clear—and effective—verdict.

In any event, the issue will inevitably drag on for some time to come and, meanwhile, the Persians have assumed complete control of the oil fields and confiscated the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s installations, stocks and other assets within the country. Against the objections of Russia and Yugoslavia, the Security Council has agreed to consider the British application, but it has not yet reached a firm decision on its competence to deal with the dispute and has adjourned for ten days to enable a delegation to arrive in New York from Teheran to argue the Persian case. In seeking to evade its contractual obligations, the Persian Government has denied both the jurisdiction of the International Court and the competence of the Security Council on the assertion that the dispute is purely of domestic concern (subject to Persian sovereignty) as between the Persian Government and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Sir Gladwyn Jebb was able to point out on Monday that the International Court’s issuance of an interim injunction was tantamount to rejection of the Persian claim that the dispute is essentially domestic within the terms of the U.N. Charter. The method of enforcement of an order of the International Court is through action by the Security Council, which may also be requested to deal with the dispute as a threat to international peace.

Divvying Up the Loot: The Iran Oil Consortium Agreement of 1954
Divvying Up the Loot: The Iran Oil Consortium Agreement of 1954

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Related links:

Oil Troubles | The Day (New London, Connecticut), Oct. 13, 1951

Abadan Evacuation | The Morning Bulletin, October 5, 1951

Britain And Persia | The West Australian (Perth), December 8, 1953

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

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