Prelude to Expulsion
September 29, 1951 — The West Australian

The Mossadegh Project | August 5, 2021                           

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

Australian media archive


The highly unstable situation following the breakdown of the Anglo-Persian oil negotiations is now moving rapidly towards a climax. So long as the technical staffs of the British-owned Anglo-Iranian oil company may remain in Abadan to fulfil their duties at the vast oil refinery, it is possible to mark time in the hope that the Persian Government will ultimately see the wisdom of negotiating a mutual settlement. But the Persian Government is now using troops to take possession of the refinery and it has issued orders for the expulsion of the British oil staffs, now reduced to about 300, by October 4.

This means that, unless the Persian Government can be induced to withdraw its order within the next few days, the British Government must decide whether to accept the ultimatum and abandon Britain’s great commercial and strategic interests in Persian oil (with the consequent loss of prestige in the Middle East) or take military measures to protect the oil staffs in their occupancy of the Abadan refinery area. Since any such emergency move would be designed to maintain the principle of the British position in the face of arbitrary Persian action, and pending some eventual settlement, it would be unnecessary, as well as unwise, to move troops beyond the Abadan area into the interior oilfields.

In giving urgent consideration to the Persian issue the British Cabinet is delaying a final decision until it is in possession of the results of its Ambassador’s representations to the Shah to use his influence in restraining Dr. Mossadeq’s Government in Teheran from taking precipitate action to force a crisis. The British and United States Governments are also in consultation, with President Truman and his Administration making renewed efforts to stave off a showdown and promote conditions in which a peaceful settlement might be reached. It is possible that the whole matter may be brought before the Security Council, and in that event it will be noted that the Persian Government has violated the interim injunction issued by the International Court on the application of Britain. But the immediate, and crucial, question is whether the Persian Government (despite the lack of any justification in its case) will attempt to enforce the expulsion order. If it does, then the final showdown will be reached.

Since the British Ministerial mission returned to London from Teheran last month, Dr. Mossadeq and his fanatical followers in Persia have provided their own proof of the British Government’s contention that “no further negotiations with the present Persian Government can produce any result.” It will be recalled that Mr. Averell Harriman (who has endeavoured to use his mediatory good offices in the dispute as President Truman’s special envoy) refused to transmit Dr. Mossadeq’s 15-day ultimatum that unless the British Government reopened negotiations the British oil staffs would be expelled. In the course of his reply to Dr. Mossadeq, Mr. Harriman said that the Persian proposals did not represent any advance on those rejected in the Teheran discussions because they did not conform to practical and commercial aspects of the international oil industry; in some respects the proposals represented a retrogression. Mr. Harriman added that in the view of the United States Government, the seizure by any Government of foreign owned assets without either prompt and adequate compensation, or alternative arrangements satisfactory to the former owners was, regardless of the intent, confiscation rather than nationalisation.

The support for Dr. Mossadeq and his Government has weakened in the past few weeks. The opposition is such that the Prime Minister still cannot obtain a quorum in Parliament to enable him to seek a vote of confidence. But Dr. Mossadeq remains in power and, unless the Shah sees fit to intervene, there seems to be no present likelihood of an alternative Government. By executive action in Persia the screws are being tightened in anticipation of the expiry of the ultimatum. A crisis can be averted only if the Persian Government finds, or can be shown, an excuse to withdraw its threat. In amplifying a statement by the British Prime Minister that it was not the British Government’s intention “to evacuate entirely” the Abadan area, the Lord Chancellor said on July 31 that the Government accepted “all the implications that follow from that decision.” [Sir William Jowitt in Parliament on July 31st, referencing Clement Attlee] The first and obvious implication is that armed forces would be used if the Persians attempted to expel all the British oil staffs from Abadan.

In some quarters there are counsels against protective action because of some risk that the Soviet might seize the opportunity of British armed intervention in Abadan to move into northern Persia under the terms of the Russo-Persian Treaty of 1921. But the Soviet will not move unless it wants to provoke a direct clash with the Western Powers. There is nothing to be gained from weakness in the face of Persian threats, particularly in the present state of affairs in the Middle East.

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


Related links:

Persia’s Oil Grab Will Hurt Us — Her, Too | Aubrey Thomas, May 3, 1951

Out of Abadan | The West Australian, October 3, 1951

Britain Cannot Afford More Concessions | The Northern Star, Sept. 29, 1951

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

Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  Tumblr   Instagram