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Man of the Year

Note: Dear Farhangsara visitors the following text, taken from
the Time  magazine, January 7, 1952 issue is a clear indication
of how angrily and irrationally Western mass media reacted
toward a man who who won international recognition through
his campaign for nationalization of Iranian oil industry. No part
of the text has been modified although some irrelevant parts
have been deleted for the sake of brevity.

TIME - The Weekly Newsmagazine - Man of the Year
Man of the Year
Mohammad Mosadegh - Challenge of the East

Once upon a time, in a mountainous land between Baghdad and the Sea of Caviar, there lived a nobleman. This nobleman, after a lifetime of carping at the way the kingdom was run, became Chief Minister of the realm. In a few months he had the whole world hanging on his words and deeds, his jokes, his tears, his tantrums. Behind his grotesque antics lay great issues of peace or war, progress or decline, which would affect many lands far beyond his mountains.

His methods of government were peculiar. For example, when he decided to shift his governors, he dropped into a bowl slips of paper with the names of provinces; each governor stepped forward and drew a new province. Like all ministers, the old nobleman was plagued with friends, men-of-influence, patriots and toadies who came to him with one proposal or another. His duty bade him say no to these schemes, but he was such a kindly fellow (in some respects) that he could not bear to speak the word. He would call in his two-year-old granddaughter and repeat the proposal to her, in front of the visitor.
Since she was a well- brought-up little girl, to all these propositions she would unhesitatingly say no. "How can I go against
her?" the old gentleman would ask. After a while, the granddaughter, bored with the routine, began to answer yes occasionally. This saddened the old man, for it ruined his favorite joke, and might even have made the administration of the country more inefficient than it was already.

In foreign affairs, the minister pursued a very active policy--so active that in the chancelleries of nations thousand of miles away, lamps burned late into the night as other governments tried to find a way of satisfying his demands without ruining themselves. Not that he ever threatened war. His weapon was the threat of his own political suicide, as a willful little boy might say, "If you don't give me what I want I'll hold my breath until I'm blue in the face. Then you'll be sorry."
In this way, the old nobleman became the most world-renowned man his ancient race had produced for centuries. In this way, too, he increased the danger of a general war among nations, impoverished his country and brought it and some neighboring lands to the very brink of  disaster.
In the year of his rise to power, he was in some ways the most noteworthy figure on the world scene. Not that he was the best or the worst or the strongest, but because his rapid advance from obscurity was attended by the greatest stir. The stir was not only on the surface of events: in his strange way, this strange old man represented one of the most profound problems of his time. Around this dizzy old wizard swirled a crisis of human destiny.

He was Mohammed Mossadegh, Premier of Iran in the year 1951. He was the Man of the Year. He put Scheherazade in the petroleum business and oiled the wheels of chaos. His acid tears dissolved one of the remaining pillars of a once great empire. In his plaintive, singsong voice he gabbled a defiant challenge that sprang out of a hatred and envy almost incomprehensible to the West.

There were millions inside and outside of Iran whom Mossadegh symbolized and spike for, and whose fanatical state of mind he had helped to create. They would rather see their own nations fall apart than continue their present relations with the West. Communism encouraged this state of mind, and stood to profit hugely from it. But Communism did not create it. The split between the West and the non-Communist East was a peril all its own to world order, quite apart from Communism. Through 1951 the Communist threat to the world continued; but nothing new was added--and little subtracted. The news of 1951 was this other danger in the Near and Middle East. In the center of that spreading web of news was Mohammed Mossadegh.

Mossadegh, by Western standards an appalling caricature of a statesman, was a fair sample of what the West would have to work with in the Middle East. To sit back and deplore him was to run away from the issue. For a long time, relations with the Middle East would mean relations with men such as Mossadegh, some better, some much worse.
The Iranian George Washington was probably born in 1879 (he fibs about his age). His mother was a princess of the Kajar dynasty then ruling Persia; his father was for 30 years Finance Minister of the country. Mohammed Mossadegh entered politics in 1906. An obstinate oppositionist, he was usually out of favor and several times exiled. In 1919, horrified by a colonial-style treaty between Britain and Persia, he hardened his policy into a simple Persia-for-the-Persians slogan. While the rest of the world went through Versailles, Manchuria, the Reichstag fire, Spain, Ethiopia and a World War, Mossadegh kept hammering away at his single note. Nobody in the West heard him.

They heard him in 1951, however. On March 8, the day after Ali Razmara, Iran's able, pro-Western Premier, was assassinated, Mossadegh submitted to the Iranian Majilis his proposal to nationalize Iran's oil. In a few weeks a wave of anti-foreign feeling, assisted by organized terrorism, swept him into the premiership.

The Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., most of whose stock is owned by the British government, had been paying Iran much less than the British Government took from the company in taxes. The U.S. State Department warned Britain that Iran might explode unless it got a better deal, but the U.S. did not press the issue firmly enough to make London listen. Mossadegh's nationalization bill scared the company into concessions that were made too late. The Premier, whose mind runs in a
deep single track, was committed to nationalization--and much to the surprise of the British, he went through with it, right down to the expulsion of the British technicians without whom the Iranians cannot run the Abadan refinery.

I) the West lost the Iranian oil supply;
2) the Iranian government lost the oil payments;
3) this loss stopped all hope of economic progress in Iran and disrupted the political life of the country;
4) in the ensuing confusion, Iran's Tudeh (Communist) Party made great gains which it hoped to see reflected in the national
elections, due to begin this week.

Mossadegh does not promise his country a way out of this nearly hopeless situation. He would rather see the ruin of Iran than give in to the British, who, in his opinion, corrupted and exploited his country. He is not in any sense pro-Russian, but he intends to stick to his policies even though he knows they might lead to control of Iran by the Kremlin.

The suicidal quality of this fanaticism can be seen in the two men closest to Mosadegh in politics. Ayatulla Kashani is a zealot of Islam who has spent his life fighting the infidel British in Iraq and Iran. He controls the Teheran mobs (except those controlled by the Communists), and his terrorist organization assassinated Razmara. Hussein Makki controls the oil-rich province of Khuzistan, in which the Abadan refinery lies. When the British got out, Mossadegh put Makki in charge of the oil installations. Makki's view on oil: close up the wells, pull down the refinery and forget about it. Neither Makki, Kashani nor Mossadegh has ever shown any interest in rational plans for the economic reform and development of their country.

Sometimes the crisis through which Iran is passing depresses Mossadegh to the point of tears and fainting spells. Just as often, he seems to regard the state of affairs with a light heart. When he came to the U.S. to plead his cause, mercurial Mossadegh was so ready with quips, anecdotes and laughter that Secretary Achseon thought the visitor should be reminded of the gravity of the situation. At a Blair House luncheon where Mossadegh was guest of honor, Acheson told a story: a wagon train, crossing the American West, was attacked by Indians. A rescue party found the wagons burned, and the corpses of the pioneers lying around them. The only man still alive lay under a wagon, with an arrow through his back. "Does it hurt?" he was asked. The dying man whispered: "Only when I laugh." Acheson looked pointedly at Mossadegh--who just doubled up with appreciative laughter.
The fact that Iranians accept Mossadegh's suicidal policy is a measure of the hatred of the West--and especially the hatred of Britain--in the Near and Middle East. The Iranian crisis was still bubbling when Egypt exploded with the announcement that it was abrogating its 1936 treaty with Britain. The Egyptian government demanded that British troops get off the soil of Egypt. Since the British were guarding the Suez Canal, they refused. The Egyptians rioted, perhaps in the belief that the U.S., which had opposed any use of force in Iran, would take the same line in Egypt. The U.S., however, backed the British, and the troops stayed. But now they can only stay in Egypt as an armed occupation of enemy territory.

Since Mossadegh's rise, U.S. correspondents have been swarming over the Near and Middle East. Their general consensus is that:

I) The British position in the whole area is hopeless. They are hated and distrusted almost everywhere. The old colonial relationship is finished, and no other power can replace Britain.

2) If left to "work out their own destiny" without help, the countries of the Middle East will disintegrate. The living standard will drop and political life become even more chaotic. (Half a dozen important political leaders in the Near and Middle East were assassinated during 1951.)

3) Left to themselves, these countries will reach the point where they will welcome Communism.

4) The U.S., which will have to make the West's policy in the Middle East, whether it wants to or not, as yet has no policy there. The U.S. pants along behind each crisis, tossing a handful of money here, a political concession there. At the height of the Egyptian crisis (the worst possible moment), the U.S., Britain, France and Turkey invited Egypt to join a defense pact. The invitation was promptly rejected.

5) Americans and Britons in the Near and Middle East spend a large part of their energies fighting each other. No effective Western policy is possible without Western unity.

The word "American" no longer has a good sound in that part of the world. To catch the Jewish vote in the U.S., President Truman in 1946 demanded that the British admit 100,000 Jewish refugees to Palestine, in violation of British promises to the Arabs. Since then, the Arab nations surrounding Israel have regarded that state as a U.S. creation, and the U.S., therefore, as an enemy. The Israeli-Arab war created nearly a million Arab refugees, who have been huddled for three years in wretched camps. These refugees, for whom neither the U.S. nor Israel will take the slightest responsibility, keep alive the
hatred of U.S. perfidy.

No enmity for the Arabs, no selfish national design motivated the clumsy U.S. support of Israel. The American crime was not to help the Jews, but to help them at the expense of the Arabs. Today, the Arab world fears and expects a further Israeli expansion. The Arabs are well aware that Alben Barkley, Vice President of the U.S., tours his country making speeches for the half-billion-dollar Israeli bond issue, the largest ever offered to the U.S. public. Nobody, they note bitterly, is raising that kind of money for them.

The Deep Problem. What is the right answer to the seething problem of the Middle East? It is much easier to see past U.S. mistakes, sins of omission and commission, than to plot a wise and firm future course. The U.S. success in Turkey, gratifying as it is, does not give much guidance on Western policy in the Arab countries and in Iran. Turkey had passed through a drastic process of   modernization which in most of the Moslem world is still to come. But the U.S. cannot wait for Kemal Ataturks who are not in sight.

The West's new relationship with the East must start at a much deeper level than efforts at economic help or military alliance. Economic and military cooperation will be of little use unless they are part of a Western approach that involves the whole range of culture--especially religion and law.
In its leadership of the non-Communist world, the U.S. has some dire responsibilities to shoulder. One of them is to meet the fundamental moral challenge posed by the strange old wizard who lives in a mountainous land and who is, sad to relate, the Man of 1951.

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