Iran From Anglo Persian to the Rise of Mohammad Mosaddegh.
Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set
for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are
condemned to repeat it.
- George Santayana
As events unfold in what many perceived as one of our most stable allies in the Middle East, one has to wonder how we got to this point yet again.
What advice would the ghost of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi have for embattled Muhammad Hosni Mubarak? How could we (The West) fail YET again and perhaps
set in motion the Islamic Republic of Egypt some 32 years after precipitating the same result in Iran? How could we supply unconditional support to
another dictator, strongman, (whatever the euphemism du jur) all the while turning a blind eye to the corruption, brutality, and hubris such leaders
all seem to posses.
To understand the events in Egypt we need to take a hard look at almost a century of failed United Kingdom and United States policies in the Middle
East with a particular focus on Persia and as it was later known, Iran.
“The Persian monarchy itself was an old, long mismanaged estate, ready to be knocked down at once to whatever foreign power bid the highest” - Sir
Arthur Hardinge, British Minister (1)
Such was the assessment of Hardinge, the son of a British General, when evaluating the state of the Persian monarchy in 1900. Hardinge, concerned by
Imperial Russia’s aggressive expansion into Central Asia, sought to actively curb it. He was a strong proponent of William D’Arcy’ attempt to
extract an oil concession from the Persian Shah in 190. This concession would eventually after years of exploration become the Anglo-Persian Oil
Company (The forefather of BP). On the eve of the First World War, the British government would invest over 2 million pounds in the venture and thus
own a controlling share of Anglo-Persian.
World War I was the first global conflict that used petroleum to power the efforts on both sides. The use of the airplane, the invention fo the tank,
mechanized land forces and supply, and of course the epic struggle at sea (which saw both oil and coal powered vessels) dramatically underscored the
importance of securing supplies. These supplies for most of the allies war efforts had come from the United States. With 335 million barrels of oil
produced in 1917 American production accounted for 67% of the total world output (2). Of this almost a quarter went to Europe for the war effort.
Recognizing the importance of oil supplies countries began scrambling to carve up the Middle East to protect their supplies. British Prime Minister
Lloyd George and French Premier George Clemenceau met just days after the Armistice and began the first in a series of deals intended to cave the
region into areas of influence. The British coveted the area known as Mesopotamia (now modern Iraq) and in turn for France giving up its claim for
Mosul, would recognize their control over Syria. (3) Not to be excluded the United States also became more aggressive in the region as well.
The Rise of the Pahlavi Dynasty
By 1925, a new monarch had taken control of Persia. Weakened by perpetual Russian (now under the firm grip of Communism) and British occupation, Reza
Shah Pahlavi overthrew the Qajar Dynasty and installed himself as the new Shah. en.wikipedia.org...
The new King embarked upon a modernization plan for Persia. In a situation that his son decades later would find himself in, the poorly planned and
implemented reforms caused intense friction within Persian society. Particularly alienated was the clergy who’s opposition and subsequent
suppression would set in motion a series of events that lead to the rise of Shia fundamentalism in Iran (By 1935 The Shah had decreed that the country
would be referred to as Iran). By 1932 Iran was a full fledged oil state with the majority of its revenue derived from the concession with
Anglo-Persian. (4). However, this also coincided with a huge glut in oil which resulted in a vast decrease in royalties. On November 16, 1932 he
announced he was unilaterally cancelling Anglo-Persian’s oil concession. The subject of royalties and profit sharing had been the subject of
negotiations between the countries for several years but no agreement had been reached. No doubt this announcement was intended to send a message. The
Shah was also sending a message to the British government regarding conflicting claims over Bahrain. (5) Eventually by April of 1933 a new deal was
reached. The Iranian government would receive greater royalties, more influence, and profit sharing. By 1939 the onset of World War II and Reza
Shah’s preference for using German workers resulted in an invasion by both British and Soviet forces to “secure” a supply route. Reza Shah was
arrested and forced into exile. en.wikipedia.org...
Reza Shah would die in 1944 in South Africa . The invading forces (also
including the United States assumed total control of Iran’s oil resources. They did permit the son of Reza Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to assume
The Rise of Mohammad Mosaddegh.
In the post World War II era Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was seen as been pressured by multiple sides. Islamic fundamentalist led by Ayatollah Seyed
Kashani were on one side and the Pro Soviet, Pro Communist Tudeh party on the other. The middle was a mass of competing interests all keen on carving
out their own power base and relentless foreign involvement and interference. Despite all of this chaos there was one topic that would unify the
people: A hatred of the British. This hatred extended to the point that droughts and crop failures were blamed on them and any politician was
obligated to accuse his opposition of being a British agent. (6) This “hatred” was fueled by the situation at Anglo-Iranian. Between 1945 and 1950
the company posted a profit of over 250 million pounds. By comparison, the royalties paid to the Iran amounted to only 90. (7). From this chaos and
turmoil emerged Mohammad Mosaddegh.
Mohammad Mosaddegh had been one of the voices of opposition to Reza Shah’s attempt to consolidate power. From the 1920's onward he would be
periodically detained and arrested by the Shah for this opposition. When Reza Shah was deposed in 1941 he began to move back into the political arena.
His lengthy history of opposition quickly made him a man of significant support and influence. Mosaddegh was not without his eccentricities. He often
spend the day in pajamas and had a habit of greeting foreign diplomats while lying in bed. In the late 1940's Mosaddegh was instrumental in founding
the National Front Of Iran. This opposition party not only opposed to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi , but also to oppose British rule and interference in
the country. The Americans at first believed that Mosaddegh could be used to forestall Soviet advances into Iran (However, that opinion would change
following intense pressure from the British). Indeed Iran was one of the first Cold War battlefront’s between the two superpowers. The Shah placed
on the throne with the assent of the Americans, British, and the Soviets was increasingly being marginalized in favor of the Mohammad Mosaddegh and
his National Front party. In March 1951, The National Front achieved its goal and nationalized Anglo Iranian creating the National Iranian Oil
In part two we will take a close look at the fall of Mosaddegh, Operation Ajax (The CIA backed coup) that installed The Shah back in power, The rise
of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the hostage crisis, and the Iran Iraq war.
(1) The Prize, The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, Daniel Yergin, 1992 pg. 136
(2) The Prize, The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, Daniel Yergin, 1992 pg. 178
(3) The Prize, The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, Daniel Yergin, 1992 pg. 184
(4) The Prize, The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, Daniel Yergin, 1992 pg. 269
(5) The Prize, The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, Daniel Yergin, 1992 pg. 271
(6) The Prize, The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, Daniel Yergin, 1992 pg. 451
(7) The Prize, The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, Daniel Yergin, 1992 pg. 452
The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy of American-Iranian Relations, James Bill
Why Intelligence Fails: Lessons from the Iranian Revolution and the Iraq War, Robert Jervins
Crisis and Crossfire: The United States and the Middle East Since 1945, Peter Hahn
A Cubic Mile of Oil: Realities and Options for Averting the Looming Global Energy Crisis, Edwin Kinderman et al.
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