Musaddiq also became a vocal critic of Reza Shah, which led to his imprisonment in 1940. He gained his freedom after Reza Shah abdicated in 1941. The reason for the Shah’s abdication was seen earlier in this chapter. In 1944 Dr. Musaddiq became the leading Deputy from Teheran in the Fourteenth Majlis, and soon after launched a vocal campaign for the end of all foreign influence in Iran. This led to 1947’s request from Iran for a revision of the 1933 Agreement, which has been pointed out. Musaddiq believed that the nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company would be the answer to poverty in Iran. His anti-foreign influence in Iran gave him a strong following. Musaddiq mobilised his supporters against the Supplemental Agreement of 1949 which was described, which he saw as perpetuating foreign control over Iran’s oil resources. In 1950, as has been shown, Musaddiq chaired the Oil Committee of the Majlis, and the Supplemental Agreement was rejected. He then called for the outright nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Due to the strong following that Musaddiq had increasingly gained in Iran, his influential position in the Majlis, and the rioting that took place in Abadan by early 1951, compelled the Shah to appoint him as the Prime Minister.23

The Involvement of the Labour Government, 1948-1951

This was the first of the recurring post War oil crises. From the very beginning of this important crisis the British foreign Secretary, Bevin, was highly concerned about the role that America might play in unfolding diplomatic or military situation.

In 1950 the Labour Government first addressed itself to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s Crisis. The British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, was thinking about how best the Americans could be used in the crisis. It was important for the efforts of the British to work with the Americans, not to get wires crossed, and not let Iran play the one against the other. Bevin feared that the Iranian might play the Americans off against the British. If this worked, if Iran played one side off against the other, then it would be bad for the whole British strategy in the Middle East. Bevin saw the Anglo-American cooperation as the antidote to an Iranian strategy that would ‘play us one against the other’.24 In the British view the Iranians were continuously bidding up, changing the demands, ‘bazzar method of negotiation’,25 Bevin put it. Iran’s line was, despite the fact that Iran needed revenues from oil, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company needed the Iranian’s Government’s cooperation just as much. In the summer of 1950, the Iranian Prime Minister, Razmara, said, ‘Iran could give the British plenty of trouble if they [did] not cooperate’26.

In the late summer of 1950 the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, as part of the effort to use the Americans in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s crisis, to prevent Iran from playing the Americans off against the British, came up with the idea of a joint Anglo-American loan to Iran on the condition that Iran ratified the Supplemental Agreement. The Americans did not agree with the scheme. In the American view, ‘the scheme would not serve the best interests of any of [the] countries involved.’27 The Americans believed that since the British Government held the majority ownership in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, it should therefore have control over the Company.28 Bevin pressed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company to make some concessions, to ‘find something to offer’. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company refused to accept Bevin’s request on the basis that, ‘it was difficult to find something the Iranian would accept’.29

In May 1951, immediately after the Shah made Musaddiq Prime Minister, Dr. Musaddiq sent the Governor of the province of Khuzistan to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s head office at Khorranshah. Accompanied by a crowd, the Governor announced that the oil was nationalised. Musaddiq had taken an uncompromising stand on the issue of British imperialism. ‘He is obsessed by a single idea, the nationalisation of oil and the elimination of what he considered the maleficent influence of the Oil Company from Persia,'<30] wrote Sir Frances Shepherd from Teheran to the Foreign Office, in one of his reports.

  1. Ibid., Chapters 1, 2.
  2. M.A. HELISS, The United States, Great Britain, and Iranian Oil, 1950-1945, Ph.D. Thesis, The Ohio State University, 1991, p. 42.
  3. Ibid., p. 43.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid., p. 45.
  6. Ibid., p. 47.
  7. Ibid., p. 49.
  8. PRO, London, FO 371/91535/ Ep 1531/ 356, The General Political Correspondence of the Foreign Office, Sir Francis Shepherd, British Ambassador in Teheran, to the Foreign Office, Confidential, 14th May 1951.

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