BRITAIN NO LONGER A WORLD POWER TO ACT ALONE: THE NATIONALISATION OF THE ANGLO-IRANIAN OIL COMPANY’S CRISIS: AN EXAMPLE BRITAIN SHOULD HAVE LEARNT IN THE SUEZ CANAL CRISIS OF 1956

BRITAIN NO LONGER A WORLD POWER TO ACT ALONE: THE NATIONALISATION OF THE ANGLO-IRANIAN OIL COMPANY’S CRISIS: AN EXAMPLE BRITAIN SHOULD HAVE LEARNT IN THE SUEZ CANAL CRISIS OF 1956

M. Woodhouse then flew to London to consult the Foreign Office officials. By now the Conservative Party was in power and Anthony Eden was the Foreign Secretary. He met Eden and was authorised by Eden to set up a joint operation with the CIA. Woodhouse, together with several Foreign Office officials, immediately went to Washington. He sensed that the Americans, for their part, did not reject the idea of a joint operation against Musaddiq. The CIA indicated that it was prepared to discuss the case further. C.M. Woodhouse continued with his planning until the American Presidential election was over. The British policy was now, according to Sir Pierson Dixon, ‘to play the hand along until we can sound out the attitude of General Eisenhower’s Administration to the Persian oil problem.’¹ By the time Dwight D. Eisenhower won the Presidential election in November 1952, Woodhouse had completed the process of undercover planning. Eisenhower’s winning the election opened for the CIA the prospect of leadership more active than Truman’s.

 

As was explained earlier in this article, Musaddiq by 1953 was losing support among his allies, and receiving the backing of the Tudeh party (the Communist party in Iran). The uncompromising position that Musaddiq took, which the previous chapter showed, fear of communist influence in Iran, the support that in 1953 Musaddiq was getting from the Tudeh party, and the Soviet challenge, made America alter its policy from diplomacy to intervention. The United States Government saw Musaddiq by now as too destabilising to let him stay in power and that his overthrow would be the solution to the crisis. The new Republican administration of Dwight Eisenhower was concerned about the communist takeover in Iran, and access to the rich Iranian oil reserves by the West was its worry. Eisenhower came round to the view that the answer to the crisis was intervention and toppling of Musaddiq’s government. This decision was also encouraged by the winding down of the Korean War, and more western manpower was available. On both sides of the Atlantic conservatives were in power. Additionally, both the British and American administrators, thought nationalism was too dangerous to be allowed in a strategically important part of the world, where both governments had vested interests. Woodhouse pointed out to his opposite numbers at the CIA, that if nothing was done about Dr. Musaddiq, a Tudeh (Communist) party coup may soon take place in Iran.

In Washington, C.M. Woodhouse presented his plan to the CIA for a coup in Iran. The plan was based on the well-financed organisation of the Rashidian brothers in Teheran, which, as he put it, ‘included senior officers of the army and police, deputies and senators, clergies, merchants, newspaper editors, and elder statesmen, as well as mob leaders’,² and Britain’s long-standing link with tribal leaders in the south of Iran.

While in Washington, the senior MI6 officer met Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, the ex-American President. Kermit Roosevelt was the head of the CIA operation in the Middle East and had just arrived from Teheran. Woodhouse put the British proposal to him. Roosevelt responded by saying that he ‘had been thinking along similar lines and had received offers of backing from influential Iranians.’³ Through the autumn and winter of 1952 was the period when the Anglo-American plan of covert operation against Musaddiq began, but it was not until July of 1953 that the Eisenhower administration took a firm decision to proceed. John Foster Dulles, the American Secretary of State, presided over a meeting in Washington and gave the go-ahead. At this point an ironic situation in Britain developed.

      1. Ibid, p. 251.
      2. B. LAPPING, op. cit., p. 270.
      3. Ibid, p. 271.

This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work!

Please upgrade today!