HISTORY IN REAL TIME: From Anglo-Iranian Oil to British Petroleum

“I’m still on my, like, one-man boycott, like I go to the Shell station, as if Shell is somehow morally superior to BP. But still, in my own mind, I feel like I’m redeeming Mosaddeq whenever I pass by one of those BP stations.”
—Stephen Kinzer

With the environmental tragedy of the oil spill continuing, I was reminded that British Petroleum is one and the same as Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the company backing and pushing for the overthrow in Iran of the elected Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. Yes, elected. Mossadegh’s sin was his pledge to nationalize Iranian oil (both houses of Iranian parliament voted for this in 1951), to release Britain’s stranglehold on the resource and on Iran. British intelligence and, to a lesser degree, American intelligence, help plot his overthrow, replacing him with the Shah. This company, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company of yesterday, is British Petroleum today, with this dreadful mess for us all.

Stephen Kinzer, author of “Overthrow” and former New York Times’ Bureau Chief writes, on page 118:

Mossadegh’s rise to power and parliament’s vote to nationalize the oil industry thrilled Iranians but outraged British leaders. The idea that a backward country like Iran coul rise up and deal the such a blow was so stunning as to be incomprehensible. They scornfully rejected suggestions that they offer to split their profits with Iran on a fifty-fifty basis, as American companies were doing in nearby countries. Instead, the vowed to resist.

Britain planned to overthrow Mossadegh—instigate a coup—but when American Secretary of State Dean Acheson and President Harry Truman learned of it, they went, to quote Kinzer, “almost apoplectic.”

Britain was so determined to stage a coup, and get the CIA to do it, or help with it, they started to get the wheels in motion “without even waiting for Eisenhower to be inaugurated.” They sent one of their top agents, Christopher Montague Woodhouse to talk to John Foster Dulles**, who would be Secretary of State under President Dwight “Beware the Military Industrial Complex” Eisenhower. Part of the plan was a smear campaign suggesting Mossadegh was leading Iran towards communism and so forth.

Iran turned out to be the young CIA’s first involvement in the overthrow of a foreign nation—something that, according to Kinzer, would not likely have happened under Truman and Acheson. The catch is as follows: the director of the CIA was John Foster Dulles’ brother Alan Dulles.

According to Kinzer…

[John Foster] Dulles had two lifelong obsessions: fighting communism and protecting the rights of multinational corporations. In his mind they were, as the historian James A. Bill has written, “interrelated and mutually reinforcing.”

He sounds like he could lead the current Tea Party.

The media was a big help with the overthrow, the plan itself called Operation Ajax. A few newspapers and magazines were favourable towards Mossadegh… (pg 124):

“…but they were the exceptions. The New York Times regular referred to him as a dictator. Other papers compared him to Hitler and Stalin. Newsweek reported that, with his help, Communists were “taking over” Iran. Time called his election “one of the worst calamities to the anti-communist world wince the Red conquest of China.”"

Kinzer points out that Mossadegh…

“…believed passionately in two causes: nationalism and democracy. In Iran, nationalism meant taking control of the country’s oil resources. Democracy meant concentrating political power in the elected parliament and prime minister, rather than in the monarch, Mohammad Reza Shah.”

From an interview with Kinzer on Democracy Now in 2008:

“[Mossadegh] came to power in 1951 on a wave of nationalism aimed at this one great obsession, we’ve got to take back control of our oil and use the profits for the development of one of the most wretchedly impoverished nations on earth at that time.

So the Iranian parliament voted unanimously for a bill to nationalize the Anglo Iranian Petroleum Co. and Mossadegh signed it and he devoted himself, during his term of office, to carrying-out that plan: To nationalize [what] was then Britain’s largest and most profitable holding anywhere in the world.

Bear in mind that the oil that fueled England all during the 1920s and 30s and 40s all came from Iran. The standard of living that people in England enjoyed all during that period was due exclusive to Iranian oil. Britain has no oil. Britain has no colonies that have oil. Every factory in England, every car, every truck, every taxi, was running on oil from Iran. The Royal Navy, which was projecting British power all over the world, was fueled a hundred percent by oil from Iran.

Suddenly Iran arrives and says, ‘Oh, we’re taking back the oil now.’ So this naturally set-off a huge crisis.

All of this is actually quite linked to the modern world, from the oil shortage, wars over oil, and the current stand-off with Iran.

There are real, brutal oil spills, and real, brutal metaphoric oil spills, either one can cause massive disaster and long term hell. BP (Anglo-Iranian Oil Company) has done both, and made inconceivable profits in the process, and the peace and war machine of the West has benefited.

I wish we remembered our history! May the cleanup in this one somehow be effective. We humans sure make our mark on the planet…

Pete xo

**Speaking of John Foster Dulles, I was just reading about the brutal strike at Vale Inco mines in Sudbury today, when I read that John Foster was supposedly a director of Inco way back, too. It is the Steelworkers who are the union there today, a position they got (eventually) after countless “raids”—when one union tries to take over another—on the radical Mine Mill Union in the 1950s. The raids were essentially fuelled by fear of communism (and Mine Mill had a solid communist base). See the Taft Hartley Act. Mine Mill was for a long time the union at Cominco in Trail BC—my hometown area. The steelworkers raided Local 480 there in Trail, too, trying to take push out the union (and take over as the steelworkers union).

Inco’s presence has been felt in Guatemala recently, and were accused of being the company behind the forced removal of inhabitants of several communities, destroying homes, on January 8/9 2007 in order to pursue their mining interests.

Oh yeah, in 1954, again under Eisenhower, the CIA staged a coup that overthrew Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, the democratically elected leader of Guatemala—brutality has unfolded ever since (Guatemala had a democracy, more or less, from 1944 to 1954). This American backed coup was, at least in part, to defend the business rights of the notorious United Fruit Company. Given history, how the Tea Party or anybody else differentiates so intensely between Big Government and Big Business, I’ll never know.


One Response to “HISTORY IN REAL TIME: From Anglo-Iranian Oil to British Petroleum”

  1. philip mccormack says:

    We can get all the clean fuel we need from growing cannabis, and never have any oil spills—if I was King (dictator). Or maybe I would be overthrown!

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