The Foreign Service Journal - October 2017

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | OCTOBER 2017 41 From the FSJ Archives: April 1980 The World of 1953 and Iran BY ROY M . ME LBOURNE government of Egypt. Dynamic Israel was a newcomer, while the others were either colonially plotted land tracts designated as countries or old feudal societies. Iran was a mutant. A geographic plateau, a long distant culture, Shia Islam, and the shah as a focal symbol, served to give an identity to Iran’s core, half the population. The rest included disparate elements sharing some of these features, but stretching, among others, from the Kurds of the northwest and the Qashqais of the south, to the Balu- chis of the southeast. Iran, long buffeted by the Anglo-Russian rivalry, had lost significant territories to Russia and in the south, Khuzistan, had seen the British run the great oil fields and refinery essentially for their own benefit. The country had once been divided (1907) into spheres of influence between Russia and Great Britain and militarily between them during the urgencies of World War II. Thereafter British troops left, but it took great American pressure at the United Nations and some Iranian guile to impel the Russians to desert their puppet Azerbaijan regime and evacuate the coun- try in 1946. A 1921 treaty, however, could give them a handle to return if this looked promising. Then, too, a secret clause of the 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact revealed ultimate Soviet aims by giving that country a free hand south in the direction of the Persian Gulf. This artery was seen by the West as the oil jugular of the free world and of nascent NATO. Nevertheless, accumulated popular resentments toward foreign domination erupted over the issue of Iran’s oil. The highly visible British controlled the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, divided The United States is a relative latecomer to the politics of the Middle East, much of which derives from European colonialism, as this retrospective on Iran from 1980—already more than three decades past—shows. Roy M. Melbourne, a retired FSO at the time he wrote this article, was head of the political section in Tehran during and following the Mosadeq regime, and followed Iranian developments thereafter. These are excerpts from his “America and Iran in Perspective: 1953 and 1980,” published in the April 1980 Foreign Service Journal. T he movement of great forces, while given definition by the vertebrae of power politics, has, since World War II, transformed the earth in a fashion that old historical maps could never convey. The world of 1953, already distant from today, was part of that great change. Globally the Cold War raged, raised to an all-out struggle by Korea, still without an armistice. Amalignant senator had con- vinced his public that China was lost because key public servants were communist dupes, if not crypto communists. Despite war losses, communist states were thought making a good recovery, helped by indigenous resources and a crucial, short-run advan- tage of centralized priorities direction. Strategically centered, revolutionary communismwas regarded as monolithic and as pressing against its worldwide frontiers. A strong America was the keystone of the free world (there was no credibleThird World); it was a partner in a threatened NATO alliance not yet four years firm, while Western Europe and Japan were just finding their feet. In the Mideast there were two coherent, sizable states: the tough kernel of republican Turkey, being buttressed by America against Soviet demands, and the new revolutionary military FOCUS ON DEALING WITH IRAN