Nationalization: the “Crisis” Begins

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Sources are cited in abbreviations inside brackets at the end of each paragraph. See web/bibliography.

[In 1950] elections were held for the Sixteenth Majles, but police beat up candidates not favored by the Shah and riots broke out. The minister of court … was assassinated. After the elections, Dr. Mossadeq claimed that the vote had been rigged and in protest started a sit-in on the palace grounds. His supporters put aside their party differences and formed the National Front, a coalition that would not only vote Mossadeq into the Majles in a by-election but eventually lift him to victory against AIOC. [MF p234]

With middle-class support and using such strategies as petitions and street demonstrations, Mossadeq was able to mobilize a mass movement calling for the nationalization of the oil industry. [EA2 p116]

Fifty-fifty, brought too the table too late by AIOC, had now become too little… [T]he anti-British furor prevailing in the Parliament was enough to send every last representative into a headlong stampede for nationalization. [MF pp254-55]

[The Majles] oil committee voted unanimously for nationalization. “With 50/50 we’ll only be able to pay half our debts,” quipped one of the members. “With nationalization we’ll be able to pay them all.” Mossadeq … brought the bill for nationalization before the Majles. [MF pp254-55]

With a Tudeh-led general strike in the oil industry in April 1951, he was able to pressure the Majles in May 1951 to accept his nationalization bill and give him the vote necessary to form a government to implement the nationalization law. [EA2 p116]

In rejecting the Supplementary Agreement, the majlis nationalized the oil industry and elected Mossadeq as premier on the grounds he was the only candidate eager to implement this nationalization law. On taking office in April 1951, Mossadeq promised fair compensation, set up a National Iranian Oil Company, and invited British employees to work for the new authority. [EA1 pp186-87]

[He] began negotiations with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) for a smooth transfer of control. When the latter resisted, he ordered NIOC to take over AIOC – its oil wells and pipelines as well as its refinery and offices throughout the country. [EA2 p117]

When the British government – in support of AIOC – evacuated all company personnel, blocked the export of oil from Iran, and lodged a complained with the United Nations, he personally appeared before the National Security Council, and accusing Britain of subversion, broke diplomatic relations and closed down the latter’s consulates as well as embassy. Britain retaliated by freezing Iranian assets and reinforcing its naval presence in the Persian Gulf. By the end of 1951, Mossadeq was embroiled in a full-blown crisis with Britain. In a post-mortem on the whole crisis, the foreign office admitted that Mossadeq had been able to mobilize the “discontented against the upper class closely identified with the British.” [EA2 p117]

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