At the appropriate moment, be could transform himself from a frail
decrepit shell of a man into a wily, vigorous adversary.
— Report to U.S. State Department
I paid my first visit to Iran in 1951. By then I was a foreign affairs writer at Time magazine and the big story of the day was the seizure of Abadan by a fiery Iranian nationalist named Mohammed Mosaddegh. The Brits first struck oil in Iran in 1908 and used it to provide cheap fuel for the Royal Navy. Post World War II, Abadan became for a new generation of Iranians a symbol of foreign exploitation of their country.
I first heard of Mosaddegh’s attempt to take control of the AngloIranian oil companv (AIOC) over lunch at the Yale Club of New York.
A ticker tape in the cloakroom said “World’s biggest oil refinery faces closure as mob in Iran invades Abadan.” With three friends, one a Brit, two Americans, I sent an impertinent telegram to Prime Minister, Clement Attlee at No. 10 Downing Street. This said, “Possession nine tenths of law. Send in parachute brigade. Hold Abadan and negotiate but do not give it up stop.”
It was no surprise that Mr. Attlee did not reply!
The Prime Minister of Iran fainted
when it suited him.