Class Notes

The following is a speech given by Mohammad Mossadegh, the newly elected Iranian Prime Minister.  After years of being subjugated by the British and the Shaw, Mossadegh was the first to stand up to both.  This speech was one given to the U.N. in 1951.  Mossadegh had recently nationalized the Irian oil industry and the British were claiming that they were stealing British oil. 

“My country men lack the bare necessities of existence.  Their standard of living is probably one of the lowest in the world.  Our greatest natural asset is oil.  This should be the source of work and food for the population of Iran.  Its exploitation should properly be our national industry, and the revenue from it should go to improve our conditions of life.  As now organized, however, the petroleum industry has contributed practically noting to the well-being of the people or the technical progress or industrial development of my country.  The evidence for that statement is that after fifty years of exploitation by a foreign company, we still do not have enough Iranian technicians and must call in foreign experts.”

“Although Iran plays a considerable role in the world’s petroleum supply and has produced a total of three hundred fifteen million tons over a period of fifty years, its entire gain, according to accounts of the former company, has been only one hundred ten million pounds sterling.  To give you an idea of Iran’s profits from this enormous industry, I may say that in 1948, according to accounts of the former Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, its net revenue amounted to sixty-one million pounds; but from those profits Iran received only nine million pounds, although twenty-eight million pounds went into the United Kingdom treasury in income tax alone…”

“I must add here that the population living in the oil region of southern Iran and around Abadan, where there is the largest oil refinery in the world, is suffering in conditions of absolute misery without even the barest necessities of life.  If the exploitation of our oil industry continues in the future as it has in the past, if we are to tolerate a situation in which the Iranian plays the part of a mere manual worker in the oil fields of Jasjid-i-Suleiman, Agha Jari and Kermanshah and in the Abadan refinery, and if foreign exploiters continue to appropriate practically all of the income, then our people will remain forever in a state of poverty and misery.  These are the reasons that have prompted the Iranian parliament-the Majlis and the Senate-to vote unanimously in favor of nationalizing the oil industry.” 

Stephen Kinzer, All The Shah’s Men

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