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The Militant, 13 April 1946

Control of Oil Land in Middle East
Involved in UNO Dispute over Iran

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 15, 13 April 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


In presenting his government’s case against the Soviet Union last week before the United Nations Security Council, Iranian Ambassador Hussein Ala fleetingly referred to oil. He was promptly cut off by the U.S. Secretary of State Byrnes who said: “I respectfully suggest that the Iranian representative might be instructed to confine his remarks ...” to the issues under consideration.

Apparently Hussein Ala had shown poor taste – and poorer judgment – in mentioning so crude a subject as oil after the British representative Cadogan had been declaiming about the “confidence in the sanctity of respect for treaties” and Byrnes had been proclaiming the need to defend “the rights of small nations.”

‘Floating on Oil’

It does not take deep drilling beneath the surface of the present dispute to strike oil. For Iran is one of the richest sources of oil in the world. One commentator has described it as “floating on a sea of oil.” It contains at least 8 billion barrels of oil reserves. In 1944 alone, 102,000,000 barrels of oil flowed from Iran’s gushers.

For over 40 years Iran has been a victim of capitalist greed and a bone of contention among rival imperialists. In 1901 the British financier William Knox D’Arcy bought 60-year monopoly rights to four-fifths of Iran’s oil. England came into conflict with Czarist Russia over this monopoly. A compromise was reached in the Anglo-Russian Treaty of 1907 which divided Iran into British and Russian spheres of influences. Iran was, of course, not consulted. The only issue that concerned these rival robbers was how to divide the booty.

Through this treaty the British-controlled Anglo-Persian oil Co. took over the oil fields of southern Iran. Today British oil concessions in the Near East constitute the key source of supply for her Navy and air force – and thereby maintain her Empire.

Exposed in 1918

The Anglo-Russian Treaty enabled a Russian industrialist, Kochtaria, to obtain concessions in northern Iran in 1916. However, the Bolsheviks broke with these imperialist traditions of Czarism. One of the first acts of the Soviet government under Lenin and Trotsky in 1918 was to denounce the Anglo-Russian Treaty and declare the Kochtaria concessions void.

Thereupon Kochtaria sold the Anglo-Persian Oil Co. and Standard Oil of New Jersey equal shares in these same forfeited oil concessions in northern Iran. The Soviet government then stated that it opposed the granting of oil rights to the imperialists in the former Russian sphere. As a result, a movement arose among the tribes of northern Iran which was successful in ousting the imperialists from there.

During World War II, American imperialism took advantage of Britain’s difficulties to muscle in on her Middle East oil monopoly. The Texas Oil Company and Standard Oil invested $100,000,000 in a new venture, the American Arabian Oil Co. Roosevelt came to their assistance with a government-financed pipe line running across Saudi Arabia.

I.F. Stone had the following to say about Roosevelt’s policy in the Nation of February 26, 1944:

“To go into a colonial country and buy oil concessions by favors to desert sheiks, to embark on a long-range program for the exploitation of natural resources which belong to another people, is imperialism, however we choose to disguise it.”

The U.S. High Command was eager to obtain an assured oil supply in the Middle East for its naval and air bases encircling the globe. Working closely together with, oil industry representatives, Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Interior Ickes negotiated an Anglo-American Oil Treaty which was very pleasing to the oil monopolists. On the basis of this agreement, Standard Oil and Sinclair Oil began dickering for concessions in southeast Iran.

Kremlin Worried

Alarmed by the penetration of Anglo-American imperialism and seeking supplementary sources of oil, the Kremlin made its own bid for a share of Iran’s oil. In 1944, reversing the policy of Lenin and Trotsky which scrupulously respected the rights of small and weak peoples, Stalin exerted pressure upon the Iran government for concessions in the northwest. Under counter- pressure from the British and American governments, the Iranian regime delayed the granting of any new oil concessions.

Now these behind-the-scene conflicts over Iran’s oil have entered a new phase. On April 7 Iranian Premier Ghavam announced a fifty-year oil agreement with the Soviet Union in north Iran.

This news will please neither the big oil corporations which have long looked upon Iran’s oil as exclusively their private preserve, nor their diplomatic representatives, Byrnes and Cadogan. They are really concerned not about the “sanctity of international obligations,” the “rights of small nations” etc., but about strategical advantages and the seizure of material things like that black, sticky stuff called oil.

The immediate outcome of the “Iranian dispute,” far from improving relations among the “Big Three,” will tend only to aggregate them still further.

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