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Anniversary of Oil Nationalization in Iran, the Prevailing Debates and Discourse


By Farid Marjai

According to the Persian calendar, today, the 29th of Esfand is the anniversary of the nationalization of the oil industry in Iran under the leadership of the late Dr. Mohamad Mosaddeq.

In the past decade, among the pro-Western critics in Iran, certain debates have surfaced regarding whether the nationalization of oil -- and the ending of British control over the resources-- was the right political and economic course led by Mosaddeq at the time. In these debates, a revisionist reading held by a minority has emerged that identifies with the Western interests over the controversies, and reflects the cliche Western grievances and narrative over Mosaddeq’s initiative.

In this light, Mosaddeq is pictured as a “populist” who encouraged demonstrations and political agitation; and that Mosaddeq had a martyr complex-- otherwise, he would have capitulated and accepted the British formulas and dictates. This reading of history does not even consider the overthrow of Mosaddeq as a Coup d’etat. Despite all archival documentations, this revisionist history denies that the British and American governments and their intelligence agencies had any critical role in the 1953 coup. To them the nationalization of oil was not related to the wider concepts of “national sovereignty” and “independence,” but a mere commercial settlement. Furthermore, they see the concepts of “sovereignty” as meaningless, demode and obsolete for today’s world.

In the near future the journal Iranian Studies will devote an issue to this matter in which historians such as Ervand Abrahamian, Ahmad Ashraf, Fakhreddin Azimi and Ali Rahnema will weigh in on the issue. Yesterday, for the anniversary of the nationalization of the oil industry, the reformist newspaper Shargh featured 3 interesting articles to celebrate the historic events that embodied the democratic movement spearheaded by the late Mosaddeq. One of these articles by Parviz Sedaghat, is a well-reasoned response to the newly emerged revisionist history:

Also, a short historical review of the events

Dr. Mosaddeq’s report to the people on the nationalization of oil industry; his voice

A poem dedicated to the anniversary

On the lighter side, a chat from Los Angeles

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