The 'Dragon' Slayer

In May, 1951, the Iranian Prime Minister, Muhammad Mossadeq, nationalized the '400,000,000 Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The company, financially controlled by the British government, had enjoyed a monopoly for 40 years and Mossadeq described it as "a dragon lying on the Persian people's hidden treasure." Protesting that the Iranian action was illegal, the British government ostentatiously alerted military units in Cyprus, Egypt and Iraq and a Royal Navy cruiser anchored in sight of the vast company-owned refinery at Abadan. But Mossadeq refused to be browbeaten or persuaded. A demagogue prone to public trances and extravagant displays of weeping and fainting, he rejected all suggestions for compromise and ordered British oil-workers to quit the country. While mobs of Iranians roamed the streets chanting "Kill the British!" the oil-workers filled in the days before their departure by staging a musical revue. Three years later Mossadeq was arrested and Iran signed a new oil agreement with Britain who had to be content with a small shareholding in an international consortium.

Britain's Arabian Oil Empire Article


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by Stephen Luscombe