Crisis of Confidence in Iran

Courtesy Reuters

LAST year, Iran produced 31,000,000 tons of petroleum. The fact sums up the urgency of Iran's current problems. The ancient Persian kingdom is not yet a satellite of its Russian neighbor, but it is far from being a fully sympathetic member of the Western system. It suffers, and may suffer far more grievously yet, from emotional xenophobia, national frustration and compensatory fear and resentment, and traditional Persian "splitthe-opposition" diplomacy. Operating there, too, are new and ill-digested elements of Comintern activity and, of course, modern technology. The rationale of neutralism arising from this complex of factors has become, at least temporarily, the first principle of Iran's national existence. The practice of it endangers the oil economy of the Western world and foreshadows a chain of events which might result in the disappearance of Iran itself into the Soviet orbit.

In a world of global tension and war, where the United States and its allies--willing or hesitant--are directing every resource into essential programs of economic expansion and military preparedness, Iran has become a sore that does not respond to the traditional healing measures of diplomacy or commercial negotiation. It will, apparently, require unusual political medicine. We are being perilously slow in writing the prescription.

A glance at the map of Asia will show why Iran would be a prize for the Soviet Union. It is the gateway to military conquest of the Middle East, flanking Turkey. It is far from the sources of Western military strength, and, once taken, could be exploited in relative security by the Russians. Iran offers warm-water port facilities for the growing industrial empire of Asiatic Russia, and even under primitive methods of agriculture has been an exporter of foodstuffs and fibers. Were its water resources developed, it could help considerably to meet the food deficits that plague India. The Iranian oil resources on the northern plateau might provide the margin of economic strength that Russia would need to hope to win a world war, even though these resources are

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