A journey round the huge area of the Soviet frontier in Asia is a feat that few can manage. It is arduous. Climates are trying; the surface is uneven; means of transport are uncomfortable and few. And it would be expensive. But even an armchair traveler, provided that he equips himself with a good relief map, can make some important discoveries. One is that, in most of the border areas, huge mountain ranges bar the view northward. Some borderlands, however, are flat, and the men who inhabit them, if any, can see without effort what is going on across the Soviet border. Naturally, they do not see concentration camps; these lie in remoter parts of the Union. What they see is, often enough, a spreading town, with new houses and schools, picture houses, electric light, and perhaps a line of street cars. The British mountaineer and writer, H. W. Tilman, when he tells in his latest climbing book how he was forced to plod, in custody, along the Afghan bank of the river Oxus because he had been caught taking a clandestine short cut, happens to describe this contrast. Only two hundred yards away, but on the Soviet side of the river, lorries were spinning by on an apparently excellent motor road—a sight to cause chagrin on his own boulder-strewn and footsore “penitential way.” The kind of thing he saw is plain to other eyes—to the Uighurs of Sinkiang, to the peoples of north Afghanistan, and to the Turki-speaking Iranians on the flats around the Caspian shore. If rich, they are unmoved; but all are impressed if they are—as most are—very poor.
This home truth is little known outside Asia. Yet it helps to account for Communist success in north China. It is underrated largely because of the news value which was accorded to Russia’s tactless bullying of northern Iran in 1946. From that date, Westerners were apt to assume that all the free world in Asia hated and feared the Soviet Union. The corollary to this theory is that Asia wants Western aid and defense. The truth is that some states wish for these benefits, but others do not. For there are, in inland Asia, plenty of poor men who see, or hear from their Telations, of tangible Russian achievements, whereas the Western world and its benefits are unimagined and far away.
During the recent dispute between Iran and its British oil company, so much attention was paid to oil, and to the diplomatic aspects of the quarrel, that its social repercussions slipped from sight. Actually, the dispute was of great sociological importance, since the Iranian working class depends, for betterment of the dreadful conditions in which it lives under Iranian management, upon a steady flow of oil revenue into the national treasury. Yet when Iran’s eccentric premier, Dr. Mossadegh, came to the United States to present his country’s case to the Security Council of the United Nations, he was, for most people, a hero. He was not the jeopardizer of his country’s main source of income, but the skilled diplomat who had eased the British out of an unduly profitable investment; he was also the photogenic wizard (he did well on television) who had cajoled the Security Council into erasing the British complaint from its agenda.
But, once he had brought off these two coups, his shortcomings as a statesman began to show. He had no plans for maintaining output of oil in the quantities that are necessary to keep Iran solvent. Still less had he provision for financing national development and improved public welfare. Inside the great dome of his head lay a one-track mind, intent on expelling all foreigners from positions of management in Iranian industries, yet without capacity to organize efficient operations once they were gone. He was ready, he said, to maintain the former supply of oil to Western customers. But he had no plans of his own, and tended to turn down all those of other people, for getting the necessary oil out of the ground. He waved aside, with a deprecatory smile, all questions as to how he proposed to meet the unemployment problem in the idle refinery; temporarily, he warded off complaint by reducing the more-than-adequate cover for Iran’s currency, and giving the oil-workers unemployment pay out of the proceeds. And he uttered no word of any practical value as to how he intended to meet the rising tide of social unrest among the people in his charge. This unrest had been one of the causes of the outburst of Iranian public feeling against the oil company; its volume was staved off, for a while, by interest in his crusade against the British. But to empty stomachs such campaigns are not a full answer. Even before he left the States in November, mutterings were audible in Iran. Sharp anxieties assailed many Western minds. For much that he had said, while in New York and Washington, threw into disconcerting prominence the Iranians’ mistrust of all foreign warnings and advice, and their mistaken idea that they dispose of leisure in which to cavil at all plans suggested by others, while themselves proffering none. By implication, Dr. Mossadegh disclosed how easily he might allow an agitated nation to slide into the internal upsets and upheavals that pave the way for another Russian bite at the periphery of the free world.
The risk of internal trouble in Iran can be measured only after surveying the happenings there in the last few years.
The immediate impact of World War II little altered the social structure of the country- This changed even less than did that of the neighboring Arab States in which armies moved freely to and fro. For the three-power occupation of Iran, which began in 1941 and did not end until the Russians finally left in 1940, took the form of zoning. It therefore tended to reduce communications, not to improve them as they were improved in Egypt or Syria. Thus the provinces retained their ancient isolation, and the peasant his ignorance of anything beyond his immediate surroundings and his daily needs. Moreover, allied preoccupation with the long, thin lifeline to Russia caused impoundings of transport and a dislocation of supplies which rendered the foreigner unwelcome and unpopular. So did a tremendous upset of prices and an inflation which, over the five-year period, enabled a few merchants and landowners to enrich themselves beyond their prewar dreams, while the public servant and the vast majority of the peasants found themselves hungrier and poorer than before. No one likes being elbowed aside while his country is occupied. World War II, therefore, increased the Iranian’s long-standing dislike of self-interested foreigners. It also on the whole increased the scandalous disparity between the few Iranian rich and the many Iranian poor.
By 1944-1945 these developments had stimulated among some educated Iranians a social conscience. When, in 1944, the Tudeh or “Mass” party was founded, it was joined in all good faith by considerable numbers of educated men who saw in it the way to start changing such manifest inequality. They joined because they saw a chance of breaking down feudal privilege and of evening the incidence of taxation. (In Iran, taxation is almost entirely indirect, since indirect taxes are easier to collect; indirect taxes fall unduly lightly upon the rich and unduly heavily upon the poor.) But intelligent support for Tudeh was not to last. The new party turned out to be a mere cover organization for Soviet propaganda. M any good Iranians, therefore, left it in disgust. Instead, they concentrated their attention upon a program known as the Seven Year Plan, which was to adjust social unbalance by cheating agricultural and industrial productivity. They also sought to improve the social scene by passing, in 1947, a labor law which is, on paper, a model of propriety, but which at the beginning of 1951 was being observed by no Iranian industrialists; the only two local firms which conscientiously carried it out were the Russian-run caviar factory at Pahlevi on the Caspian and the British-run Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in the south and west.
The Seven Year Plan had many vicissitudes. The first foreign firm appointed to advise upon it produced, in 1947, a scheme that was thought too ambitious and had to be abandoned as being far beyond local means. Next, the Iranians who were responsible for the Plan’s management quarreled as to the shape it should take. When in 1948 the Plan Organization engaged its second team of American consultants, it set them a formidable task. It saddled them with a burden of debt incurred by some ill-managed industries and then instructed them to do their best within the limits of the balance of the total sum available. This firm—Overseas Consultants Inc.—sent an experienced team of advisers to the country in November, 1949. Twenty of its members were American and nine were British. But their advice, which was often excellent, was never used. It was pigeonholed because the Iranian government never mustered the funds with which to put it into effect. When the Iranian Parliament passed its Seven Year Plan Law in November, 1949, it intended to spend 21,000,000,000 rials (nearly $650 million) over the seven years. Part of this large sum was to be obtained from the new and increased rate of oil royalties, part from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and part from the Iranian National Bank. In fact none of these three sources materialized. Successive Iranian governments refused the greatly increased royalty rates that the British Company first offered in 1949. Nor would they agree to the conditions of scrutiny and supervision which the International Bank demands of all borrowers. Their own bank failed them chiefly because their exchequer was borrowing heavily from it for purposes of ordinary expenditure. Insofar as they paid for execution of their plan, they did so by raiding the nation’s ordinary revenue. For this reason, their Treasury fell into serious arrears in 1949-1950. These arrears became so heavy that, on three separate occasions during the Iranian financial year which ended in March, 1951, the exchequer had to borrow first <£G million, then £8 million, and finally a further £25 million from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Only £7 million of this last had been paid over when the British were banished.
The Plan Organization achieved some small successes. It ran an excellent D.D.T. campaign against malaria; it trained some forestry guards; it organized the sale of cheap oil stoves to combat the charcoal burning that is ruining Iran’s remaining forests; it improved animal husbandry in a few small areas and did some work on the port of Khorramshahr. These small beginnings were proof of good work, and promised well for the future. But all of them were in rural areas. They were not visible to the eye of the politician, who seldom leaves the capital. O.C.I, was in Iranian political eyes a failure, whereas in fact its work was vain chiefly on account of lack of the funds that the Iranians had undertaken to provide. It had therefore barely scratched the surface of their needs. In December, 1950, its staff, which was suffering from a growing sense of frustration, honestly told the Iranians that it was costing more than it was worth “in present circumstances.” The Iranian government’s acknowledgment of this communication was a letter dismissing the entire team.
Thus most Iranian efforts to improve the country’s social structure have produced no result. Faulty and misdirected tries have been abundant. Good ones have been abortive. Whose fault is the failure? Before laying it where the Iranian lays it, which is at the door of foreigners, it is worth surveying the main traits of character which cause the Iranian so freely to blame the shortcomings of others and so seldom to see his own.
The Iranian character has many points in its favor. It is immensely quick witted. It is graced with a charm and polish of manner. Intellectually, it is good company on account of its fine capacity for analysis and criticism. It cherishes a love of beauty for beauty’s own sake, which is much less often seen in the Arab and almost never in the matter-of-fact, utilitarian Turk. It is full of the conscious dignity that goes with long traditions and a great past. Yet it has drawbacks. Your Iranian has—like most Asiatics and Africans—a distaste for facing up to the unpleasant. He prefers to evade home-truths, if necessary, by saying what he does not really mean. He cannot, therefore, credit anyone with complete sincerity or complete disinterest. “If brothers were to be trusted,” says one of his proverbs, “Allah would have had a brother.” He always searches in his convoluted mind for the hidden motives which, he believes, govern every word and action. In his dealings with Anglo-Saxons, then, he is often seeking motives or meanings which simply are not there. Again, almost more than any other Oriental, he is ridden with envy of success. Envy is a constant theme in his folk-lore. In everyday life, it causes a new cabinet minister to cancel or undo the jobs done by his predecessor, regardless of their quality. It even causes the transfer to another department of a civil servant who does too well. Envy of the relentless efficiency shown by the British oil company undoubtedly helped to generate the wave of emotion which caused its downfall.
Lastly, the average Iranian is dangerously over-confident. He wholly underrates the need for hard work and serious training. For lack of perception that good modern government calls for effort, his national administration is a sadly incompetent machine. In his estimation any descendant of the great Cyrus and Shah Abbas has but to be given the reins of power and all will he well. His complacency on this score is unruffled by his failure, so far, to alter the discreditable pattern of his country’s social life.
Heredity is responsible for many of these weaknesses; they are noted in travelers’ tales over the centuries. But the environment of the last hundred and fifty years has enhanced them. For a century and a half the Iranians have, on account of their geographical position, been wooed by two great powers—Russia from the north, Britain from the south. Both of these have been interested in keeping Iran friendly and neutral. The Iranians’ native inclination to be wayward and to wait to be coaxed stems largely from an accident of geography. In their self-confidence, they do not realize how fortunate they have been never to have suffered the misfortunes of partition, as has Korea.
The Iranian’s attitude to the foreigner who tries to help him becomes understandable in the light of his country’s recent history, and still more so in the light of his character. He has little to say that is good even of the disinterested work of the foreign missionary and philanthropist. Though himself a disinterested giver to the poor—great generosity to a beggar is often to be seen in the streets of an Iranian town—he cannot credit any foreigner with disinterest. During World War II the Iranian government closed down the British Church Missionary Society School at Isfahan; this, at the time, probably gave the most useful secondary education available in the country. The few Iranians who know the work of the American Near East Foundation tolerate and even praise it; this splendid organization has, in one or two tiny areas, organized model villages that are a pattern of effort for the future. But they are in rural Iran, an area that few townsmen or politicians care to visit. All over the country, the foreign firms whom the Iranians hire and the experts whom they engage are apt to encounter the baffling, dispiriting resistances that broke the work of Overseas Consultants, Inc. These foreigners meet with appreciation and friendship from the individual Iranian technician who is skilled in their specialty, but they find themselves balked as soon as their work involves handling any group of congenitally mistrustful officials. These last, by taking refuge in procrastination, only too often contrive to break the faith of the most eager foreign helper.
The experiences of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in the field of social development well illustrate the difficulty of helping so carping a people. There is much to criticize about the work of this maligned company. Its principal weaknesses will be described later. But in the social field a very great deal of its work was excellent. Yet in Iranian eyes even this was faulty. Anyone who has discussed its work with Iranians will have encountered the following vicious circle of argument against it: If it offered to select and pay for one of Iran’s expensive projected schemes of public works, it was “interfering” in Iran’s domestic affairs. If it made no offer, it was “obstructing development.” As it made no offer, it was “opposing the projects.” Endlessly, it was the scapegoat for Iranian procrastination and for the administrative shortcomings of the Iranian government.
Thus it got no credit for what it did, which was considerable. Its workers and their families were better off as to superannuation schemes, medical care, education, and recreational facilities than those in any other concern in the Middle East. (It has been producing oil for so much longer than any other company that it has a far more stable working population.) They were far and away better off than any other workers in Iran. In the spring of 1951 the minimum wage earned by its unskilled employee at Abadan was 42 rials a day. The minimum prescribed by the Iranian Labor Law is 34 rials. On a walk through Isfahan in the dinner-hour it is easy to chat with a worker in Iranian employment who is getting only 12. Had the oil company been immensely prescient it could, in the thirties, have started spending its growing profits on the workers’ housing and recreational schemes that are nowadays a commonplace. It began only with health and educational services. But once it started on the wide sweep of postwar schemes to benefit the worker, it tarried only when the world shortage of materials and manufactured fittings held up its work. By the end of 1950, 21,000 out of its total roll of 58,153 employees were housed in company houses. At the time it was asked to leave the country, the company was spending at the rate of £10 million per annum on housing and ancillary buildings. It had provided thirty-three primary and three secondary schools, which it had handed over to the Iranian Ministry of Education for starring and management. Its wastage-of-personnel statistics suggest that few of its Iranian employees were dissatisfied. The largest category that quitted its payroll in any recent year left on account of call-up for military service. But too few Iranians knew about these conditions. This fact —obvious to anyone who visits both Teheran and Abadan— was made plain by an International Labor Office Commission which, at the request of the Iranian government, surveyed the industry in 1950. Its report, which is of interest to any foreigner who contemplates working in Iran, emphasizes that difficulties of communication inside Iran had led to “extensive misapprehensions” about the company’s deeds and services. The factor of distance was well mentioned. It worked against the company and against the interest that the Iranian nation has in seeing that its life blood—the oil flow—does not cease. The site of the oil fields and refinery— the hot, unattractive desert of Khuzistan province—is separated by hundreds of miles and a great double wall of snow mountains from the high healthy plateau of Iran proper, where lies the capital. As a result, the British oil worker scarcely knew the real Iran. But, what was worse, the politicians and newspapermen of Teheran did not know the oil fields. They preferred to tell themselves and Iran that the foreign company, being foreign, was bad, than to go and look at its operations for themselves. Prime Minister Mossadegh, for instance, had never seen the “dreadful” conditions which he so glibly painted to the Security Council. The average Teheran politician even holds the company responsible for the dire social conditions in the rest of his country. He never draws breath to consider whether he himself ought not to have done more about these out of the oil royalties and the taxation paid by the company—sums which have for some years contributed upwards of half the country’s revenue. Easy money is surely the source of the proverb “easy come, easy go.”
It would be neither fair nor accurate to complain of lack of appreciation of foreign efforts, of which the largest, materially speaking, was the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s effort, without at the same time pointing out that that company had some great failings. When these are coupled with Iranian nationalism, and with the mood of a poverty-ridden people that has begun to discover that misery is not inevitable, the sudden wave of anti-foreign emotion that shook the country in 1951 becomes comprehensible. This broke on the heads of the British in particular because of the company’s chief shortcomings, which were three. First, it had concentrated far too rigidly upon iron efficiency, and had lacked the imagination to sacrifice some of this in payment for a measure of Iranian good-will. For instance, it had no Iranian directors. It ran its operations from London instead of from a local head office that would have given the Iranians a sense of partnership and a feeling that company interest was their interest also. Secondly, the overall rate of payment that it made per ton of oil extracted did not move with the times. Iranians came to learn that they were getting less per ton than other countries similarly placed, notably than Venezuela.
The company never got the credit that was due to it, therefore, for being the first of the big major companies in the Middle East to offer what amounted to a fifty-fifty rate. This it did in 1949—eighteen months before the Arabian-American Oil Company made its famous offer in December, 1950, to King Ibn Saud. But by 1949, the Iranians were in a mood only to initial such an agreement. By 1950 they had subjected it to such a barrage of criticism that their Parliament rejected it. By 1951 they had murdered a Prime Minister for trying to push it through.
The company’s third and biggest failing was the poverty and timidity of its public relations policy. It never attempted to make its payments to Iran look simple, attractive, and beneficial to the common man, woman, and family. It seemed incapable of inventing for its new royalty offer of 1949 any simple slogan such as the “fifty-fifty” phrase which caused the whole of the Middle East to learn in a few weeks of Aramco’s generosity to King Ibn Saud. With the application of more imagination and zip, the company could have answered some at least of the mischievous untruths and half-truths which Iranians and others pass around. Instead, it let them roll by as if they did not matter, until its friends as well as its enemies were repeating them, often in good faith. This defect in its otherwise efficient scheme of operations helped to increase the evil reputation that dogs the foreigner all over Iran.
Prime Minister Ali Razmara was murdered in March, 1951, because, as his assassin shouted upon arrest, he had “sold the country to foreigners.” His crime was that, as the national coffers were empty, he was trying to get Parliament to pass the new and increased royalty agreement. A secondary crime was that, for lack of this agreement, he had borrowed, within the year, advances totaling £39 million from the company. Of this sum, £21 million had been paid over, interest free, between May, 1950, and March, 1951. But public emotions in which material self-interest plays no part were too strong for him. The same emotions carried Dr. Mossadegh shoulder high when he proclaimed that he would rather see Iran starve than extract its oil under British management. An overwhelming assortment of types and classes were at his back: educated men who resented the British failure to establish a partnership arrangement; ignorant peasants who were simply told that the British had done wrong; nationalists, convinced of their own competence; and others with less sincere motives. These last included the mullah, who tends to oppose the spread of modern ideas, and the landlord-politician, for whom blame of the foreign company was an easy method of deflecting attention from his own shortcomings as a ruler. The excitement was immense. Dr. Mossadegh became for a spell the nation’s hero. No one gave a thought to the empty purses and bellies to which he was sentencing them. Once the average Iranian enters the hectic arena of politics, he seems incapable of thinking at two removes ahead.
Poverty, hunger, and a lead from a dissatisfied intelligentsia are three of the main ingredients of revolution. The first two are already present in Iran. If the third were to develop, and a few ringleaders were to preach that all three conditions were the outcome of the Mossadegh policy, upheaval would be almost inevitable. It would suit nobody but Russia. It would presage disaster for the Iranian intelligentsia and a dark outlook for the Western allies.
The Western powers—which are, in this context, the United States, Britain, and Turkey—want to see changes take place in Iran. But the West is suited only if these are wrought by the gentle means of mutual aid, and not by violence. In the light of Iran’s current mood, the pattern of a Western policy for today is not easy to draw.
Its guiding concept must be Iran’s need to earn. The Iranian government needs money. It must be in funds if it is to deal with the unemployment, the arrears of pay, and the postponement of promised social reforms that are weighing upon it as the result of its own creation of an idle oil industry. It also needs money if it is to pay the British the indemnity that it says it wishes to pay for their apparatus and their inventions. Despite the poor state of Iran’s finances this sum had best be paid, even if later remitted in one form or another. Otherwise a rule of law will have been jettisoned, with results that might have serious effects upon other Western investment in underdeveloped areas.
But if Iran is to make money on this scale, efficient management of its oil industry is imperative. Here was a point that, in New York and Washington, friendly Americans endeavored for weeks to drive home to Dr. Mossadegh. With his home public in mind, he stuck to his theme that no foreigner must make profits inside Iran. He was ready for them to do so only outside it—that is, to market Iranian oil after purchasing it from an Iranian management at a price f.o.b. Abadan. But inside Iran, he said, the oil must be worked by an Iranian management, which would employ, whenever necessary, individual foreign experts whom it could hire and fire at will. No one could convince him that good oil technicians can find plenty of work and that good men will not work at Abadan in such conditions. Day after day his visitors were nonplussed. They made a wealth of suggestions. Many interested spectators—British as well as American—had come to feel that if revolt in Iran were to be averted, it scarcely mattered who managed the oil so long as it was well managed. But Dr. Mossadegh would only discuss plans that boded inefficiency. His attitude was a lesson in the difficulties of dealing with a statesman who has his repute with an ignorant and bigoted home public to consider. Dealings with such men are not so simple as those with Asia’s few remaining dictator-rulers—with King Ibn Saud, for instance, or the Sheikh of Kuweit, or the late King Abdullah of Jordan.
Yet the harder task has to be tackled. It is not peculiar to Iran. Instances of it are growing daily more common, and will crop up not only in Asia but in Africa. In Iran, a failure to induce a Mossadegh to see what appears to a Western mind to be reason can lead to a victory for the Russian-sponsored Tudeh party. It can have immediate and serious consequences elsewhere if it creates reluctance to invest funds, whether privately or under government programs, in countries whose statesmen live in blinkers. A sequence of such failures could produce a Middle East for which the Russians could comfortably wait, knowing that it must fall, like a diseased fruit, into their lap.
But even if the revenue from oil were being made and were pouring into the Iranian treasury, cause for gloom as to the future would not be entirely dispelled. The value of money as a deterrent to revolt depends on the use to which it is put. In the years 1949 and 1950 the Iranian government received from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, in royalties and advances on royalties, in customs and excise and in exchange compensation, £29.5 million and £38 million respectively. Yet the Seven Year Plan was not put in hand. Nor were the slums of Teheran reduced. Nor was Communism averted. Even if Iran, operating some of its oil under Iranian management, were to make for itself a profit at the rate of the one-time British royalties, there is no guarantee that it would spend the money any more wisely than it spent the large sums that it earned through the medium of British management.
Out of fear of offending Oriental susceptibilities, these home truths are too seldom stated. Once they are grasped, it becomes plain that the Westerner who sets out to assist with the peaceful change of the face of the independent democracies of the Middle East has to deal with some immense obstacles. Foremost among these must be numbered the weakness of the local administrations. In every Middle Eastern country, the administrative machine is overloaded with inefficient servants and is barely able to conduct the business of every day. It has not the capacity to engineer fundamental changes in the structure of society. The most necessary of these is demolition of the pernicious old structure of land tenure and its replacement by a modern system that would offer more stimulus to good farming. But no civil service or government (except in Turkey under Dictator Mustapha Kemal, and Jordan, when this was under British management) has as yet dared to pit itself against the vested interest of the feudal landlord. These landlords are ardent politicians. As such, they pay lip service to social change. But in practice they mutely resist this by all the devices known to the Orient —by procrastination, by changes of minister, by diverting attention to anti-foreign campaigns, and by the pastime of paying for expert reports on developments about which all talk, but which no one executes. Of course, there are, in every country, members of the feudal aristocracy who realize the folly of these delays. The Shah of Iran, who has made a start with distributing his own immense estates to landless peasants, is one of them. But his gesture is violently opposed by men of lesser vision; he is therefore a target for criticism, and, alas, lacks the moral courage to stand up to it.
In October, 1951, President Truman signed the Mutual Security Act, under which Iran is to receive economic aid to the value of $23,450,000 during the fiscal year 1952. Almost simultaneously, the United Nations announced that the Iranians had received, under the U.N. technical assistance program aid to the value of $794,702 since it first applied for help in June, 1950, and that it was getting more of this type of aid than any other underdeveloped country. These sums will be spent chiefly on the salaries of experts loaned to Iran and on training Iranians abroad.
A start, therefore, has been made with proving that Soviet methods are not the only ones capable of effecting social change. But the start is a small one. Iran is an enormous country, one sixth as large as the United States. The two sums combined—$25 million—amounts to less than half of Iranian earnings from royalties alone in any recent year. It is likely that the $25 million will be more effectively spent, for its spending is in solicitous and expert hands. Yet, for full success, it needs to be wisely supplemented from Iran’s own funds and by Iran’s own ministers and civil servants. Iranian drive and determination are prerequisites of foreign success. It remains to be seen whether the present anti-foreign mood of most—though not quite all—leaders of Iranian thought will stifle the foreign effort at its birth.
Mr. Casey, Prime Minister of Australia, when on his way to the current United Nations Assembly, spoke of Middle Eastern statesmen as “sorcerer’s apprentices” who had unleashed a flood that they could not control. His simile, which was apt, evokes all the alarming urgency of Dukas’s music and of Disney’s “Fantasia.” That this sense of urgency needs to be evoked, and quickly, is the chief lesson of Iran’s self-made oil crisis.