Aliakbar Moinfar who took the helm of the newly established petroleum ministry after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, is also the first character whom the Oral History of Iranian Petroleum Ministers, an 80-page book published recently, has done an interview with him.
The book tries to narrate the past events of the Iranian petroleum ministry from the Moinfar perspective who run the ministry in a short but sensitive period after the victory of Islamic Revolution.
Unfortunately, the first minister of petroleum of the Islamic Republic of Iran passed away a few days ago, nearly one month after the book publication.
In addition to a detailed interview with Mr. Moinfar, the book includes 10 important documents and more than twenty pictures related to his tenure at the helm of the ministry. But among the collection, three pictures are new. These pictures show a meeting of a number of former petroleum ministers whom the current petroleum minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh invited to the ministry to honor them for their services.
The book narrates first-hand stories by Moinfar who run the ministry for around one year at a very critical period. During the interview, he confesses implicitly that some of the decisions he made occurred at very special and urgent moments, noting if he had faced the same situation at present he would have made different decisions.
As the remarks of the interviewee show, Mr. Moinfar was not a good mood to answer the questions during long hours of the interview due to illness even though his high concentration on the subjects and good memories about what happened nearly 40 years ago was admirable.
Furthermore, he is very interested to give correct information about each story and avoids sacrificing the quality for the quantity, so in some cases, he prefers not to speak about what seems to be untrue or unproven. For example, when the interviewer asks about the reason behind Saudi petroleum minister, Zakie Yamani stepping down, Moinfar doesn’t resort to guessing or making ambiguous remarks announcing explicitly that he has no information about the issue.
Personal views of Mr. Moinfar and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s stance about the oil prices and production during those years of instability in the oil market are among the very interesting parts of the book, especially regarding the U.S refusal of buying oil from Iran after the hostage-taking crisis in November 1979, when Iranian students seized the U.S embassy in Tehran, as well as OPEC conferences on setting oil prices and level of oil production.
Moinfar also tells very interesting memories about the Petroleum Ministry’s internal issues, about the difficulties regarding replacement of high-level staff, high expectations of some political factions after the victory of the Islamic Revolution which were problematic for running day to day issues of the ministry, the story of arresting the head of oil refineries of the country by a number of Abadan oil refinery personnel while he had travelled to the south to inspect the installations, and so on.
The final chapter of the book tells the story of Mohammadjavad Tondgooyan, who replaced Moinfar as Iranian minister of petroleum. Tondgooyan was captured by Iraqi forces who had invaded Iran in September 1980 and had occupied parts of the oil-rich regions in the south.
The incident occurred in November 1980 when the newly appointed minister of petroleum was traveling between southern cities near the occupied lands by Iraqi forces. At this time, Mr. Moinfar was moving in another car behind Tondgooyan and he was very lucky that could escape the capture.
The book also deals with Moinfar memories before he took over petroleum ministry, the issues that he was not directly involved in and seems to be less related to the content of the book which is focused on petroleum ministers performance.
Anyway, the first volume of the book, Oral History of Iranian Petroleum Ministers, seems to be valuable and a step forward. It is hoped that removal of the weaknesses, result in publishing more valuable volumes in the future.