August 19, 1953-Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh (1882-1967) is removed from power in a coup engineered by British MI6 and the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency under the control of Kermit Roosevelt. Mohammad Reza Shah (1919-1980) returns from exile in Rome to reestablish himself as the nation’s highest authority. The Shah proceeds to place the country in an iron grip, enforcing dictatorial rule for the next twenty-five years before his abdication in 1979 resulting in the seizure of power by the Ayatollah Khomeini setting Iran on a path of radical Islamic rule highlighted by the administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The coup in 1953 and the actions of U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1979, permanently changed the relationship between the United States and the once promising Islamic Republic.
A little more than one year ago, the United States in conjunction with several other allies, reached a formal agreement to limit Iran’s ability to manufacture and stockpile nuclear weapons. The agreement has been both lionized and criticized by the far right and far left. It is assumed by many that Iran is a sworn enemy of the United States and seeks to destroy all that America stands for. Islamophobia and ignorance have allowed the belief that Iran is a threat to peace in the western hemisphere to proliferate exponentially. Christianity still holds the record for the largest number of followers. But that might change sooner than we might believe. The Pew Research Center has projected that Islam will hold the title of the world’s largest religion by 2070. The overwhelming majority of people who believe in Islam are very peaceful and sincere individuals. Fanatical believers unafraid of committing extremist acts have cast a dark cloud over the faith, breeding fear and suspicion that have resulted in a surge in hate crimes against those of the Muslim faith. But was Islamophobia the sole reason for the actions of August, 1953?
Stephen Kinzer revisits Iran in 1953 in this investigative account of the origins of the coup, its implementation and consequences which continue to haunt Iran and the world to this day. The life of Mohammad Mossadegh, the charismatic voice of democracy and liberty who gained a following as he chartered his course with the purpose of transforming Iranian society, is examined in detail. Free speech, open elections and personal freedom became staples of his rule giving hope and optimism to thousands of believers. But as we learn in from Kinzer’s investigative efforts, foreign influences, economic restrictions and domestic threats embarked on a collision course that dealt Iran a blow from which it has never fully recovered.
But just how did the coup happen and why was it initiated? The answers to those questions, found in this book, are key to understanding the tragic results of U.S. and British involvement in the nation’s domestic affairs. Greed, oil, British embarrassment and the fear of communism, were just a few ingredients in a stew that served as the catalyst for Mossadegh’s removal. The lack of appreciation for Iranian history and the complicated relationship between the Shiites and Sunni Muslims, allowed intelligence operatives from abroad to engage in a deadly plot resulting in one of the darkest moments in Middle Eastern history. Today it is difficult to believe that the coup affects present day events. But as we learn through Kinzer, destabilization and political turmoil that ensued giving rise to fierce anti-western ideology, is directly tied to the coup. The attack on the U.S. Embassy in 1979 and subsequent events further complicated matters. War with Iraq and the emergence of international terrorism pioneered by radicals such as Osama Bin Laden continued to amplify aggression on both sides. The nuclear arms restriction deal came as a result of long hours of discussion, assurances and acts of faith by all involved. Agreements reached with the deal, have given way to the first steps on the road to reconciliation.
We have much ground to cover as we continue to reconcile with Iran. Many wounds have yet to fully heal and will require more patience and understanding on both sides. The first step, which has already been taken, is to admit wrongdoing. Governments can apologize but its citizens can and do sometimes remain defiant and unconvinced of any form of complicity. In order for us to understand Iran and remove our fear of Islamophobia and our destruction, we must first learn why their feelings exist. Only then can we begin to untangle our complicated coexistence and move forward in a harmonious and promising direction.
“Those who are at war with others are not at peace with themselves.”- William Hazlitt