Iran and Democracy

A nice, short primer on the 1953 coup and its consequences.


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    • Edger on February 28, 2008 at 22:22

       Operation Ajax was hatched–the brainchild of the CIA’s Middle East chief, Kermit Roosevelt, who directed it from Tehran.(35) Also sent there was Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, whose job was to recruit anti-Mossadegh forces with CIA money.(36) The objective of Operation Ajax was to help the shah get rid of Mossadegh and replace him with the shah’s choice for prime minister, Gen. Fazlollas Zahedi, who had been jailed by the British during World War II for pro-Nazi activities.(37)

       The covert operation began, appropriately enough, with assurances to Mossadegh from the U.S. ambassador, Loy Henderson, that the United States did not plan to intervene in Iran’s internal affairs. The operation then filled the streets of Tehran with mobs of people–many of them thugs– who were loyal to the shah or who had been recipients of CIA largess. In the ensuing turmoil, which included fighting in the streets that killed 300 Iranians, Mossadegh fled and was arrested. On August 22, 12 days after he had fled, the shah returned to Tehran.


       Once restored to power, the shah entered into an agreement with an international consortium, 40 percent of which was held by American oil companies, for the purchase of Iranian oil. It was symptomatic of the postwar displacement of British by U.S. interests that the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was not restored to its previous dominance.(42) In succeeding years the United States regarded the shah as a key ally in the Middle East and provided his repressive and corrupt government with billions of dollars in aid and arms.

       The restoration of the shah to the Peacock Throne engendered immense hostility toward the United States and had cataclysmic consequences. The revolutionary torrent that built up was ultimately too much for even the United States to handle. By the late 1970s the shah and his poor record on human rights had become so repugnant to the State Department under Cyrus Vance that almost any alternative was deemed preferable to the shah’s rule. But the shah had his defenders at the Pentagon and on the National Security Council who still thought he was important to regional stability and who favored his taking decisive action to restore order. President Carter at first was ambivalent. U.S. policy evolved from a suggestion that the shah gradually relinquish power to a call for him to leave the country. On January 16, 1979, the shah, as he had in 1953, took leave of his country–this time for good.(43)

       When the monarchy was finally overthrown in the 1978-79 revolution, which was inspired by Islamic fundamentalism and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iranians held Americans hostage for over a year at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, and the United States suffered a humiliating repudiation of its foreign policy in the Middle East.

    The neocons never learn. They keep ignoring history thinking that they will somehow be able to dominate the world and that if only they’ll keep making the same idiotic mistakes long enough, regardless of how many people die, they’ll get lucky some day.


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