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Ah! That's why
Review: All the Shah's Men

August 5, 2003
The Iranian

This year (August 16 to be exact) will mark the 50th anniversary of the US led coup in Iran which overthrew Mossadegh, Iran's first democratically-elected leader. Reading Stephen Kinzer's latest book All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, reminded me to light a candle.

All the Shah's Men uncovers the many seedy details of how the US was able to take the democratic movement Iranians had started and crush it under the feet of a handful of spies and a mere million dollars in cash. What's worse is that this was done to our own people, by our own people.

The testament that if something feels wrong, it probably is, is clearly illustrated by Kinzer in this latest examination of the events leading to the US removing Mossadegh, inserting the Shah, and ultimately leading to the Islamic revolution and beyond. Testament should be given to the current actions by the US in Iraq as it strives to re-build Iraq. Again.

Kinzer quotes recently de-classified CIA files and includes often conflicting information from many researchers (several Iranian). Some Iranians may disagree with his assumptions and reporting. (Ah, you can just hear the pro-Shah side and the pro-IRI sides screaming foul now.) But I will call this one of the most concise depictions of the events leading up to and after the coup I have ever read.

It is not a hard read, rather it flows comfortably like a spy novel, the disconcerting part being that everything is pretty much true.

Amazingly the first attempt by Colonel Nasiri (who went on to have a "stellar" career as head of SAVAK) to deliver the Shah's decree firing Mossadegh as Prime Minister, was in fact foiled by General Riahi who intercepted Nasiri and arrested him before he could deliver his letter.

The next day Mossadegh emerged and announced victory, declaring the attempted coup by the Shah a failure. How the two primary American figures Kermit Roosevelt and Norman Schwarzkopf Sr decided to ignore the failed first attempt and continue on with the plans to overthrow Mossadegh and instate the Shah, in spite of Washington having all but conceded defeat and failure of the operation, is what blows me away.

Here we have two Americans, who knew Mossadegh was not at all a communist, since they themselves were the ones sowing the seeds of rumor and disinformation, acting on the strongest of convictions, professional commitment, or whatever you call that which possessed them to continue, and damn if they didn't succeed. Albeit 3 days later.

The "brilliant enthusiasm" and overwhelming success of these men paved the way for the US to continue it's newfound policy of covert regime change for years to come. Guatemala would be next.

When Roosevelt and Schwarzkopf were done, Iran was "safely" in the hands of the Shah and the US who together enjoyed 25 years of uninterrupted oil supply and other misadventures. After that came another 25 years this time under the IRI.

This book will certainly anger you as it illustrates how close Iranians came to a secular democracy in 1953. The damage that can be caused by illegitimate regime change. It's consequences half a century later.

Everything leads the reader to understand the fragility of the world and how easily self determination can be swept under the carpet in favor of concession, manipulation and betrayal. And, often the very same people who set the rules, don't play by them.

This book raises the usual set of questions. All of which begin with, "Why?"

I highly recommend this book for one primary reason and I'll use the quote from President Truman in Kinzer's book to illlustrate, "There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know."

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By Behrouz Bruce Bahmani





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