Crushing Democracy

1953 coup overthrew burgeoning Iranian democracy


Crushing Democracy
by Mitchell Freddura

While there are few direct lines of cause and effect that can be established throughout history, the hostility that has characterized U.S.-Iran relations in the twenty-first century is predominantly the result of a relatively anonymous act that occurred over half a century ago. On August 19, 1953 the popularly elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq was removed from power in a coup d’état planned and executed by members of the Central Intelligence Agency. Mosaddeq’s crime: the nationalization of the oil industry and an offensive display of Iranian backbone. While the immediate result of the coup was twenty-five years of stability under the oppressive Mohammad Reza Shah, the long term effects have proved traumatic for U.S.-Iran relations. Events such as the Islamic Revolution, the Iranian Hostage Crisis and the Iran-Iraq War all have roots in 1953, and have all helped to drive a wedge between the two countries. While the majority of the American public is not even aware of the event, for the people of Iran the coup has instilled an indelible memory. Today Mohammad Mosaddeq is revered as a symbol of Iranian nationalism and a martyr in the struggle against traditional Anglo-American imperialism. Thus, although initially praised as a rousing success, the 1953 coup was the first domino to fall in a chain of events that have polarized U.S.-Iran relations. As Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated in 2000, the 1953 coup was “a setback for Iran’s political development, and it is easy to see now why so many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.”

In order to fully appreciate the appeal of Mohammad Mosaddeq and his fierce nationalist agenda, it is important to understand the history of foreign intervention in Iran. Throughout the modern era Iranian interaction with the West has come in the form of economic exploitation and Western intervention in domestic affairs. In the twentieth century the British owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company became the dominant imperial presence within Iran. Originally established as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) in 1901, the company began as a concession granted to English businessman William D’Arcy by Muzaffar al-Din Shah. The agreement granted D’Arcy the exclusive rights to any oil found in Iran. In return the Shah was paid a sum of £20,000 and an allotment of 16% of the annual profits of D’Arcy’s company. After seven years of failed attempts D’Arcy struck oil in May of 1908 at a depth of 1,180 feet, becoming the first person to gain access to Iran’s greatest natural asset. A month later Great Britain formed the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and spent £2 million to buy a controlling interest in D’Arcy’s company, giving Great Britain exclusive control over the birthright of the Iranian people.

In the truest sense of imperialism the APOC was a ruthless and corrupt company, eager and willing to lie, cheat and steal from the Iranians; raping them of their most abundant natural resource while paying them a pittance in return. The APOC frequently refused to allow Iranian auditors to examine their books or falsely reported the company profits so as to deflate the value of the 16% endowment owed to the Iranians. The hub of the APOC’s operations was the Abadan refinery on the Persian Gulf which was constructed in 1912. In an effort to isolate the APOC from Iran, the only jobs available to Iranian workers were the lower level, blue collar jobs. Engineering and administrative positions were filled by British citizens or by foreign workers imported from the British colonies. Working conditions at the refinery were abysmal. Workers got paid fifty cents an hour and were packed thousands deep into shantytowns called “Kaghazabad” meaning “paper city” referring to their crude construction. These slums were without running water or electricity, disease and famine were common occurrences, and personal privacy was nonexistent. The economic dominance exuded by the APOC manifested itself in a physical form at Abadan.

Outraged by British encroachment on Iranian sovereignty, Reza Shah canceled the British mandate in 1932, ending the APOC’s right to Iranian oil, and forcing them to the negotiation table. In 1933 the two countries agreed upon a new concession which stated that British land rights were to be reduced to ¾ of what they had originally been (although the APOC got to keep all of the oil fields that were already developed), that the British must now pay an annual allotment of no less than £975,000 to Iran, and that working conditions at Abadan were to be improved. In exchange the Shah agreed to extend the concession until 1993, and change the name to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC). However, although these negotiations were promising, the AIOC eventually reverted back to its old corrupt and exclusionary habits. Furthermore, Great Britain used the onset of World War II to force Reza Shah to abdicate in 1941. Once Reza Shah left the country Great Britain placed his son, Mohammad Reza Shah on the throne and demanded that the Shah name the pro-British Mohammad Ali Furughi as Prime Minister. Consequently, through the combination of a new, inexperienced Shah and a malleable Prime Minister Great Britain was able to more directly controlled Iran than ever before.

It was in reaction to these events that the National Front came into being. Formed in 1949 the National Front was a political organization that fought to curtail the influence of the British and check the power of Mohammad Reza Shah, who had become quite powerful thanks to British patronage. The coalition united a broad spectrum of political ideologies from the reformist liberal intelligentsia, to the socialist peasants, to the clergy, and even some extreme right-wing conservatives. This mosaic of political ideologies was united by a common goal: to expel Great Britain from Iran and give the people a stronger voice in their government. Once it formed, the National Front oriented itself around a charismatic and eccentric intellectual, Mohammad Mosaddeq.

Born on May 19, 1882 Mohammad Mosaddeq was from a rich upper-class family, his mother was a princess in the Qajar dynasty and his father served as the chief financial minister for Nasir al-Din Shah. Interestingly, Mosaddeq’s life seems to have paralleled the maturation of democracy within Iran. As a young boy he participated in the Tobacco Riots, in 1906 he campaigned for reform during the Constitutional Revolution, and at the age of 24 he was elected to the first Majlis (Iranian parliament). Perhaps it is fitting then, that the Iranian democratic experiment culminated with Mosaddeq in power and ended with his removal. As a result of his early foray into politics Mosaddeq became disenchanted with the corruption and incompetence of the Qajar Shahs and looked toward Europe for inspiration. As a young man Mosaddeq studied law and public finance in Neuchâtel and received his doctorate in law from the University of Neuchâtel in 1914. His studies imbued him with the ideals of liberalism and self-determination and he became enchanted with the idea of establishing a secular democracy within Iran. As a political activist Mosaddeq became renowned as a fierce anti-imperialist and champion of Iranian nationalism. His education and experiences awakened him to the plight of his countrymen and he argued, quite accurately, that as long as the AIOC interfered in Iranian affairs Iran could never exist as a fully independent state. Consequently, the charismatic politician made it his life’s goal to nationalize the AIOC and establish Iran as a democratic state.

In 1949 Mohammad Mosaddeq and the National Front demanded that the British renegotiate the terms of the 1933 concession. Riding a wave of popular support which had given Mosaddeq and his party a strong presence in the Majlis, the parliament drafted a resolution stipulating that Iran was to be entitled to a 50-50 split in the profits of the AIOC and the random, uninhibited examination of the AIOC’s books. Predictably however, the AIOC refused to agree to the new bill and demanded that the 1933 concession be adhered to. While admittedly the negotiations were a failure, the experience did succeed in lending credence to Mosaddeq’s argument that the AIOC must be nationalized and the British expelled from Iran. Compounding the failures of the Majlis was the fact that by early 1950 American oil companies agreed with Venezuela and Saudi Arabia on a proposal similar to the one that the British had rejected. Consequently, following the assassination of the Prime Minister, in which the assassins may have been affiliated with the National Front, Mohammad Mosaddeq was elected Prime Minister and on April 30, 1951 the Majlis voted to nationalize the AIOC and all of its operations. Two days later the Shah acquiesced and signed the bill into law.

1952 proved a pivotal year for Iranian foreign relations. Compounding the nationalization of the oil industry was the election of Dwight D. Eisenhower as President of the United States. Renowned as a hardened Cold Warrior, Eisenhower was ardently committed to stopping the spread of Communism. In stark contrast to the Truman administration, which viewed Mosaddeq as a positive secular force that could be adopted as an ally to help contain Communism in the Middle East, Eisenhower viewed the political upheaval that was taking place in Iran as vulnerable to Soviet interference. As professor Barry Rubin stated, “while Truman and Acheson felt social change was inevitable- and thus should be encouraged in a manner consistent with American interests- Eisenhower and Dulles tended to see reform movements as disruptive and as likely to be captured by the Communists.” Consequently, Eisenhower devoted huge amounts of money and man power toward destabilizing and ultimately toppling Mosaddeq. Their efforts included spreading anti-Mosaddeq propaganda throughout Iran, making dubious connections between Mossadeq and the Soviet Union, and overstating the power of the Tudeh party (the Communist party) within Iran. The culmination of their operation against Mosaddeq was the coup against the Prime Minister, codenamed operation AJAX.

Executed on August 15, 1953 the initial plan, orchestrated and carried out largely by the CIA, was to convince the Shah to sign two firmans (royal decrees), one removing Mosaddeq from power and the other installing the pro-U.S. General Zahedi as Prime Minister. Although Mosaddeq was a great threat to the Shah’s power and influence, the Shah was rather skittish about the idea of a coup. Only after intensive negotiations with U.S. officials and reassurances by the CIA about the security of his own position, did Mohammad Reza sign the firmans. The next step was to order military officials loyal to the Shah to seize government buildings and arrest Mosaddeq. Mosaddeq however, became aware of the plan against him and quickly declared the firmans illegal and had the conspirators arrested. When news of the failure reached Mohammad Reza he panicked and fled the country fearing for his life. U.S. intelligence agents in Tehran however, refused to give up and began to rebuild support for the coup. The final blow to Mosaddeq came when a very instrumental CIA operative and one of the architects of the coup, Kermit Roosevelt (Teddy Roosevelt’s grandson), convinced the Shah, now hiding in Paris, to publically announce that he had signed a firman dismissing the Prime Minister and that Mosaddeq had no legal authority to continue is premiership. Roosevelt then paid a group of peasants to pose as Tudeh leaders and being demonstrating in support of Mosaddeq. Roosevelt believed that if he could convince the royalist and moderate politicians that Mosaddeq was losing control over the country and was affiliated with the Tudeh party, they would support his removal. Roosevelt’s plan worked and eventually a counter demonstration formed in the streets of Tehran, advocating for Mosaddeq to step down. The chaotic day ended when the pro-Shah military turned on the pro-Mosaddeq crowds, taking to the streets and brutally suppressing the demonstrations. The battle concluded at the gates of Mohammad Mosaddeq’s home where he was arrested and finally removed from power.

Upon the Shah’s restoration he declared martial law and embarked on what would be a twenty five year long reign of political centralization and social repression. Following the coup the Shah sentenced Mosaddeq to three years imprisonment and life under house arrest. Other activists also fell victim to the Shah’s paranoia and by the end of 1953 the Shah had imprisoned 2,100 political enemies. Most importantly however, was the fact that after the coup the United States replaced Great Britain as the predominant imperial force within Iran. In 1954 the Shah signed a deal that gave American oil companies more than 40 percent control over the production of Iranian oil and in return the United States bankrolled the Shah and by extension, his oppressive policies. In the three years after the coup the Shah received over $200 million in economic aid and between 1953 and 1961 $500 million in military aid. With this money the Shah increased the size of his military to 200,000 men and created the infamous National Intelligence Security Organization or SAVAK. The SAVAK was used to harass opposition groups, arrest suspected “traitors” or political enemies and commit acts of random terror. The SAVAK was also used as a political tool to bribe and bully politicians and rig elections to the Majlis. As a result, parliament became packed with wealthy landowners old aristocrats, reducing the role of the Majlis to a rubber-stamp organization. All of the political activists were either jailed or killed and any authority over domestic policies or control over the agenda that the Majlis had before the coup was completely annulled. All power was now centralized around Mohammad Reza Shah.

It may seem somewhat ironic that even though Great Britain spent the better part of a century imposing its will on Iran and robbing it of its most precious resource, it is the United States that attracts the most ire within the country. More than anything this anger is an indication of the magnitude of America’s actions. Even though it only spent a relatively short amount of time in Iran, the U.S. completely changed the political landscape of the country; substituting the democratic will of Iran for the perceived security of the United States. Consequently, it is important to remember that when questioning how the current state of Iran-U.S. relations came into being, or why a once promising democratic state devolved into fundamentalist Islamic regime, the United States must look in the mirror. By toppling Mosaddeq and bankrolling the Shah the United States became a complicit supporter of an authoritarian regime and declared to the rest of the world that it would sooner support a despot rather than a democracy. That is why the argument can be made that it was largely the actions taken by the U.S. government in August of 1953 that are the cause of the current turbulent relations between Iran and the United States.

The long term effect of the removal of Mossadeq was the Islamic Revolution of 1979. While the American public viewed the revolution as a spontaneous and unjustified act of defiance, for the people of Iran it was anything but. The revolution was the culmination of the previous twenty-five years of complete social and political repression of the Iranian people under the Shah. With the money and complicit approval of the United States, Mohammad Reza Shah sharply centralized political power beneath him, outlawing opposition groups and harassing political enemies. As a result, these policies created a barren political landscape, devoid of any political or social organ through which the public could voice their outrage. However, the Shah did not succeed in eliminating political dissent but merely forced it underground; creating an environment that was conducive to revolution and yearning for change. Without any legal avenue through which they could voice their dissent, the Iranian public became volatile; pressurized by their political suffocation. Consequently, once benign political activists grew frustrated and adopted more extreme agendas and radical tactics. Compounding the Shah’s oppressive policies was the notion that Mohammad Reza was merely a stooge for the West and a traitor that sacrificed the interests of the Iranian people for his own wellbeing. This sentiment may not have been wholly unfounded, and was reinforced by the increased U.S. control over Iranian oil and the huge sums of money transferred from Washington D.C. to the bank account of the Shah. Furthermore, this radicalization was also a reaction to the events of 1953. The failure of Mohammad Mosaddeq to successfully reform Iranian politics through non-violent and legal means convinced opposition groups that a more extreme agenda must be assumed. As Sepehr Zabih states in his book The Mosaddeq Era, the failure of Mosaddeq combined with the dictatorial rule of the Shah convinced reformers that “the very legitimacy of the monarchy, and not its mere constitutional limitations, was the question at hand.” Thus, without an avenue for legal and peaceful expression these revolutionaries were left to simmer in their dissent and ultimately turned to religious strong-man types who offered Islam as a way to achieve their goals.

Ironically, not only did the United States succeed in creating an environment conducive to revolution, but it also provided the masses with the means with which to achieve this revolution: political Islam. During the Cold War the U.S. viewed fundamental Islam in the Middle East as an effective tool against an atheist Communist platform. Frequently CIA agents would convince members of the Majlis or moderate clerics that the ministries of the Mosaddeq regime were “full of ‘Kremlin-controlled atheists.’” A State Department memo stated that “religious leaders were encouraged with funding to adopt a more fundamentalist line and break with Mosaddeq.” Furthermore, the CIA funded a specific individual, Ayatollah Abolqasem Kashani, who organized the Devotees of Islam (the Iranian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) and frequently engaged in acts of terrorism against the Shah and his father before him. While planning the coup the CIA noted that among the organizations that Kashani could mobilize was the “Fedayan terrorist organization of Muslim extremists.” Coincidently, Kashani was also the god-father of Ruhollah Khomeini, the man that would use Islam as a tool to overthrow the Shah twenty five years later. As Khomeini’s biographer Baqer Moin wrote, “Khomieni was a frequent visitor to Kashani’s home and admired his courage and stamina. He shared his views on many issues such as, anti-colonialism, Islamic universalism, political activism, and populism.” Therefore it seems reasonable to argue that the United States indirectly contributed to the Islamic Revolution. Not only did the United States tolerate, if not create, the plight of the Iranian people but it also funded and encouraged the mentor of Khomeini, the eventual leader of the Revolution.

Another important event in U.S.-Iranian relations that has direct roots in 1953 is the infamous Iranian Hostage Crisis. After the Shah was overthrown in 1979 U.S. President Jimmy Carter allowed him entrance into the United States to receive medical treatment. This seemingly harmless act elicited an outraged response in Iran and Iranian students, with the blessing of the revolutionary leaders, stormed the American Embassy in Tehran taking 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days. While Americans found this act to be unprovoked and barbaric, for the Iranian public taking U.S. hostages was protection from what they saw as history repeating itself. As Stephen Kinzer describes in his book All the Shah’s Men, “the hostage takers remembered that when the Shah fled into exile in 1953, CIA agents working at the American embassy had returned him to his throne.” Furthermore, one of the hostage-takers admitted that “in the back of everybody’s mind hung the suspicion that, with the admission of the Shah to the United States, the countdown for another coup d’état had begun. Such was our fate again, we were convinced, and it would be irreversible. We now had to reverse the irreversible.”

As a result of the Islamic Revolution and the Iranian hostage crisis the United States distanced itself from Iran, eventually cutting off all economic and diplomatic relations. Moreover, the revolution provided a common ground on which the United States and Iraq formed an alliance. Balancing the power and influence of Iran’s new leaders was crucial to both states; Iraq did not want the revolution to spill over and radicalize its majority Shi’a population, and likewise the United States did not want the entire Middle East to be consumed by fundamentalism and anti-U.S. sentiment. This unlikely paring led the U.S. to support Iraq in its long and brutal campaign against Iran. By providing money, intelligence and equipment the U.S. emboldened Saddam Hussein and helped him forge his position as dictator of Iraq. Once again it seems as though the U.S. traded immediate gains for a future of security; a decision that would lead them to invade Iraq twice in the coming decades. Furthermore, not only did the Iran-Iraq War lead the U.S. to fund a future enemy, it also reaffirmed the beliefs of the leaders of Iran that the only way to resist foreign interference was through armed struggle. Ayatollah Khamenei, one of Ayatollah Khomeini’s advisors and eventual successor, justified the regime’s militant and radical policies by stating, “We are not liberals like Allende and Mosaddeq, whom the CIA can snuff out.” The explicit mentioning of Mosaddeq’s name indicates how fresh the 1953 coup was in the minds of the Iranians even twenty-five years later. Furthermore, it highlights the revolutionaries’ belief that because Mosaddeq failed to peaceably reform Iran, violent struggle was their only alternative.

As had been argued, it seems as though the actions taken by the United States in 1953 had a direct effect on several subsequent events and succeeded in alienating the U.S. and Iran. However, there is still one question left to be answered: if the U.S. did not topple Mosaddeq, would Iran be a progressive and democratic state today? The answer seems to be, yes. Although perceived as a threat to British and U.S. interests in Iran, Mosaddeq was firmly committed to democracy. In an address to the 14th Majlis, Mosaddeq stated:

I have accepted the wishes of the electorate, which sent me to this Majles in order to embark on a holy war to achieve a superior goal. In domestic policy, to follow the principals of the Constitution and freedom and, in foreign affairs, to follow the policy of negative (or counter) equilibrium. This had been, is and will continue to be my aim, and I will make every effort to reach that goal.

This quote clearly exemplifies Mosaddeq’s resolve toward adhering to the rule of law in domestic affairs and in foreign affairs seeking “negative equilibrium”, or a non-alignment strategy. Furthermore, Farhad Diba states in his book, Mossadegh: A Political Biography, that “freedom of choice through literacy, freedom of capable choice through absence of intimidating control, and freedom to choose the representatives of one’s own best interests whatever they may be” were Mosaddeq’s firm beliefs. Additionally, the fear of the United States that Mosaddeq was being seduced by the Soviets was unfounded. Not only was the influence of the Tudeh party greatly exaggerated but as argued by Diba, Mosaddeq “sought to protect the growth of liberal democratic institutions through the elimination of interference, whether internal or external.” Finally, the existence of Mosaddeq would have insured that Iran remained secular and did not fall into the arms of extremist religious leaders. In pursuit of democracy, “Mosaddeq saw in the clergy a niggardly group, very much self-centered, blinkered by Islamic dogma and tending towards illiberal policies.” Therefore, it seems quite possible that had Mosaddeq been allowed to remain in power, Iran may now be a flourishing secular democratic ally of the U.S.

More than anything the actions taken in August 1953 highlight the shortsightedness of the American leaders, who were all too willing to overthrow Mosaddeq and ignore the will of the Iranian public in pursuit of their fanatical obsession to contain Soviet Communism. In 1951 Mohammad Mosaddeq was labeled as Time magazine’s man of the year. The caption under his name read: “he oiled the wheels of chaos.” The “chaos” meant by this statement was the resurgence of nationalism throughout the Third World that resulted from Mosaddeq’s campaign for change. In the bipolar world of the Cold War in which the only choice presented to a country was the United States vs. the Soviet Union, nationalism presented a problem. Mosaddeq’s defiance toward the West demonstrated to the rest of the Third World that they did not have to live in a bipolar world, but rather could forge their own identity, independent of the will of even the greatest super-power. In an eternal tug-of-war between the left and right, Mosaddeq provided a “third way” for smaller nations. However, in viewing the world in absolute, “with us or against us” terms, the United States perceived this national consciousness as a threat to their security and thus took action to topple Mosaddeq. As a result, a revolution and several hostile interactions have stressed U.S. Iranian relations almost to the breaking point. In retrospect it seems that by overthrowing Mosaddeq and crushing the burgeoning Iranian democracy the United States mortgaged away its future, trading twenty-five years of stability for a future of security.

Mitchell Freddura is a senior at the University of Delaware. He will be graduating in May 2011 in Political Science and Islamic Studies. He will be studying U.S. Foreign Policy in the fall of 2011 at the American University in Washington, D.C. This paper was written for Professor Rudi Matthee’s class on Nationalism.



Mr. Freddura:

by Aria on

Thank you for your article, it is appreciated.   I noticed that you are a senior at Delawre University and thought that your on-going and future research on this important and complex issue could benefit from some additional historical facts:

·         Mossadegh had never been elected but rather had been appointed

·         Although Mossadegh will be forever recognized the as the hero of the Iranian oil nationalization and that credit is his and nobody has the right to take that away from him, but he will also be remembered as the one who incompetently  mismanaged the affairs of the state post the nationalization

·         Mossadegh’s inability to deal with the social, political and economic issues resulted in a series of serious  crisis’s  for the nation - high unemployment, inflation, wide-spread shortages and poverty across the society - and as such enabled the Tudeh party to become bolder in its actions for an eventual takeover of government

·         There was nothing in the Iranian constitution that gave a prime-minister the right to dissolve a parliament

·         The US government from 1951 to 1953 did plenty to assist Mossadegh (US State Dept. and Embassy archives – 1951 to 1953), providing loans and assistance to Mossadegh’s governement.  This cooperation was to bolster Mossadegh’s position by helping his government on social and economic programs, due to a serious threat from communists, Tudeh Party, which was taking political advantage of the political and social/economic chaos of those days, operating at the behest of the Soviet Union

·         Mossadgeh’s close friends and allies abandoned him including Haeri, Baghaie, Makki, Ghanant-Abadi and Kashani, for the reasons mentioned above

·         The people of Iran were simply tired and fed up with the lack of jobs and economic opportunity, , empty slogans and in-turn revolted; army assisted and joined in

·         The threat of a communist takeover via Tudeh party was imminent

  ·         Over the years there have been a lot of discussions about the role of CIA and Mi-6 in the 1953 overthrow of Mossadgeh affair.  This is very interesting that this victory, overthrow of Mossadegh, has been credited to CIA and Mi-6 only, as if this turmoil lacked in any Iranian identity and reality components.  

·         The U.S. government with 160,000 troops and billions in funds could not keep even a Green Zone safe in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussien, where does common sense stand to assume that one man alone with a briefcase filled with money could have overthrown a government as “popular” as Mossadegh’s?  

 When it comes to CIA’s failures you do not hear too many former CIA officers taking any blames.

For example you never hear from CIA officers in charge of the Cuban Bay-of-Pigs operation, who did not or were not allowed to provide air cover for the Cuban exiles, to go on CNN or Fox news and talk about their failings.  Or, you never hear from CIA officials who recommended or went along with the disbanding of the Iraqi Army after the fall of Saddam Hussien, which let to fueling  the insurgency against the coalition forces.  But, the fall of Mossadegh in 1953 is always claimed as a trophy by CIA.

  Those who knew Kermit Roosevelt knew of his super-sized ego and the fact that he tried to make this all about a CIA victory only.  The CIA officials in subsequent years were not in a hurry to set this issue in its historical accuracy; one can assume that any agency, especially one as important as CIA, needed to have its trophies on display in front of U.S. congress so as to not have its budget or resources cut or reduced, against the backdrop of its failures in other places.  

The most notable of things, were Madam Albright’s apology’s to the Iranian people during the Clinton Administration, which conveniently coincided with an article titled, “secret history,” published in New York Times, which delved into a cloak-and-dagger dramatization,  half-truth exaggerations  and outright lies about the role of the CIA in 1953.  The two, Madam Albright’s apology and the leaking of the article, were nothing but an attempt by the Clinton administration to open up to Iran under President Khatami.  The apology was part of a grander scheme of things, behind the scene negotiations between Clinton administration and Khatami’s representatives, that President Khatami would have needed, against any critiques from the hard-liner camps in Iran, for a possible public reconciliation with the US government.  An article published, a few years later, in a web-site, Tabnak, owned and managed by a former revolutionary guards commander, Mohsen Rezaie, attest to these facts.


·         I also highly recommend that you do review the US and State Dep. Communication exchanges  for the period between 25 Mordad (Persian calendar, August equivalent) and 28 Mordad of 1953; as to how US personnel at both institutions were surprised at the turn of events in favor of the late Shah.

Last but not the least, there have many books and articles about the 1953 events in Iran but unfortunately most were either to serve a political agenda or focused only on one set of events, rather than the whole picture; the latest of which was Mr. Kinzer’s work which was grossly biased and incomplete (missing the cold war element and the role of Tudeh party as part of the cold war on behalf of the Soviet).  I strongly recommend the work of a Dr. Ali Mir Fetros, “The analysis of a defeat – Asib-Shenasi-yek-Shekast,”  This work is unique for many different reasons; its research includes interviews with people from all different sides including Babak Amir Khosravi of Tudeh Party central committee, Ardeshir Zahedi (the last Iranian ambassador to U.S. and Shah’s son-in-law) and Engineer Kashani (ayatollah Kashani’s son).  But, more importantly it provides detailed interviews with high ranking members of Mossadegh’s government including Dr. Sedighi who was Mossadegh’s interior minister.


mr kazemzadeh

by shushtari on

EVERY piece you write, involvoes some bashing of the pahlavis.....why is that? 

let me tell you something which is quite clear- YOU, sir, are definitely in the minority regarding your views of reza shah kabir- the majority of iranians long for the days- which you call were filled with tyranny- why is that??

do you know what iran would be like today without reza shah's contributions?!

we would be worse off than afghanistan, somalia, or even ethiopia.

he was a true patriot, who is the face of british oppression, greed, and plunder, managed to bring iran out the gutter which was created by the qajar lowelifes!  

your view of achieving democracy is very simplistic- before you can achieve such thing, you have to have an educated and progressive population-

so your 'argument' that reza shah and his son are the cause of the hell that we are going true doesn't make sense- afterall, the pahlavis, in the face of the akhoonds' eternal goal of keeping iran in the dark ages, began to build universities, and give iranians a glimpse of modernization.

did they make mistakes along the way? of course! no one is denying that; but what would have in the place of reza shah???!

a mullah?

get real sir 


"Bottom-Up" and Mash Ghasem

by Siavash300 on

Khomanie in his public appearance in April 1979 annonoced that 98% of Iranians voted "Yes" to Islamic Republic. 2% didn't. He refered to these 2% as "Perverted" and wish one day these 2% embrace Islam. That was from bottom to up. Now, we are talking in 1979 that supposed our illetracy rate had been dropped to 45% from 83% back in 60's. 75% of our people were peasants living in rural areas. Recently I heard that rate dropped to 40%, means, 40 % of Iranians are living in rural area. Back in 20's and 30's majority of these people couldn't even read or write their names. In such a social context,  talking about democracy in a sense of European style sounds very irrational.  


Wait a minute Mr. Kazemzadeh.

by Siavash300 on

" After Iranian nationalist fought against the 1919 agreement (which would have made Iran a virtual colony of the British)" Kazamzadeh

What is this none sense. Iran has never been colony. Unlike India, Algeria, Lybia, Lebanan, and other countries in south america,  Iran was the only country resisted colonization. We have never been colony. Brits had more advance technology in compare to the rest of the world in those days. Iran's needs for Brits technology never made Iran as a colony of Brits. We needed that technology, especially for oil industry. Modernization by Reza shah the great, faced with a looooooooots of resistance from shia clergies such as khomainie's father. Reza shah tried his best to make Iran reach to the same level of European countries. Never took his booths out. Worked 24/7 for Iran. His famous statemnet was " I make Iran better than France that French people come, see and regret". That was the portrait of a patriotic man. God bless his soul.

Masoud Kazemzadeh

Condemning Reza Shah

by Masoud Kazemzadeh on

Of course Reza Shah did some good things. So did Stalin, Hitler, Khomeini.

Americans make the analogy of asking: "How was the play during which Lincoln was assassinated?" The answer is who gives a damn whether the play was good, bad, or mediocre.

Those who want freedom, democracy, and human rights in Iran condemn Pahlavi tyranny and the fundamentalist terrorist regime tyranny.

Masoud Kazemzadeh

On Reza Shah

by Masoud Kazemzadeh on

One of several factors for the misery of the Iranian people is Reza Shah’s fascistic rule. After the Constitutional Revolution, we were on a difficult path towards getting rid of British colonial control of Iran, consolidating the lukewarm democracy constitutionalists gained, growing civil society, etc.



Reza Shah Pahlavi is to modernity what the KKK is to Christianity, and Stalin to socialism. Each bastardized and made infamous those doctrines.

* Reza Shah was primarily a selfish greedy thug and secondarily a nokar of foreign powers. After Iranian nationalist fought against the 1919 agreement (which would have made Iran a virtual colony of the British), the British nokars like Seyyed Zia Tabatabi, Reza Mirpang (later Reza Shah) made the 1921 coup with British support. Vosoughodoleh the principle person who was selling Iran to Britain in the 1919 agreement, was provided high positions of power by Reza Shah. Seyyed Zia was kicked out by Reza Shah, and then brought back by Mohammad Reza Shah.

* Reza Shah was a thieve who looted Iran 




* Reza Shah was not even a loyal nokar. As soon as he saw Nazis increasing their power and defeating the British and Soviets, Reza jumped ship and allied with Hitler. So, the UK and the USSR invaded Iran. And they put Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on the throne. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was a nokar of the British until 1953, and after that a nokar of the US after the CIA coup (1953-1979)


We had a loooooooooooooot of problems in the 1920s. A number of policies would have solved many of those problems. Reza Shah’s rule, in many ways, contributed to the problems that Iran still suffers today.

Reza Shah was a murderer who also murdered his OWN SUPPORTERS!!!!! Reza Shah’s supporters who were serving him and were murdered by Reza Shah include Teimourtash (court minister), Davar (minister of justice), Sardar Asad (Minster of War), Abdul Hassan Diba (Assistant Minister of Finance), ...


Mash Ghasem


by Mash Ghasem on

"Talking about "bottom to up"  create someone not more than Khomainie"

Keeping in mind the most centralized, state dominated state of affaris in Iran for the past 32 years,  I just can't understand how could anyone charactrize such a heavey handed top-down order of things in Iran as bottom-up?

Bottom-up simply means that people decide their own destiny,: with no kings, no mullahs, no parties, just people, through their own self-organization. We have done it a few times before, we're very close to doing it again.

All the projects 'initiated' by Adolph Reza Khan was underway and supposed to be done as a result of the Constitutional Revolution, he simply highjacked the entire process through a coup, Hoot 1299. With the aid of Syied Zia. On that night the future 'king' who was still only a low-ranking officer, was so scared that when he heard a few shot fired he was going to turn away, and was forced by Syied Zia to enter the palace, so much for great courage!  Outta here, cheers


Democracy in western style in Iran.

by Siavash300 on

"His modernism was autocratic, not democratic. Top-down, not bottom- up, as it ought to be. The whole idea of the Constitutional Revolution was to overcome atuocracy through popular particiaption" Mash Ghasem

In 1935, Reza Shah the great,  established Tehran university. Up to 1935 highest degree of education in Iran was high school diploma. It is not difficult to see democracy in a western style in such a socity is none sense. Majority of people couldn't even read or write.  Talking about "bottom to up"  create someone not more than Khomainie. Those are the same people who saw Khomainie's picture on the surface of moon and found his hair in Koran. That was bottom to up. we saw the result during last 32 years.

Yes, Reza Shah had authoratative character whom distinctive him from ordinary people. The character who could challenge and defeat  Islamic monsters sucha a Modares, etc. We need another Reza Khan at this time.

Mash Ghasem


by Mash Ghasem on

Thank you Aria khan for your cataloging the failures of state-capitalism, known to you as 'communism.'

As far as today's crisis, you might as well have added: Soverign Debt  crisis in Europe (Spain , France, Greece, Ireland,..): Japan's economy just entering a second recession (nothing to do with the disater in there): and  the US economy still entagled in the grips of the Great Recession.  All hopes for world economy is on the expansion of the Chinese market and economy, and the numbers from Chinese consumers don't look that good either. Although  "State-Capitalsim" model like USSR was never really an option , but merely a degenrated form,  Capitalism in the West and Japan doesn't seem to be on the up and up either, one 'lost  decade' after another 'lost decade.'

As far as Iran in 20's and 30's, one must be blind to deny expansion of enfrastructure under Adolph Reza Khan. But we had all of that progress coming to us since the Constitutional Revolution, Adolph Reza Khan sort of hijacked the whole process. His modernism was autocratic, not democratic. Top-down, not bottom- up, as it ought to be. The whole idea of the Constitutional Revolution was to overcome atuocracy through popular particiaption.

Nik' khah and Lashayei were two confused Maoists to begin with, stupidly trying to impose Chinese model on Iran. In prison they changed their minds and became two confused monarchists, stupidly trying to impose Hezb Rastakhiz on Iran. What happened to them was a shame. Capital punishment shall be banned in Iran, forever.

As far as the Iranian Left's notion of tolerance I refer you to works of Hoshang Golshiri, and his life long critique. He is  not the only one either, just the best one, there ever was. Especially see his short story "They're both two sides of the same coin," cheers






by Aria on

During 20s, 30s and 40s – the rein of Reza Shah, the world was burning in fires.  So, Reza Shah should be judged based on the scale of those realities.

The trenches of World War I were filled with mustard gas and millions had been killed.  In China the communists and the nationalists were slaughtering each other.  The Spanish Civil War, was causing massive bloodshed in Europe.  The Russian revolution and its civil war had thrown Russia into  a blood bath.    In Africa millions were being killed or were being treated as slaves at the hands of the colonialists – French, British and Belgians.

So, the world was not necessarily the world that we know of and live in today.

As tragic as Mirzadeh Eshghi’s killing was it was one wrong act.

The judgment on Reza Shah should be based on the historical realities of the time and what he did for Iran.  He saved Iran by securing its borders, bringing security to its people, and creating a modern society, after the fall of Qajars.

Looking at Iran’s map counter-clockwise, Baluchestan was controlled Baluchi tribes, Colonel Taghi-Khan Pesian controlled Khorosan, Mirza Kuchak Khan was trying to establish a soviet-like republic in Gilan, Sheikh Mohammad Khiabani was ruling Azarbaeijan, Esmaeil Agha Simitghoo was the lord in Kurdistan, Sheikh Khaz-aal had established its own government in Khuzestan and Fars was being controlled by Mamasani tribes.  Reza Shah subdued all of them, created a central government and brought peace for our nation.  In those days we did not have the wealth from oil; yet, he was able to build roads, hospitals, University, and created a modern society and etc.

I agree that Mirzadeh Eshghi’s death was wrong and tragic, as he was great a poet.  But, if we cherry- pick a single event to pass judgment on Reza Shah based on Eshghi, we are not being truthful to history.

His relationship with the Germans was the same as the relationship of many third-world countries’ rulers with the Germans at the time, who saw Hitler as a force to counter-balance the British colonial power.  Reza Shah was not an anti-Semite.  His son was the closest ally Israel had in middle-east.

Those who are bothered by Mirzadeh Eshghi’s death should be a thousand times more bothered by the atrocities in Soviet concentration camps, the killings during the Chinese cultural revolution, killing fields of Cambodia and re-educations camps of Vietnam. 

It is easy to remember Mirzadeh Eshghi, it is one person.  But, the millions that were killed or massacred under communism does not raise an eyebrow?

Did Iranian left tolerate any dissent within its own ranks?   Did they respect those who chose to part with their ideologies such as Parviz Nik-khah or Dr. Kourosh Lashaie, who were once looked upon as heroes but became villains just because they realized they could do more for their people working with Shah’s government rather than pursuing the armed struggle?

Where are those idealists of 60s and 70s today, to see that the Soviet communism has collapsed, Eastern-block countires have all proudly joined Nato, Chinese communism has become a super capitalist, Cuba is barely alive and North Korea is  as hungry as a homeless orphan?


Mash Ghasem

Aria, wrong and wrong,

by Mash Ghasem on

Iran got a chance to develope  democracy and its civil society because Adolph Reza Khan ( (may he forever burn in hell, if there is one) was kicked out by the Allied foerces. Adolph Reza Khan was so narrow minded and incapable of handling anyone that opposed him that he ordered assasination of Mirzadeh Eshghi ( did I wish may Adolph Reza Khan to burn in hell forever? especially for what he did to Eshghi and Dr. Taghi Arani). You're probably too preoccupied in your monarchists pipedreams to understand what a CIVIL SOCIETY means. Suffice it to say Adolph Reza Khan destroyed it, and Iranian peopel rebuilt it. You CAN NOT HAVE SOCIAL ADVANCE WITHOUT A CIVIL SOCIETY.

Your SAVAK  working hand in hand  with Hojatieh, your incredibly obtuse Shah giving the green light for all kinds of Mehdieh, Hossainiehm, Masjid, was the one who gave the country to the mullahs. Did you know he (shah) had this idea of creating a Sepah Dein , a goddamn Relogious Corps. for Iran. With such an incredibly moronic monarch who needed mullahs. If Tudeh is your idea of 'communism,' then  that just demonstrates to all how much of a developed political sense you have: close to zero, cheers



by Aria on

Communists – Tudeh, Fedaeeyan and the rest – helped create IRI.

Let’s not forget those days that the leadership of these Marxist-Leninist groups all endorsed Khomieni.

In return he slaughtered them by the thousands, paying them back.


Iran during 40s and 50s

by Aria on

Thanks to the efforts of Reza Shah during 20s and 30s, Iran became what it was during 40s and 50s.


Iran during 40s and 50s

by Aria on

Thanks to the efforts of Reza Shah during 20s and 30s, Iran became what it was during 40s and 50s.

Mash Ghasem

Shah and Monarchy are the reasons we have Islamic Republic today

by Mash Ghasem on

make no mistake about it. There's very little distance, if any in content, between Hezb Rastakhiz and Hezbo Allah, did any one mention Hojatieh and savak, sepah din,...


Still delusional?

by Siavash300 on

" it seems quite possible that had Mosaddeq been allowed to remain in power, Iran may now be a flourishing secular democratic ally of the U.S"  Mitchell Freddura

That is wishfull thinking. The rapid influence of Soviet Union and Tudeh party in Iran has been ignored in above statement. Just brief look at Tudeh activities shows what was going on back then.

"..... the coup signaled the beginning of a major rout of Iran's communist movement, probably the largest in the Middle East..... According to a CIA estimate in 1952 the party had 20,000 hard-core members, 8,000 of whom were in Tihran and that the party rank and file were predominantly proletarian" Maziar Behrooz. state of paralyse.

Afghanistan experience in 1978 showed different scenario Mr. Mitchell Freddua. Changing balance between free world and socialism after WWII which necessitated "revisionism principals" by communist party brothers in 1956 clearly shows what direction Iran would have been headed if shah wouldn't have not returned to crown in 1953. One must be guilable not to see that.

Mash Ghasem

Iran in late 40's and early 50's had THE MOST ADVANCED CIVIL

by Mash Ghasem on


check it for yourselves, in terms of political parties (all brands from right to left and in between), newspapers, civic associations (womens, students, labor,..) ...every single index, no other country in the region came even close.

As an example of just how progressive and advanced that era was, take a look at the bills discussed , passed  and turned into laws of the land. Majlis under Mosadegh's leadership was able to pass more than 200 laws, which compared to any other Parliment even by today's standards, early 21st century, still looks incredibly contemporary.

As utopian as it might sound, Iran should be nothing less than Heaven on Earth, given our abundant natural, human, cultural, historical, geographical,.. resources, but its not. Why?

The rulers are too carzy and violent, the ruled (us) are too fragmented and ignorant of even our own history.

It's not too late to change this picture, cheers


Mr. baymarz kavkaz, it is Persian Gulf states, NOT Gulf states

by Siavash300 on

"Over the entire century Irans history is tumultous. Regardless of who runs Iran, it is still distinct culturally. It has not yet thrown in the towel and turned prostitute like the Gulf states. " baymarz kavkas

please correct the above statement. It is Persian Gulf states, NOT gulf states.



baymarz kavkaz

Cart before the horse

by baymarz kavkaz on

Some of the readers talk as if Iran was a burgeoned modern democracy in the 50's robbed of its future. Iran could only work with the people it had . Today there new generations university educated, open to a wide range of social and political philosophies. This was not the case in the 50's. Why all the personal attacks on a man long gone, one who was significant to Irans history, regardless of his background or personal shortcomings?

Irans whole narrative for over a 100 years has been aiming at grappling with modernity and the forces of tradition, weight of culture, whilst navigating huge ruthlessly hostile political ideologies like communism, Euro-imperialism and today neo-colonialism.

Regardless of who is in power, Iran has maintained a considerable degree of autonomy under pressures that swallowed up the entire Kavkaz into the Russian and then Communist empire. It has been a client state that managed to break away from Economic colonial strangulation, and today struggles like many of the globes countries.

It does not survive on EU subsidies, does not mercilessly exploit African mineral resources, does not wage hypocritical wars in the name of Democracy, to reassert long gone colonial pretensions. Iran has hosted millions of refugees without support.

Pakistan in the previous decade received billions of dollars of aid to house Afghan refugees in the last decade. Iran received nothing. Iran sustained an estimated trillion dollars of infrastructural damage to prevent a murderous fascist dictator like Saddam Hussein overrunning the country.

Over the entire century Irans history is tumultous. Regardless of who runs Iran, it is still distinct culturally. It has not yet thrown in the towel and turned prostitute like the Gulf states. It does not roll over and accept American trash culture as required curriculum for joining the league of civilised nations.

Today there are many intellectually strong and mature Iranians able to deal with Westerners on equal terms.  And they will need to stand up, for the time of Neo-Colonialism is upon us. Libya, Sudan, Yemen- countries bitterly fought over for gas and oil in the 60-70's as the USSR clashed with America and Europe, today they have fallen and are being reconfigured for Western Economic purposes. Will America support Khuzestani freedom fighters in the future, protecting them with airpower against an evil regime...? This is what Iran faces today.

This danger is a reality for Iran. Disunity is not an option.














Mash Ghasem

Angali one, Daee jan sends his regards and says:

by Mash Ghasem on

Too bad you don't know anything about Dr. Mossadegh's (RIP) achievements except your obtuse monarchist drivel nonsense. Did you also notice he was the first and only attorney in the world to take the Brits to International Court and beat their ass, hands down, legally according to International Laws. I'll give you ten life times, don't think you'll even come close to what he's done. 

By the way Tom Barry  (RIP) was a 21 year old  Officer Commanding of IRA in 1920's, who defeated the Brits with forces a hundred times smaller than them. The Irish always win. See below:

Black N Tans - Wolf Tones With Lyrics



On Central/East Asians

by asadabad on

Aren't Turks and Mongols basically the same thing?  Of course there has been so much intermarriage between Turks, Persians, Mongols, Greeks, Arabs that there isn't any pure ethnicity any longer. 

I think that the Hazara in Afghanistan are the only direct descendents of the Mongol hordes.  That reminds me, I know a few Iranian Hazara from Mashad.  Even some Iranian Persians have Mongolian features.


Mongolian is metaphor for Qajar dynasty

by Siavash300 on

Language has 2 aspects. 1. Literary  2. figurative

It is a figure of speech.


How did ghajaris become

by vildemose on

How did ghajaris become Mongolian or vice versa????


western media and distortion of Iran history

by Siavash300 on

Unlike what we read mainly in western media and also from traitors and decadent communists Tudeh, Rajavi's thugs, Yazdi's murderers, Islamists and....Dr. Mosaddeq was not elected by popular vote of people of Iran. He is from Qajar dynasty which treated Iran as a country of enemy for almost 140 years was chosen as a deal among factions of member of Iranian parliament that include Tudeh communists, Islamist, traditionalists and.... to nationalize Iranian oil from BP. Dr. Mossadeq prefered to drop his family name of Ashtiani but instead he chosen the title of Mosaddeq al saltaneh which was given to him by his paedophile king of Qajari known as Nasar al-din Shah for his surname. Today the most dreadful people in our modern history such as Yazdi, Rajavi, Communists group Tudeh, fanatics Islamists which harmed Iran beyand believe are follower of this epilieptic Qajari. For their betrayal, destruction, humiliation and barbaric crime commited through out 140 years of their disgraceful rule in Iran.There is NO single trace of document in our modern history to show that this man even for once did condemmed his Mongolian daynasty. Mosadegh was born in 1882 in one of the Qajar palaces in Tehran as Mohammad Ashtiani. In 1927 Iranian were obliged to obtaine birth certificate for a fistr time in our history. Iran was constitutional monarchy and Dr. Mosaddeg was planning to oust the Shahanshah of Iran and to end Monarchy in Iran simply by settling his old scorn and took his revenge from Pahlavi dynasty. Mosadegh was deserved to be naminated for Nobel prize for his unshakable loyalty toward his Mongolian Qajari dynasty. As matter of fact the Iranian oil concession was signed with British in 1901 by his savage Mogolian Qajar dynasty in 1901. He was quite for over 50 years after signing oil concession with Brits.  In fact the members of Iranian parliament proposed Mosaddeq to H I M court and subsequently was appointed later as a prime minister by H I M Shahanshah. In 1953 Mosaddeg disolved parliament uncostitutionally and undemocratically which in fact it was the same parliament elected him democratically two years earlier.


Ghasem you are still under the spell of you master

by anglophile on

Daee jaan :))

Stop fighting the ghosts in Kazeroon and Mamasani and wake up in the real world.

BTW to answer your previous question, at the age of 18, meaning two years ago, I was working my way up through meritocracy and not like Mossadeq through nepotocracy LOL.


Democracy wasn't burgeoning in Iranian then and it isn't now.

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

Mossadegh was a politician and didn't even respect the law or constitution, in fact he used his power to break the constituton for personal gain, that would make him a despot, tyrant according to the definition.

Though he wasn't even a despot as he did not have absolute power and was easily removed, by the Shahs supporters, the land owners, mullahs and his military.

One of the great exagerations of the history of this man and his removal is propagated by the US and UK media and uiversities, regarding the operation Ajax Tudeh and many misleading books about it, like by steven kinzer. 

Infact those that actually participated, like kermit roosevelt and Iranian officers know the truth, that the shah hardly accepted any US help, and the help that was given was totally ineffective.  The Iranians never mentioned this, because they wanted to give the Cia credit, albeit falsely as a political favor.  It was mainly the mullahs and generals that brought the shah back to power and with out using bribe money.

So in a way the article is mostly nonsense.


I'm a big fan of Dr. Mossadegh

by shushtari on

but the shah was also a wonderful patriot.......


and the 'revolution' would have NEVER happened had the shah extended the oil consercium's expiring contract with the brits and the americans......

so, in the end, the foreigners installed khomeini as well.....god knows how many trillions of dollars have been wasted and stolen by the mullahs over the past 30 years 


All Iranians and MG

by anglophile on

All Iranians


You are not only clueless in writing a correct and meaningful poem but you know nothing about the British and their politics. I suggest you continue with your poetry, it is a safer bet.

Mash Ghasem,

Is this why they Her Majesty the Queen is currently on a four-day visti to Irelan - for the first time in Irish history a British monarch is the guest of the Irish nation?


And as for the view of Irish Americans





To Anglophile

by All-Iranians on

Amazing! How come you sound Anti-Anglophile on this site? Yesterday you were a true Anglophile on the other blog. Today, you wrote some lines in truth and almost accurately even against Brits! Response required.


A picture says thousand words.

by Roozbeh_Gilani on

 I find the photograph used for this blog, particularly telling. 

To me it portrays not the Mossadegh himself, but the entire Iranian nation, pondering at the grave injustice perpetrated upon it by the  sorrouding  bunch of smirking traitors, paid by CIA and MI6.

Let us face the bitter truth, regardless of our poilitical allegiances, that  the seeds of the existing murderous, criminal, thieving fascist Islamist regime was sown on that shameful day in 1953, when our only ever truely democratically elected leader, before and since, good or bad,  was removed by a foreign sponsored coup.

"Personal business must yield to collective interest."