To say that Iran has posed challenging foreign-policy problems for the United States since the Carter administration is an understatement. From the intense anti-Americanism and the hostage crisis during the Carter presidency to the Iran-contra scandal of the Reagan years to regime change and the Axis of Evil of President Bush, Iran-U.S. relations seem both bizarre and inexplicable. One book that provides an explanation of the roots of the problem is Stephen Kinzer's All the Shah's Men.
Although this book has been reviewed in numerous publications, including Middle East Policy (Vol. X, No. 4, 2003), virtually all of the reviews have been written for the general public. In this article, I will discuss several issues of significance for scholars and policy makers that have not been addressed in any of the above-mentioned reviews. There is little doubt of the high quality of Kinzer's contributions.
For example, The Economist selected this book as one of its ten “Books of the Year in 2003” in history; one of the principal textbooks in political science has quoted it as a main source on the 1953 coup; and many graduate and undergraduate courses in the United States and abroad have made it required reading. Kinzer's book was quickly translated into Farsi in Iran without the permission of the author. The translation was poorly done with self-censorship or state censorship of many passages.1
Stephen Kinzer, a senior correspondent for The New York Times, has covered more than 50 countries and has published books on Guatemala, Nicaragua and Turkey. All the Shah's Men reads more like a Tom Clancy novel than a scholarly work; at first glance, one might even take it for a screenplay. But this should not detract from the serious contributions Kinzer makes. The book is not a journalistic recounting of events with superficial explanations. Kinzer's book presents essential information and raises important questions for international-relations scholars interested in U.S. policy towards Iran.
Kinzer makes seven salient points. The first is that the 1953 coup was an American plot, not a spontaneous uprising by the Iranian people to overthrow the democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, though both the American government and the former monarchy have propagated this myth. Virtually all politically active Iranians knew about the role of the United States and Britain in the 1953 coup, but the U.S. government and the Iranian regime under the monarchy tried to conceal that information, and Islamic fundamentalists have tried to suppress scholarship on their role. It is therefore not surprising that criticism of Kinzer's book has come from these quarters.
The U.S. government succeeded for a long time in covering up its role. It was not until March 2000 that for the first time an American official acknowledged the U.S. role: Secretary of State Madeline Albright conceded it with a faint expression of regret to an audience advocating establishment of friendly relations with the current regime in Iran. A month later, in April 2000, the CIA's own secret history (written by one of its main organizers, Donald Wilber) was leaked to The New York Times. Access to government files on the coup has been difficult in the United States, Iran and even in the USSR/Russia.2
The U.S. government, of course, did not want to provide evidence of its role in the overthrow of Iran's only democratically elected government since 1925 and the installation of Nazi collaborator Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi. Kinzer writes:
“Zahedi shared Reza Shah's view of what Iran needed. Both men were soldiers at heart, strong, harsh and ambitious. When World War II broke out, both sought to help the Germans. After the British deposed Reza Shah and forced him into exile, they focused on Zahedi. They identified him as a profiteer who was making huge sums from grain hoarding, but would have left him to his devices had it not been for his close connections to Nazi agents. When they discovered that he was organizing a tribal uprising to coincide with a possible German thrust into Iran, they decided to act (p. 142). In 1942, the British kidnaped Zahedi from Isfahan and interned him in a British prison in Palestine.” (pp. 143-4).
The shah's regime, installed by the CIA coup, would severely punish anyone who tried to gain access to such evidence in Iran; research from 1953 to 1979 was virtually impossible. After the revolution, Khomeini and his supporters also tried to conceal the role of high-ranking Shia clerics and close Khomeini allies in the coup organized by the “Great Satan.”3
One of Kinzer's major contribution's is the careful reconstruction of the events surrounding the coup and the primary role played by the CIA and the British Secret Intelligence Services, MI6, which he based on scholarly publications, memoirs and the recently released CIA secret history. This narrative explains in plain language not only the role of the CIA and the monarchists but also the role Shia clerics played in the coup. Among the latter were Fadaian Islam and Ayatollah AbolQassem Kashani, whose allies and supporters have played central roles in the leadership of the regime ruling Iran since 1979.
Some of the deleted material in the Farsi translation of Kinzer's book deals with Ayatollah Kashani. One of the top members of the current ruling elite is Mahmood Kashani, the son of the late Ayatollah AbolQassem Kashani. The Council of Guardians (dominated by the hardline faction), which vets candidates for various offices, has allowed Mahmood Kashani to run for the presidency twice. Kashani denies there was a coup and says Mossadegh himself was following British plans and carrying out their dictates. In his words: “In my opinion, Mossadegh was the director of the British plans and implemented them.”4
Kashani goes on to say, “Without a doubt Mossadegh had the primary and essential role” in the August 1953 coup. Kashani says Mossadegh, the British and the United States were working together against Ayatollah Kashani to undermine the role of Shia clerics. All evidence, including the CIA's secret history, shows that Ayatollah Kashani and Fadaian Islam (the first violent Islamic fundamentalist organization in Iran, many of whose leaders rose to power in the Islamic Republic after 1979), along with monarchist military officers, were mobilized by the CIA and MI6 in the August 1953 coup against Mossadegh.
In fact, the second person who spoke on Radio Tehran announcing and celebrating the overthrow of Mossadegh was Ayatollah Kashani's son, who was hand-picked by Kermit Roosevelt.5 A more sophisticated argument on behalf of Ayatollah Kashani is presented by Abdollah Shahbazi.6 For Shahbazi, Kinzer's book is a fairy tale for Americans. Shahbazi's main argument is that Kinzer is part of the U.S. Democratic party, and he has written this book to undermine President Bush's reelection and help the Democratic challenger. Shahbazi's main criticism of Kinzer is that he portrays Mossadegh as good and Kashani as bad, and Truman as good and Eisenhower as bad.
Shahbazi argues that Truman was the main architect of American imperialism, that the plan to overthrow Mossadegh began under Truman's administration, and that no difference in policy existed between Truman and Eisenhower. Shahbazi tries to show that the Bush family is closely connected to Truman through the DuPont Company and the “secret and semi-Masonic sect 'Skull and Bones.'” Shahbazi then proceeds to make personal attacks on Kinzer. Shahbazi writes: “In Kinzer's book, one sees veins of Zionist attachments or influences. For example, when he mentions the suspicious bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires (1994) and other such bombings, where footprints of Mossad and other mysterious Western conspirators are evident, Kinzer blames the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
The second salient point in Kinzer's book is a sympathetic portrayal of Mossadegh. For Kinzer, Mossadegh was a patriot like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. Iranian democrats have always compared Mossadegh to Washington and Gandhi. Such a portrayal coming from an American journalist associated with the most prestigious U.S. daily is new and significant.7
Kinzer shows Mossadegh to have been a genuine democrat and civil libertarian — at a time when McCarthyism was at its zenith in the United States and Stalin's nightmarish dictatorship reigned in the USSR. Despite tremendous pressure, Mossadegh respected the civil liberties not only of Communist Tudeh party members but also of right-wing monarchists and Islamists, all of whom were engaged in outright slander and violence against his own pro-democracy followers. For example, as part of their psychological operations against Mossadegh, CIA agents were planting rumors in the Iranian press about Mossadegh being of Jewish parentage, being a Communist or Communist fellow traveler, having secret sympathies for the British, and having designs on the throne (p. 6).8 Mossadegh neither harassed nor suppressed any paper that published these false charges.
Kinzer shows that throughout his life, Mossadegh was impeccably honest and incorruptible. This contrasts sharply with the avaricious Reza Shah Pahlavi and his son Mohammad Reza, who looted the treasury, confiscated private property, and lived a life of conspicuous consumption in a land of terribly poor people.9 Corruption has only worsened in the post-revolutionary period.10
The third salient point is Kinzer's portrayal of the British colonial subjugation of Iran. Kinzer brings to life the British contempt for the “natives.” This section explains in part why Iranian patriots hated their British colonizers and passionately supported Mossadegh in the struggle to expel them and restore Iranian independence and dignity. The intense emotional opposition of Iranians to Britain and the United States is due to Britain's harsh colonial subjugation and the CIA's imposition of the Pahlavi monarch, who regarded himself, and was regarded by the population, as the puppet of colonial powers.
According to a top-secret communication sent by the State Department to the British Foreign Office:
“He [the shah] is reported to be harping on the theme that the British had thrown out the Qajar Dynasty, had brought in his father and had thrown his father out. Now they could keep him in power or remove him in turn as they saw fit. If they desired that he should stay and that the Crown should retain the powers given to it by the Constitution, he should be informed. If on the other hand they wished him to go, he should be told immediately so that he could leave quietly.”11
For international-relations scholars and policy makers alike, it is essential to understand the emotional aspect of Third World nationalism and demands for independence from colonial subjugation. Where scholarly theories lack the tools to explore these raw emotions, Kinzer's narrative succeeds brilliantly in conveying the British mechanisms of humiliation and the emotional outrage of Iranians to those indignities. Massive American assistance to and close relations with the Pahlavi monarch were the main cause of the intense anger of the Iranians towards the United States.
For Iranians, Mossadegh represented political democracy and Iranian independence from colonial subjugation; Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi represented subjugation to Western colonialism and political despotism. The main slogans of the 1979 revolution were esteghlal (independence) and azadi (liberty). The demand for an Islamic republic came late and only after Khomeiniand his followers succeeded in gaining the leadership of the anti-shah movement from the secular liberal democrats. Americans, who never considered themselves a colonial power in Iran, continue to be perplexed by the Iranian outrage directed at them. Kinzer helps U.S. policy makers and the general public alike to understand the cause of Iranian anger at the United States.
The fourth salient point of Kinzer's book is his masterful explanation of the internal debates between American and British policy makers. Through the use of many sources — published memoirs, unpublished private papers and interviews — Kinzer creates lively personal profiles of various protagonists: President Truman, Dean Acheson (Truman's secretary of state), Kermit Roosevelt (grandson of Theodore), who organized the coup in Tehran, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr. (father of the commander of U.S. forces in Desert Storm), President Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles (Eisenhower's secretary of state) and his brother Allen (director of the CIA). Kinzer does the same with various British actors from prime ministers to foreign secretaries to the head of the British oil company in Iran (the Anglo Iranian Oil Company, later British Petroleum).
The fifth salient point is the role of individuals and luck in history. Kinzer is quite explicit here without ignoring the role of great-power interests and ideologies (pp. 210-11). Here Kinzer presents alternative scenarios, had several of the key players acted differently. Mossadegh's charismatic personality made democracy possible. Churchill's steadfast colonialism was a factor. Also, Churchill's decision to conjure up the Communist threat helped convince Eisenhower to support the British. Most significant of all for the success of the coup was Kermit Roosevelt's persistence, imagination and intelligence.
The first attempt failed on Saturday, August 15; CIA headquarters twice ordered him to leave Tehran, but Roosevelt remained and organized a second coup on Wednesday, August 19. Roosevelt was able to use the U.S. ambassador in Tehran, Loy Henderson, to deceive Mossadegh into ordering the people to stay home and calling in the armed forces to bring calm to the streets. Having secretly organized paid mobs, and having already secured the support of high-ranking Shia clerics (Ayatollah Kashani, Ayatollah Behbahani, Hojatolislam Falsafi) and the radical group Fadaian Islam, who brought their followers into the streets, Roosevelt then had one group of military officers attack Mossadegh's home and another take over the Tehran radio station. Roosevelt's leadership was the single most significant factor in the success of the August 19 coup; without him, there would have been no second coup.
The sixth salient point of the book is the role of perception and misperception in international relations. Kinzer shows that the perceptions of the world held by the Americans, the British and the Iranian democrats were very different. For the British, the basic fight was over their continued control of Iranian oil. The American mindset was that of the Cold War. The Iranian nationalists' mindset was that of a Third World nation demanding independence. Truman understood to some extent the Iranian desire for freedom and the British desire for the colonial subjugation of Iran, but his main concern was containment of the USSR. Mossadegh failed to understand the paranoia gripping Washington, while Churchill shrewdly manipulated those fears.
Churchill failed to understand that colonialism was waning, and he badly miscalculated the consequences of the brutal suppression of legitimate demands of Third World nationalists such as Mossadegh. Truman tried, to his credit, to broker a compromise between Mossadegh and the British, realizing that Western colonialism was fast becoming outmoded. But he needed British support in NATO and in the Korean War (1950-53) in the global struggle against the Soviets. Despite Truman's and Acheson's best efforts, the British were not willing to give up their hugely profitable control of Iranian oil, and Mossadegh was not willing to sacrifice Iranian independence.
The elections in Britain in 1951 replaced the Labour party with the militantly colonialist Conservative Churchill. The U.S. elections in 1952 replaced Democrats with Republicans. The Dulles brothers were more concerned with securing the profits of Western companies and with countering the USSR than with promoting self-determination, democracy and human rights in the Third World. They quickly convinced Eisenhower to authorize the overthrow of Iranian democracy and replace it with the dictatorial regime of the shah, who was regarded to be reliably subservient to Western interests.
Mossadegh and his liberal democratic supporters in the Iran National Front had no illusions about the British colonial mindset. However, they misperceived the Americans. The U.S. image in Iran was extremely positive due to the lack of American colonial enterprises and to Woodrow Wilson's support for the rights of colonized nations. The few Americans who had come to Iran were either educators or supporters of democratic forces. One of Mossadegh's close friends was Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. The CIA coup, of course, dramatically changed all that.
The seventh salient point, and the most contentious, is Kinzer's argument on the relationship between the 1953 coup and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Kinzer argues that the CIA coup smashed Iranian democracy and brought to power a despotic monarchy. The shah's ruthless regime succeeded in suppressing the secular liberal democrats (Mossadegh and the National Front) and the left (the pro-Moscow Communist Tudeh party).
However, by so isarticulating the democratic and modernist political forces, the shah left the field open to right-wing Islamic fundamentalists, who, in 1979, succeeded in overthrowing the shah and establishing the first contemporary Islamist government. Khomeini's regime brought hitherto marginalized forces to the center of politics in much of the Muslim world. Khomeini's success illustrated that Islamic fundamentalists could overthrow an incumbent regime and create their own. Moreover, the Iranian revolutionaries provided assistance to myriad Islamist groups such as Lebanese Hezbollah and Hamas. Thus, the Shia success in Iran provided a model for Sunni fundamentalists around the Islamic world, including Osama bin Laden.
Kinzer argues that, had the United States not overthrown Mossadegh, Iran would have consolidated its infant democracy, which would have precluded the success of Khomeini and Islamic fundamentalism. Kinzer writes:
“The world has paid a heavy price for the lack of democracy in most of the Middle East. Operation Ajax [CIA code for the August 1953 coup] taught tyrants and aspiring tyrants there that the world's most powerful governments were willing to tolerate limitless oppression as long as oppressive regimes were friendly to the West and to Western oil companies. That helped tilt the political balance in a vast region away from freedom and toward dictatorship.” (p. 204)
Islamic fundamentalists in Iran would disagree with Kinzer's analysis, cognizant that many of their own had supported the CIA coup and had strongly opposed the secular liberal nationalism of Mossadegh. In fact, Khomeini and others broke with the shah in 1961-64 period.12 Shahbazi strongly disagrees with Kinzer and argues that other factors and events are far more responsible for anti-Americanism among Islamic peoples than the CIA coup. Shahbazi asserts that the following four American actions were more responsible for anti-Americanism in the Middle East and the events of 9/11 than the 1953 coup:
(1) the joint CIA and MI6 coup in July 1952 in Egypt that brought Gen. Mohammad Naguib to power; (2) President Kennedy's reforms imposed on the shah; (3) the tremendous support that all U.S. administrations have given to Israel, including Democratic President Lyndon Johnson's support for Israel in the Six-day War of 1967; and (4) the huge investment by the CIA in the Taliban and Bin Laden during their war in Afghanistan against the occupying Soviet forces.13 In Shahbazi's words:
“Were not the actions of the government of John Kennedy, which imposed many programs with deep destructive impact on the Iranian society in the decade of the 1960s, this time under the banner of “reforms” and not a “coup,” another major event which intensified the anti-American feelings in Iran? Everyone knows that it was this intervention [Kennedy's reforms] that produced the 15 Khordad 1342 [June 4, 1964] uprisings, and the Islamic Revolution of Iran is the direct effect of that [Kennedy's reforms].”14
Kinzer has written a superb book, reconstructing the story of a coup that changed history. He resurrects the figure of Mossadegh for English-language readers at a time when his ideals have been embraced by masses of Iranians, particularly university students, who carry Mossadegh's picture in their protest rallies and sit-ins. As the wave of democracy reaches the shores of the Middle East, it is not an accident that Iranians have found Mossadegh again. As events unfold in the region and American policy makers are confronted with dilemmas, Kinzer's book might help them avoid the mistakes of the past. Scholarly analysis might be enriched through a consideration of the many points Kinzer has raised. His book will play a major role in the debate for years to come.
Notes  Many sentences have been completely deleted and many mistranslated. The following phrase under the picture of Ayatollah Kashani has been deleted: “Kermit Roosevelt sent him [Ayatollah Kashani] $10,000 the day before the coup.” The endnotes and bibliography have been deleted, as was the subtitle. As an introduction to the translation, the review of Kinzer's book by Warren Bass in The New York Times, August 10, 2003, has been modified and presented without acknowledging the author of the review and instead attributing it to Abdolreza Mahdavi. See Azadi, No. 31-32, Summer-Fall 1382, 2003, pp. 271-272,. This journal is published by the National Democratic Front of Iran, headed by Hedayat Matin-Daftari, Mossadegh's grandson.
 In the words of Ervand Abrahamian, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a historian to gain access to the CIA archives on the 1953 coup in Iran.” See Abrahamian, “The 1953 Coup in Iran,” Science and Society, Vol. 65, No. 2, Summer 2001, p. 182.
 The best work on the role of high-ranking Shia clerics and Islamic fundamentalists in opposing Mossadegh, supporting the shah, and helping the coup is Homa Katouzian, Musaddiq and the Struggle for Power in Iran (I.B. Tauris, 1990), pp. 156-76.
 ISNA (Iranian Students News Agency) November 2003 interview in Farsi with Mahmood Kashani. I have translated the passage. The most important achievement that Mahmood Kashani mentioned during his first campaign for the presidency was that he had “slapped the American judge in the face” during the proceedings of the tribunal at the Hague created as part of the Algiers agreement to resolve the U.S. claims against Iran.
The New York Times redacted many of the names of the CIA's Iranian collaborators. Cryptome was able to recover only some of them. One was one of “Ayatollah Kashani's sons.” See page 71 here. Cryptome was unable to recover the redactions in the section that deals with the religious leaders. The following is page 20 of the secret history that can be found here.
“(4) Religious Leaders. It is our belief that nearly all the important religious leaders with large followings are firmly opposed to Mossadeq. Both the U.S. field station and the British group have firm contacts with such leaders. The pro-Zahedi capabilities in this field are very great. These leaders include such assorted and sometimes inimical elements as the non-political leaders [……] and [……], as well as [….] and […] and his terrorist gang, [….]. During the period of intensive anti-Mossadeq publicity before the coup day, the leaders and their henchmen will:
(a) Spread word of their disapproval of Mossadeq. (b) Give open support to the symbol of the throne and give moral backing to the shahthrough direct contact with him at the shrine. (c) As required, stage small pro-religious anti-Mossadeq demonstrations in widely scattered sections of Tehran. (d) Threaten that they are ready to take direct action against pro-Mossadeq deputiesand members of Mossadeq's entourage and government. (e) Ensure full participation of themselves and followers in Situation A. (f) After the change of government, give the strongest assurance over Radio Tehran and in the mosques that the new government is faithful to religious principles.”
The “terrorist group” that Kermit Roosevelt and Donald Wilber mobilized was the “Fadaian Islam.” The redacted names of high-ranking Shia clerics include Grand Ayatollah Brujerdi, Ayatollah Behbani, and Ayatollah Kashani. See Katouzian, op. cit., and Masoud Kazemzadeh, “The Day Democracy Died: The 50th Anniversary of the CIA Coup in Iran,” Khaneh: Iranian Community Newspaper, Vol. 3, No. 34, October 2003.
 Abdollah Shahbazi, “A Survey of Stephen Kinzer's Book: 'Good Truman' and 'Bad Eisenhower,' An American Tale,” posted at Shahbazi's website. All the quotes are from the above-mentioned review (my translation). Shahbazi has written the memoirs of several political prisoners based on the tapes of their interviews with interrogators of VEVAK (the fundamentalist regime's feared intelligence agency) during their incarceration. These memoirs include those of Nouraldin Kianouri (secretarygeneral of the Tudeh party) and Gen. Hussein Fardoost (the shah's head of Court Intelligence and childhood friend and one of his closest friends and advisors, who had apparently betrayed him and worked with the fundamentalist regime). According to Shahbazi himself, he would provide questions that were put to Kianouri thus creating Kianouri's “memoir.”
 Kinzer's book has been embraced by pro-democracy Iranians inside and outside Iran. Kinzer has done several readings to Iranian audiences, who have given him prolonged standing ovations.
 According to the CIA secret history of black operations against Mossadegh (pp. 16-17):
“At headquarters and at the field station U.S. personnel will draft and put into Persian the texts for articles, broadsheets and pamphlets, some pro-shah and some anti-Mossadeq. The materials designed to discredit Mossadeq will hammer the following themes:
(a) Mossadeq favors the Tudeh party and the USSR. (This will be supported by black documents). (b) Mossadeq is an enemy of Islam since he associates with the Tudeh and advancestheir aims. (c) Mossadeq is deliberately destroying the morale of the army and its ability tomaintain order. (d) Mossadeq is deliberately fostering the growth of regional separatist elementsthrough his removal of army control over tribal areas. One of the aims of the removal of control by the army is to make it easier for the Soviets to take over the Northern Provinces. (e) Mossadeq is deliberately leading the country into economic collapse. (f) Mossadeq has been corrupted by power to such an extent that no trace is left of the fine man of earlier years, and he now has all the repressive instincts of the dictator.”
 On Reza Shah's corruption, see Mohammad Gholi Majd, Great Britain and Reza Shah: The Plunder of Iran, 1921-1941 (University Press of Florida, 2001). On Mohammad Reza Shah's corruption, see Nikki R. Keddie, Roots of Revolution: An Interpretive History of Modern Iran (Yale University Press, 1981), esp. pp. 149, 172, 178 and 180.
 On corruption among high-ranking officials of the current regime, see Paul Klebnikov, “Millionaire Mullahs,” Forbes, July 21, 2003.
 The quote is from a British document discussing a report sent to them by the U.S. State Department on the shah and the situation in Iran. The date is about three months before the coup. Henderson is the name of the U.S. ambassador to Iran. The following is the verbatim text:
Sir R. Makins — No: 1085, May 21, 1953
PRIORITY — TOP SECRET Persia.
The State Department informed us today on a number of occasions associates of the shah have told Henderson that His Majesty is uncertain about the British attitude towards himself. He is reported to be harping on the theme that the British had thrown out the Qajar Dynasty, had brought in his father and had thrown his father out. Now they could keep him in power or remove him in turn as they saw fit. If they desired that he should stay and that the Crown should retain the powers given to it by the Constitution, he should be informed. If on the other hand they wished him to go, he should be told immediately so that he could leave quietly. Did the British wish to substitute another shah for himself or to abolish the monarchy? Were they behind the present efforts to deprive him of his power and prestige?
2. On May 17 the Shah sent an emissary to Henderson to say that it would do much to clarifythe situation if the ambassador could ascertain secretly and unequivocally the British attitude towards him.
 For extensive explanation and analysis on the conflict between Khomeini (and other conservative Shia clerics) and the shah, see Willem Floor, “The Revolutionary Character of the Iranian Ulama: Wishful Thinking or Reality?” International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1, December 1980; and Masoud Kazemzadeh, Islamic Fundamentalism, Feminism, and Gender Inequality in Iran Under Khomeini (University Press of America, 2002).
 The above are a close rendition of Shahbazi's words.
 Shahbazi, ibid., my translation. Words in brackets are mine. By the Kennedy reforms, Shahbazi is referring to reforms that the Kennedy administration forced the shah to implement, including land reform, female enfranchisement and the replacement of taking an oath to the Quran with taking an oath to a holy book as the criterion of holding government office (which would have undermined the Shia hold on high positions and allowed Zoroastrian, Christian, Bahai and Jewish Iranians to serve as well).