If there is one eventful year in Iranian history which people get confused about it is 1953. The names of Mossadeq, Mohammed Reza Shah, Fazlollah Zahedi and words like coup and CIA are easily remembered and associated with that year. The problem is that many people get the names and facts out of context and confuse things. Here I shall put the facts into place.
In 1953 Iran’s Vizier Bozorg Mohammed Mossadeq overstepped his authority by allowing units of the Imperial Iranian Army to be placed under his control and had collaborated with the outlawed Tudeh party in an attempt to seize power in Iran. Members of the Iranian government, including members of the Imperial family, made covert requests to the American government for assistance. That assistance materialized in the form of $64,000, and 2 American agents led by Kermit Roosevelt that helped organize Iranian military and government forces loyal to Mohammed Reza Shah when Mossadeq attempted to seize absolute power in collaboration with the Tudeh in August 1953. As we all know Mossadeq failed in his attempt to grab power.
Why the misconceptions? The answer is a misunderstanding of that greatest of social evils called democracy. As Mossadeq’s office was translated as Prime Minister people often assumed he was a head of government as the British prime minister was, when in fact that was never the case. Because of this slip up people assumed that Mossadeq was a democratically elected head of state without ever reading Iran’s constitution. Had they ever read Iran’s constitution they would have learned differently. In order to begin clearing up these myths we need to ask the right questions and approach the conundrum of 1953 in the right manner.
First, we must ask ourselves if Mossadeq was the legitimate head of state. The answer to that question is no. Under the constitution Mohammed Reza Shah could remove the Vizier Bozorg form power for any reason and veto any decision passed by the Vizier Bozorg. When the Shahanshah as head of state has that kind of authority over the Vizier Bozorg the Vizier Bozorg is not the head of government as his decisions can be superseeded by the Shahanshah. The notion that Mossadeq was popularly elected is one that is incorrect. The 1952 election saw Mossadeq ally himself with the Tudeh, and the Tudeh began using riots and other forms of intimidation to get people to vote for Mossadeq, thus using intimidation to influence an election and destroying any legitimacy of the July 1952 election putting Mossadeq into power. Also as Mossadeq was a member of the Qajar dynasty he was barred from being head of state as voted by the Majlis on October 31, 1925. Therefore the idea that Mossadeq was a popularly elected head of state is false when one looks at the facts.
One other thing to consider if we are to take Iran’s constitution as law is to question if Iran’s constitution is a legal and binding document. The answer is no. Iran’s constitution of 1906 is not legitimate in the fact that it was created under duress. The bastis of 1905-6 who demonstrated demanding constitutional rule were using force and were backed by the British and Russians. The actions of the bastis caused major disruption in Iran to the point where the dying Muzaffar ed-Din Shah gave in to the demands of the bastis not out of concern for the welfare of Iran but out of fear for his own safety. As stated before when duress is applied to push through any law or to influence it that law becomes moot. A legitimate constitution, such as America’s, is one that is created freely by the population or it’s representatives, not coerced by foreign powers or doled out by the ruler of a nation.
One other concern is how people spread stories about SAVAK and the 1953 situation. When SAVAK is mentioned it is refered to as the dreaded secret police of Mohammed Reza Shah. Here are the facts. The creation of SAVAK was proposed in 1951 by Mossadeq as a way of building his power base, but Mohammed Reza Shah forbid Mossadeq to create SAVAK. Plans for SAVAK were revived after Mossadeq’s removal and advised by members of the American government, most prominently by H. Norman Schwarzkopf Sr. who assisted in the creation of SAVAK. The first commander of SAVAK, Teymour Bakhtiar, used SAVAK to consolidate his own power base until he was removed as commander of SAVAK. The instructors of SAVAK, be they CIA, MIi6, or mossad taught SAVAK agents methods of brutality and most dangerously to lie to their superior officers about their actions. In this way SAVAK became a menace which Mohammed Reza Shah had no real control over and which was ultimately disbanded in 1978.
Finally, we must ask ourselves why have these myths about 1953 been perpetuated? The answer is one we do not want to hear but must if we are to progress. All too often we demand easy and pleasing answers to history. Often we demand this of situations that are not easily explained. Such is the case with Iran of 1953. In asking questions about Iran easy and quick answers are given, so easy and quick that facts are clipped and thus distorted. When this is done over a long period of time these distorted facts tend to be treated as fact, because people are so used to being spoon fed to them they do not want to spend time questioning what is presented to them as fact. As a result when someone comes along with a new impartial assessment it often tends to be ridiculed. Such is the situation when looking at the facts regarding the situation in Iran during 1953. If anything we must remember that in such situations ridicule only shows that those who ridicule us fear us because they know we are right and they have done wrong.
If we are to progress as a civilization we must banish those degenerate behaviors like believing well spun myths instead of facing hard facts. Let us have the courage to tell the truth about our history and not spin myths like those about 1953.