By Chet Yarbrough
All the Shah’s Men:
An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror
By Stephen Kinzer
Narrated by Michael Prichard
Stephen Kinzer (American Author, journalist and academic, former NYT’ correspondent)
Stephen Kinzer is among a long line of journalists that look at America’s past and reveal some of its lies. Kinzer is a journalist that covered Middle Eastern affairs for the New York Times. He examines a piece of Iran’s history to reveal America’s clandestine involvement in the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh, a 1950’s Prime Minister of Iran.
“All The Shah’s Men” is a thrilling recount of America’s complicity in Iran’s overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953. Kinzer builds a credible story of British greed that seduces American government into removing Mossadegh from office.
(One is reminded of “The Three Kings” movie that shows an American captive being forced to drink oil; a graphic illustration of why some in the Middle East accuse the West of greed.)
Kinzer recounts British colonization, and industrial domination of Iranian oil assets. The Shah of Iran enters into long term agreements with a British-controlled oil partnership of Iran’s oil industry. The contract is long term and exclusively managed by the British with all accounting for Iranian payments determined by British managers. Mohammed Mossadegh fights for Iran’s right to its natural resources.
British Petroleum was the controlling and managing partner of an Anglo/Persian oil conglomerate called APOC. The British treasury purchased 51% of the conglomerate in 1914.
Mossadegh, formally educated in France with credentials as a lawyer and Finance Minister, exposes unfair practices of the British-controlled oil company. The British government supports the oil company’s refusal to renegotiate their contract with the Iranian government. Iran refuses to kowtow to the British government. In response, Mossadegh nationalizes the oil conglomerate’s assets.
Winston Churchill appeals to President Truman for American assistance in overthrowing Mossadegh’s administration; Truman refuses. Churchill recognizes Truman is soon to be replaced by Eisenhower and decides to wait until Eisenhower is in office.
The Churchill administration suggests Mossadegh is creating instability in Iran. Churchill argues that Iran will turn to communism if America does not aid Great Britain in the removal of Iran’s Prime Minister.
The irony of Churchill’s instability argument is that much of the instability is caused by Britain’s strict embargo of all assistance to Iran while Iran’s primary source of income, the oil industry, is shut down by Britain’s refusal to negotiate a new oil contract.
Kermit Roosevelt Jr. (1916-2000, CIA officer, a grandson of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.)
Eisenhower initially rejects Churchill’s overture but the CIA becomes involved through the clandestine placement of Kermit Roosevelt as a CIA operative in Iran. His job is to foment a rebellion. Direct involvement of Eisenhower is not revealed by Kinzer’s research but Roosevelt and CIA participation in the removal and replacement of Mossadegh is clearly documented by Kinzer.
Kinzer’s story is fascinating. However, as credible as his story is, to suggest a direct link between Mossadegh’s overthrow and the bombing of the New York towers is hyperbolic.
Great Britain, the United States, the Shah of Iran, and private industry are villains in this story, but greed is a universal human failing that permeates all human endeavors. A direct line between one event and international relations is a trick by historians and journalists to simplify history. One nation’s exercise of power and influence over another is resisted by all sovereign nations. It is the accumulation of sovereign encroachments that cause long term enmity between nations.
No single event, as horrendous as it may be, explains one nation’s antipathy toward another.