BOOK REVIEW — All The Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer
In the summer of 1953, the CIA and Britain’s MI6 arranged a coup in Tehran. The Iranian prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, appeared to be opening his country to the Soviets, and the objective was to overthrow him. The coup succeeded brilliantly. Mossadegh spent the rest of his life on his country estate; Iran remained a strong Cold War ally of the West. And a myth central to the Left took lasting shape: The CIA is thuggish, arrogant, immoral, and — finally — stupid, because interventions of that sort prove counterproductive. No matter how many countries the Soviet Union might subvert, in this view, the United States should never interfere in other peoples’ internal affairs. This myth is being revived forcefully, now that the U.S. has gone far beyond staging a mere coup in order to keep the peace in many trouble spots, including Iraq.
Stephen Kinzer is a New York Times correspondent who prefers to deal in myth rather than consider realities. Everything that has ever gone wrong with Iran, he thinks, is the fault of the British. Admittedly, the British had discovered Iran’s oil resources, and developed the huge Anglo-Iranian Oil Company — but they did this only to exploit Iran’s wealth. In the face of these colonialists, the Iranians could do nothing except grow angry. Righteous indignation bubbles out of Kinzer.
It might all have been so different — because, in its hour of crisis, Iran produced Mossadegh, whom Kinzer in awe and trembling more than once calls a titan, a towering figure, “one of history’s most gifted visionaries.” A tall man with a stoop and the lugubrious appearance of a vulture, Mossadegh was an aristocrat, educated in France and Switzerland.
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