An “absorbing” account of the CIA’s 1953 coup in Iran—essential reading for anyone concerned about Iran’s role in the world today (Harper’s Magazine).
In August 1953, the Central Intelligence Agency orchestrated the swift overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected leader and installed Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi in his place. When the 1979 Iranian Revolution deposed the shah and replaced his puppet government with a radical Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the shift reverberated throughout the Middle East and the world, casting a long, dark shadow over United States-Iran relations that extends to the present day.
In this authoritative new history of the coup and its aftermath, noted Iran scholar Ervand Abrahamian uncovers little-known documents that challenge conventional interpretations and sheds new light on how the American role in the coup influenced diplomatic relations between the two countries, past and present. Drawing from the hitherto closed archives of British Petroleum, the Foreign Office, and the US State Department, as well as from Iranian memoirs and published interviews, Abrahamian’s riveting account of this key historical event will change America’s understanding of a crucial turning point in modern United States-Iranian relations.
A Choice Outstanding Academic Title
“Not only is this book important because of its presentation of history. It is also important because it might be predicting the future.” —Counterpunch
“Subtle, lucid, and well-proportioned.” —The Spectator
“A valuable corrective to previous work and an important contribution to Iranian history.” —American Historical Review
The CIA-sponsored coup in 1953 that deposed Muhammad Mossadeq, Iran's popular prime minister, is often noted as a failure of interventionist foreign policy. In this slim, readable volume, Iran scholar Abrahamian (A History of Modern Iran) delves into the genesis and aftermath of that operation, challenging the idea that Mossadeq's intransigence made the putsch inevitable. Making extensive use of recently declassified diplomatic cables and the archives of multinational oil companies especially the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, now BP the author makes the case that the U.K. and the U.S., unwilling "to back down over the hard issue of nationalization ... were the main stumbling blocks" in the relationship between Iran and the West. Abrahamian's conclusions are no longer as controversial as he claims, and the basic outlines should be familiar to students of modern Middle Eastern history, yet his primer skillfully weaves together primary sources to tell an engaging tale of the machinations, intrigues, and personalities at the heart of the crisis. But the full story of the coup may have to wait, as Abrahamian makes clear: "t is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a historian to gain access to the CIA and MI6 files."