All The Shah's Men

    3 August 2004, late afternoon

All The Shah’s Men is a well written account of the recent history of Iran, though the book provides a good background on Iran for those like me who do not know any of the countries history. The focus of the book is on the events leading up to the US led coup of 1953 that removed the democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, and replaced him with Mohammed Reza Shah. For those who are unaware, Reza Shah ruled Iran like a tyrant for the better part of 20 years before the Islamic Revolution swept the country.

The British, with their very profitable Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, were naturally upset when a fiercely nationalist prime minister came to power and declared that the exploitation of Iran’s oil by a foreign power would no longer be tolerated. The British were interested in taking military action in Iran to get back what they felt was rightly theirs. (Never mind that during this very same period of time Britain was busy nationalizing many of its own industries.) President Truman had the foresight to see that such an action in Iran would have grave consequences. While in power he would not support any such action taken by the British.

The British were lucky that with the arrival of the republican Eisenhower as the president, the United State’s foreign policy would shift so dramatically. The British wanted oil, the United States wanted a world safe from what they saw at the Soviet threat. The British convinced the United States that Mossadegh could not stop the Soviets if they rose up. This was enough for the United States to get the CIA to work on a plan to remove Mossadegh from power. 1953 would mark the first time the United States overthrew a government it was unhappy with.

The following year an international oil consortium would assume control of Iranian oil interests. Ironically, the name the consortium operated under was, National Iranian Oil Company, the name Mossadegh gave to his newly created nationalized oil company. Anglo-Iranian Oil Company would also change its name to British Petroleum. You can see BP pumps all over Britain.

If you are at all interested in politics and history, I really recommend you check this book out. The anti-American sentiment one finds in the Middle-East has its roots in Iran, and the actions the US took there. To understand the Middle-East one needs to understand the West’s involvement in the region. Had the US not intervened in Iran, would the country have experienced the Islamic Revolution of 1979? And if not for the Islamic Revolution, and the fundamentalism that came with it, what would the world look like today?

The year following the coup in Iran, the CIA would orchestrate a a coup in Guatemala to oust President Jacobo Arbenz. The United States would orchestrate such coups all over the world. The US has a long history of supporting tyrants and dictators so long as they were not communist tyrants and dictators. The United States did win the cold war, but at what cost?



  1. You should read Chomsky’s “Hegemony or Survival”

  2. I want to, at some point in time. Right now I’d like to find a book that covers the Islamic Revolution in Iran that is as well written as this book.

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