A commemoration, half a century later, of a transformative event that few today remember.
The event in question is the American-sponsored overthrow of the democratic regime of Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh, which set in motion other events—including, suggests New York Times correspondent Kinzer (Crescent and Star, 2001), the eventual rise of Al Qaeda. Mossadegh, a moderate nationalist who was no fan of the British and American interests that tried to carve up Iran after WWII, had had the effrontery to nationalize the British-dominated oil industry and tried to steer Iran into a neutral position vis-à-vis the American-Soviet rivalry. This suited President Harry Truman fine, writes Kinzer: “He had nothing but contempt for old-style imperialists like those who ran Anglo-Iranian [Oil Company],” and even had a certain sympathy for nationalist movements, at least of the noncommunist variety. Truman’s successor, Dwight Eisenhower, had a different view; though he took pains to distance himself from operational details, he authorized the CIA and its allied agencies to engineer Mossadegh’s ouster. Many of those details were planned and effected by Middle East hand H. Norman Schwarzkopf, father of the Gulf War general, and Kim Roosevelt, grandson of yet another president; the two recruited disaffected Iranian generals to carry out the deed, some of whom bragged openly about their new pals at the CIA and the rewards that would await them once they took Mossadegh out of circulation. The spooks had a somewhat harder time convincing the playboy Shah of Iran, Reza Mohammed Pahlavi, to abandon his jet-set ways and take power. Eventually, however, Iranian rebel tanks rolled, Mossadegh was put under house arrest for the last ten years of his life, and the shah’s reign of terror began, to end only with the Iranian revolution of 1979 and its infamous results.
Yet another example of American foreign intrigues gone badly wrong: well-argued—but stomach-turning.