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All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror

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Overview

With a thrilling narrative that sheds much light on recent events, this national bestseller brings to life the 1953 CIA coup in Iran that ousted the country’s elected prime minister, ushered in a quarter-century of brutal rule under the Shah, and stimulated the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Americanism in the Middle East. Selected as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post and The Economist, it now features a new preface by the author on the folly of ...

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All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror

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Overview

With a thrilling narrative that sheds much light on recent events, this national bestseller brings to life the 1953 CIA coup in Iran that ousted the country’s elected prime minister, ushered in a quarter-century of brutal rule under the Shah, and stimulated the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Americanism in the Middle East. Selected as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post and The Economist, it now features a new preface by the author on the folly of attacking Iran.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
… Mr. Kinzer, a veteran correspondent for The New York Times whose last foreign posting was in Istanbul (where he also covered Iran), decided to take another look at this well-known episode. He does so with a keen journalistic eye, and with a novelist's pen. In what is a very gripping read, he recounts the story of the coup and how it came about. In the process, he reveals much about Iran's history, paints a sharp portrait of British colonialism just at the point of its ultimate collapse, and lays bare the debate on how the United States should engage the world. — Ivo H. Daalder
The Los Angeles Times
Fifty years ago, the CIA overthrew Mohammad Mossadegh, the popular, democratically elected prime minister of Iran, and reinstalled the country's exiled monarch, Mohammad Reza Shah. In All the Shah's Men, Stephen Kinzer, a longtime New York Times correspondent, covers this event in an exciting narrative. He questions whether Americans are well served by interventions for regime change abroad, and he reminds us of the long history of Iranian resistance to great power interventions, as well as the unanticipated consequences of intervention. — Nikki R. Keddie
The Washington Post
… an entirely engrossing, often riveting, nearly Homeric tale, which, if life were fair, would be this summer's beach book. For anyone with more than a passing interest in how the United States got into such a pickle in the Middle East, All the Shah's Men is as good as Grisham. — Jeff Stein
Publishers Weekly
With breezy storytelling and diligent research, Kinzer has reconstructed the CIA's 1953 overthrow of the elected leader of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, who was wildly popular at home for having nationalized his country's oil industry. The coup ushered in the long and brutal dictatorship of Mohammad Reza Shah, widely seen as a U.S. puppet and himself overthrown by the Islamic revolution of 1979. At its best this work reads like a spy novel, with code names and informants, midnight meetings with the monarch and a last-minute plot twist when the CIA's plan, called Operation Ajax, nearly goes awry. A veteran New York Times foreign correspondent and the author of books on Nicaragua (Blood of Brothers) and Turkey (Crescent and Star), Kinzer has combed memoirs, academic works, government documents and news stories to produce this blow-by-blow account. He shows that until early in 1953, Great Britain and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company were the imperialist baddies of this tale. Intransigent in the face of Iran's demands for a fairer share of oil profits and better conditions for workers, British Foreign Secretary Herbert Morrison exacerbated tension with his attitude that the challenge from Iran was, in Kinzer's words, "a simple matter of ignorant natives rebelling against the forces of civilization." Before the crisis peaked, a high-ranking employee of Anglo-Iranian wrote to a superior that the company's alliance with the "corrupt ruling classes" and "leech-like bureaucracies" were "disastrous, outdated and impractical." This stands as a textbook lesson in how not to conduct foreign policy. (July) FYI: Publication coincides with the 50th anniversary of the coup, a good news hook for promotion. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
Fifty years ago last August, the United States carried out a secret operation to overthrow the Iranian prime minister, Muhammad Mosaddeq, and restore the shah to his throne. Iranians were aware of this "secret" at the time, and its basic facts have been well known since the 1960s. The story, however, is worth retelling: its repercussions are felt to this day. Kinzer deftly uses scholarly accounts, memoirs, and official records (including the CIA's once-classified internal history of the coup, written by the late Donald Wilber) to produce a crisp, readable narrative. Two chapters sketch Iranian history and political culture. Then, Kinzer hones in on the period from shortly before Iran's nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1951 until August 19, 1953, when a handful of plotters and the mobs they had recruited reversed the debacle of days earlier and pulled off the coup. By concentrating on those Americans, British, and Iranians who hatched and carried out the plot, All the Shah's Men reads like a morality play or a le Carre spy story. There is even a cameo role for an Iranian mob leader with the unforgettable moniker "Shaban the Brainless." And that may well be the best way to gauge the meaning of it all.
Library Journal
That the past is prolog is especially true in this astonishing account of the 1953 overthrow of nationalist Iranian leader Mohammed Mossadegh, who became prime minister in 1951 and immediately nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. This act angered the British, who sought assistance from the United States in overthrowing Mossadegh's fledgling democracy. Kermit Roosevelt, Teddy's grandson, led the successful coup in August 1953, which ended in the reestablishment of the Iranian monarchy in the person of Mohammad Reza Shah. Iranian anger at this foreign intrusion smoldered until the 1979 revolution. Meanwhile, over the next decade, the United States successfully overthrew other governments, such as that of Guatemala. Kinzer, a New York Times correspondent who has also written about the 1954 Guatemala coup (Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala), tells his captivating tale with style and verve. This book leads one to wonder how many of our contemporary problems in the Middle East may have resulted from this covert CIA adventure. Recommended for all collections.-Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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 putunder 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. Agent: Nancy Love
From the Publisher
"Breezy storytelling and diligent research.... This stands as a textbook lesson in how not to conduct foreign policy." —-Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470185490
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 1/2/2008
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 153,100
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author


Stephen Kinzer, an award-winning New York Times correspondent who has reported from more than fifty countries on five continents, is the author of Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq.

Michael Prichard is a professional narrator and stage and film actor who has played several thousand characters during his career. An Audie Award winner, he has recorded well over five hundred books and has earned several AudioFile Earphones Awards. Michael was also named a Top Ten Golden Voice by SmartMoney magazine.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the 2008 Edition: The Folly of Attacking Iran.

Preface.

Acknowledgments.

Notes on Usage.

1. Good Evening, Mr. Roosevelt.

2. Curse This Fate.

3. The Last Drop of the Nation's Blood.

4. A Wave of Oil.

5. His Master's Orders.

6. Unseen Enemies Everywhere.

7. You Do Not Know How Evil They Are.

8. An Immensely Shrewd Old Man.

9. Block Headed British.

10. Pull Up Your Socks and Get Going.

11. I Knew It! They Love Me!

12. Purring Like a Giant Cat.

Epilogue.

Notes.

Bibliography.

Index.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 19 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 18 of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 9, 2009

    A read like none other!

    Stephen Kinzer says it as it is. No holds barred; he puts it bluntly and succinctly, no sugar coating. An eye opening read that will challenge what you think and how you see the world and the United States's international relations.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2008

    America's Overthrow of Democracy in Iran

    Award-winning former New York Times foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer gives an account of how the U.S. and British governments overthrew the Iranian government in his All the Shah¿s Men: an American Coup and the roots of Middle East terror. Their target was Mohammad Mossadegh. In 1951, Mossadegh was democratically and constitutionally appointed as the prime minister of Iran. In an effort to insure a more fair distribution of the wealth generated by Iran¿s huge oil reserves, and to improve conditions for the Iranian workers who helped to produce that wealth, he nationalized the British run Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. For this, the British government insisted that he be removed from office. Mossadegh also supported women¿s rights, believed in religious freedom and permitted courts and universities to function independently. The CIA code name for the coup was ¿Operation Ajax¿, and American Kermit Roosevelt (the grandson of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt) was its mastermind. He would lie under a blanket at the back seat of a car, while being transported to and fro Muhammad Reza Shah¿s palace for his secret meetings. He used audacious tactics in carrying out his plan. For example, ¿His agents would spread across Tehran to bribe politicians, mullahs, and anyone else who might be able to turn out crowds at a crucial moment.¿ When bribes failed, he was not above using threats and violence to achieve his objectives. Consequently, after an initial failed attempt, a second attempt at the coup was successful, and in 1953 Mossadegh was forcefully removed from office and placed under arrest. Muhammad Reza Shah was a tyrant who ruthlessly exploited his people until 1979, when the Islamic revolution overthrew his government. Kinzer, with a ¿keen journalistic eye, and with a novelist¿s pen,¿ has crafted a thought-provoking book. In the end, readers come away with a better understanding of why there is such disgust and distrust for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, and especially in Iran.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2005

    Good Summary

    This book took me about 4 hours to read since it has extrememly big font. It seems to be written on a 10th grade reading level, and most of the information is presented in an informative, non-argumentative fassion. For this reason, this book is a great tool for those who don't know much about the history of the Middle East, but for scholars like myself, it left much to be desired. There are many times when the author leaves out an important bit of information that would shine a slightly different light on American foreign policy. It is very factual and doesn't jump to very many conclusions. It even presents arguments for both sides in the final chapter (although the rest of the book is more or less one sided). Like I said, though, it is a great book for beginners who are looking for some background information to modern day policy, and it shouldn't bias the reader (much) toward either side.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2004

    How the Roots of Terror Started

    An excellent inside look on how the CIA toppled Mossadegh installing the Pro-Western Shah. Kermit Roosevelt's CIA operations and a true account of how much the US played its role in regime change. This regime change serves as the stepping stone to the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Have our regime change operations created more future headaches much larger if we had left well alone? Read this book and you will be convinced to our role in Iran's reaction to the west presently today.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2003

    British / CIA overthrowing democratic elected leder

    One of the greatest book for understanding Iran today. As an American I am shamed what CIA/British did in Iran in 1953. Blame could be given most to British for their greed for Iranian oil. By overthrowing democratic elected leader of Iran in 1953, CIA and British are blamed for the Fundamentalist terror regim of Iran today. As a taxpayer I wonder why our tax money is going toward distroying other countries. Great book for those who can connect the dots from 1953 to 9-11.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2003

    Dirty CIA / MI6 at work to overthrow democratic elected goverment

    As an American I am a shamed to see how TAXPAYERS money were spend in 1953 in Iran to overthrow democratic elected leader of Iran, because block head british wanted to suck the blood out of this poor country. We also can see due to this act 1979 revolution in Iran was very anti-west, because what CIA / MI6 did in 1953. And if we connect the dots 9-11 could be the result of CIA deeds in 1953 in mideast.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2003

    The CIA in Iran

    Very good book. Slight bit of backtracking and foreshadowing makes the text hard to follow in places at first, but this is an excllent book that I would truly recommend. I have read many books on Middle Eastern history and this is one of the better ones I have read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2013

    Simplistic and naieve

    The author fails to take into account the times in which these events occured. The world was divided into two spheres and the United States could not allow Iran to fall into the Soviet camp, threatening the Arabian oil fields upon which the global economy depended.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012

    Very Highly Recommended

    This book brings out all the documented facts to the open. Problems in Iran starting back with the Imperial Oil company of England, the root cause of hate and evil. Greed by the oil company, taking it into any possible way to continue its teeth even at the cost of Nationalization to the Iranian people. America getting caught in the middle of it. As one can see this is exactly how America paid for after the Iranian ouster of Shad in 1979 and placement of a British Puppet called "Ayatollah". Why? look what happened after the take over, all American interests were completely shut down while British, European, Russian and Chinese started to grow.....

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    Posted August 24, 2009

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