The Coup: 1953, The CIA, and The Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations

The Coup: 1953, The CIA, and The Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations

by Ervand Abrahamian
     
 

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In August 1953, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency orchestrated the swift overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected leader and installed Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi in his place. Over the next twenty-six years, the United States backed the unpopular, authoritarian shah and his secret police; in exchange, it reaped a share of Iran’s oil wealth and became

Overview

In August 1953, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency orchestrated the swift overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected leader and installed Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi in his place. Over the next twenty-six years, the United States backed the unpopular, authoritarian shah and his secret police; in exchange, it reaped a share of Iran’s oil wealth and became a key player in this volatile region.

The blowback was almost inevitable, as this new and revealing history of the coup and its consequences shows. 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 U.S.-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 also sheds new light on how the American role in the coup influenced U.S.-Iranian relations, both past and present. Drawing from the hitherto closed archives of British Petroleum, the Foreign Office, and the U.S. 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 U.S.-Iranian relations.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this thorough, well-researched work, Abrahamian (Iranian & Middle Eastern history & politics, CUNY) breaks down the generally accepted understanding of the details behind the 1953 CIA-run coup that ousted Iran's prime minister, Muhammad Mossadeq, and supported the shah. The author reveals some of the primary motivations behind the current Iranian hostility toward the United States and other Western governments. Through his well-documented research, Abrahamian paints a picture of the coup in the context of British and U.S. oil interests, contrasting these motivations with the desire to curb the spread of Soviet influences. In his examination of information recently made available from the British Foreign Office, the U.S. Department of State, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP), and other government documents, Abrahamian pieces together the intricacies of the relationships among these parties and provides a sound argument for the control of oil resources as the dominating issue behind the coup. VERDICT This latest research from Abrahamian is a must read for anyone wanting a clearer understanding of the history behind current U.S.-Iranian relations. Recommended for Middle East history-enthusiasts and specialists, as well as those seeking a full understanding of current international affairs.—Brenna Smeall, Bellevue, NE
Publishers Weekly
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." (Feb.)
From the Publisher

A Choice magazine Outstanding Academic Title selection

“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 [of the oil industry]... were the main stumbling blocks’ in the relationship between Iran and the West. . . . his primer skillfully weaves together primary sources to tell an engaging tale of the machinations, intrigues, and personalities at the heart of the crisis.”
Publishers Weekly

"Abrahamian has done for Iran what de Tocqueville did for France."
—Edward Mortimer, author of Faith and Power: The Politics of Islam, on Ervand Abrahamian’s A History of Modern Iran

"A relevant, readable study of the foreign-engineered 1953 Iranian coup reminds us of the cause that won’t go away: oil."
Kirkus

"In this thorough, well–researched work, Abrahamian (Iranian & Middle Eastern history & politics, CUNY) breaks down the generally accepted understanding of the details behind the 1953 CIA–run coup that ousted Iran’s prime minister, Muhammad Mossadeq, and supported the shah. The author reveals some of the primary motivations behind the current Iranian hostility toward the United States and other Western governments. Through his well–documented research, Abrahamian paints a picture of the coup in the context of British and U.S. oil interests, contrasting these motivations with the desire to curb the spread of Soviet influences. In his examination of information recently made available from the British Foreign Office, the U.S. Department of State, the Anglo–Iranian Oil Company (now BP), and other government documents, Abrahamian pieces together the intricacies of the relationships among these parties and provides a sound argument for the control of oil resources as the dominating issue behind the coup. VERDICT This latest research from Abrahamian is a must read for anyone wanting a clearer understanding of the history behind current U.S.–Iranian relations. Recommended for Middle East–history enthusiasts and specialists, as well as those seeking a full understanding of current international affairs."
Library Journal

Kirkus Reviews
A relevant, readable study of the foreign-engineered 1953 Iranian coup reminds us of the cause that won't go away: oil. Abrahamian (Iranian and Middle Eastern History and Politics/City Univ. of New York; A Modern History of Iran, 2008, etc.) clears away much of the nostalgic Cold War cobwebs surrounding the ouster of the popular Iranian reformer Muhammad Mossadeq, employing new oral history and pertinent memoirs published posthumously by Mossadeq's advisers. Despite the lively spin put to the coup immediately and effectively by the Americans as a kind of spontaneous uprising against Mossadeq by people fearing his communist proclivities, his ability to pass oil nationalization by the democratically elected Iranian Parliament over the head of the Reza Shah had prompted the U.S. and Britain to panic. With an even, firm hand, Abrahamian revisits the early grab for oil in Iran by the British at the turn of the century. Eventually, the grievances against the British masters began stacking up, as they continued to practice massive ecological damage and frank discrimination against the Iranian workers, prompting strikes and intense anti-imperialist sentiment. The author treats Mossadeq's rise to power as an organic nationalist reaction. From an old patrician Iranian family, a law scholar and reformist intellectual, he gained popular trust by his sympathy to the constitutional cause. Elected to the premiership by wild acclaim, Mossadeq quietly but firmly passed oil nationalization in 1951; Anglo-Iranian negotiations broke down, and the British and Americans engaged in subversive propaganda tactics such as casting aspersions on the Iranian character and leader. Abrahamian walks us chillingly through the July uprising and subsequent careful CIA-MI6 machinations. The well-rendered, lucid back story explaining the current, ongoing deep distrust and suspicion between the U.S. and Iran.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781595588623
Publisher:
New Press, The
Publication date:
02/05/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
File size:
341 KB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

“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 [of the oil industry]... were the main stumbling blocks’ in the relationship between Iran and the West. . . . his primer skillfully weaves together primary sources to tell an engaging tale of the machinations, intrigues, and personalities at the heart of the crisis.”
Publishers Weekly

"Abrahamian has done for Iran what de Tocqueville did for France."
—Edward Mortimer, author of Faith and Power: The Politics of Islam, on Ervand Abrahamian’s A History of Modern Iran

"A relevant, readable study of the foreign-engineered 1953 Iranian coup reminds us of the cause that won’t go away: oil."
Kirkus

"In this thorough, well–researched work, Abrahamian (Iranian & Middle Eastern history & politics, CUNY) breaks down the generally accepted understanding of the details behind the 1953 CIA–run coup that ousted Iran’s prime minister, Muhammad Mossadeq, and supported the shah. The author reveals some of the primary motivations behind the current Iranian hostility toward the United States and other Western governments. Through his well–documented research, Abrahamian paints a picture of the coup in the context of British and U.S. oil interests, contrasting these motivations with the desire to curb the spread of Soviet influences. In his examination of information recently made available from the British Foreign Office, the U.S. Department of State, the Anglo–Iranian Oil Company (now BP), and other government documents, Abrahamian pieces together the intricacies of the relationships among these parties and provides a sound argument for the control of oil resources as the dominating issue behind the coup. VERDICT This latest research from Abrahamian is a must read for anyone wanting a clearer understanding of the history behind current U.S.–Iranian relations. Recommended for Middle East–history enthusiasts and specialists, as well as those seeking a full understanding of current international affairs."
Library Journal

Meet the Author

Ervand Abrahamian is the author of several books, including Tortured Confessions, Khomeinism, Iran Between Two Revolutions, and A History of Modern Iran. He is Distinguished Professor of Iranian and Middle Eastern History and Politics at the City University of New York. He lives in Brooklyn.

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