Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 3, Number 29 August 24 - 30, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
years later, Iranians remember US-UK coup
By Dan De Luce
a time when the United States has adopted a policy of preemptive action in its
war on terrorists - and is portrayed here as encouraging student street protests
- the 1953 overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh's government is taking on fresh
relevance for some Iranians.
year, many political groups in Iran are showing more interest in the history of
the [US-orchestrated] military coup," says Ibrahim Yazdi, a former foreign
minister and leading member of a political party that traces its origins to
Mossadegh's National Front. "Now it seems that the Americans are pushing
towards the same direction again. That shows they have not learned anything from
by the CIA and the British SIS to secure Iran's oil resources from a possible
Soviet takeover and secure Iran's oil resources, the coup marked America's first
intervention in the Middle East. Its aftershocks are still being felt.
end of Iran's first democratic government ushered in more than two decades of
dictatorship by Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, who relied on US aid and arms. The
anti-American backlash in 1979 shook the whole region and helped spread Islamic
there had not been a military coup, there would not have been 25 years of the
Shah's brutal regime, there would not have been a revolution in 1979 and a
government of clerics," says Mr. Yazdi, who served briefly as foreign
minister in the first cabinet after the fall of the Shah. "What we have now
is a result of the coup."
Mr. Mossadegh remains a hero to many Iranians who believe he fought against
colonial exploitation and dictatorial rule during his 26 months in office.
Perhaps because he represents a future denied and what might have been, his
memory has approached myth.
incurred the wrath of Britain by nationalizing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and
then argued his case successfully at the UN Security Council.
considering military action, Britain opted for a coup d'état. President Harry
Truman rejected the idea, but when Dwight Eisenhower took over the White House,
he ordered the CIA to embark on one of its first covert operations against a
new book on the coup - "All the Shah's Men," by New York Times
reporter Stephen Kinzer - describes how the CIA and the British helped to
undermine Mossadegh's government through bribery, libel, and orchestrated riots.
Agents posing as communists threatened religious leaders, while the US
ambassador lied to the prime minister about alleged attacks on American
book isn't on sale here, but the 50th anniversary was front-page news in Iranian
newspapers this week. One paper published excerpts from CIA documents on the
coup, which were released only three years ago, and lamented how the
intervention stunted the country's evolution.
an allusion to the US-led invasion of Iraq, the daily Yas-e No wrote that some
Iranians might wrongly assume the best way to solve the country's problems now
would be to turn to a foreign power: "If a foreign country comes to an
area, it will think about its own national interest first and not care about the
ruling conservative clergy have portrayed recent street protests in Iran as an
attempt by the US to foment discontent among university students. Although
student leaders distanced themselves from Washington and monarchist exiles,
accusations of foreign meddling carry weight in a country with Iran's history.
Bush administration has handed the hard-liners valuable ammunition by
cultivating relations with Iranian exiles who favor restoring the monarchy and
by promoting a media campaign to undermine Iran's clerical leadership.
tough rhetoric against Tehran and flirtation with the Shah's son are a kind of
nightmarish déjà vu for the embattled reformists and students struggling to
push for democratic change in Iran.
reformists allied with President Mohammad Khatami say their country now faces
another choice between despotism and democracy, and they worry that the
combination of outside interference and internal squabbling within their own
ranks could once again defer their dream.
a conference here this week commemorating Mossadegh, a young Iranian man who
asked not to be identified said "If there is going to be [democratic]
change, it should not be done by a foreign government but by Iranians, and it
should happen gradually," he said.
Tuesday, the day of the anniversary, there were no official government
ceremonies to honor Mossadegh's legacy. Deemed too secular for the Islamic
Republic, he is seldom mentioned by the conservative clergy. When they do
mention him, they stress the role of clerics at the time and show contempt for
Takrousta, who worked as Mossadegh's cook, says, "Under both regimes, now
and before, they like to hide his name. But the good things he did are clear to
Iranians, so I don't know why they would do this. When Mossadegh died, people
felt their father had died."