Book review

Stephan Kinzer: All the Sha’s Men : An American Coup and the Roots of Terror in the Middle East. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2003.

It is not too farfetched to trace back 9/11 to the 1953 coup in Iran engineered by the American CIA. In August that year the country that claims to love and promote democracy overthrew the only democratic government the Iranian people have ever had.

The wicked thing was that the elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh had, in 1951, nationalized the nation’s rich oilfields which had been owned by the British. The British themselves attempted a coup that year which failed. The Labour Government then in power was busy nationalizing Britain’s wealth but could not tolerate “natives” taking over their own. At that time, the British could not persuade the American Government under President Truman to come to their help, even though they pressed the “Soviet threat”. However, things were different when the Eisenhower administration came to power with John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles sharing the driving seat.

So, Mossadegh was overthrown; the Shah, who had fled into exile, was restored to the Peacock Throne; and American oil companies shared the booty. The Shah, financed and armed by his American masters, instituted a most repressive regime, solving the problem of the “Soviet threat” and of the democratic threat also. However, he went too far. Strangely enough, he didn’t interfere with the mosques which became the centres of discontent and dissent. By 1979, the mullahs had roused the people to revolution. They drove the Shah out and set up a strict Islamic regime under their rule. And we know all about that! For Muslim fanatics, it was inspiring, in particular, for the Taliban, all set with American support to take over Afghanistan. They attracted Muslim extremists, Bin Laden and his al-Qa‘ida.

If the democratically elected Mossadegh government had been left alone to carry out the social reforms in its programme, would the mullahs have been able to take power? IF the mullahs had not instituted their fascistic regime, would the Taliban and al-Qa‘ida have gathered such support and been able to take over power in Afghanistan? If al-Qa‘ida had not found safe refuge there, would they have been able plot and carry out the suicide attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.?

“All the Shah’s Men” describes the 1953 coup in great detail, and shows how its great success has made “regime change” part of American foreign policy ever since. Stephen Kinzer also gives one an understanding of Iran’s history, way back from ancient times. “All The Shah’s Men” is unputdownable!

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