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Iranian Terror Has Roots in U.S.-Backed 1953 Coup
By H.D.S. Greenway
The Boston Globe, Boston, MA, Jul. 7, 2003
"More than 25 years ago in Tehran, I was told a story by the U.S. ambassador, Richard Helms, the former C.I.A. chief: The Russian ambassador had asked the shah how he could accept an ambassador who had been in the C.I.A. The shah replied that at least he could be sure the Americans had sent their top spy. In his memoirs, Helms wrote that the shah 'had always been well impressed by the quality of C.I.A. people he had met through the years.' Since he owed his throne to the C.I.A., this is not surprising."
"In this new age of ideologically driven 'regime change,' it is fitting that we remember the U.S.-engineered change in government in the Middle East 50 years ago next month: the coup against Iran's Mohammed Mossadegh. Americans have largely forgotten, but Mossadegh, an eccentric but popular Iranian nationalist, was Time Magazine's Man of the Year in 1951, mainly because he was driving the West wild. In a new and timely book, All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, Stephen Kinzer, a reporter for The New York Times, uses recently declassified information to trace the origins of that event."
"Mossadegh wasn't your average politician. 'He projected helplessness; and while he was obviously as much a captive as a leader of the nationalist fanatics, he relented on nothing,' Kinzer writes. Mossadegh bitterly resented British control of Iran's oil and sought to wrest it from them. The British howled that changing the status quo agreement on Iran's oil would be the end of Britain, but Harry Truman, a hero in Kinzer's book, steadfastly resisted any attempt to force Mossadegh from office."
"Then in came Dwight D. Eisenhower, or, perhaps more important, John Foster Dulles as secretary of state, and the mood in Washington changed. Enter the C.I.A.'s Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of Teddy, charged with overthrowing the Iranian government. He pulled off a coup that rivals any fictional thriller. The shah, who had fled to Rome, was returned to power. Roosevelt was given a medal by the C.I.A. and praised by Winston Churchill. To some, the Mossadegh coup was a great success that forestalled Russian influence in the Gulf and bought the United States a quarter century of Iranian cooperation."
"Both Helms, in his book A Look Over My Shoulder, and Kinzer stress that the Communist threat to the West loomed larger at the time than might seem reasonable in retrospect. In those years an impatient United States had convinced itself that even the most effective diplomacy 'took too much time and the result was often uncertain,' Helms wrote. Helms entertains the idea that 'had Mossadegh remained in office . . . he might have created an Iranian political system which would have headed off the revolution against the monarchy.' But Helms attributes the fall of the shah to his inability to 'develop a political system that would accommodate the changes and development while also providing for the well-being of the largely illiterate and impoverished general population.' "
"Kinzer argues that 'but for the coup, Iran would probably have become a mature democracy.' In Kinzer's view, much of the terror today comes as a result of that covert action 50 years ago. Today, we have another American administration that feels that diplomacy takes too much time, and is too uncertain. It is an administration that sees regime change as a panacea. Today, 50 years after the last American inspired overthrow of an Iranian government, Donald Rumsfeld and the neoconservatives around him talk of changing the present Iranian government. Some even talk of bringing back the dead shah's son."
"Regime change is coming to Iran anyway as its young people tire of the theocracy. They don't need the Bush administration to do it for them. But one has to wonder whether the ideological zeal of the regime changers who surround Bush aren't sowing the seeds for another 50 years of trouble for the United States, just as the coup against Mossadegh did. As Kinzer quotes Truman: 'There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.' "