The coup against Mohammad Mosaddegh

Mohammad Mosaddeq raised up in order to be able to speak to the crowd, 1951. Photo: AP

Hey history teachers: do you ever tell your students about Mohammad Mosaddeq?

At least mine didn’t. In fact, I’m a little shocked that I hadn’t even heard his name until @aram_jajar (follow her!) told his story.

Mosaddeq was the highly popular, democratically elected prime minister of Iran in 1951–1953. TIME named him Man of the Year in 1951.

Mosaddeq was featured on the cover of TIME in both 1951 and 1951. Illustrations: Ernest Hamlin Baker and Boris Chaliapin

He was known for being so passionate during his speeches that he either burst into tears or fainted (!). He also caused media sensations by making a habit of conducting governmental meetings and receiving state visits in the comfort of his own bedroom, since he preferred to rule the country from his bed.

Mossadeq in a meeting with his ministers, 1952. Photo: Paul Popper

Mosaddeq meeting UN secretary general Trygve Lie, 1951. Photo: UN

Mosaddeq meeting Egyptian prime minister Mostafa El-Nahas. Photo: Sport & General Press Agency, Limited

“Is he sick?”, worried supporters asked themselves.

“It’s a PR stunt!”, critics scoffed.

“He’s a PR genius!”, John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote in their notebooks.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their weeklong bed-in against the Vietnam war, 1969. Photo: Alamy

The biggest contributing factor to his worldwide fame, and hero status in Iran itself, was the fact that he nationalized the country’s oil. All the way back since 1913, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (which would later become British Petroleum) had drilled for oil on behalf of the British Empire, and paid Iran next to nothing in return. Mosaddeq demanded more. When the representatives of the Empire refused, he kicked them out of the country.

Mosaddeq had intended to use the oil profits to increase welfare and decrease poverty. But the Brits put a stop to that by calling for an international boycott of Iranian oil. They also convinced the US — which was worried that Iran would cozy up to the Soviets — to lend a hand.

In 1953, CIA and MI6 coordinated a coup, known as Operation Ajax, which resulted in Mosaddeq being deposed, and the dictator-monarch Reza Pahlavi reinstated.

Historians point to this event as the flapping butterfly wing that would 30 years later lead to the Islamic revolution — which saw Islamists led by Ayatollah Khomeini, a man who referred to America as ”the Great Satan”, seizing power, and immediately starting imprisoning and murdering political opponents.

Ayatollah Khomeini leading a morning prayer called “Death to America”. Photo: Keystone Press

A woman in front of anti-American graffiti on the wall of the previous US embassy. Photo: Dani Salvá, VWPics/Alamy

The great irony is that the Islamic Republic today condemns the Iranian people’s struggle to turn the country into a secular democracy as “Western imperialism”.

Because it wasn’t democracy that the US and Britain forced on the Iranian people in 1953 — but dictatorship.

Never forget: as early as the 1950s, the Iranian people yearned for freedom. If you don’t believe me, just open a history book. Oh, wait — that was my question to begin with: is any of this even mentioned?

Mosaddeq in court, 1953: Photo: Carl Mydans, Life Magazine


@aram_jajar’s summary about the coup against Mosaddeq, and how US sanctions against Iran have historically impacted the Iranian people in particular.

Encyclopedia Britannica’s Mohammad Mosaddegh biography. After being deposed in 1953, Mosaddeq was kept in house  arrest for the rest of his life. After his death in 1967, his funeral was conducted in his living room, in order not to stoke civil unrest.

PS. Gå tillbaka och notera rubrikerna som TIME satte om Mosaddeq: ”Iran’s Mohammed Mosaddeq: Feet first into chaos?” och ”Man of the Year: He oiled the wheels of chaos.” Vem skapade egentligen kaos i Iran?

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