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

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Author: Ervand Abrahamian

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: New Press, The (February 5, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595588264
ISBN-13: 978-1595588265

Book Description

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 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.

Introduction

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. 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: "[i]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."

Editorial Reviews

“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

About 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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