Blunting the Soviet advance: A victory in Iran
The U.S. Apologist-in-Chief should not be allowed to twist history. His Cairo University apology to the Muslim world for the role of the U.S. in the 1953 overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh doesnít pass historical muster. But to understand why it was in the vital interests of both Great Britain and the United States to mount a covert coup against Mossadegh requires a trip back in time to 1913, when the Royal Navy converted from coal to oil.
Prior to the Royal Navyís energy switch and the ensuing world demand for oil, the economy of Persia (later Iran), was agricultural. When British geologists discovered Persian oil, they created a cash crop. In fact, via the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the Persians were getting a 16-percent royalty for their oil. But some Persians, despite their technical inability to harvest their own oil, wanted much more money.
The Russians saw opportunity in the conflict. An anti-British regime in Teheran might grant them access to the warm waters of the Persian Gulf. So, in 1921, the British resolved the threat by putting the pro-British, Reza Shah Pahlavi, on the Peacock Throne. In 1925, Reza Shah Pahlavi changed the name of Persia to Iran. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company became the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now, BP).
During World War II, President Roosevelt wanted Iran used as a corridor to send lend-lease supplies to help Stalin fight the Nazis. But Reza Shah Pahlavi was less than cooperative. So, Roosevelt (did I mention he was a Democrat?) and the British engineered a coup that placed Crown Prince Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on the Peacock Throne. (The exiled Reza Shah Pahlavi lived in Morocco, Egypt and South Africa. He died in 1944.)
After the communists took control of Russia, Stalin devoted considerable effort toward making Iran a vassal state of the Soviet Union. In 1953, Mohammed Mossadegh, rigged the parliamentary election that made him Iranís Prime Minister. When Mossadegh moved to nationalize Iranís oil industry and to give the Soviet Union access to the warm-water seaports of the Persian Gulf, he was dismissed by the Shah. In retaliation, Mossadegh staged a coup, forcing the Shah to flee.
Recall, in those days, the Soviets already had nuclear weapons. They were trying to take over all of Berlin. Backed by the Red Chinese, the North Koreans had invaded South Korea. With the exception of Iran and China, all the nations bordering the Soviet Union were under the control of Moscow. The Cold War was at the boiling point.
Rather than see the oil of the Persian Gulf fall under communist control, President Eisenhower gave the fledging CIA a truly important mission. CIA officer, Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., the grandson of former President Theodore Roosevelt, was put in charge of deposing Mossadegh. Working with British MI-6 and actually spending only $200,000 of the $1,000,000 he had been allocated, Kermit Rooseveltís counter-coup brought the pro-U.S., anti-Soviet Shah back to power. (Mossadegh was tried and convicted of treason. He spent three years in a military prison after which he was released. He stayed under house arrest until his death in 1967.)
The restoration of a pro-western, anti-Soviet government in Iran was met with wide public acclaim in both the U.S. and Europe. Even the American mainstream media applauded. The outraged Russians launched a propaganda campaign against the joint American-British action that continues to this day.
The toppling of Mossadegh provided the first glimmer of hope that the western democracies could blunt the Soviet advance without resorting to a bloody, all-out war. Arguably, what was eventually revealed as Operation Ajax, was the CIAís finest hour.
Why is Team Obama apologizing for a bloodless coup which, in the context of the raging Cold War, made perfect geo-political sense? The Cairo U. apology was Monday morning quarterbacking at its Muslim-pandering worst.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today, studied at Harvardís JFK School of Government. Dr. Hamilton is a former assistant professor of political science and history at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
©2009. William Hamilton.