The ’53 August coup in Iran: Worth remembering?

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I thought I would blog about a rather unusual anniversary the world marks this month, and say absolutely nothing about todays Humphrey Seminar. Instead, here are my candid thoughts on an anniversary not many of us are aware of, and indeed, the media hardly ever mentions: The anniversary of the 1953 August coup which led to the collapse of the democratically elected Mossadeq government in Iran, and the installation of the Shahs regime, that lasted for 25 years. Many are the myths that surround this. And it would take more than a cursory ‘google’ search on the ‘1953 Iran Coup’ to fully comprehend the inner mechanisms that led to the fall of Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq. But nevertheless, here I am, utterly immersed the happenings of August, 1953!

In the 1st instance, I am quite surprised at myself, for even thinking about this particular topic. But it occurred to me that a blog was a wonderful way to capture the power of a thought, and/or an opinion, albeit it perhaps a misinformed one. In this case, the ‘thought’ was given life by that quintessential bastion of dissent, Noam Chomsky. In his book “Imperial Ambitions”, Chomsky speaks of the Iranian coup in ’53 in terms of a strategy of ‘regime change’ articulated and followed by western powers, the US in particular. As Chomsky points out, the whole coup was the result of British-American interest in Iranian oil fields, and the renewed sense of ‘nationalism’ propagated by Dr. Mossedeq that threatened to unsettle western control of Iranian oil, through their proxy- the Anglo-Iran Oil Company.  

My intention here is in no way to enter into a treatise on the coup itself. But let us assume Chomskys contention holds some water. Isn’t it intriguing that one of the world’s most important nations was brought to its knees within a month, just 8 years after WW II, for wanting to take control of its own resources? And for what end? Did any of what was intended, ever achieved? According to most reports,  Britain ended up losing control of a large part (upto 40%) of the oil fields to the US as a result of the coup. And what of the impact of the coup today? The Shahs regime was brought down in the 1979 Iranian revolution.  And ever since then it has been a wave of continuous anti-western sentiment that has kept Iranian governments in power, rather than any meaningful local politicking.

Another interesting twist are the many reports filed in the US press at the time. According to an interesting article on the coup, by the Iran Chamber Society, to be found on its website, the CIA tried, with little success, to manipulate the press into planting articles saying that the Iranian situation was the result of a ‘home grown revolt against a communist-leaning government’. The website analysis continues on and says that American journalists filed ‘straight-forward, factual dispatches that prominently mentioned the role of Irans communist party in street violence leading up to the coup.’ This may have been a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that western broadsheets at the time were awaking to the initial rumblings of the cold-war. The great scourge of ‘communism’ must surely be at the stem of all the worlds violence. As the short history of the coup, as told by the Iran Chamber Society website  suggests, and I adlib, the western press perhaps ignored contemporaneous reports in the Iranian and Russian press that suggested a western hand in the coup.  Whether this was conveniently missed out, or a result of a nationalism that pervaded American journalism at the time, the end result was the loss of that valuable opinion to posterity

A fascinating piece of history, for whatever it is worth, and certainly worth a read.

About Chev

Head of Sri Lankas largest and highest rated electronic news media company, comprising of 3 TV channels, 4 radio channels and 2 websites, reporting directly to the Chairman of the company. Academic background in Economics and political science. Used to be a newscaster on TV/radio for several years. Management experience working for international brands such as Victorias Secret lingerie, GAP and Pepsi Cola. Won Sri Lankas Most Outstanding Young Person of the Year award-07/'08. Shortlisted for the Eisenhower Fellowship '09. Brown belt in Taekwando. Composed, sung & released 3 original English songs. Played a camoe role in the major Sri Lankan movie 'The Road from Elephant pass', which premiered at Cannes. Addressed several International Forums including the Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany in 2009. Other interests include poetry, martial arts, chess and political science.

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