Subject: The Mess in Iran is our own fault
THE MESS IN IRAN WAS "MADE IN THE U.S.A."
I feel compelled to comment about events unfolding in Iran. As background,
I should mention that I was Headmaster of an American School in Tehran
1975 through 1979. I was attending an official briefieng in the U. S.
Embassy the hour the Shah fled the country, and I was in Tehran on the day
the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to a tumultuous welcome. I was also
when the American Embassy was first seized, for a very brief period of
before the Prime Minister himself came there to demand that the attackers
leave in peace. (It was several months later that some 50 American
were captured at the embassy and held for 444 days. )
With all of the publicity about the present turmoil, no one seems to be
reporting on the historic U.S. interference in Iran in 1953, which led us
directly to the problems in that country today.
In 1951 Mohammed Mossadegh was a powerful member of the Iranian
He was a brilliant and progressive man, having received his Ph.D. in
Switzerland, and having come from one of the most educated and
families in the country. (His first cousin was the Chairman of my school
At that time, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the largest and by far the
most profitable company in the United Kingdom, and actually owned by the
British government, was in control of almost all oil production in Iran.
reaping enormous profits and basically exploiting the country. Mossadegh
believed strongly that this was unfair and, at his urging, the parliament
voted to nationalize the oil companies. Shortly after this decision,
was elected Prime Minister of Iran with a 90% vote.
During protracted negotiations to settle amicably the oil company demands
for compensation, these companies began to put enormous pressure on the
British and American governments, and on the United nations, to intercede.
British imposed economic sanctions and threatened to invade. Their Secret
Service tried very hard to involve the CIA in a plot to oust Mossadegh,
dent Truman adamantly refused. After Eisenhower was elected, however, John
Foster Dulles, who attained great wealth partly as a lawyer for the
Rockefellers and their oil companies, was appointed Secretary of State.
Allen Dulles, also a lawyer and very closely connected to the oil
interests, was appointed head of the CIA.
At the urging of the international oil companies, the Dulles brothers
persuaded Eisenhower in 1953 to allow the CIA to send a top secret agent,
Roosevelt, the grandson of Teddy Roosevelt, into Iran to coordinate the
destabilization of the Mossadegh government. Laden with millions of
cash, and aided and abetted by a network of British and American secret
agents, and by compliant Iranians, they were able to mount a coup in which
Mossadegh was placed under house arrest and the Shah was brought back from
exile in Rome.
Restored to power, and with the backing of the American and British
governments, the Shah clamped down with the utmost ferocity on dissident
reformist members of Iranian society. When I lived there twenty-five years
it was obviously an extremely repressive society controlled by a secret
police agency (SAVAK) known for its brutality and cruelty. Even my closest
Iranian friends were afraid to talk to me in private about the government.
Under this repressive regime, the tensions mounted and the pressure built
up for many years and finally culminated in a tremendous popular uprising
the winter of 1978/79. The Shah and thousands of his supporters fled for
their lives, only to be replaced by a regime even more brutal. Within days
Khomeini's return from exile in France, hundreds of people were rounded
given a mock trial in the middle of the night with no legal
pronounced guilty, and executed within minutes. The morning papers would
filled with gruesome photos of well-known Iranians who had been executed
night before, most of whom were completely innocent of any crimes
The tragic irony is that the United States destroyed a fledgling and
legitimate democracy in Iran in 1953, which resulted directly in
additional years of oppression under the Shah; and Lord only knows how
years of oppression the country will suffer under the present regime.
One result of all of this is that people in the Middle East laugh at the
United States whenever we pontificate about establishing democratic
governments in the Muslim world. They simply point to the events in Iran
in 1953, and
they accuse us of hypocrisy and of being in favor of democracy only when
people we like get elected.
Where this will all lead is anybody's guess. My prediction is that
eventually Iran will return to a democratic form of government, but it
will be a
long hard road to that end. At some point I believe the military will
control and elections will follow a few years later. In time, the good
in Iran will come to their senses and sanity will prevail. Meanwhile,
President Obama is doing exactly the right thing by refusing to get
that would only remind the Iranians of our interference in 1953.
Finally, for Israel or the U. S. to attack Iran would be an unmitigated
disaster, even worse than our ill-advised invasion of Iraq. Obama is too
intelligent to do it, but I worry about some of the hotheads who are not
intelligent. (The story is actually much longer, but the editor warns me
is running low on ink.)
John F. Magagna