How Mohammed Mossadegh Almost Changed the World
Every American, forty and older, remembers The Iranian Hostage Crisis. It became so engrained in our American psyche that one can still hear the odd quip to this day, patterned after Walter Cronkite's nighty news address on CBS, "the 300th day of the Hostage Crisis in Iran..."
Unlike our current debacle in the Middle East, the Iranian Hostage Crisis never quite lasted long enough to become back-burner in our daily lives. And that is a good thing, right? Other than American POW's being paraded through the streets of Hanoi in the early 70's, we had never been exposed to humiliation on a scale such as this. Our flag was tramped upon and burned, our fellow citizens were paraded out of our embassy - sovereign US territory lest we not forget - and we were helpless. Diplomacy stalemated; President Carter, viewed as more of a negotiator than warrior, was hamstrung both internationally and domestically. Interest rates at home were at all-time highs and generally the world seemed to be going to hell in a picnic basket.
I remember a fellow classmate at school asking a teacher the simplest and most naive of questions: "Why do THEY hate us so much?" To a 7th grader, well things are still pretty much black and white; monochromatic vision is a survival mechanism for the young. The teacher's answer was simple:
"They are jealous of what we have, our freedoms..."
And that is sufficient if one wishes to view world history through apple pie glasses. In short, there is, and I believe this wholeheartedly, a cause and effect inter-relationship for everything that occurs both in the natural world and the world of politics.
Very few individuals today outside of academia know of the name Mohammad Mossadegh. If our parents were savy newshawks in highschool or college, they may have seen his photo on the cover of Time back in 1951. He was chosen over no less than Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Winston Churchill as its Man of the Year. No small feat by anyone's yardstick of accomplishments. He was the prime minister of Iran and, more importantly, he was the democratically elected prime minister of Iran and beloved by his nation. In 1953, the CIA organized a political coup in Iran named "Operation Ajax" that toppled the Mossadegh government. The American advantage was two-fold: by keeping the Shah fed with money, arms, and political support, there was little danger that Iran, which shares a border with the former Soviet Union, would align itself with our Cold War enemy, by ruling his country with an iron-hand, political unrest would remain minimal and the region would remain stable - at least in theory. Mossadegh refused to do the bidding of the US or British governments - he was no political patsy of the West. So, he was eliminated and a dictator took his place.
But wasn't all this somehow tied to oil? You bet it was. At the time, Mossadegh was attempting to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, a British company that held a monopoly on the production and sale of Iranian oil since the early part of the 20th century. And this man becomes a footnote in history; glazed over if even mentioned at all in theWest yet intricatrely tied to a humiliating period of American history. But it is hard to deny this embarassing blunder in foreign policy did not diretly lead to the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the subsequent radical theocracy that leads that country and their never-ending struggle to develop nuclear arms and become a player in the world.
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