Thursday, June 14, 2012

Why weren’t they grateful?

Pankaj Mishra reviews Christopher de Bellaigue in the LRB
Drawing on Persian sources, de Bellaigue gives an authoritative account of Operation Ajax, the CIA/ MI6 coup that toppled Mossadegh’s government and established Shah Reza Pahlavi as Iran’s unchallenged ruler in August 1953. The story of the Anglo-American destruction of Iran’s hopes of establishing a liberal modern state has been told many times, but the cautionary message of 1953 is still far from being absorbed. As early as 1964, Richard Cottam, a political officer in the US Embassy in the 1950s and later an Iran scholar, warned that the press and academic ‘distortions’ of the Mossadegh era bordered on the ‘grotesque, and until that era is seen in truer perspective there can be little hope for a sophisticated US foreign policy concerning Iran.’ (Or the whole Middle East, Cottam could have added.) The New York Times summed up the new imperial mood immediately after the coup: ‘Underdeveloped countries with rich resources now have an object lesson in the heavy cost that must be paid by one of their number which goes berserk with fanatical nationalism.’

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