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Thursday, September 7, 2006

I Knew Mohammed Mossadegh and…

Posted by on September 7 at 11:44 AM

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s challenge to debate President Bush in the U.N. actually has precedent.

In fact, Ahmadinejad’s ploy is likely to resonate with Iranians because the precedent harks back to a watershed moment in Iranian history. Folk hero Iranian president Mohammad Mossadegh (1950-1953) took his case against the United Kingdom to the U.N. where he debated the U.K.’s foreign minister. Mossadegh became an international celebrity on his trip to NYC when he argued in the U.N. that the British did not have any right to Iranian oil profits, and that the profit sharing agreement had been coerced by U.K. imperialism. Mossedegh became an Iranian superstar for eventually ridding Iran’s oil industry of British control. (He also landed on Time magazine’s cover in January 1951 as 1950’s Man of the Year.

Mossedegh was ousted in a now infamous CIA coup in 1953 that restored the pro-Western Shah to power. The coup—and the brutally repressive Shah’s reign of power—came back to haunt the U.S. in 1979 when the Iranian students who took hostages at the U.S. embassy cited the CIA coup and America’s support for the Shah as their central grievance against the U.S. Ironically, the hostage crisis netted Iran its second Time magazine Man of the Year cover when the students’ inspiration, the new revolutionary leader of Iran, Ayatullah Khomeini, got 1979’s honor.)

Ahmadinejad is cleverly mining the Iranian cerebral cortex in his latest populist stunt.

Having said all that: Mossedegh was a cool lefty secularist nationalist who foreshadowed the smart Third World Power movements of the 50s, 60s (and badly warped 70s).

Ahmadinejad is a right wing machismo Pat Buchanan fascist whose rants hark back to the 14th Century … and who doesn’t deserve to be president of such a beautiful country.

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"Mossedegh was a cool lefty secularist nationalist ..." Teddy White was closer to the truth when he wrote (America in Search of Itself, about the election of 1980) that Mossedegh was a pro-Soviet pawn. Which is fine with Feit. The pawns that pain Feit are pro-USA.

Kermit Roosevelt's 1953 coup against Mossedegh had the virtues of succeeding (unlike JFK's Bay of Pigs disaster) and of giving stability & modernity to one corner of the mideast. Yes, the Shah's Savak played a rough game, but the Shah was resented for being too secular, not for being authoritarian.

Ike & the CIA in 1953 gave us and Iran 25 semi-good years. Carter in 1979 gave Iran 27 years of tyranny & repression that make Savak look like fun. Welcome to WW III.


I don't think the 1953 coup was one of Ike's finer accomplishments.

Nor was Mossedegh a "Soviet Pawn." If anything, he was too trusting of the United States, and didn't detect the shift in policy after the Truman to Ike transition, allowing the 1953 coup to blindside him.

Ever wonder why there isn't a democratic middle east? Our current woes in the Middle East and Pan-Islamic nationalism can be traced back, in part, to the 1953 coup. We overthrew a secular, modernist democratically elected leader for a brutal dictatorial puppet.

In retrospect, Truman's approach (the liberal approach) of nurturing nascent democracy and denouncing all forms of colonialism was clearly better than Ike's "a friendly dictator is better."

There is a fantastic book on all this, blessedly short and well written, called All the Shaw's Men.

The rise and return of Khomenei directly attributable to our toppling of a left-leaning prime minister decades before? I think that’s a reach. What makes you think Mossedegh’s liberal, secular outlook (utterly elitist and detached from most Iranians) wouldn’t have started an Islamo-nutbag backlash decades before? History of the region also tells us that the precepts of free society have never taken well there. We just can’t squarely blame that cultural aversion on the big bad policies of the US.

And I’m not sure how much resonance Ahmadinejad's speech is going to have on most Iranians. Three-quarters of the population is under 30 and by most accounts has no appetite for the stifling society he wishes to make more oppressive. If he speaks at the UN, the world will get a good look at what a nut-job this guy really is, likely to remind more people of Arafat’s rant years ago than anything. Let him speak. He should be taken at his word. That’s when it should start to get scary.

The big difference between Ahminadjad and Bush is that Bush looks like a Monkey while Ahminadjad resembles a ferret. Obviously that makes Ahminadjad adorable, and not likely to clubbed with a shovel.

Thoughtful as usual, Golob. You present a useful synopsis of fashionable leftist spin, and the left may be right. My money, however, is on the center-left spin of White who was immersed for a lifetime in the subset of fiction called "nonfiction."

Speaking of Promises - when is Darth Vader ... um, sorry ... Dick Cheney going to be in Washington State campaigning for Darcy Burner?

He promised. On TV.

Truman & Ike: Haven't read the book you cite, but will put it on my list & will check it twice. Am behind the curve on Turman's mideast policy, aside from the policy that turned the mideast from a region into a cauldron.

It was said, & believe it was said by Truman, that he blindsided Sec of State Marshall by unilaterally asserting that Israel would be a state and that it would be emplaced in Palestine. Truman built that perilous policy, he said, after a soulful chat with Eddie Jacobsen, his crony from the failed haberdashery in Kansas City.

Re Ike & colonialism: In October 1956 Eisenhower & Dulles put America fatefully & perhaps fatally on the side of anticolonialism by siding with Nasser against France, the UK, & Israel in the Suez crisis.

Back to Truman, Chang & Halliday in their recent bio of Mao the Monster prove to my satisfaction that HST & Marshall did, indeed, lose China.

Both Truman and Ike are mixtures. Much to admire and regret in both of their tenures. Still, I'd take either man over our past, say, six presidents (at least).

Ike's later anti-imperialism turn (well evidenced by the 1956 Suez Canal hand-back and non-intervention in Vietnam despite French pleas in 1954) has been described, at least in part, as a response to the sour taste left after the 1953 coup. There is a good argument to be had that Ike was duped into signing off on the coup by the British, largely on the basis of (false) claims of Mossadegh's coziness with the Soviets. Fooled once, he was more careful in the future.

Excellent. Thanks. Agree that either HST or DDE would be almost infinitely preferable to being mired in quagmire with GWB.

Bush the Elder is entitled to an agonizing reappraisal. His management of breakdown back in the USSR looks masterful in retrospect. Also his deliberate decision to not exceed his mandate by marching to Baghdad in 1991. (The left, mostly against the Gulf War, shouted that our failure to take Baghdad proved that GHWB failed: he didn't finish the job. A variation on that theme was recently expressed by Tony Snow in his spat with Scowcroft. I'm guessing that GWB took that 'didn't finish the job' nonsense seriously in 2001, and that he decided to redeem the fmaily's honor. The dope got roped.)

Most of the "he didn't finish the job" howling came from the right, not the left. But yes, I believe that Junior's primary motivation in attacking Iraq was avenging the family honor. Many of the right-wingers were making the same argument -- "he tried to have his daddy killed, it's only natural to go to war".

The real motivation of Bush's cohorts, on the other hand, was to protect the pro-US military juntas that keep the Middle East stable -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan -- by casting the entire region into FUD. A dubious strategy that seems to have backfired just a tad.

In this sense 9/11 IS connected to Saddam, in that destroying Iraq was designed to frighten the dictators into containing their bin Laden proxies.

FUD? Is that a variation on the theme of FUBAR?

Disagree with most of paragraph 1, except for the part where you seem to agree with me, but will respectfully ponder the rest.

Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt.

Saudi Arabia is such an interesting case, pro-US externally and stridently anti-US internally.

It is amazing to me that the Saudi Royal family is basically Aramco (ARab-AMerican oil COmpany).

Who in W's cabinet *hasn't* worked for them at some point?

Wasn't Osama's first major beef with the US the stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia?

I cannot wait for a honest, good, and scholarly book to start pulling away at all these strings.

The real problem with Saudi Arabia is the fundamentally impossible social structure. The Royal Family have ludicrous quantities of children, which means that there are more princes than ever before -- something like 75,000 of them -- and they are all "entitled" to a certain lifestyle that has nothing to do with ordinary humans. They all want the yacht in San Tropez, you know. But the oil money pool is getting smaller, not bigger.

And the non-royals are shut out. They get fantastic state benefits, free educations and so forth, but there's no jobs. The only jobs in the country are menial labor which is supplied by Pakistanis and Palestinians (who are universally regarded as lower than housepets).

Add to this the fact that their standard of living is collapsing -- their GDP per person is a third of what it was a quarter-century ago. A THIRD. think about your income being cut to a third of what it is now and how happy you'd be.

The country is held together by armed force, fear and religious piety. Consider also that the House of Saud does NOT have historical jurisdiction over the many tribes, and there's loads of people who resent them bitterly for taking over back in the 20s.

Remember also that there are basically two strains of Islam popular in Saudi Arabia: ultra-conservative and REALLY ultra-conservative, and Wahhabi clerics preaching absolute hatred, bin Laden style, are EVERYWHERE. There are no openly liberal Saudis. There is no Saudi art or literature; they're against it (and make a point of destroying any they find in other countries if they get a chance). On the other hand, many, many Saudis desperately envy what they view as our enticingly pornographic lifestyle.

It's a volatile combination. I frankly don't see how it can possibly last. All I know is that if you think the Iraq war is disruptive, wait until the Sauds fall. It would be nice if our government had some kind of clue about all this, but I guess they've got other things on their minds.

Iran is actually pretty likely to turn out to be the closest thing to a liberal democracy in the middle east, if we can just get through this current patch of millennialist nuke fervor alive.

Iran is populous and industrialized, and has a lot of relatively liberal-minded young people. The original revolution of 1979 was not led by the Islamists, it was led by leftist students, and was hijacked by the ayatollahs shortly afterwards. Many ordinary Iranians felt betraying by that, and even more so by the descent into madness that followed, when eleven-year-old boys were run out onto the minefields to detonate them so the regular troops could follow. People forget that there were REASONS why we felt we had to support Saddam in the Iran-Iraq war.

Now there are many young people hungry for liberalization and Westernization, and kooks like Ahmadinejad enjoy very little popular support. His economic policies are a farce, and are driving the country rapidly into poverty; this messianistic bullshit is more of a cover story than a real reflection of the Iranian people. I think the Iranians are going to be very reluctant to follow ANOTHER religious nut down the rabbit hole into globalized war.

Once again: if the US government was interested in or capable of serious and subtle negotiations, we could achieve a real breakthrough there -- which would accomplish more in the region than even the Bush fairy-tale version of the Iraq debacle was supposed to. The Bush administration is eight years of wasted opportunity, and it's not over yet.

Alternative Radio did a show with New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer speaking on the United States' overthrow of the Mossadegh government in Iran in 1953.

An MP3-encoded recording of the show is available via Radio for Peace International.

At the end of his speech, Kinzer says that he recently went to Iran to interview people about Mossadegh. He said that he got two answers: Everyone remembered that Mossadegh nationalized their oil industry, and a few said that they remembered that during Mossadegh's rule, people were allowed to speak their minds.

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