Analysis of All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror
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Analysis of All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror

A look at the 1953 Iranian coup backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in which Mohammed Mossadegh was overthrown due to the fears that Iran was shifting its alliance towards the Soviet Union. The fear of communism dictated American foreign policy towards interfering with internal Iranian politics and led to Operation Ajax.

Describe the Shah’s role in the 1953 coup? How would you characterize the Shah as a leader before the coup and after?

Though the focal point of the coup was to establish the Shah as the new ruler, his involvement is very minimal. It is clear from the beginning that he was a puppet in the Anglo-American web. The most important decision he took was signing the namesake firmans deposing Mossadegh as PM and installing Zahedi in his stead. Even that was difficult and it took great pressure from general Swarzhkoph and Kermit Roosevelt to make him understand and play along. He did not play any great role during the implementation of the coup and was ready at all times to run away for his life. His role in the coup was that of a timid bystander. He was a poor leader before the coup as foreign intelligence agents and governments ran the Iranian government. He was not much of leader because the very idea of putting him in leadership by the British was due to his pliability. Before the coup, he lacked political tact and quite frankly a backbone to rule effectively. He was isolated from their concerns and grievances and was no match for Mossadegh. After the coup he became a harsh ruler relying on the army to show his authority instead of addressing their physical and material concerns.

Why did the Eisenhower administration so quickly reverse the Truman administration’s policy of mediation in favor of regime change?

The Eisenhower administration quickly reversed mediation in favor of regime principally due to the new personnel that came in to top positions thereby changing American foreign policy. The Eisenhower administration firstly brought the John Foster Dulles as Secretary of State and Allen Dulles as Director of the CIA. These two men were champions of the cold war theory that the world was polarized in to communism or democracy. All their approaches were reactive and focused fully in preventing the Soviets from taking any vital point of interests, in this case Iranian oil. Seeing that Stalin had already delayed in pulling his troops from northern Iran and his interest in Iranian oil, the brothers formulated policy in favor of regime change so that communists will not have a stronghold in Iran as they did in China or North Korea. Those who shared this view were Loy Henderson and Eisenhower himself. Henderson was shift from Henry Grady, a fervent anti imperialist who sided with Truman against Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Eisenhower sided with Churchill, who came back to power, because of his wartime alliance. Thus the policy of mediation changed because those who proposed it went out of power. Those who newly came in to power felt the necessity to mediate because of their phobia of communism and old alliances.

To what extent was the spread of communism and the power of the Tudeh party in Iran real or imagined?

The spread of communism and its potential to devour the Iranian government is exaggerated. While it is undeniable that the USSR had plans for Northern Iran and many countries were falling to communism, the Tudeh party did not wield much power or influence as American policy makers supposed. The Tudeh party was a small party with a decent following without means to engineer a coup and maintain a government. The communist threat was purposely pumped up by intelligence agents and local Iranians to win Eisenhower’s support for the coup. The Iranian people were not susceptible as greatly as other to the communist threat because they already had their grievance addressed through Mossadegh. Mossadegh championed anti imperialism and a democratic government. Thus on a large scale communist aspirations did not have much scope for success with in the country. The spread of communism as a phenomenon running rampant was exaggerated in Iran and used strategically to generate support for the coup for different purposes.

In your opinion, was Operation Ajax a success or a failure? Consider both short term and long-term objectives for American foreign policy.

Strictly speaking, operation Ajax was a failure on a short -term basis because General Riahi learned the plot. Though Roosevelt successfully reengineered the coup and made it possible, the coup was failure in the long run. Deposing Mossadegh ended the last glimmer of hope for democracy in the Middle East. The coup portrayed Americans in a very bad manner and facilitated the grounds for Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution in 1979. Using anti western rhetoric and the unpopularity of the Shah’s reign, the religious leader was able to garner support. After settling in power, Iran became the hotbed for fundamentalist Islamic groups aiming to attack the U.S. When the democratic government was taken away, there was nothing in to prevent a religious uprising. Given Iran’s history of religious affiliations, Iran was naturally going to be swept that way. Mossadegh was an exceptional person and at an exceptional juncture in time where democracy could have worked and eliminated the radical Islamic extremism. When these possibilities are considered, Operation Ajax is a failure because it more harm that good.

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