|All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror
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With a thrilling narrative that sheds much light on recent events, this national bestseller brings to life the 1953 CIA coup in Iran that ousted the country¡¯s elected prime minister, ushered in a quarter-century of brutal rule under the Shah, and stimulated the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Americanism in the Middle East. Selected as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post and The Economist, it now features a new preface by the author on the folly of attacking Iran.
- Blame the Brits
Overall, this book is a interesting, short, and readable account of Mossadegh and the CIA sponsored coup that overthrew him in 1953. It flows quickly (sometimes too quickly) and is superb at detailing the debates between British, American, and Iranian officials on how to respond to the nationalization of Anglo-Iranian Oil. The British, not the Americans or Iranians, become the real villains in this story. In fact, Churchill plays an interesting role, one of which most Americans and Brits, who fondly remember their WWII hero, are unaware.
While some have questioned the author's supposedly naive admiration for Mossadegh, I found that Kinzer balances his obvious condemnation for the coup with revelations about Mossadegh's flaws (emotional rather than logical discussions, fainting spells, stubbornness, etc.). Indeed, Kinzer does make a compelling case that the coup was really ordered to protect a corrupt oil company and pathetic Shah, with Americans fooled into seeing a communist threat. I did think the preface to the 2008 book on attacking Iran did not help, since injecting current political debates merely labels Kinzer's historical account. While I agree with Kinzer and think invading Iran would be a disaster for the reasons he says, I could understand how the preface might color the rest of the book by suggesting that anyone who supports a tough line against Iran now should also disagree with the author's assessment of the 1953 coup.
I found it ironic that Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA mastermind behind the coup, says he would accept thanks from Iranians and Americans soon after the coup succeeds. Rather, Americans should learn their history and realize that he may very well be responsible for our current problems with Iran and its nuclear program....more info
- It is not about the Oil he ( Bush )said.
Mr. Kinzer is an exceptional conveyor of history and thought. His story is straight and matter of fact. Mr. Kinzer does not rely on heavy speculation or personal judgements in presenting history. The clear voice of fact, speeches, published comments, and countless historical documents speak for themselves. The main historical players, presidents, ambassadors, spies, generals, and others, in their own words, tell the story and reveal their motives
Reading this history may change your thought about the true purpose and motivation for todays US foreign policy. You just might conclude what they tell us is not what they tell each other. You might conclude that the current Bush policy of bringing democracy to Iraq is not a democracy intended for the people of Iraq, but mostly for the Oil and Gas Industry and the Military Industrial complex. US Foreign policy has not changed in
over eighty year only the explanation of it changes to suit the needs of the speakers.
Read and grow. Very refreshing in this era of excessive propaganda and unbridled corporate dominace. ...more info
- Economic Imperialism, Part 1
In August 1953 the CIA engineered a coup in Iran which overthrew Mohammad Mossadegh, the popular, democratically-elected prime minister who made the mistake of nationalizing Iran's oil industry.
The British-owned & operated Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later known as British Petroleum, or BP) fought for years to maintain their monopoly in Iran, and when Dwight Eisenhower took office in January '53 they found a sympathetic ear for their covert regime change plans. Instrumental to American participation were the Dulles brothers, John Foster (Secretary of State) and Allen (Director of the CIA). Both viewed the world as their personal playground, theirs to rearrange as they saw fit for maximum personal gain. When the British came knocking with a proposal to illegally oust Mossadegh, they jumped at the opportunity.
This book is the story of that coup, the subsequent installation of the brutal dictator Shah Pahlavi (who nevertheless served British interests), and the eventual backlash in 1979: the fundamentalist Islamic Revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini, the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran and the 52 diplomats held hostage for 444 days, and the release of those hostages on the very day that Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, under circumstances which have never been adequately explained.
It is a story of greed, hubris, meddling, unintended consequences and titanic missteps, all of which led directly to the current tensions in the world -- which are not so much Christian versus Muslim as Third World versus First World. When major corporations dictate foreign policy through the politicians on their payroll, the interests served are not those of the American people, the world community or our childrens' future. The only winners are a handful of big investors.
Stephen Kinzer writes compellingly and fluidly, making the dramatic events come alive with 3-dimensional grit and personality. He probably overstates the coup as "the roots of Middle East terror" -- afterall the Allies imposed illogical and self-serving borders on the Middle East a decade earlier after oil was discovered -- but there's no denying that this incident is one piece of "the puzzle of why the world hates us."
Incidentally a good companion to this book, which continues the story of economic imperialism into the 1990s, is "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" by John Perkins (2004)....more info
- All the Shah's Men
This is one of the better books I have read in awhile. Written with the flair of a veteran journalist, `All the Shah's Men' is a serious history lesson that is a pleasure to read. Stephen Kinzer has put together a remarkable account of the American and British supported 1953 coup that overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and installed the Shah. He also argues that `Operation Ajax,' as it was dubbed, is the root of the West's current problems with Islamic terrorism.
Kinzer starts by giving a concise history of the ancient land of Persia/Iran, it's unique legacy and culture as a Shi'ite people, and it's experiences under centuries of tyrannical Monarchs and constant foreign oppression. In the late 19th century, one of these Monarchs sold exclusive rights to Iranian natural resources to the British. What would become known as the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which held exclusive rights to all oil underneath Iranian soil, would reap enormous profits from this enterprise, while the Iranian people rotted in poverty. This would set the stage for a major confrontation between the British and the popular Iranian politician Mossadegh. The latter publicly confronted these British interests along with the Shah, who was viewed as a mere tool of the British exploiters. Mossadegh gained power and immediately nationalized the oil industry, much to the chagrin of the British who responded by claiming this was theft of British property. There was a back and forth exchange that continued for several years, but both sides were too stubborn and the dispute failed to be resolved. The British were still ardent imperialists, and refused to deal with the Iranians on an equal basis. For his part, Mossadegh rejected anything less than complete Iranian control over the oil, it seems to me that he was too stubborn and idealistic for his own good. This is not to say he was wrong, but his failure to compromise certainly helped lead to his own demise. Kinzer is very sympathetic to Mossadegh, and it is easy to see why. He was a remarkable figure that remains an Iranian national hero to this day.
I was previously unaware of Britain's primary role in the coup and after reading all this, it was very interesting to read how the Americans actually got involved. The Truman administration was very sympathetic to the Iranians and refused British demands to back their case against Mossadegh. Truman was an anti-imperialist and had a soft spot for third world nationalist movements like Mossadegh's. The British would have handled the coup themselves, but ended up getting themselves expelled from Iran completely when rumors of their intentions made it to Mossadegh. At this time though, Iranians still admired and trusted the Americans and so the British turned to them. Truman was unmovable on the issue, but the tide turned when Eisenhower was elected. He too was initially hesitant to be the first to authorize a coup against a sovereign government, but was eventually persuaded by the argument that Iran was in danger of falling to the communists (the British knew the "stolen property" argument did not impress the Americans). The rest is history. A CIA team, led by Theodore Roosevelt's grandson Kermit, began a massive covert operation to undermine and eventually overthrow Mossadegh and reinstall the dictator Mohammed Reza Shah. They succeeded, and Iranian history, as well as US-Iranian relations, were subsequently altered indefinitely. This coup also set the stage for American involvement in this type of covert action that would become an acceptable extension of our foreign policy.
In regards to Kinzer's conclusion, that the 1953 coup is the root of all Middle Eastern terrorism against the West, I am ambivalent. My initial reaction is that he is overreaching. Although it is hard to dispute that the coup directly led to the 1979 revolution and hostage crisis, there are way too many other factors and incidents that led to the conflict between the West and the Middle East in general. What Kinzer argues though, and with some effect, is that Operation Ajax was the seminal act that started a domino effect of tension and violence between East and West, culminating in attacks like those on 9/11. I am not fully convinced on this point, but it merits strong consideration. Overall though, this is a fantastic book for anyone trying to understand relations between the US and the Middle East generally, or America and Iran specifically. 4.5 stars....more info
- Essential reading for those interested in Iran
I took a long time finishing this book primarily because I find the story of how two imperialistic, self-styled 'democracies' plotted to crush a very proud people's experiment in launching a democratic country very depressing. Kinzer isn't an Iranian sympathizer or closet communistic as some right wingers suspect. He strives to point out the mistakes Mossadegh made as well in trying to navigate what were very dangerous political waters, made more so by Churchill and Kermit Roosevelt. ...more info
- A must read to understand the middle east
This is a good history book everyone needs to read. Especially anyone running for political office....more info
- Iranian blowback
As an American who spent two years in Tehran during the 1950's, I was much aware of the impact of the coup and its immediate aftermath that is described Kinzer's book. It puts my memories of the time and the people into a excellent history and adds information about the coup that was not known to me. Working at the university I was aware of the bitterness of the people that I knew--students, faculty, business people and ministry employees. They were skeptical that any good could come from relations with the U.S., though they were always friendly to me and my family. Through Kinzer's book I have a better understanding of the events that followed the overthrow of Mossadegh, even unto today....more info
- Extremely well written, information every American should know
Fascinating story, well-organized, told in an engaging way. This book provides a great deal of insight into the roots of the current situation in Iran....more info
- Outstaning Account of the West's Involvment in Iranian Affairs
An easily read account of the U.S. and British actions to overthrow the Iranian Prime Minister in 1953 that lead to the entrenchment of the Shah in Iran and ultimately to the Iranian Revolution. This book provides a great perspective from both sides in this action and is a great warning to the hazards of unintended consequences when getting involved in the internal affairs of foreign governments.
Highly recommend to anyone who wants to understand the origins of Iranian mistrust of the U.S. government and thier actions in the Middle East....more info
The book is not factual, and the book is conspiracy theory of 1953 and illustrated how British and U.S.A had great interest in Iran's politics due to Iran's oil. The book lacked in two areas. First, the book title is "...the roots of Middel East Terror", the Author did not illustrated how 1953 coup would lead to terror in Middle East. Last, the author was censuring the King oif kings Mohammad Reza PAHLAVI sought to advance Iranian army. Author mentioned, in 1970, the British naval left Persian Gulf, the British no longer was interested to invade oil region of Iran. Consequerntly, the King needed to have a strong army to confront invader force. The histroical fact was Iran and Iraq war, as Saddam HUSSIAN luanched an attack on Iran's oil region.
- A great history of why we have lost respect in the Middle East
Stephen Kinzer writes a great history book that reads like a spy thriller. He details the rise of oil and the importance it has for the west in the two World Wars and the fact that the British were unwilling to give up control of the Iranian Oil Fields.
Eventually, American policy formulated by the Dulles brothers, leads the American CIA into overthrowing Mossadegh's government in 1953 and putting the Shah into power. For about 26 years the Shah runs Iran, but the inner frustration and anger towards American involvement into Iranian politics results in the 1979 hostages taken in Tehran.
Kinzer does an excellent job with the details of the CIA and British intelligence as he clearly describes what was going on with the Iranians, the British and the Americans throughout the overthrow of Mossadegh.
If you want to find out why Iran views the British and the United States governments with such disdain, this book will open your eyes to what occurred 50 years ago and why terrorism today has its roots in our involvement in Iranian political affairs of that time....more info
- As many bad parts as good parts
All the Shah's Men is considered by many to be the 'standard' book covering the subject of the 1953 coup that ousted Prime Minister Mossedegh and it's easy to see why. The book is very well written and you'd never get the idea from reading the book that there's anything wrong with the author's interpretation of the event. There are however, as many bad parts to this book as there are good parts.
The first problem is that the author reissued the book this year with a new preface titled "the folly of attacking Iran." This new preface is the only change to the book and it's written in such a lazy way that criticisms accusing the author of a money-making grab are totally warranted. The author rattles off a chapter criticizing the Bush administration for what the author thinks policy towards Iran is without really examining what current policy towards Iran actually is. This new preface comes across as the liberal equivalent to Fox news. If it's wrong when Fox offers up this type of 'analysis,' it's wrong when the opposite interpretation adopts the same tactics.
The second glaring deficiency is all of the available sources that the author doesn't use. When you take into account the amount of declassified material from the years covered in the book, it's shocking that the author only has 14 pages of notes from a remarkably small amount of sources. A wealth of declassified government documents exist from this period on both the American and British sides, and the author uses next to none of them.
Another problem is that the book is billed as the story of the 1953 coup, but save the first introductory chapter, you don't even start hearing about the coup itself until around page 150 of a 228 page book. The bulk of this book deals with Iran and its struggle with the British during the late 40s and early 50s. I think the fact that the author doesn't use the wealth of material on the coup itself is the reason for this. The fact that the U.S. is mentioned in the subtitle but the British aren't is ridiculous. Upon finishing the book, the reader will notice that the U.S. has very little to do with what the book actually deals with. Again, perhaps a crass decision to sell more copies since fewer people would buy the book if you replaced "American" with "British."
Reading the last chapter also provides numerous reasons to question the usefulness of this book. Kinzer jumps back and forth with relative ease to several contradictory viewpoints. At times he warns against citing a particular historical event as the reason for another event in the future, but then claims that it's 'not too far-fetched to draw a line from the 1953 coup to the Shah's repressive regime and the Islamic revolution to the fireballs that engulfed the World Trade Center in New York." It's ridiculous that this entire book was written by the same person when taking into account the number of contradictory views within.
Although very well-written and no doubt providing a readable account of some parts of the story, All the Shah's Men is more of a popular historical novel than serious academic look at these events. Kinzer takes what he doesn't like about current American politics and projects that onto what happened in 1953. He also ignores a wealth of readily available material on the subject. That in and of itself doesn't mean that this is a bad book. What it does mean however is that it would be a serious mistake to base one's opinions of this event solely on Kinzer's book....more info
- A few good murders by a few good men gone awry
Of course, I remember the chronic "60 Minutes" segments where the Shah was interviewed ever so politely about various atrocities and he reponded suavely denying the accusations. Now, the day before the Iranian "Hostage Crisis," I was in the dining facility admiring the Iranian unforms which were so much fancier than my own. I presumed our guests were officers being trained in the fine art of infantry slaughter. In any case, they never spoke to me, perhaps because of the language problem, or perhaps because they were better than a white NCO. The day of the seizure, our friends were still enjoying fine dining with us, but, the next day, they were gone. No explanations were offered. Nobody told me nothing. Now, well before 1953, our secret government was planning to whack Iran so that Churchill and his ilk could rob the nation by stealing its oil. And so it would have gone, if Truman had not been president. Eisenhower, was another story entirely, and he was easily convinced to go along. This book records a series of evil machinations which benefitted no one in Iran and only the rich elsewhere. Read it for yourself. You will not find a word of it in the No Child Left Behind textbooks....more info
- All The Shah's Men review
A must read for anyone genuinely interested in the current world climate. Within "genuinely" read not mentally mummified by coverage of current events by commercial news agencies, nor paralyzed into a specefic viewpoint by special interest mongers on all sides....more info
- American self-mythology and Iran
This book is the standard reference for a widely accepted but delusional view of Iranian history. The story goes that the great "reforming" "democratic" leader of Iran Mohammed Mossadegh was overthrown by the evil CIA in the 1950s and put in place the "evil" "autocratic" and "unpopular" Shah who was overthrown in 1979 by the masses of Iran yearning to be free.
Pity but most of it is not true.
Mohammed Mossadegh was not a democratic politician. He was a gangster whose power was based on sending mobs into the streets to intimidate anyone that opposed him and gunning down the opposition. He was never popular in Iran and nobody in Iran shed a tear for him when he died.
The real chronology is as follows:
- (March 1951) Haj Ali Razmara, Iranian Prime Minister, and in the way of Mossadegh is gunned down in Tehran.
- (Late 1951) Mossadegh, sensing he lose the parlementary elections, stops the election after a quorum of his supporters are elected.
- (July 1952) Mossadegh, after being constitutionally blocked by his opponents resigns and sends mobs controlled by himself into the streets to riot until he is given what he wants.
- 1952 - Mossadegh is restored and given the unconstitutional power to make laws by decree for six months.
- (January 1953) - Mossadegh's power to make laws by decree outside of the constitution is extended for a further 12 months. He issues a land reform decree which gives him the power to confiscate the entire property of anyone in the country who opposes him.
- Mossadegh, due to his autocratic unconstitutional rule and a collapsing economy, becomes progressively more and more unpopular.
- (1953) - Mossadeq unconstitutionally dissolves the parliament, abolishes the secret ballot and calls an unconstitutional "national plebiscite" which had an obviously fraudulant result of 99.93% in favor of his dictatorship.
- (1953) - Mossadeq suspends parliament indefeniately and rules as an unconstitutional autocrat.
It is at this point that Mossadeq is deposed and overthrown.
And this is the fraud of the book. The history I've presented above can easliy be verified and what it shows is that rather than being the great democratic reformer that this book and the associated mythology want to make Mossadeq into, he was a thugish unpopular dictator who had personally destroyed every aspect of democratic constitutional government in Iran.
The morality of the CIA plot to depose Mossadeq can be questioned, but questioning the right of outsiders to intervene to overthrow a dictator is not the same as making Mossadeq into a democratic hero. The truth must be respected.
The other truth that needs to be told is that the 1979 revolution in Iran wasn't a struggle for democracy or human rights or launched in opposition to the loss of democracy in 1953. The people who launched the Islamic revolution in Iran hold democratic government and human rights in utter contempt. The question nobody wants to ask is how it could, following the script, that Iranians who found the Shah's regime so brutal and intolerable in the late 1970s that they took to the streets could within a few years contentedly accept a government that was far more brutal, more autocratic and abused human rights more than the Shah ever did.
Stephen Kinzer suffers from all the normal faults of reporters at the New York Times. He is more dedicated to the "offical" national view of history as expressed by the New York Times than the truth. He gets almost everything about Iranian history wrong but he gets it wrong in the same way that American academics also get it wrong.
1953 wasn't the great event in Iranian history that American and British historians want to make it. What the British did in the early 1900s was far worse. When the British militarily illegally occupied Iran in both world wars, that was worse. And for most Iranians the issue that focused anti-american attitudes wasn't 1953, it was in the 1960s when the Shah passed laws putting American soldiers in Iran beyond the reach of Iranian law.
Mossadegh is one of the worst leaders in Iranian history. Had he survived, he would have led Iran down the road that Iraq travelled in the 1950s into personal dictatorship and autocratic rule. He inherited a functioning constitutional government and utterly destroyed it.
Its time to put the mythology of Mossadegh into the trash where it belongs and start telling the truth about Iranian history.
- Required reading for all patriotic Americans
I have to say I am troubled by the many reviewers who say they loved this book, except for the idea that America's actions could have possibly contributed to the hatred anyone feels toward us. To say there is a connection is not the same as saying we deserved it, and the author by no means makes any suggestion that 9/11 was something reasonable or deserved. To deny the connection is to go blind into today's events.
Growing up in America, I was never told that the Iran hostage crisis was related to Jimmy Carter's willingness to shelter the deposed Shah after the 1979 revolution. I think it's pretty clear that the same hatred toward America that was behind that crisis played a significant part in leading up to 9/11 as well. This book helps explain how America's role in proping up the Shah contributed, however unintentionally, to the rise to power of radicalism in that region.
The book focuses on a few characters who played significant roles in the events in order to make the story more personal and interesting. To bring in all the issues of the times, or try to cover all the significant players in detail, even on the American side, would have probably made the story unreadable. The result is a highly readable and generally fascinating history.
The book also spends time explaining, briefly, the larger history of Iran and the reasons why Iran's branch of Islam is different from other branches. This serves to bring the events of 1953 into much clearer perspective. This section is inserted into the middle of the main narrative, and I was impressed by how much richness and depth the remainder seemed to acquire with the new knowledge gained.
You might also want to read "Legacy of Ashes", for a broader history of the CIA's questionable attempts to influence world events. I would also recommend "Overthrow", which has a section devoted to the events in Iran, but with more of an emphasis on the role of the Dulles brothers in guiding the CIA's decisions and policy....more info
- Sometimes the truth has a liberal bias
To write a good history book like this one an author needs to do well in three separate areas. He needs to research the topic at hand, write a readable account and finally analyze the events. Kinzer performs exceptionally well in all three areas. First, the book is meticulously researched. He discusses appropriate history without going into unnecessary or boring details to give the reader an appropriate context and background leading up to the 1953 coup. He also uses a diverse set of resources which leaves no holes in the story.
Second, Kinzer's writing is engaging and at times suspenseful. In fact at the end of many chapters, I was unable to put the book aside and take a break from reading due to the suspense Kinzer created. The story is very easy to follow and the reader needs practically no background to follow the events. This is particularly impressive given the relative short length of the book. My only criticism is that I wished he had summarized the cast of characters in an appendix or in the beginning as many similar books do.
Finally, his analysis, while many have called too liberal, is even handed. He makes a leap by implying that 9/11 events may have not happened if it weren't for the 1953 CIA led coup. Of course we will never know for sure. He supports his claims convincingly that the coup led to the eventual 1979 hostage crisis and the anti-American feelings in the Middle East. Liberal bias? The facts speak for themselves. The CIA using American tax payer money to overthrow a popular and democratically elected government. We, in the USA, would not appreciate if foreigners overthrew our government so why have a double standard? Perhaps Mossadegh is being glorified too much and ultimately he would have led Iran towards the wrong path, but the point remains that we will never know thanks to the coup. Kinzer does entertain the possibilities that Mossadegh would have been terrible for Iran and the West so I reject the idea that he has a strong liberal bias.
If you, like me, find the "Death to USA" chants and hostage taking barbaric and puzzling, this book will offer you fresh insights and help you understand the roots of these actions. You will become a lot smarter and more knowledgeable about the Middle East after reading it. I highly recommend this book.
- Thrilling Read, Highly Important History.
"All The Shah's Men" by Stephen Kinzer is one of those rare works that exposes and explores a little-known moment in world history that is of high importance for our own times. The book chronicles how the U.S. and Britain pulled off a coup in Iran in the 1950s, overthrowing an elected government and setting the stage for what would become the Islamic Revolution of 1979. There has never been a more timely moment to pick up this book which explains the past, but it has priceless insights into the present. Kinzer has even included a new preface in this latest edition where he discusses the current spike in tensions and rhetoric from the U.S. towards Iran and the grave danger of a possible military confrontation and what it could mean.
In rich, fascinating detail and thrilling pace, Kinzer takes the reader through Iran's most fascinating moments in history ranging from its glory days as the Persian Empire to its time as a colony under British rule. Kinzer brilliantly looks at Iranian culture, how the Shiite religion plays a role in the Iranian character and has shaped the nation's attitudes and social structure. There are interesting moments dealing with the discovery of oil in the country and how this especially turned the area into a target for colonial interests. After this educative introduction to the country, Kinzer then focuses on the political upheavel Iran faced during the 1930s and 1940s when a parliamentry system was installed to sit next to the reigning monarchy. This came about during a time of intense nationalism which finally climaxed in the election of Mohammed Mossadegh, a fierce nationalist who's main goal was to nationalize Iran's oil which at the time was completely controlled by the British. Iranian oil was helping keep the British Empire afloat and giving the British citizenry a cozey lifestyle while Iranians lived in horrendous poverty, especially the oil workers at the Abadan refinery who lived in tin shacks while their colonial masters enjoyed golf courses, cinemas and luxurious clubs.
Kinzer's exploration of Mossadegh is deep and fascinating, reading you realize that Mossadegh deserves a place among the great nationalist leaders who have been known for their clashes with imperialism like Mandela, Lumumba, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. He comes across as a highly intelligent, charismatic character who felt a deep pain for his nation's suffering and was willing to face hell in order to liberate his people. The moment where Mossadegh speaks before the UN is especially memorable.
"All The Shah's Men's" main storyline focuses on how the battle for oil independence by Iran led to a joint British/U.S. operation to overthrow Mossadegh and re-install the Shah who was willing to serve all his master's demands as long as his throne and authority were kept secure. These are some of the books most enraging, thrilling moments as key historical characters such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, Winston Churchill and CIA director Allen Dulles make appearances, divising massive propaganda, sabotage and destabilization plots to bring down a nationalist government threatening imperial hegemony.
Kinzer's book looks at the past, but is highly important for the present because once again we face a situation where a dominant power in the world might intervene violently in Iran, but as anyone who reads "All The Shah's Men" learns, this is not a wise course of action. The intervention carried out in 1953 lead to years of brutal repression which in turn led to the Islamic Revolution and the regime we are dealing with today. Kinzer brilliantly explores Iranian culture and the history of a people who have been punished endlessly for trying to control their own natural resources, this makes the story quite universal considering the struggle of Mossadegh in the book is the same struggle we see today in nations like Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Asia. "All The Shah's Men" is the answer to these radical, right-wing, religious books we have been bombarded with promoting war with Iran based on simplistic reasons when in fact, the history is much more complex.
Kinzer writes "All The Shah's Men" with a great eye for detail and provides in-depth analysis, documents, rare news reports and speeches to take us back in time. Like his other brilliant work on imperialism, "Overthrow," Kinzer also captures the human aspect and provides great personal, psychological details of the characters and how they were shaped by and related to the historical event in question. The book also serves as a nice crash course for anyone who wants to become familiar with Iran and its history, Kinzer does some excellent historical research that proves to be very valuable in understanding how this controversial nation has been shaped and formed.
"All The Shah's Men" is a brilliant chronicle and great resource, it is one of the best books available on Iran and the best record yet on what can be seen as the most crucial Western intervention in the Middle East in the last century before the Iraq War. A timely work and a timely warning.
- Have to get around to reading it
Went thru the first few pages, never got to finish it, I guess
is alright but nothing that grabs you where you can't put it down
until you are finished. Maybe because I know the story already.
- Extremely INFORMATIVE for the average citizen
For me, the great thing about this book was that it gave me a tremendous amount of understanding (biased or not) of the modern day history of Iran. Here in Los Angeles, it also helped me understand the political background many of my Persian friends are coming from.
EVERY historical/journalistic account needs to be critically evaluated---but that is the reader's responsibility. What use is it to disregard a text for its bias, when every text is? Personally, I thought it worked well in shedding light on different sentiments in Iran as well as giving me a condensed history of the country. Take it in context.
Kinzer has provided a short and definitely insightful overview of what went down in 1953, the players and the surmized cause and effects. I recommend it to anyone who is curious about Iran and its historical relations with the U.S. in the 20th century....more info
- Book Review by Kyle Olechnowicz
All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, Stephen Kinzer, Wiley; 1st edition (July 18, 2003), 272 Pages, ISBN: 0471265179
With all the tension in the Middle East, could there be a potential military threat facing the United States? In trying to unravel the current Middle East Crisis, it's necessary to examine the past. There's little debate that the majority of the Arab world has considerable contempt for the U.S. But how exactly did we earn such hatred among these oil baring countries? How deep is this animosity and could this lead to an eventual war with a nation like Iran? If so, how are the allegiances divided and what are the military capabilities of the major players?
All the Shah's Men probes into the history of Iran, concentrating on the negative involvement of the United States. The book focuses on the details leading up to and including the history of Operation Ajax; a 1953 covert operation by the United States and Great Britain to remove Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh from power in support of the western friendly Shah Mohammed Pahlavi.
According to the book, the roots of hatred towards the United States in Iran have long been buried in oil. From the 1930's until the early 1950's the oil in Iran was controlled by Great Britain. But in 1951, the first democratically elected parliament took control of Iran and cut Great Britain off from their oil supplies.
In 1953, Great Britain convinced the United States to assist in overthrowing this new democracy and put the ruthless Shah back into power to protect their oil interests. The Shah, with his western friendly policies, allowed the U.S. to control 40% of Iranian oil assets for over two decades following the take-over. It wasn't until 1979 that the Shah was run out of office by Khomeini in favor of an Islamic controlled nation.
Between the hostage crisis of 1979 and the U.S. support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, the relationship between the U.S. and Iran began a steep decline in the late 70's. The tensions perhaps reached an all-time high when President Bush added Iran to the "Axis of Evil" list in 2002. Still today, many Iranians believe that their country would be a fully established democracy if it were not for the US involvement overthrowing their nationally elected government in 1953.
Although written at about an 11th grade level, All the Shah's Men is a very good book. It makes it easy to understand how the hatred has grown between the US and Iran and would make an excellent reference book on Middle East history. The book certainly paints a vivid picture on Iran's desire to harm the United States, but it doesn't probe enough into the "how" of the problem. The book does not go into enough details on Iran's involvement with current terrorist organizations. There is also little discussion on Iran's current weapons inventory, capabilities, and research. To fully understand the problem, we need to know quite a bit more than just "why".
- A Moving Read
All the Shah's Men attempts something seen but rarely accomplished in such an insightfully brilliant composition. Covering the events of the Anglo-Iranian oil embroilment, Stephen Kinzer attempts to take a neutral position on the ordeal but careful juxtaposition of events and seemingly minor inadvertent details hints otherwise. It must be realized that there is nothing in this text that is thrown casually together or without cause; the subject material is intrinsically complex: the very thought of organizing a tale as historically convoluted as this one seems a near incomprehensible act. It leaves only the conclusion, then, that every clause is carefully chosen and every concept lent an overarching purpose. Stephen Kinzer has taken to the high hills of neutrality while also subtly imparting his own thoughts from its grounds.
However that is not to say that he implants a wholly biased view. No, in fact there is a masterful genius in the way that he presents both sides of the issue without asking the audience outright to make judgement on either side. It should be noted that this is hard not to: one would find it difficult to read on the roots of what has amounted to a country's centuries old struggle for stable government and national unity. But, fortunately, it is not required of the reader to take any such stance. Indeed, it is not until the very end that any sort of analysis is even attempted. Then, too, Kinzer remains aloof behind the analysis of other historians of which he quotes extensively and interjects only to raise possible quandaries that they - not he - expose.
It is difficult to describe just who Kinzer is trying to reach here but it stands apparent that the man is passionate about his subject and wishes to get word out. At its core, All the Shah's Men is a tale of misunderstandings, stubborn actions, and lost opportunities. The novel details the U.S.'s involvement in a coup overthrowing Iran's revolutionary, progressive leader at the time Mohammad Mossadegh. While popular in his home country for nationalizing the oil industry, he ran afoul British (and consequently American) interests with his actions. Replacing him was Reza Shah who was seen mostly as the U.S.'s puppet government. Needless to say, this has caused what can only be understated as constant strife in the region and involved countries' relations. Kinzer ties this tale into coherency with an air of moralistic impassivity. What passes in his book is intriguing, disheartening, and as he is quick to remind - above all historically accurate. One feels that, upon closing the final chapters they have uncovered a great virtuosity and reached a profound understanding of often muddy governmental policies. If anything, one knows that they have definitely been handed a guide on how not to run foreign policy.
There is the implied concession on the advantages of hindsight, but then again, there is too that implied (however not always limited to such subtlety) concept that pigheadedness - easily identifiable during the run of its course - was, too, a large contributing factor.
All the Shah's Men succeeds not only because of its well accomplished attempts to organize often baffling quandries of political events, but also because of its effective use of what can best be described as stratification. While it would have been easy to cop to dividing the social castes inherent in the Anglo-Iranian crisis (and a major fuel to the lasting bitterness) Kinzer instead identifies the many overlaying sociological strata of the issue. We are given an overview of the issues highly charged history rife with symbols of religious martyrdom and political tension. The apparent psychological epidermis of the crisis is tilled handily before delving more into the heart of the issue in an effort of attaining an all-encompassing understanding. Without pandering to superficial conclusions or extraneous events, he gives us the breadth of the situation with a vision of multi-layered depth often gone unseen with such wells of temperance.
The ball is missed in a few spots, though. His straight-line recount of events feels empty at times as the mechanical linkage of occurrences leads to a concise - however dry - tale. As aforementioned, the balance of fact and opinion however much implied by Kinzer or falsely placed by the reader, is an unbalanced mix that somewhat detracts from the ruminative insights that he is oft to make.
However these moments stand of a minor importance in the larger, venturous message of Shah's Men. Nor do they slow down the rather fast-paced events of international spy intrigue permeating the Anglo-Iranian crisis. To this effect, Kinzer has drafted a book that will appeal not only to history buffs and political enthusiasts, but to those who would most usually find such subjects to be rather a boring and stuffy read. Kinzer is sure to make the matter of the past an engrossing issue of the now and foreign policy not only a matter of moralistic integrity of government but also one of personal responsibility. As indicated by All the Shah's Men's bestseller status, the people - people of the government - are clearly willing to listen. And, perhaps, that is all Kinzer really wants....more info
- All the Shah's Men could not put Iran back together again.
All the Shah's Men was Very well written and informative!...more info
- Great story, great history, okay packaging
One of the least known but probably most important episodes in 20th century America was the CIA-led overthrow of Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953. This auspicious event inaugarated the newly-minted CIA into the business of political intrigue, revolution, revolt, and double-dealings. This event also changed the face of the Middle East, and forever damaged America's relationship with Islam, the Middle East, and the Third World. And until recently, almost nobody in America knew about it, except those who took part in it. Then starting in the 1980's onwards, documents began surfacing that slowly pieced together those crucial events in 1953, and how America took part in it. This book pieces together all those clues to create a story unlike any other; a story of betrayal, heroism, double-dealings and bad timings, 2nd chances and lost hopes, and most of all, a story of how America destroyed democracy in a country that looked to it for help; Iran.
The book shows how Iran began the 20th century as a colony of Britian. Nationalism grew in this country throughout the century until it became a force that would not be denied, in the form of a leader named Mohammed Mossadegh. This incredible orator nationalized the oil fields of Iran away from British control after WWII. Britian, first alone, and then with the help of the US, fought back with subterfuge and deceipt. Finally, the US CIA overthrew Mossadegh in 1953. This book describes the major characters involved in this event on all three sides: Iran, UK and the US, both those working within government circles, and private individuals. The book shows how the UK convinced the US to take part in this event, who within both governments worked for the overthrow, and how the events on the ground actually took place. Thru it all, the Shah was on the sidelines, yet in the end he stepped in to become the undisputed leader of Iran.
The book retells this episode like a James Bond story, in real life, with dialogue recreated between the major characters. Details such as times, clothes worn, dinners eaten, and thoughts recalled, are included to make the story seem like it happened yesterday. This makes the history quite interesting, even frightening that the US could and would do something like this.
Unfortunately, this book lacks several items that would cement it as a great textbook and reference for use in classrooms at various levels. First, it is missing a timeline. Multiple timelines should have been included; one for the entire period of Mossadegh's reign; one for the week of the overthrow, and one for the period of Anglo-Iranian's control of Iran. Second, there is only one map in the entire book, and it is a large-scale map of the entire Middle East. Several maps should have been included that provided greater detail of Iran and Tehran especially. Third, a book about obscure history in a far-away land written for an American audience should include a list of characters; a who's who of good-guys and bad-guys and why they were important. Last, the title of the book is "All the Shah's Men". Yet the Shah is probably the fifth or sixth most-important character after Mossadegh, Kermit Roosevelt, Reza Shah, Truman, and Churchill. The book should have included an extra chapter or so on the rule of the Shah after 1953. So overall the book tells a great story of history, but needs to better packaged. ...more info
- Great book for learning about the beginings of Iranian relations with the west.
An interesting and compelling narrative describing the history of modern day Iran, and how it has been influenced by Britain and the US. I highly recommend this one to anyone interested in learning more about international relations. This is stuff you don't learn about in grade school....more info
- Real reason for Middle East terror
The UK-US overthrow of Mossadegh was clearly one of the worst foreign policy moves in our history. It parallels the simlar Eisenhower directed overthrow of Guatemala's democratic leader Arbenz, for which we still pay.But the conclusion that the Iran move is at the "root of Middle East terror" is not IMO correct. That root stems from Palestine which most of the world views as a kind of concentration camp run by Israel with the aggressive support of the United States. Until we resolve that issue, the so called War on Terror is futile.
Discl: Viking(member American Assoc of Petroleum Geologists)...more info
- Gallat Kardam
I am deeply embarrassed; when I saw this title in my account history I had no recollection of it. It only took me a few words of reviewing it here to remember. This book should be required reading in all of our government bodies that have anything to do with policy making, especially foreign policy, it should also be in our school curriculums. I cannot testify to the veracity of anything written in this book beyond one thing, the overthrow of Mossadegh is a significant reason for anti Amrikayi sentiment in Iran. Elsewhere other author(s) have claimed that Shia Iran is the backbone of Islamic unrest region and/or worldwide. This book very clearly spells out how captalism as practiced by our "military industrialist" cabal that rules American society has destroyed any chance that the mouthings of their current "Puppet in Chief" about spreading democracy will have even the slightest credibility anywhere outside of their own boardrooms and in the minds of brainwashed Americans who are foolish enough to still believe anyone in power in this country still tells them anything resembling the truth....more info
- I had no idea
I had no idea that any democracy had even taken hold in Iran. Sadly, it was short lived, but it gives me hope that it might take root again. I was amazed by the story of the first prime miniser of Iran. I was pleased to learn of the policy of President Truman. I was not surprised to learn about Presiend Eisenhour's policy. I guess I can sort of understand it, but I sure wish the United States had followed a policy of promoting democracy through out the world. I think the world would be a safer place today, if that had been the case....more info
fascinating read. great intro to Iranian history from ancient times to modern. Very in-depth and enlightening as well. British colonial arrogance and American tunnel vision lead to overthrow of the first democratic government in the Middle East. No analysis of today's Iran-American clash is complete without understanding the root of the friction. ...more info
- History can be fun!
This book read almost like a fictional thriller novel (as in readable and fast-paced; a page-turner). But it was filled with facts and real people and real events. I loved it, and usually history is not my forte....more info
- Blockbuster! They'll never Forget; we don't even Know
There's an insidious self-censorship in America; we've had the luxury of only hearing what we want to hear. Like a family that hides its secrets from itself until family members finally demand to understand the "senseless" behavior of others. This is the story we were not told, or hoped wouldn't matter.
Stephen Kinzer's approach in ALL THE SHAH'S MEN is simply to tell the story. The story speaks for itself: Kinzer ends with only a few paragraphs of analysis. This story is so exciting and surprising, it ought to be made into a movie--if we dare. A story whose outcome hangs on the characters--their assumptions and moral failings--as well as seeming happenstance.
Money from the CIA fueled it all: bribes and lies, and a willingness to sacrifice principle for the sake of power--and fear (though the communists really were not a significant player). Half way through the book, it's clear the bad guys are going to win. And the bad guys are US...so it stands, unless we change the ending.
This story is really about the shadow Shah, the democratic shah that would've, should've, or at least might've, been--Mossadegh--a kind of George Washington in his service toward his people and his attitude toward power. You'll want to read more about this man. Mossadegh becomes the symbol of spiritual values and truth, democracy, integrity and innocence.
Mossadegh's greatness however rested on an unwillingness to compromise. Kinzer raises the question of whether absolute principle is possible in this world. Nevertheless, the winners win in such a scenario only in the short run. The Iranians and others who know this history will not be fooled again. This story cannot be denied--no matter what your political point of view--and provides food for thought about the present. The actors determine the outcome:
- a British corporation demanding absolute control, unwilling to negotiate. And behind that, a wealthy and privileged nation not interested in the thoughts and feelings of the little people, over there.
- a underdeveoped nation of people who have had enough after 50 years of exploitation by a colonial racist elite.
Onto this stage steps the following cast of characters (and more):
- a recently victorious Superpower, the United States of America, with a wealthy elite eager to flex its muscles.
- a weak hands-off president - Eisenhower - who doesn't seem to have control over his own policy, hence is easy brainwashed into the thinking and power moves of
- the Dulles brothers: covert-operations Allen Dulles (eventually director of the CIA) and overt-operations John Foster Dulles (eventually Secretary of State),
- "secret" agent Kermit Roosevelt who only just died in 2000 (the Iranians knew him but how many of us in the U.S. knew him?) Kermit followed in the footsteps of his ancestor Teddy Roosevelt (an aggressive imperialist, gung-ho to take over the Philippines at the turn of the century),
- General Norman H. Schwarzkopf (father of Desert Storm Schwarzkopf) who comes to the rescue with a suitcase of money.
Believe it or not these "characters" are real! Read all about it! You'll enjoy it.
- Fantastic History, Facile Lessons
The value of reading All The Shah's Men can't be overstated. Even after several courses on modern Middle Eastern history, I found that Kinzer's book is the most interesting and informative look at an episode that is often forgotten in the shadow of the Iranian Revolution. Yet the 1953 coup, even aside from its simple entertainment value as a spy story and political drama, deserves top billing as a event that shaped both the history of the Middle East and the way the U.S. conducted intelligence and foreign policy. If there are more timely subjects around, I can't find them. Kinzer does an excellent job of capturing both the drama and the historical impact of the coup. Particularly by starting the book in mid-plot, he puts all of the actors in their historical contexts while still effectively translating the movie-like intrigues into a good read. By the time the book returns to the coup after a detour into Iranian history, the long set-up makes clear the stakes of the coup and why it was set in motion.
There are, however, as other reviewers have said, some wierd moments when Kinzer attempts deep analysis. For one, while Shi'a theology is many things, it is certainly not a pure populist, anti-tyrannical force that Westerners might recognize and celebrate. For another, Kinzer gets perhaps a bit too caught up in his morality play of the evil British vs. the world. The list goes on: was the revolution really the single moment that sparked anti-American terrorism's birth? Was the threat of Communism in Iran truly as small as it appears in the book? Kinzer is trying to sell books and create a relevant narrative, so the exaggerations can pass without much trouble. But nearly all of his broader conclusions need to be taken with a handful of salt, or at least with more limitations than he provides.
Despite the problems, however, this is fantastic book. The current American historical scene is not exactly overflowing with short, informative books on essential Middle East history, so Kinzer is practically doing a public service with this work. All The Shah's Men should be recommended to anyone....more info