One hears a lot about how the United States of America has caused so much of the troubles in the Middle East and that we are to blame for the violence and chaos in that part of the world. It is a common refrain of the Leftist and other haters of America. As it turns out, after a bit of study, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a relationship here, but not the one these misguided folks imagine. History is a messy place; it’s disorganized, contradictory and confusing. many facts are not known until long after the events that they relate to. People lie and deceive and generally the winners write the history and the losers are either forgotten or reduced to half-truths or worse. And, it takes a lot of patient work to work thru the debris left behind. I credit my long-running studies of mythology with whatever abilities I have gained in order to unravel all these contradictory “facts”.
I suppose that one can start this story at any point in time as the history of the region is about as long as human history itself. But, since the assertion is that America is at the root of the problems in the Middle East, I’ll start at a more recent time. A core part of this narrative was placed into my hands by my Iranian friend Mo, who sent me a link to a long version of the related history, located at a site no longer on the web.
I have shamelessly stolen text from this document and revised it as needed The author is a bit of a virulently anti-American, but his recording of the history is relatively reliable until the present times.
This story begins in 1492 when Christopher Columbus landed in the Western Hemisphere and rediscovered this part of the world. I said “rediscovered” because it is a fact that the Vikings discovered parts of North America many years before. Once, on a vacation in Newfoundland, my wife and I saw the excavated ruins of their settlements…but that’s another story. Columbus shortly showed the world of his time that there was a vast new land here and they quickly set out to take advantage of that fact. A great deal has been written about the actions of the early colonial powers and I do not intend to delve into that in any detail here. Courtesy of my favorite book store (Alla Books in Santa Fe) and the wonderful owner Jim, I have had the pleasure of having dozens of books recommended to me related to the colonial period and have read quite a number of them. I now own and have read about every first-hand account from the early times and am relatively well acquainted with the history. What is pertinent here is not the various awful things that happened but a higher level look at the techniques used by the European powers, what they learned over time and the consequences that reverberate down to the present.
The first on the scene were the Spanish and for quite some time, they were the only major player in the Americas, followed initially by the Portuguese. The subsequent dispute between Spain and Portugal over land rights was eventually settled by the Pope and resulted in the relegation of the Portuguese to only the land that is now Brazil, leaving everything else to the Spanish. While the Spanish took full advantage of their possessions and initiated a full-scale invasion of the Hemisphere, the other powers, England and France primarily, were slow to explore and even slower to assume any control of lands in the New World. As a consequence, the Spanish were well on their way to being settled in their new possessions by the time the French and English came to a general agreement of what lands they would attempt to occupy and control.
The Spanish established a general pattern of occupation and conquest that might be summarized as: destroy the existing nations and place the survivors into a position of slavery or near-slavery, use the slaves to work the land and mines to the financial advantage of the occupiers and ship a lot of money (silver, gold, jewels) and product (clothing, food, skins) back to Europe for sale and use. In essence, they turned the New World into a source of income. The lesson was not lost on the French and English. But the reality of exploration is that it was never done for altruistic purposes, it was conducted for clear business purposes, either political or business. Why did Columbus go west? – to open a new trade route to the East….and make money for Spain. He may have been motivated in part by an explorers itch, but his backers were investors who expected to be paid back with interest. The same is true for the English and French and that is where this story picks up. The thread of this story runs thru England so I’ll concentrate on their activities.
When the decisions were made to send colonists to the New World, it was not the English government that funded the exercise – it was private investors. The Jamestown colony and those that followed were all privately funded by an organization titled “The Virginia Company”. The Crown may have given its blessing and was pleased to become rulers of additional property but the money for the ships and provisions were provided by private investors. In that specific case, after a poor start, the colonists were eventually able to pay back the investors when they discovered the use and growth of tobacco, which quickly turned into the main cash crop. Others followed for similar reasons. Over time, quite a number of institutions and persons became wealthy as a consequence of their investment in the New World. The British government eventually began to tap into the income pipeline by the imposition of taxes.
The same approach is true for the French and Dutch who settled in North America.
The immediate cause, as the American history books relate, for the American revolution was “Taxation Without Representation.”…the Boston Tea Party and such. Every bit of this is associated with the process by which wealth was generated in America and transferred to England. Part of the American motivation for the revolution was to retain more of the wealth in America and part of the British resistance to the revolution was a need to keep the cash cow flowing. When we hear of the success of the Revolution, one of the consequences that is rarely mentioned is the impact it had on England…after all, the victors write the history and we had a great revolution for all those great reasons. For the British however, this loss was much more than a military defeat – it was the termination of a vast system of “transfer of wealth” between the colony and the home country.
The consequences to parts of the British economy were disastrous and numerous persons, banks and other institutions were hurt financially. The British government acquired enormous debt. Those involved engaged in the type of “lessons learned” examinations that was appropriate and drew a number of conclusions, especially when contrasting the success of the Spanish with the British failure. One of the lessons, which will have significant implications for the entire world, was that the subjects/slaves should not be allowed to become either stable societies nor should they be allowed to become educated. Both could lead to ambitions and questioning authority and that was not to be tolerated. At a high-level, it was recognized that their “model” of colonialism was not working and needed modification. It was too late to impose this on the American colonies who had already advanced to a high state of education and stability but this was not true of the colonies in Africa and the Middle East.
The lesson was not lost on the Americans either. I recently read a couple books which recounted the experiences and memories of ex-slaves which were recorded during the Great Depression. The 2 books are reviewed elsewhere in this site. (See: “Before Freedom” and “My Folks Don’t Want Me to Talk About Slavery“)One of the most consistent memories was the absolute rule against slave learning to read or write. Just looking at a book was cause for severe punishment and even death. Not only were the slaves forbidden to learn, but any owners who allowed it to happen were subject to extreme measures. Interestingly enough, they were allowed to go to church, but not read the Bible.
The opportunity to implement a new ‘model’ arose in the early 19th Century. In the year 1820, the British Parliament passes a statement of principle in support of the concept advocated several decades earlier by Scottish economist Adam Smith: so-called ‘absolute free trade’ This concept meant: “If they [the British] dominated world trade, ‘free trade’ could only ensure that their dominance would grow at the expense of other less-developed trading nations.” The notion of special economic relationships with ‘client states,’ the concept of ‘spheres of influence’ as well as that of ‘balance-of-power diplomacy,’ all came out of this complex weave of British ‘informal empire’ towards the end of the century.”
An interesting way to see the impact of the new model of power can be seen in the postage stamps of the colonies. This author has been a collector for over 50 years. The stamps all depict the current reigning Monarch and usually some theme which shows the natives in their natural settings. What you do not see are any evidence of the improvement of their conditions. There are no schools, but a lot of animals and half-dressed men and some bare-breasted women. The women were quite titillating to a pre-teen boy (pun definitely intended). The colonial administration was retained in British hands, there are no parliaments or local governments and no local power. In this environment, the colonial power was able to continue the “transfer of wealth”, usually in the form of raw materials or products to British companies and interests.
This is particularly evident in Africa where the Europeans divided up the continent. Look at a map – do the the boundaries make any sense? Not hardly. They follow some natural boundaries and have no connection to the tribal distribution of the native people. Take a close look at a map of Africa…here are a few sample sections:
For reference, the map to the left shows the European claims to African territory in 1914. There are exactly 2 independent free states: Egypt and Liberia. Liberia, by the way was founded by ex-slaves that migrated from the United States. Even at the scale of the map, the straight lines are pretty obvious. The entire period of the 19th century was a giant land grab by the Europeans in Africa as they scrambled for resources.
Oil enters the equation in the latter part of the 19th century with the transition of navies from coal-burning to oil-fired vessels. At this time, British banking and political elites had begun to express first signs of alarm over two specific aspects of the impressive industrial development in Germany. The first was the emergence of an independent, modern German merchant and military naval fleet, and the second concerned an ambitious German project to construct a railway linking Berlin with, ultimately, Baghdad, then part of the Ottoman Empire. In both areas, the naval challenge and the construction of a rail infrastructure linking Berlin to the Persian Gulf, oil figured as a decisive, if still hidden, motive for both the British and German sides. On top of this, Russia’s oil fields, including those in Baku, were challenging Standard Oil’s supremacy in Europe. Russia’s ascendancy in natural resources disrupted the strategic balance of power in Europe and troubled Britain.
The first to try to establish a Middle East oil industry was Baron Julius de Reuter, founder of Reuters News Service. He approached the Shah of Iran in 1872. Reuter secured an exclusive concession to develop a railroad, plus all riparian mining and mineral rights in the country, including oil, for the next 70 years. However, this deal broke down due to frustrations with the Shah, and the London investment market quickly dismissed Persia as a completely unreliable kingdom for investment. I underlined “investment market” for emphasis. But with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, some capitals wanted to dominate the soon-to-be dismantled territories as their own spheres of interest. Some merely wanted to prevent others from doing so. A few wanted to see new, friendly nations emerge in the aftermath of Turkey’s disintegration. As the nineteenth century drew to a close, Turkish Mesopotamia and indeed the entire extended Middle East suddenly catapulted in importance – especially to England, and as the twentieth century opened for business, the world needed much more oil. Petroleum was no longer just to illuminate lanterns, boil stew, and lubricate moving parts. Modern armies and navies demanded vast new supplies of fuel and petroleum by-producers.
Most modern folks have not a clue as to what the Ottoman empire was so a bit of a digression to fill in a few gaps might be useful….This was extracted from a site dedicated to the postage stamp issues of the region, the link to which I have lost. It does get a bit ahead of the story at times but gives at least a picture of just how confused the area has been. Some of this will be repeated later in the proper time periods. In the attachments to this page are a couple of maps of the empire that give a visual image of its extent.
Here is a reduced version of one of them.
During most of the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire stretched from Egypt to the borders of Persia (Iran), from what today is Bosnia and Macedonia almost to the Port of Aden on the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula. The Ottoman Empire was the remnants of the original domain of Saladin and the caliphates of Constantinople at the height of the Muslim expansion. It has included such territories as Epirus and Crete, Cyprus, Egypt and Sudan, a significant part of North Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula, during some portion of its existence. Today, it’s its remnants are best represented by Turkey.
At its height, the Ottoman Empire was the pre-eminent force in the Mediterranean, with territories that stretched from Tunisia to Persia. The Ottoman Empire gradually declined, however, and by the 1800s was a weak but huge association of interlocking political, religious, and economic units that otherwise were at least semi-autonomous, if not totally so. Since the Ottoman Empire wrapped around the eastern end of the Mediterranean, it was of great interest to the European powers of the day, which included England, France, and Russia. The European nations managed to engage the Ottoman Empire in many of the wars and skirmishes that occupied that part of the world, beginning with the Napoleonic wars, and culminating with World War I and its aftermath. During each of these various European infringements, the Ottoman Empire lost more territory. The Caliphate of Egypt was the first pried loose from the Ottoman Empire, ostensibly as an independent caliphate, but in practice, first a French, then British, vassal. Other territorial losses in Africa included Tunisia (in 1880, to France), and Libya (in 1912, to Italy).
Much of the Ottoman Empire’s European portions were lost between 1830 and 1914. During that time, Russia attempted to gain access to the Mediterranean through Ottoman territory, and Britain and France fought to prevent it. The Ottoman Empire had grown relatively weak, and Russia had considered it an easy target. The corruption of the Ottoman Empire was well-known, as was the political in-fighting that was rampant, and which had led to the loss of Egypt to Muhammad Ali by 1839. Additional wars involving France, Britain, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire resulted in the loss of Crete, Cyprus, large portions of what is now Greece, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Bulgaria, and portions of what is now Romania between 1840 and 1913. The Ottoman Empire joined Germany and Austria-Hungary against Russia, Great Britain, Italy, and France during World War I. Following the end of the war, the Ottoman Empire lost most of its remaining territory except for what is today modern Turkey, and a few bits and pieces that had been given plebiscites to determine what nation they would align themselves with.
The dismemberment of the
Ottoman Empire following the various wars between 1830 and 1918 resulted
in the creation (or re-creation) of the following nations, territories,
Bosnia & Herzegovina
A pretty impressive list of countries that we will encounter many, many times in the balance of this story. Continuing ……
As England’s fleet needed oil, the prospects for finding it were troubling. Baku’s [Russia’s] petroleum industry was expanding and by century’s end represented more than half the world’s supply. It had already surpassed even Standard Oil, which was suffering under legal restraints and now controlled only 43 percent of the world market. Russian oil was dominant in Europe.
I have to take a pause here and note the recent interruption of Russian natural gas supplies to Europe during the worst and coldest winter in many years as a consequence of a pricing dispute with the Ukraine. The oil dominance was eventually replaced by gas. Some things just never change…..but it does illustrate the persistence of economic motivations on the political sphere. Continuing….
Royal Dutch Shell – still majority Dutch-owned- was also emerging. Germany had secured control over the vast fields of Romania. But Britain’s new source of supply could not be controlled by any potential adversaries, such as Russia which was expanding into eastern Europe nor Germany which was threatening to sever the British Empire with their railroad, or Holland, which even then was fighting the bloody Boer War with England in South Africa. The most logical candidate for new supply was, of course, the Persian Gulf. Britain could have chosen the United States or Mexico or Poland as a trusted new supplier. But Persia had been within the sphere of British influence since the days of the East India Company. Persia was halfway to India. So, the British had their eyes set on Persia. Persia, by-the-way, is the old name for what is now the nation of Iran.
Hmmmmmm…..starting to get interesting……
In 1900, Australian mining entrepreneur William D’Arcy heard of the opportunity and stepped forward to take the risk. D’Arcy’s own representative had suggested to the Persians that “an industry may be developed that will compete with that of Baku.” After paying several thousand pounds to all the right go-betweens, D’Arcy secured a powerful and seemingly safe concession. In 1908, at the discovery of vast oil reserves in Persia, a new corporation named the Anglo-Persian Oil Company was created. Excitement on London’s financial markets could barely be contained. All available shares were purchased within 30 minutes. Britain was now assured of an abundant supply of Mideast Petroleum.
At this time, the organization known by the name of Europaische Petroleum Union (EPU) was an amalgam of continental oil distribution firms, mainly controlled by German concerns. EPU owned an operating subsidiary in Britain. That subsidiary controlled both an international oil shipping division, the Petroleum Steamship Company, and a domestic consumer sales agency, the Homelight Oil Company. The EPU subsidiary’s name was British Petroleum Company, with its first name descriptive only of its operating territory, not its true ownership, which was mainly German. After World War 1 began, British Petroleum was seized by the British government for being ‘enemy property,’ and in 1917 Anglo-Persian bought the seized property from the British government, thus making British Petroleum distinctly British.
The First World War broke out in 1914. Even before the war was even close to any resolution or conclusion, the European Powers were negotiating among themselves as to how to divide up the spoils after the war ended. The African territories of Germany and the Ottoman empire were the chief interests. An agreement was signed in 1916, named the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which was a secret tripartite collection of letters, complete with colored maps, agreeing to carve up the Mideast after the war.
The map to the left shows the general agreement reached by the British, French and Russians.
Baghdad and Basra [Middle and Lower Iraq] were decreed British spheres of influence, while oil-rich Mosul[Upper Iraq] and Syria would be French, with Russia exercising a privilege over its frontiers with Persia. The India Office in London expressed the thinking succinctly in a telegram to Charles Hardinge, the British viceroy of India: “What we want is not a United Arabia: but a weak and disunited Arabia, split up into little principalities so far as possible under our suzeraint – but incapable of coordinated action against us, forming a buffer against the Powers in the West.” The British were the most adamant about maintaining control in the region, as after 1918, Britain continued to maintain almost a million soldiers stationed throughout the Middle East. The Persian Gulf had become a ‘British Lake’ by 1919.
I want to draw attention to 2 features of the above that relate to the thread of history that stated with the American Revolution. The first is the phrase “weak and disunited Arabia”, keeping in mind that “Arabia” in this context is not the present Saudi Arabia but the entire general region of the Middle East. The British and French had learned that for a people to be controlled, they had better be kept weak and unstable. Related to this is the second item – look at the lines on that map. Do they appear to follow any natural divisions among the people who actually inhabited this region? Not hardly….and is this accidental?….again, not at all. This sort of territorial division is just what is required to create and maintain a situation that will be contentious among the local folks and keep them stirred up.
Enter at this time, the maneuvering associated with the creation of a Jewish state. It is commonly held that the issue of Israel started after World War 2 as the victorious western Allies sought to sooth their consciences from their inactivity related to the Holocaust. Much is made of a variety of United Nations Resolutions etc. However, the roots of this start much earlier, in 1917 with what is known as the “Balfour Declaration”, named for its author. The implication that this “Declaration” was some form of complex and detailed negotiated statement when in fact it is nothing more than a letter from Balfour to a leader of the British Jewish community.
The creation of the state of Israel has only a peripheral relationship to the oil issue and will not be addressed here – rather, it is the subject of a separate page. Check that out for the details.
The Russians were cut out of the arrangement as a consequence of the Russian Revolution, leaving the area to the British and French alone. Lenin caused them some serious embarassment by releasing his copies of the agreements. In 1920, the San Remo agreement was signed in which the French and British divided up the Middle East for its oil, pretty much as outlined in the Sykes-Picot agreement. On the March 26 1921, a large meeting took place with many top British experts in Near East affairs, which convened in Cairo, Egypt. The meeting’s purpose was to outline the political divisions in Britain’s newly obtained territories, and it was headed by Britain’s secretary of state for colonial affairs, Winston Churchill, and included the participation of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). It was at this meeting that it was decided that Mesopotamia would be renamed Iraq and given to the son of Hashemite Hussain ibn Ali of Mecca [Saudi Arabia], Feisal bin Hussain. British Royal Air Force aircraft were permanently based in Iraq and its administration was placed under the effective control of Anglo-Persian Oil Company officials. For the victors, they were guaranteed a cheap and dependable supply of oil with little interference by the locals, who also had next to nothing to say about what was done with their natural resources.
In 1933, Hitler and the Nazi party came to power and in 1939, invaded Poland, igniting World War 2. The Nazi strategy in the region reflected the strategy by the British years earlier, with Lawrence of Arabia, who led Arab nations in fighting against the Ottomans in the name of their autonomy. Now, Hitler was supporting this same idea, to gain access to Mideast oil for its war effort. Hitler seems to have viewed Arab nationalism as a mere means to an end, that is, as a stepping-stone to the Nazi conquest and domination of the entire Middle East. On April 3, 1941, a coup d’état occurred in Iraq, in which pro-Hitler forces took power, and almost simultaneously, neighboring Syria, the anticipated gateway for the Nazi invasion, exploded with Reich propaganda, supported by Gestapo agents and specially trained Arab Nazis.
The new Iraqi government attempted to attack British forces at an airfield in Habbaniya, but engaged in a battle they were unable to win. By mid-May 1941, the British had occupied Basra [Southern Iraq] thereby asserting their rights under the 1930 treaty, lifted the siege of Habbaniya and at least temporarily forestalled Axis intervention. As the British neared Iraq, the leader of the Iraqi pro-Arab nationalist government fled to Persia, and Britain retook Iraq. However, while officially neutral, Persia had friendly ties with Germany and was home to many German nationals. (Recall that Berlin to Bagdad railroad deal?)
The Iranian King Reza Shah Pahlavi’s refusal to expel the German nationals, coupled with their more strategic concerns, prompted an Anglo-Soviet invasion in August 1941. The British invaded Persia from their bases in Iraq, invading the South of Iran, and the Russians invaded from the North. The Shah who was in power at the time was, after a speedy overthrow of Iran by British and Russian tanks and infantry, exiled to South Africa, and the British and Soviet troops met in Tehran on 17 September and effectively divided the country between them for the rest of the war. A Tri-Partite Treaty of Alliance between Britain, Russia and Persia, signed in January 1942, committed the Allies to leaving Persia at the end of the war.
The British and Russians made the former Shah’s son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the new Shah of Iran, with a pro-Western view. After the end of World War 2, the West’s enemy was now the Soviet Union, their former Ally against Hitler. Moscow radio broadcasts criticized Anglo-Iranian Oil Company concessions in Khuzestan [Western Iranian province] and accused British authorities of obstructing the Tudeh-dominated trade union. This was certainly a valid criticism as the Tudeh were avowed Communists. They still have a web site that tells their story.
In the early 1950s, Mohammed Mossadeq was elected to the Iranian Parliament, and as leader of the Nationalists, was subsequently appointed by the Shah as Prime Minister of Iran in 1951. The prime minister and his nationalist supporters in parliament roused Britain’s ire when they nationalized the oil industry in 1951, which had previously been exclusively controlled by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company [British Petroleum]. Mossadeq argued that Iran should begin profiting from its vast oil reserves.” The Anglo-Persian Oil Company had changed its name to Anglo-Iranian Oil in 1935, but was still controlled by the British.
In 1953, “the CIA and the British SIS orchestrated a coup d’etat that toppled the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh. There are two conflicting opinions related to the coup: it was about oil and it was about communism. The following is taken from an Iranian web site and sets out the viewpoint of those who believe the motivation of the coup was the control of oil:
Thus, “Britain accused him [Mossadeq] of violating the company’s legal rights and orchestrated a worldwide boycott of Iran’s oil that plunged the country into financial crisis. The British government tried to enlist the Americans in planning a coup, an idea originally rebuffed by President Truman. But when Dwight Eisenhower took over the White House, cold war ideologues – determined to prevent the possibility of a Soviet takeover – ordered the CIA to embark on its first covert operation against a foreign government.” Led by an agent named Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, the CIA leaned on a young, insecure Shah to issue a decree dismissing Mossadegh as prime minister. By the end of Operation Ajax, some 300 people had died in firefights in the streets of Tehran.” After the violent overthrow of a democratic government, who did the Brits and Americans rely on to take back the government for their strategic interests? Well, the answer is simple, the same person they relied upon to hold it for them when they invaded in 1941, the Shah of Iran, whose father was deposed and exiled in the 1941 invasion, and “The crushing of Iran’s first democratic government ushered in more than two decades of dictatorship under the Shah, who relied heavily on US aid and arms.”
The major political blunder made by Mossadegh was his lack of appreciation of the iron-clad cartel relationship of Anglo-American interests around the vital issue of strategic petroleum control. U.S. ‘mediator’ W. Averill Harriman had gone to Iran, accompanied by a delegation packed with people tied to Big Oil interests, including State Department economist Walter Levy. Harriman recommended that Iran accept the British ‘offer.’ When Mossadegh went to Washington, the only suggestion he heard from the State Department was to appoint Royal Dutch Shell as Iran’s management company.” Engdahl continues, “Britain’s Secret Intelligence Services [MI6] had convinced the CIA’s Allen Dulles and his brother, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who then convinced Eisenhower, that the overthrow of Mossadegh was indispensable.”
This is the commonly held belief in the Middle East and the viewpoint of my Iranian friends. I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking at this point in the time line and come down on the other side. The fact is that I was stuck on this part of the story for several months as I waded thru a lot of discussion and documentation. One of the most interesting documents I uncovered during this investigation was the entire “after action report” compiled by the CIA from the coup. There is, to my knowledge, no other comparable set of documentation anywhere in existence. The entire report, consisting of 10 chapters and 5 appendixes is attached in a zip file. It makes absolutely fascinating reading as it is the original report, put together immediately after the events by persons directly involved, names names where possible and has not been edited since. It was obtained and released by the New York Times several years ago.
One thing that the report makes abundantly clear is that, contrary to common thinking, the coup did not proceed as planned, in fact, it failed in its execution. The majority of the generals and colonels that the CIA bribed and/or supported failed to act as they were supposed to at the times they were expected to act. Those that did act were suppressed, arrested or killed. The report goes into considerable detail as to why the failures happened and who was to fault. The contingency plans to bail out of Iran all who were now at risk were put into effect. Washington was informed that the coup had failed.
What happened to turn failure into success was the excessive response by the Communist Tudeh party. The Tudeh saw this as an opportunity to strengthen their hand in the government as well as to completely drive the Shaw from the country and its government. What they had not counted on was the fact that many of the folks were rather fond of the Shah and what he brought to the nation and government. When the Tudeh went wild denouncing the Shah and destroying his statues and homes and branding him a traitor, the folks rioted. Where there had been several hundreds in the streets fighting either against the coup or the Shah, there were now thousands rioting in favor of the Shaw and they took their anger out on the Tudeh directly. Mossadeq had not a clue as to how to stop the violence and realized, too late, just how dangerous the Communists were. Finally, the a couple of the Generals and Colonels who were a part of the coup decided to act and they rode the changing tide to success. They captured the radio stations and government buildings in the name of the Shah and arrested Mossadeq. The Shah returned from exile to general acclaim.
As anyone who knows me well will recall, I have the greatest regard for Dwight Eisenhower, General and President. My personal library contains a 3 shelves of books by and about him. In it are the following quote from his diary:
“[T]he world situation had continued to degenerate. Premier Mossadegh had nationalized Iran’s oil resources, and the country was drifting dangerously toward Communism.
In his own book titled “Mandate For Change”, Ike devotes about 10 pages to the Iranian situation. He makes no mention of the coup as this was a state secret at the time. He does make clear that the oil issue was not the key motivation for American actions, rather, it was the movement of the country to Soviet Russia that drove this train. It should be noted that the conflict between Britain and Iran over oil had been going on for 2 years by this time. While this was going on, the Iranians refused to negotiate with the British, rejecting a number of offers to reopen the refineries and sell oil. As a consequence, the country’s finances suffered greatly. The Premier asked for assistance from Washington and they were told essentially: “You have the means to solve your own problems if you just bargain in good faith with the British and since you refuse to do so, the American taxpayers should not have to pay the bill for your intransigence.” When the Soviets were about to step in with financial aid….that flipped the switch.
And that folks, is how we got our noses into the Middle East in a significant way…well, at least after recognizing the fledgling state of Israel…
Some additional references: