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CIA’S Overthrow of Iran in 1953 Reaps Bitter Harvest For America<br>by Sherwood Ross

Written by Subject: Iran
By Sherwood Ross

Iranians’ hatred of America dates back to the CIA’s violent 1953   overthrow of democratic Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh’s government in order to arrange sweetheart contracts for western oil companies, author Stephen Kinzer writes in “Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change From Hawaii to Iraq.”

The CIA’s installation of despot Shah Mohammed Reza Palevi on a throne, Kinzer writes, “ultimately set off a revolution that brought radical fundamentalists to power” in Iran and led to the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

“Not satisfied with the humiliation they visited on the United States by holding 54 American diplomats hostage for 14 months,” Kinzer writes,  “these radicals sponsored deadly acts of terror against Western targets, among them the United States Marine barracks in Saudi Arabia and a Jewish community center in Argentina. Their example inspired Muslim fanatics around the world, including in neighboring Afghanistan, where the Taliban gave sanctuary to militants who carried out devastating attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.”

“None of this” would have happened, Kinzer continued, quoting one Iranian diplomat, “if  Mossadegh had not been overthrown.”

In his new book, “An Enemy of The People”(Doukathsan), Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, notes that after Kermit Roosevelt, (grandson of President Theodore), then head of Mideast Operations for the CIA, created a state of anarchy that toppled the legitimate government, the U.S. oil companies cashed in.

“Our oil companies---Gulf, Standard of New Jersey, Texaco and Mobil---received a 40 percent share of the new National Iranian Oil Company, and the shah established a tyrannical dictatorship, with the dreaded Savak doing dirty work for him,” Velvel writes. “So our misconduct of yesterday contributed greatly to, (and) probably caused, the terrible situation in the Middle East we find ourselves in today.”

Velvel points out how Great Britain and the U.S. engineered the coup together. Britain from 1901 had a monopoly on Iranian oil allowing them to pay Iran just 16% of what they got for selling it.  When Mossadegh took over in 1951, he nationalized the oil industry “just as, he would say, Britain had nationalized its coal and steel industries for its own people’s benefit” and paid the British a fair price, Velvel added.

The outraged British attempted to organize a coup against Mossadegh but he shut their embassy and forced their intelligence agents out of the country, so the British proposed Roosevelt for the task.

“Under the plan drawn up by the British,” Velvel wrote, “We would bribe journalists, preachers and other opinion leaders to create hostility to Mossadegh, (and) would hire thugs to attack people, making it look as if the attacks were  by Mossadegh…”

When these tactics failed, Roosevelt paid street gangs to set off riots.  According to Kinzer, “a plague of violence descended on Tehran. Gangs of thugs ran wildly through the streets, breaking shop windows, firing guns into mosques, beating passerby, and shouting ‘Long live Mossadegh and Communism!”  A cooperative Army general finally used tanks to attack the Prime Minister’s residence and he surrendered.

Kinzer writes that when Shah Palevi seized power he repressed opposition newspapers, political parties, trade unions and civic groups.  “As a result, the only place Iranian dissidents could find a home was in mosques and religious schools, many of which were run by obscurantist clerics. Through their uncompromising resistance to the regime, these clerics won the popular support that secular figures never achieved. That made it all but inevitable that when revolution finally broke out in Iran (against Palevi), clerics would lead it.”

By 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became so powerful he forced Palevi from the throne and a few months later sanctioned the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the taking of U.S. diplomats’ hostage.

“The hostage crisis deeply humiliated the United States, destroyed Jimmy Carter’s presidency, and turned millions of Americans into Iran haters,” Kinzer writes. “Because most Americans did not know what the United States had done in Iran in 1953, few had any idea why Iranians were so angry at the country they called ‘the Great Satan.’”

Dean Velvel is cofounder of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, purposefully dedicated to providing a quality, affordable education to the working class, mid-life people, minorities, and immigrants who would otherwise not be able to get a legal education. Velvel is a leader in the movement to reform legal education and has been honored for his work by The National Law Journal.

(Sherwood Ross, formerly a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and City News Bureau of Chicago, is a media consultant to the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. Reach him at


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