These days, with a crisis atmosphere growing in the Persian Gulf, a little history lesson about the U.S. and Iran might be just what the doctor ordered. Here, then, are a few high- (or low-) lights from their relationship over the last half-century-plus:
Summer 1953: The CIA and British intelligence hatch a plot for a coup that overthrows a democratically elected government in Iran intent on nationalizing that country’s oil industry. In its place, they put an autocrat, the young shah of Iran, and his soon-to-be feared secret police. He runs the country as his repressive fiefdom for a quarter-century, becoming Washington’s “bulwark” in the Persian Gulf — until overthrown in 1979 by a home-grown revolutionary movement, which ushers in the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini and the mullahs. While Khomeini & Co. were hardly Washington’s men, thanks to that 1953 coup they were, in a sense, its own political offspring. In other words, the fatal decision to overthrow a popular democratic government shaped the Iranian world Washington now loathes, and even then oil was at the bottom of things.