You'll find that Sunni and Shiite factions are competing for power and influence, pitting Saudi Arabia and its coalition (including the United States and Israel) against Iran and its supporters. And there's the American portrayal of Iran as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism and a potential nuclear menace. But to truly understand what underlies this ongoing conflict, you need to look back much further in history.
Two new documentary films now in release examine events from Iran's past that are little known or understood by the American public, but perhaps the most consequential in determining what the U.S. relationship with Iran has become.
The 1953 Overthrow
In Coup 53, director Taghi Amirani and his investigative team expose in illuminating detail the hidden story behind the overthrow of Iran's government in 1953, including information that was concealed and ignored in media coverage.
Iran's popular Prime Minister Mohammad Mossaddegh was a reformist who resisted foreign domination, and the U.S. and UK were growing increasingly unhappy with his policies. Iranian oil resources had been controlled by the British, who kept most of the vast profits and left little to the Iranians. After Mossaddegh committed the unforgiveable act of nationalizing his country's oil industry, the CIA—working with British MI6—carried out a successful coup d'état that toppled his government.
The Shah's Iron Rule
In Mossaddegh's place, they installed a brutal dictatorial regime headed by Iran's monarchical Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who ruled the country ruthlessly for the next 26 years. To protect his new-found power, the Shah imprisoned Mossaddegh in solitary confinement for three years, and then kept him under house arrest until his death in 1967.