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All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terrorby Stephen Kinzer
Synopses & Reviews
Half a century ago, the United States overthrew a Middle Eastern government for the first time. The victim was Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran. Although the coup seemed a success at first, today it serves as a chilling lesson about the dangers of foreign intervention.
In this book, veteran New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer gives the first full account of this fateful operation. His account is centered around an hour-by-hour reconstruction of the events of August 1953, and concludes with an assessment of the coups "haunting and terrible legacy."
Operation Ajax, as the plot was code-named, reshaped the history of Iran, the Middle East, and the world. It restored Mohammad Reza Shah to the Peacock Throne, allowing him to impose a tyranny that ultimately sparked the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The Islamic Revolution, in turn, inspired fundamentalists throughout the Muslim world, including the Taliban and terrorists who thrived under its protection.
"It is not far-fetched," Kinzer asserts in this book, "to draw a line from Operation Ajax through the Shahs repressive regime and the Islamic Revolution to the fireballs that engulfed the World Trade Center in New York."
Drawing on research in the United States and Iran, and using material from a long-secret CIA report, Kinzer explains the background of the coup and tells how it was carried out. It is a cloak-and-dagger story of spies, saboteurs, and secret agents. There are accounts of bribes, staged riots, suitcases full of cash, and midnight meetings between the Shah and CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt, who was smuggled in and out of the royal palace under a blanket in the back seat of a car. Roosevelt, the grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, was a real-life James Bond in an era when CIA agents operated mainly by their wits. After his first coup attempt failed, he organized a second attempt that succeeded three days later.
The colorful cast of characters includes the terrified young Shah, who fled his country at the first sign of trouble; General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, father of the Gulf War commander and the radio voice of "Gang Busters," who flew to Tehran on a secret mission that helped set the coup in motion; and the fiery Prime Minister Mossadegh, who outraged the West by nationalizing the immensely profitable Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The British, outraged by the seizure of their oil company, persuaded President Dwight Eisenhower that Mossadegh was leading Iran toward Communism. Eisenhower and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain became the coups main sponsors.
Brimming with insights into Middle Eastern history and American foreign policy, this book is an eye-opening look at an event whose unintended consequencesIslamic revolution and violent anti-Americanismhave shaped the modern world. As the United States assumes an ever-widening role in the Middle East, it is essential reading.
"A very gripping read . . . a cautionary tale for our current leaders."
—The New York Times
As zealots in Washington intensify their preparations for an American attack on Iran, the story of the CIA's 1953 coup—with its many cautionary lessons—is more urgently relevant than ever. All the Shah's Men brings to life the cloak-and-dagger operation that deposed the only democratic regime Iran ever had. The coup ushered in a quarter-century of repressive rule under the Shah, stimulated the rise of Muslim fundamentalism and anti-Americanism throughout the Middle East, and exposed the folly of using violence to try to reshape Iran. Selected as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post and the Economist, it's essential reading if you want to place the American attack of Iraq in context—and prepare for what comes next.
"An entirely engrossing, often riveting, nearly Homeric tale. . . . For anyone with more than a passing interest in how the United States got into such a pickle in the Middle East, All the Shah's Men is as good as Grisham."
—The Washington Post Book World
"An exciting narrative. [Kinzer] questions whether Americans are well served by interventions for regime change abroad, and he reminds us of the long history of Iranian resistance to great power interventions, as well as the unanticipated consequences of intervention."
—The Los Angeles Times
"A swashbuckling yarn [and] helpful reminder of an oft-neglected piece of Middle Eastern history."
—The New York Times Book Review
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 Postand The Economist, it now features a new preface by the author on the folly of attacking Iran.
About the Author
Stephen Kinzer is a veteran New York Times foreign correspondent who has reported from more than fifty countries. In 1996, he became the Timess first Istanbul bureau chief. He is the author of Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds and the coauthor of Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala.
Table of Contents
Notes on Usage.
1. Good Evening, Mr. Roosevelt.
2. Curse This Fate.
3. The Last Drop of the Nation’s Blood.
4. A Wave of Oil.
5. His Master’s Orders.
6. Unseen Enemies Everywhere.
7. You Do Not Know How Evil They Are.
8. An Immensely Shrewd Old Man.
9. Block Headed British.
10. Pull Up Your Socks and Get Going.
11. I Knew It! They Love Me!
12. Purring Like a Giant Cat.
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History and Social Science » Middle East » Iran and Persia