Synopses & Reviews
On August 19, 1953, the American and British intelligence agencies launched a desperate coup in Iran against a cussed, bedridden seventy-two-year-old man. His name was Muhammad Mossadegh, and his crimes had been to flirt with communism and to nationalize his country's oil industry, which for forty years had been in British hands. To Winston Churchill, the Iranian prime minister was a lunatic, determined to humiliate Britain. To President Dwight Eisenhower, he was delivering Iran to the Soviets. Mossadegh must go.
And so he did, in one of the most dramatic episodes in modern Middle Eastern history. But the countries that overthrew him would, in time, deeply regret their decision. Mossadegh was one of the first liberals of the Middle East, a man whose conception of liberty was as sophisticated as any in Europe or America. He wanted friendship with the West—but not slavish dependence. He would not compromise on Iran's right to control its own destiny. The West therefore sided against him and in favor of his great foe, Shah Muhammad-Reza Pahlavi.
Who was this political guerrilla of noble blood, who was so adored in the Middle East and so reviled in the West? Schooled in Europe of the Belle Epoque, Mossadegh was pitted against dictatorship at home, a struggle that almost cost him his life and had tragic consequences for his family. By the time of the Shah's accession in 1941, Mossadegh had become the nation's conscience, and he spent the rest of his life in conflict with a monarch whose despotic regime was eventually toppled in the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Here, for the first time, is the political and personal life of a remarkable patriot, written by our foremost observer of Iran. Drawing on sources in Tehran and the West, Christopher de Bellaigue reveals a man who not only embodied his nation's struggle for freedom but also was one of the great eccentrics of modern times—and uncovers the coup that undid him. Above all, the life of Muhammad Mossadegh serves as a warning to today's occupants of the White House and Downing Street as they commit to further intervention in a volatile and unpredictable region.
The Economists Tehran correspondent Christopher de Bellaigue brings to light the never-before-told full story of one of the great anti-colonial heroes of the twentieth century: Muhammad Mossadegh, the great Iranian leader whose untimely demise resulted in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and a man who has been demonized, ridiculed, and misunderstood in the West while remaining an icon and an inspiration across the Middle East. Patriot of Persia, the first biography exploring his life and impact, opens a crucial new window into Mossadegh—whose role in the evolution of Irans political climate cannot be overemphasized—providing a resource that will prove equally invaluable to academics, newshounds, and activists as they struggle to understand Mideast politics, Iran, Ahmadinejad, and the future of the region—and the world.
About the Author
Christopher de Bellaigue has worked as a journalist in South Asia and the Middle East, writing for the Economist and the Financial Times, the Independent, and the New York Review of Books. His first book, In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs, was short-listed for the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize, and his second, Rebel Land, was short-listed for the 2010 Orwell Prize. He and his wife divide their time between London and Tehran.