Twin Tragedies

 

Just as the tragic events of September 11 2001 are forever branded in the minds of Americans, Iranians find it difficult to forget 

August 19 1953. It is fair to assume that most Americans are unaware of the significance of that day let alone how the two dates

might be historically connected.

 

On that fateful day in Iran ( 28 Mordad in the Persian Calendar) the CIA engineered the first 'regime change' in US history, overthrowing

the popularly elected government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq and installed Reza Shah Pahlavi, who brutally suppressed

Iranians for decades and set in motion forces that eventually threatened the national security of the United States.

 

When he assumed power, Mossadegh was passionate about two causes, nationalism and democracy. To him the former meant taking

control of Iran's oil resources and the latter meant power was to rest in parliament instead of the monarchy. In a short period, Mossadegh 

created two enemies: The British, whose Anglo Iranian Oil Company since 1901 had held a monopoly on the extraction, refining and

sale of Iranian oil and the reigning monarch Reza Shah.

 

To depose Mossadegh, the British had begged the United States for help but President Truman was disinterested.

The elections of 1952 brought to power Dwight Eisenhower whose Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, had accused

Truman of weakness in the face of Communist advances and promised that a Republican White House would

"roll back" its 'despotism and godless terrorism' . Dulles was eagerly searching for an opportunity to project American power

and the British, watching their fortunes change for the better, came calling about the threat of communists in Iran, even before

Dulles had  taken the oath of office.

 

With the help of pro Shah dissidents, eager to restore the power of the monarchy, and the British, whose oil contracts 

Mossadegh had drastically renegotiated, the CIA would overthrow the only democratic regime Iran has ever known. The CIA

chose the 37 year old grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, Kermit Roosevelt to execute the coup de etat. Norman Schwarzkopf Sr,

whose son made a name for himself in the first Gulf War against Iraq, was recruited by the CIA to convince the Shah to seize back his

power. He later helped organize the Shah's feared secret police SAVAK notorious for its brutality and torture techniques

 

The budget for Operation Ajax was only $1 million, no American lives were lost but Iran's slow but steady progress towards democracy

was violently interrupted and a beloved leader was replaced by a ruthless monarch whose rule fanned the flames of anti- Americanism

 laying the groundwork for the explosion known as the Islamic Revolution. Most Iranians believe it was the reign of the Shah that helped

produce an anti American theocracy whose radicalism inspired anti Western fanatics in many countries, most notably Afghanistan where

al Qaeda found a home and eager support. There is no better example of 'blowback' in recent history.

 

American interference in Iran's progress toward freedom and democracy has had devastating affects on both nations. Today, as America's leaders

talk of yet another attack on Iran they must consider the results of past actions and the heavy price both nations have paid.  Two American Presidents,

Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon had the vision and the courage to turn former enemies, Russia and China into international partners for peace,

stability and prosperity through cultural exchanges, business relations and above all security guarantees. America and Iran's interests overlap in many

areas and could serve as a starting point for dialog: the threat of al Qaeda and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

America could show its good intentions by unequivocally admitting past mistakes. Is the current crop of American leaders capable of such a sweeping vision? Fifty five years after the tragic events of August 19 1953 in Tehran, can they say to the people of Iran what we did was wrong?

 

By Hadi Jawad.

Chair " End the Occupation of Iraq" Committee

Dallas Peace Center

4301 Bryan St, # 202

Dallas, TX 75204