The Coup. 1953, the CIA, and the roots of modern U.S.-Iranian relations. By Ervand Abrahamian

The Coup. 1953, the CIA, and the roots of modern U.S.-Iranian relations.
By Ervand Abrahamian*
ISBN: 978-1-59558-826-5
The New Press, New York, 2013


page 2 to 5:

«… Much has been written on the 1953 Coup. Much has also been written on the 1951-53 oil crisis. One could well ask, So why yet another book on the same topics? The aim of the present book is to challenge on two separate grounds the conventional wisdom established by previous works. First, it questions the conventional notion that the British negotiated in good faith, the United States made serious attempts to act as an honest broker, and Mossadeq failed to reach a compromise because of his intransigence – traced invariability to his presumed “psychological makeup” and Shi’i “martyrdom complex”… »

«… The present book counterargues that compromise was unattainable simply because at the very core of the dispute lay the blunt questions of who would control the oil industry – its exploration, production, extraction, and exportation? Would control be in the hands of Iran or the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company – or, possibly, a consortium of large oil companies known at the time as Seven Sisters? For Iran, nationalization meant sovereign control. For the oil companies, Iranian nationalization meant loss of Western control – something deemed unacceptable in the early 1950s. Pseudonationalization – nationalization in form but not in substance, in theory but not in practice – although heralded far and wide as a “fair compromise” by both the British and the Americans was in reality at best a meaningless oxymoron and at worst a deceptive smokescreen. In the years 1951 through 1953 neither the British nor the Americans were in any way willing to accept real oil nationalization.

Second, this book questions the conventional wisdom that places the coup squarely and solidly within the context of the Cold War – within the conflict between East and West, between the Soviet Union and the United States, between the Communist Bloc and the so-called Free World… »

«… This book, by contrast, will try to locate the coup firmly inside the conflict between imperialism and nationalism, between First and Third Worlds, between North and South, between developed industrial economies and underdeveloped countries dependent on exporting raw materials. Since the issue at stake was oil, the book argues the United States had as much invested in the crisis as did Britain. The United States, thus, participated in the coup not so much because of the danger of communism as the repercussions that oil nationalization could have on such faraway places as Indonesia and South America, not to mention the rest of Persian Gulf. Control over oil production did eventually pass from Western companies to local states in the early 1970s, but such a loss was deemed unacceptable in the early 1950s. Some may remain nostalgic for the “good old days” when production, of oil and therefore its price was safe in the hands of the major companies – and thus free from such “irresponsible cartels” as OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). They would love to save so-called rentier states from the “curse of oil”. Such nostalgia, however far-fetched now, was part and parcel of reality until just before the emergence of campaigns to nationalize oil. And this campaign in the Middle East was spearheaded by Mossadeq.

This book will argue that although the United States and the UK used the language of the Cold War – the dominant discourse of the time – to justify the coup, their main concern was not so much about communism as about the dangerous repercussions that oil nationalization could have throughout the world. It was precisely because of this that many Iranians admired – and continue to admire – Mossadeq. They see him as a national idol, equating him with Gandhi in India, Nasser in Egypt, Sukarno in Indonesia, Tito in Yugoslavia, Nkrumah in Ghana, and Lumumba in the Congo. In the age of anticolonial nationalism after World War II, Mossadeq, together with Gandhi and Nasser, appeared as trailblazers in the Third World. They remain so to the present day… »



(page) / subject

(ix) Preface

(xi) Chronology

(xv) Leading Personalities

(1) Introduction

(9) 1. Oil Nationalization
– (9) Origins
– (31) Mossadeq
– (48) Nationalization Campaign
– (64) The Oil Strike
– (74) Premier Mossadeq

(81) 2. Anglo-Iranian Negotiations
– (81) Control
– (108) The Hague (May – June)
– (113) Harriman Mission (July)
– (117) Stokes Mission (August)
– (123) Mission to the UN and the United States (October – November)
– (131) The Seventeenth Majles
– (138) July Uprising

(149) 3. The Coup
– (149) Preparations
– (161) Economic Pressures
– (170) The Coup Plan
– (183) Counterfeit Revolt
– (199) Coverage

(205) 4. Legacy

(227) Notes

(259) Bibliography

(265) Index


* Ervand Abrahamian (1940 – ) is a leading historian of the Middle Eastern. He was born in Iran and raised in England. Abrahamian received his M.A. at Oxford University and his Ph.D. at Columbia University. He is a distinguished professor of history at the City University of New York.

Further books:

Iran between two revolutions (Princeton University Press, 1982)

The Iranian Mojahedin (Yale University Press, 1989)

Khomeinism (University of California Press, 1993)

Tortured confessions. Prisons and public recantations in modern Iran (University of California Press, 1999)

Inventing the Axis of Evil. The Truth about North Korea, Iran, and Syria (Bruce Cumings, Ervand Abrahamian, and Moshe Ma’oz; 2005)

A history of modern Iran (Cambridge University Press, 2008)


see also:

CIA Confirms Role in 1953 Iran Coup


see also:

A conversation with Professor Ervand Abrahamian on the CIA coup of 1953 – Part 1

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