The 1953 Iranian coup, which overthrew the democratically elected Mohammad Mossadeq and replaced him with the Shah, still stands out as one of the oft repeated tales of CIA swashbuckling in exotic lands during the early years of the Cold War. But James North is attempting to set the record straight with his Mondoweiss post, “One good reason Iranians might hate us,” which puts the current animus between Iran and the U.S. in a historical context back further than 1979, which is when many Iran-hawks choose to start their narratives of Iranian “anti-Americanism.”
Countering the narrative that CIA super spies undermined Mossadeq, North writes:
Mossadeq’s government fell mainly because the British had imposed a worldwide boycott of Iranian oil starting back in 1951, and British warships blocked exports. Most of the third world was still under formal colonial rule then, so Iran had to stand alone. Economic warfare, not the cunning Kermit Roosevelt outfoxing flustered and foolish Iranians, was decisive.
Ironically, the true story of events undermines both the CIA’s narrative of calculated espionage and pokes sizable holes in the conspiracy theory, omnipresent in the Middle East and elsewhere, that places responsibility for the 1953 overthrow on an omnipresent CIA.
There was unquestionably a Western conspiracy against the Iranian people and their right to control their own national resources, but it mainly took the less dramatic but more effective guise of economic strangulation.