FROM THE TIME ARCHIVE
Jan. 7, 1952
Once upon a time, in a mountainous land between Baghdad and the Sea of Caviar, there lived a nobleman. This nobleman, after a lifetime of carping at the way the kingdom was run, became Chief Minister of the realm. In a few months he had the whole world hanging on his words and deeds, his jokes, his tears, his tantrums. Behind his grotesque antics lay great issues of peace or war, progress or decline, which would affect many lands far beyond his mountains.
His methods of government were peculiar. For example, when he decided to shift his governors, he dropped into a bowl slips of paper with the names of provinces; each governor stepped forward and drew a new province. Like all ministers, the old nobleman was plagued with friends, men-of-influence, patriots and toadies who came to him with one proposal or another.
His duty bade him say no to these schemes, but he was such a kindly fellow (in some respects) that he could not bear to speak the word. He would call in his two-year-old granddaughter and repeat the proposal to her, in front of the visitor. Since she was a well- brought-up little girl, to all these propositions she would unhesitatingly say no. “How can I go against her?” the old gentleman would ask.
After a while, the granddaughter, bored with the routine, began to answer yes occasionally. This saddened the old man, for it ruined his favorite joke, and might even have made the administration of the country more inefficient than it was already…..
He was Mohammed Mossadegh, Premier of Iran in the year 1951. He was the Man of the Year. He put Scheherazade in the petroleum business and oiled the wheels of chaos. His acid tears dissolved one of the remaining pillars of a once great empire. In his plaintive, singsong voice he gabbled a defiant challenge that sprang out of a hatred and envy almost incomprehensible to the West.
Mohammad Mosaddegh (Persian: محمد مصدّق, pronounced [mohæmmæde mosæddeq] ( listen),[add stress] also Mossadegh, Mosaddeq, Mossadeq, or Musaddiq) (19 May 1882 – 5 March 1967) was the Prime Minister of Iran from 1951 to 1953 when he was removed from power by a coup d’état. From an aristocratic background, Mosaddegh was an author, administrator, lawyer, prominent parliamentarian, and politician, famous for his passionate opposition to foreign intervention in Iran.
He is most famous as the architect of the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913 through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) (later British Petroleum or BP). The Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. was controlled by the British government. Mosaddegh was removed from power in a coup, August 19, 1953 organized and carried out by the United States CIA at the request of the British MI6 which chose Iranian General Fazlollah Zahedi to succeed Mosaddegh.
The CIA called the coup Operation Ajax after its CIA cryptonym, and as the 28 Mordad 1332 coup in Iran, after its date on the Iranian calendar. Mosaddegh was imprisoned for three years, then put under house arrest until his death.
Among many in the Middle East, Mosaddegh is viewed as a hero of anti-imperialism, and a victim of imperialist greed for Iran’s oil. Clerical dissatisfaction with Mosaddegh’s secular rule played a role in the coup, fomented by CIA propaganda.