In 1951 Mohammed Mossadegh (alternately: Mosaddeq or Mossadeq) was democratically elected the Prime Minister
of Iran. He was the victim of a 1953 coup d'etat
orchestrated by the United States' Central Intelligence Agency
and England's SIS
. His overthrow ended Iran's brief experience with democracy, placed Mohammed Reza Pahlevi
on the Peacock Throne
, led to the 1979 Muslim-fundamentalist takeover of the Iranian government, ultimately to the Gulf War
, and still exerts a strain on U.S. - Iran relations.
Dr. Mossadegh was the son of Iran's Finance Minister under King Naser al-Din Qajar. His mother was the daughter of an Iranian Crown Prince. He was named a provincial tax collector by Royal Decree after his father's death. He was elected to Iran's first constitutional parliament in 1906, but declined the position.
When the royal house took back control of the government he became a political refugee -- eventually travelling to Europe. He studied in France and earned his law degree in Switzerland in 1913. During the tumultuous years that followed, Iran had numerous governments. In some of these Mossadegh held important positions; including governor of a province, Foreign Minister, and Finance Minister. But he was a liberal, an ardent Iranian nationalist, and champion of democracy. His political views cost him three years as a political prisoner under house arrest in the 1920's and he was even forced into exile at one point.
Upon election as Prime Minister in 1951, Mossadegh moved to nationalize the oil fields -- which were then controlled by Britain -- enforcing laws the parliament had already passed. He defended his actions at both the United Nations and in the World Court, which ruled in his favor. But this angered the Britains enough to solicit American intervention. President Truman refused to get involved, but when Eisenhower ascended to the presidency in 1953 the American attitude changed.
In August of 1953 the CIA sponsored a coup and Mossadegh was overthrown. Ironically, the chief U.S. liason in Tehran who helped orchestrate the coup was General H. Norman Schwarzkopf -- the father of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf of Gulf War and Desert Storm fame. Following the coup, Mossadegh spent three years in prison, then was kept under house arrest at his family estate until his death in 1967.
Iranians never forgot this meddling in their government. They were able to point to this event as supporting the notion that the United States was the source of all their misery. During the 1979 revolution, a frequent chant was "No more Mossadeghs." Today, popular Iranian sentiment regards Mossadegh as Iran's most important figure of the twentieth century.
Portions of this WU were stolen from Gorgonzola's