A Book Review

All The Shah’s Men
by Stephen Kinzer

In 1953 the United States made a momentous decision. Partially out of legitimate fear of a possible Russian takeover of the valuable Iranian Oil field, and partly as a result of incitement by British interests who sought to stubbornly maintain their imperialistic power structure, the CIA led a sinister and clandestine coup that removed the most beloved and democratic leader Iran has had in a century; Mohammend Mossadegh.

Mossadegh was replaced by a new Prime Minister, loyal and subservient to the Shah Pahlavi who became so hated that a Muslim fanatical mob overthrew him in 1979. The new theocracy, well remembering the American led coup, feared that the CIA would attempt it again. As insurance they attacked the US embassy and took 52 American hostages.

This act so infuriated the Americans that they supported Saddam Hussein’s horrific war against Iran. This led to Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan, the rise of the Muslim fanatics who created the Hezbollah and Taliban, the empowerment of Saddam, the invasion of Kuwait, the attacks on the US in Beruit, Somalia, 911, and of course our current clumsy missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While America’s awkward foreign policy proved disastrous in hindsight, the fear of communist control of Middle Eastern oil was a driving force in the 1950’s. Blame must be shared with the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company for their greed, the British for treating the Iranians so poorly, for the Iranian Shahs who sold Iran’s concessions to fund their lavish life, and for even Mossadegh himself for becoming so blind in his justified hatred for the British that he refused any compromise offered.

Yet while the Iranians despise the US for our intrusions into their affairs and the suffering it has caused, they still honor the American institutions of freedom and democracy. These values are suppressed by the current theocracy.

Kinzer’s well researched story reads like a first class spy novel. He avoids cynicism and anti American tirades and presents the story in a balanced light. While he does not avoid detailing the disaster we unleashed he also did not avoid the context of the anti Communist fears shared by many Americans in the 1950s.

He will make you think different about the current events in the Middle East.