In This Review

"The 1953 Coup in Iran."
"The 1953 Coup in Iran."
By Ervand Abrahamian
State & Society, Vol. 66, No. 2 (summer 2001), pp. 182-215, , pp

Abrahamian shows how much more there is to know about the role of the United States and the United Kingdom in organizing the 1953 coup against Muhammad Mossadeq. The CIA report "leaked" by The New York Times in April 2000 was in fact a sanitized history written by the late Donald Wilber as "a handbook for future coups" -- and most CIA material remains locked up. After carefully combing all available information, especially declassified British documents, the author describes the coup's planning and execution as well as the many unsavory Iranian characters who were recruited, such as the notorious gang leader "Sha`ban the Brainless." Bent on overthrowing Mossadeq, the British brought in the United States after President Eisenhower's election in November 1952. "Planted" news stories depicting Mossadeq as unstable were pervasive. In addressing the argument that intervention was needed to prevent Iran from falling into communist hands, Abrahamian shows that neither the British nor the Americans actually viewed the leftist Tudeh Party as an imminent threat. Anyone seeking to understand a turning point in Iran's history -- or the role of clandestine actions in world politics -- should consult this painstakingly researched and forcefully presented article.