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The Coup: 1953, The CIA, and The Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations Hardcover – February 5, 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A Choice magazine Outstanding Academic Title selection

“The CIA-sponsored coup in 1953 that deposed Muhammad Mossadeq, Iran's popular prime minister, is often noted as a failure of interventionist foreign policy. In this slim, readable volume, Iran scholar Abrahamian (A History of Modern Iran) delves into the genesis and aftermath of that operation, challenging the idea that Mossadeq's intransigence made the putsch inevitable. Making extensive use of recently declassified diplomatic cables and the archives of multinational oil companies—especially the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, now BP—the author makes the case that the U.K. and the U.S., unwilling ‘to back down over the hard issue of nationalization [of the oil industry]... were the main stumbling blocks’ in the relationship between Iran and the West. . . . his primer skillfully weaves together primary sources to tell an engaging tale of the machinations, intrigues, and personalities at the heart of the crisis.”
Publishers Weekly

"Abrahamian has done for Iran what de Tocqueville did for France."
—Edward Mortimer, author of Faith and Power: The Politics of Islam, on Ervand Abrahamian’s A History of Modern Iran

"A relevant, readable study of the foreign-engineered 1953 Iranian coup reminds us of the cause that won’t go away: oil."
Kirkus

"In this thorough, well–researched work, Abrahamian (Iranian & Middle Eastern history & politics, CUNY) breaks down the generally accepted understanding of the details behind the 1953 CIA–run coup that ousted Iran’s prime minister, Muhammad Mossadeq, and supported the shah. The author reveals some of the primary motivations behind the current Iranian hostility toward the United States and other Western governments. Through his well–documented research, Abrahamian paints a picture of the coup in the context of British and U.S. oil interests, contrasting these motivations with the desire to curb the spread of Soviet influences. In his examination of information recently made available from the British Foreign Office, the U.S. Department of State, the Anglo–Iranian Oil Company (now BP), and other government documents, Abrahamian pieces together the intricacies of the relationships among these parties and provides a sound argument for the control of oil resources as the dominating issue behind the coup. VERDICT This latest research from Abrahamian is a must read for anyone wanting a clearer understanding of the history behind current U.S.–Iranian relations. Recommended for Middle East–history enthusiasts and specialists, as well as those seeking a full understanding of current international affairs."
Library Journal

About the Author

Ervand Abrahamian is the author of several books, including Tortured Confessions, Khomeinism, Iran Between Two Revolutions, and A History of Modern Iran. He is Distinguished Professor of Iranian and Middle Eastern History and Politics at the City University of New York. He lives in Brooklyn.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press; 2nd Printing edition (February 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595588264
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595588265
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #502,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
American participation in the CIA overthrow of the sovereign nation in Iran has long been an official secret, long denied by the CIA. The veil of official denial was lifted by the President's oblique apology in Cairo several years ago. It is a historical event largely unknown to the average American, whose only exposure with Iran is the Hostage Crisis of 1979 - 1980. The motivations of the hostage takers are all but unknown. That veil was lifted with the opening minutes of Argo, Ben Afflick's award-winning movie, which very briefly summarized the events which are described in rich, exacting, painstaking detail in Ervand Abrahamian's book.

Abrahamian's book is the definitive historical account of the military coup engineered by American and UK intelligence agencies, a hostile overthrow of an independent, democratic, sovereign nation to exploit its natural resources and substitute in its place a brutal dictatorship. The files of the American and UK intelligence agencies are still classified, no surprise, so Abrahamian account is culled from the files of Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, better known today as British Petroleum (BP), Foreign Office and State Department publications, correspondence, contemporary newspaper and magazine accounts, and interviews and memoirs from the individuals involved in the events described. It is also a definitive account of the history of Iran in the Twentieth Century.

As the author admits, there have been other books written about the military coup in 1953 which overthrew Mohammed Mossadeq. One such book was written by Teddy Roosevelt's grandson, Kermit Roosevelt, one of the principle CIA operatives involved in engineering the coup.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a true to form Ervand Abrahamian. It is an extremely well researched and referenced piece of history writing. Abrahamian fills the gaps that were left to imagination or at best to the leaked rumors after the Coup. It is an addendum to both his earlier books, Iran Between two Revolutions and A History of Modern Iran.
The book provides unshakable evidence of the CIA’s direct involvement in the coup, return of the Shah and strangulation of a budding democracy in Iran. It also hopefully puts a stop to the arguments of the "Coup Deniers" who have used the present regime’s-- mildly stated-- misdeeds to distort the facts. Undeniably reading the book takes time, despite its small size. The reason is absorption of the references and the unfamiliarity of some of the characters involved, long gone. It should be a book to have and read time and again. To keep the memories alive, to remind further actors who keep inventing the wheel again and again of repeating the same mistakes and to realize the Red Thread that extends from that historical event to today’s Middle East and the blowback it created for the United States. It is a sad but excellent book, but so is history.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
it must be read, especially by the US readers. Unfortunately that story is little known and yet helps to understand what is going on to-day with the Iranian/US diplomatic relations. As I heard recently on a US TV show, as a reporter was asking questions on the street in front of the White House "Do you know who Mossadegh was ?" : "No, I have no idea, who is he? ", another good one was "I wasn't even born then, why should I know about a coup in Iran in 1954?". and other answers in the same vein...

Mr. Abrahamian did a wonderful, professionnal job, it is clear, easy reading, no repetition, and to end this excellent book, a clear exposé of the blow-back which is occuring to-day (60 years after the coup) between the US and Iran.
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Format: Paperback
Absolutely essential, impartial analysis of the very important events of 1953 in Tehran. Abrahamian is extremely focused and rigorous in his use of source material, which consists overwhelmingly of diplomatic correspondence between embassies and their respective foreign offices. His object is to make the case that the 1953 Coup was, contrary to most modern academics, about the control of petroleum resources (after all!) and not about any purported dread of a Communist-dominated coup by Mossadeq himself.

(A word of clarification: Abrahamian doesn't emphasize this, but on 3 August--12 days before the 1st [unsuccessful] coup--Mossadeq had dissolved the Majles and called a referendum to authorize new parliamentary elections. Without making a legal judgment, I will merely say that this was regarded by some observers as an unconstitutional seizure of power. The fact that Mossadeq was increasingly reliant on the support of Tudeh militants was widely presumed to have created panic on the part of US officials, who might perhaps have thought that a local Communist movement would use Mossadeq as a stalking horse for taking control of Iran.)

Abrahamian argues that this was never a concern of either the [UK] Foreign Office or the [US] State Department. American interlocutors with Iran were always supportive of AIOC claims that nationalization would have a domino effect, since other oil-rich nations would do the same.

SIGNIFICANCE

This book was a major shock to my understanding of the events it describes. I was under the impression that the 1953 Coup was mainly a defensive reaction by Tehran's middle class and clergy against a seizure of government by a sitting prime minister.
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