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Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup Hardcover – May 15, 2012
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The first major treatment of Mossadegh's life to hit the mainstream US book market . . . is concise, smoothly written, and ultimately absorbing: The kind of portrait that serves as much as an introduction to a country as it does to a man. —Suzy Hansen
“A compelling biography… Bellaigue…writes with economy and a lightly ironic touch…The result is a three-dimensional profile of Mossadegh that contrasts sharply with the heroic democrat mythologized by his supporters.” (Wall Street Journal)
“Economist Tehran correspondent de Bellaigue uses plenty of local insight to provide general readers with an intriguing combination of biography, history and strategic study.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“…superbly researched…” (Huffington Post)
“…a major strength of the book is that it does not seek to lionize the protagonist.” (Washington Independent Review of Books)
“Brilliant…A sweeping new biography…also a rich portrait of Iran amid the revolutionary upheaval of anti-colonial reform movements…-the antecedent, in many ways, of today’s Middle East uprisings.” (The Daily)
“…thanks to veteran journalist Christopher de Bellaigue’s brisk, engaging 300-page biography, Mossadegh’s strange personality and at times baffling motives come into clearer focus.” (The Daily Beast)
“A timely book…elegantly written…feels both fresh and relevant…highlights the dangers of a foreign policy that ignores the perceptions of those with memories longer than our own.” (The Guardian)
“Superbly timed…portrays some fascinating, and often farcical, stories of political life in Iran” (Independent)
“Compelling… the West has handled its relationship with Iran as badly as possible… we have little leverage with its people…de Bellaigue’s book goes far to explain why.” (Max Hastings, Sunday Times (London))
“De Bellaigue’s book is unsurpassed as a rounded portrait of Mossadegh.” (Times Literary Supplement (London))
“Authoritative…a politically astute biography” (Pankaj Mishra, London Review of Books)
“Portrayed by Bellaigue as a classic tragic hero…the book presents a nuanced portrait of an enigmantic man whose brilliance and fairmindedness fatally collided with his pride and rigidity.” (Tara Bahrampour, Washington Post)
“Brilliant…deft…De Bellaigue, fluent in Farsi, draws on previously unused Iranian sources to bring Mossadegh to vivid life…De Bellaigue’s powerful portrait is also a timely reminder that further Western recklessness toward Iran…would only pile tragedy upon tragedy.” (Roger Cohen, New York Review of Books)
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Iran (also known as Persia) was a pawn in the Great Game, i.e., the commercial and military rivalry/conflict that existed between the British Empire and the Russian Empire (subsequently the Soviet Union) for supremacy in Central Asia. During his stint as Prime Minister of Iran from 1951 to 1953, Mr. Mossadegh's highest priority was to nationalize the Iranian assets of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) (today known as British Petroleum or BP) so that his country would receive a fair share of the proceeds from the extraction and sale of oil. The Iranian oil industry had been under British control since 1913. Mr. Mossadegh wanted friendship with the West based on mutual respect and independence.
Great Britain, a fast declining empire whose finances were shaky in the aftermath of WWII, considered these assets essential for its solvency. Mr. de Bellaigue clearly explains to his readers how Great Britain convinced the U.S. to take its side in its quarrel with Iran to overthrow Mr. Mossadegh and to reestablish his more pliable rival, Shah Muhammad-Reza Pahlavi. The involvement of the U.S. in this coup d'état cannot be understood without the context of the Cold War that the U.S. and the Soviet Union waged for decades after the end of WWII.
Mr. de Bellaigue rightly observes that this coup inaugurated a U.S. policy in support of shoddy Middle Eastern despots in the ensuing decades. This policy suffered its first major setback in 1979 with the arrival of the Mullahs to supreme power in Iran. The ongoing Arab Spring could result into other major setbacks for American interests in the Middle East. This movement, whose ultimate outcome is hard to predict at this stage, is affecting not only American clients, but also American adversaries such as Iran and Syria.
In summary, the overthrow of Mr. Mossadegh serves as a warning to whoever wants to meddle in the affairs of the unpredictable, volatile Middle East.
Mossadegh is described as a man who could not compromise on his beliefs, even when a short-term compromise would have likely fostered his long-term goals. He was focused on the British control over the oil fields of Iran, but refused to accept a deal that, while not 100% of what he wanted, would have given Iran almost all of what he wanted and would have alleviated a severe economic crisis. He is pictured as a man prone to dramatic gestures, but indecisive when action was critically called for. I liked the book a lot and found that it gave me a better understanding of the 1979 Iranian Revolution that was in effect a continuation and result of the events of 1953. The book contains photographs, but in this paperback edition they are printed on the same course paper as the rest of the book and are therefore quite indistinct and rather useless. It has a bibliography, notes and an index.