Iran’s Future Still Uncertain

August 28, 1953 — Bruce Biossat

The Mossadegh Project | June 22, 2012                      

The 1953 coup in Iran

This column represents NEA columnist Bruce Biossat’s first interpretation of the major international news event of the week, the so-called Royalist revolt in Iran. By October, Biossat may not have changed his mind about Mossadegh, but he did have a new take on the coup itself – and it featured the hidden hand of the United States.


by Bruce Biossat

Bruce Biossat Cautiously, one may hazard that Iran seems headed back toward an orderly government with Royalist forces in command. Former Premier Mossadegh's surrender evidently concludes at least this phase of the political storm.

Few in the West will bemoan Mossadegh’s departure from the seat of Iranian power. He was the rigid symbol of fanatic nationalism in his country. He made himself the foe of even the smallest compromise with Britain on the vital oil question, and with every passing day became more ruthless in the devices he used to maintain and increase his grip on the government.

Toward the end, he reduced the Iranian parliament to impotence. But still he viewed its very existence as a threat. So, backed by a rigged vote of the people, he dissolved the parliament.

Flirted with Communists

Worse, to solidify his position, he began flirting with the Tudeh, the Iranian Communist Party. He accepted Tudeh assistance in combating his most active enemies, ignoring the grave national danger involved in this tactic.

Observers believe that flirtation contributed heavily to Mossadegh’s downfall. Wealthy landlords and some elements in the army took alarm. They saw themselves, and the protection they gain from the monarchy, slipping into the Communist shadow.

The young Shah, though openly supported by many elements, including lower echelons of the army, remained indecisive until pushed to the limit. At the eleventh hour, he ordered a coup against Mossadegh. But a tip-off enabled the latter to nip it in the bud. The Shah quickly fled the country.

Fresh Revolt Ensued

Ironically, this somewhat less than courageous act seemed to dramatize for the Iranians what Mossadegh had done to them. With their monarch gone, they erupted in fresh revolt, this time successfully.

The Shah is an avowed friend of the West. In theory his followers ought to bring an improvement of Iranian-Western relations, possibly even solution of the dog-eared oil dispute. But only a bold man would flatly forecast this hopeful sequel.

One big question mark is what will be the shape and direction of Iran's flaming nationalism now? With the situation more fluid than in many months, an extremist explosion is not beyond possibility. By the same token, the Communist Tudeh may be emboldened to make their long-predicted grab for power.

We had better wait and watch quietly for a while before we start proclaiming what a fine thing this is for the West and the free world.


Related links:

Coup in Iran | The San Francisco Examiner, Aug. 22, 1953

Iran—No Change | The New Republic, August 31, 1953

IRAN: The People Take Over | TIME magazine, August 31, 1953

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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