Book Review: All the Shah’s Men by Stephen Kinzer

Author: Stephen Kinzer
Title: All the Shah’s Men
Publication Info: [San Clemente, Calif.] : Tantor Media, 2003.
ISBN: 9781400151066


A gripping history of the first covert operation by the CIA to overthrow the popularly elected government of another nation in 1953.  That nation is Iran and the deposed leader is Mohammad Mosaddeq, the Iranian prime minister who dared stand up against Western imperialism.  The fascinating thing about this book is that for much of Mosaddeq’s reign many US leaders supported Iran’s self-determination and attempts at democracy.  Iran’s squabble was with Great Britain, especially regarding the exploitative nature of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.  When Mosaddeq nationalized Iranian oil, British leaders wanted him removed, but needed US approval which was eventually gained by the specter of Communism.  A number of familiar names play a role in the plot: Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, CIA director Allan Dulles, CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt, Jr.  (grandson of Theodore), and Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr. (father of the Desert Storm commander).  Kinzer tells the story in great detail with the ultimate outcome balanced on the coming together of some very unlikely events

Kinzer concludes that the immediate result – a stable and anti-communist Iran under the Shah – was beneficial to the United States but the long-term results were disastrous.  The Shah’s tyrannical rule in Iran, and the knowledge that the US supported him, turned most Iranians virulently against the United States.  When revolutionary Iranians took hostages at the US embassy in 1979 it was because the embassy had been a base of covert activity in 1953.  Finally, it set a pattern of CIA-sponsored activities in other parts of the world that have contributed to the loss of the USA’s image as a standard-bearer of freedom.

Recommended books: The Devil We Know by Robert Baer
Rating: ***1/2

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