The Show

1) Dreams of Persia: The area now known as Iran has been home to a wide variety of peoples for thousands of years. Excavations have revealed the bones and artifacts of both Neanderthal and Modern man. Many ancient figures who live in or conquered this land are remembered even today: Zoraster, Darius, Cyrus, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and the Magi (wise men) of the biblical Christmas story. Iran's strategic location between Europe and Asia made it a hotly contested area during the height of European imperialism in the 19th century. Major quantities of oil were discovered in 1908, yielding a source of wealth and torment that Darius and Alexander could never have dreamed was brewing just below their feet. (realaudio) (MP3)

2) Waiting For The Future: The British formed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1909 to exploit Iran's oil, giving the Iranian government only 16 percent of profits and basically no control of their most valuable national resource. With the importance of oil for the maintenance of the British Empire and the frailty of internal political structures, over the two world wars Iran steadily lost what little sovreignty it had. Out of this humiliation, Mohammad Mossadegh, an elderly statesman, led a ragtag group of disparate parties to power by advocating greater Iranian control of their oil industry. When the British rejected a proposal in 1949 for a 50-50 profit sharing arrangement (similar to one given to the Saudis), calls began to be heard for nationalizing Iran's oil industry. This culminated in Mossadegh's rise to prime minister and his declaration of nationalization on May 1, 1951. That's when the fun started. (realaudio) (MP3)

3) Gunboat Diplomacy: The response from London was swift and vicious. Still recovering from WWII and the independence of India, the British were unprepared to lose the "Crown Jewel" of British Petroleum and the political influence that afforded. As the HMS Mauritius cruised into the Persian Gulf, the British withdrew their workers (effectively stopping production), froze bank assets, and entered agreements with the major international oil companies preventing them from any transactions with the Iranians. Thus, a virtual economic blocade of Iran. (realaudio) (MP3)

4) Fight the Communists: Mossadegh had counted on American support for his efforts and the Truman administration had exerted considerable effort to mediate the situation. But as internal support for Mossadegh's positions wilted under the economic effects of the blocade, he was forced to turn to the fringes of his National Front for support, thus making compromise impossible. When Eisenhower came into office, installing the virulently anti-communist Dulles brothers as Secretary of State and head of the C.I.A., the cold war was well underway. And Mossadegh was about to become one of it's many victims. (realaudio) (MP3)

5) 'Da Shah: Mohammad Reza Palavi was the son of Reza Palavi, who rose to power in 1925 by deposing the Qajar dynasty that had ruled since the 18th century. The elder Palavi's reign in the 20's and 20's was brutal but faltered when the British occupied Iran during WWII and looked down on his earlier support for the Germans. Reza Palavi abdicated to his son in 1941 and went into exile. Mohammad Reza Palavi essentially became a puppet for the British, who used him to legitimize their power in Iran. The Shah was a symbol of British corruption for Mossadegh and his supporters. As the blockade took it's toll, the Shah also became a symbol for the growing anti-Mossadegh movement. As such, the Shah became a key tool for the C.I.A. in it's effort to oust Mossadegh. (realaudio) (MP3)

6) Survive: Mossadegh had built his National Front with a very disparate group of parties that included ultranationalists, neo-Nazi's, religious conservatives and communists. Although he rose to power on oil nationalization, his agenda included socialist land reform and, ultimately, the end of the monarchy. Despite victories over the British in the World Court and at the U.N. the blockade remained. As his support faded in the economic chaos, he took emergency powers in a rigged referendum (with separate ballot boxes for Yes and No). Although this kept him in power, it alienated a power base wary of his dictatorial tactics. In the end, he was left dependent on the Communist party, who supported him more for practical than ideological reasons. But in a land where prime ministers often left office by assassination, he had little choice. (realaudio) (MP3)

7) Sign The Decree: The Shah's role in the C.I.A.'s script was simple: Sign decrees ousting Mossadegh and installing a prime minister that would reverse the nationalization and, thus, end the blockade and the Communist threat. The Shah, however, was a weak-willed and paranoid man with a deep (and understandable) distrust of imperial intentions. Despite numerous meetings with the American ambassador and C.I.A. operatives, he remained reluctant and uncooperative. Facing an untimatum, he signed the decrees on August 13, 1953. (realaudio) (MP3)

8) Long Hot Summer Night: The plot swung into action two days later. Forces of the General leading the coup fanned out at nightfall, arresting government leaders. However, news of the plot reached Mossadegh and with phone lines mysteriously continuing to work, loyal troops were mustered to quell the revolt. The forces sent to arrest Mossadegh, instead found themselves arrested. The Shah fled Tehran for Iraq and then a quiet exile in Rome. (realaudio) (MP3)

9) The Calm Before The Storm: With the coming of the dawn, Mossadegh had dissolved parliament and cemented his control of the military. With control of the media, no news of the Shah's decrees could reach his supporters. Mossadegh assumed his forces had thwarted the coup and, ironically, achieved his ultimate goal of removing the Shah. (realaudio) (MP3)

10) Regroup, Reorder, Restore: At the U.S. Embassy and in Washington there was dispair, but also hope the effort could still succeed if the public could learn that the Shah had removed Mossadegh. As quiet discussions were held with military commanders, a leading cleric was dispatched from Tehran to declare a holy war against Communism. (realaudio) (MP3)

11) Finale: On the morning of August 19, 1953, several papers printed the Shah's decrees. As (hired) pro-Shah and anti-Shah crowds gathered and clashed in the streets, C.I.A. operatives mobilized loyalist security forces who siezed control of key buildings and arrested Mossadegh. By early afternoon, General Zahedi was speaking to the nation over Tehran radio declaring his control over the government. The Shah was rushed back to Tehran and began an iron-fisted reign that would last for 26 years. (realaudio) (MP3)

12) Workin' Fo' The C.I.A.: The Iran operation became a template for similar operations all over the world. The list of C.I.A. installed or supported strongmen reads like a who's who of the twentieth century's most corrupt and despotic dictators. (realaudio) (MP3)

America was, thankfully, victorious in a cold war with a foe committed to our downfall. But much of the price of that success was paid with the blood and misery of millions of people worldwide who made no free choice to support us or had anything significant to gain from our supremecy.

All music and lyrics © 2004 by Michael Minn