Not long before Oscar night I watched, and thoroughly enjoyed, the movie Argo. So I was glad to hear Mr. Ben Affleck, a Boston area native, won an Oscar for his film.
My enjoyment of the film was partly diminished, though, by the historical narrative at the film’s beginning.
A brief sketch regarding Iran’s pre 1979/1980 history was necessary for the audience, and effective as a foundation from which the story could be told. But exclusionary bias, which is all too familiar in mainstream media, casts a pall over the actions and reputation of the United States, setting a negative tone. The viewer is nudged to think: “What a shame this happened….if only the U.S. had acted honorably in the first place.” Here is just some of what I mean.
The movie informs us:
•The people of Iran elected the secular democrat Mohammed Mossadeq Prime Minister in 1950.
•Mossadeq nationalized British and U.S. oil holdings returning this resource to the people of Iran.
•The U.S. and U.K. engineered a coup that deposed Mossadeq and installed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as Shah.
First on points of fact:
Mossadeq was not Prime Minister in 1950. He did not become Prime Minister until 1951. The Prime Minister in 1950 was a man named Haj-Ali Razmara. Razmara, incidentally, was assassinated by a member of the fundamentalist Fadayan-e Islam. He was killed, partly, for opposing nationalization of Iran’s oil resources. The Shah nominated Mossadeq to be Prime Minister after Razmara’s death. He was elected by members of the Majlis (or Iran’s parliament). Mossadeq promptly nationalized the oil industry.
The movie omits the fact that the U.S. and U.K. were not the only players involved in the coup.
Fariborz Mokhtari may have communicated this idea best when he wrote the following for the Middle East Journal:
“Fifty-five years ago a coup d'état ended Prime Minister Muhammad Mosaddeq's government in Iran on August 19, 1953. Numerous books and articles have analyzed the event but often have overlooked Iran's domestic dynamics. What is presented is nearly always a conspiracy theory that suggests American and British masters of intrigue subverted Iran entirely through their shady operators….A review of the coup and what precipitated it may offer some needed clarity.”
Some clarity is gained via a search of George Washington University’s National Security Archive. Such a search reveals a substantial role played by Iranian clerics in removing Mossadeq from power.
On points of analysis:
The movie would have one believe Mossadeq was some pure and honorable statesman elected to office by popular vote. A more complete story and an objective analysis of facts will cast suspicion and doubt on the purity of Mossadeq’s character.
First, to nationalize something basically means the government steals from private industry with little to no proper compensation. To say Mossadeq returned Iran’s oil resources to its people is a quasi-Marxist statement that really means nothing for those same people. We should ask the Venezuelan people how the nationalization of their oil industry in 1976, and further under Hugo Chavez, has worked out for them.
The facts of history demonstrate that Mossadeq’s ascendancy was hardly the result of a fair and honest nation-wide vote.
I should think the circumstances surrounding Razmara’s death would make Mossadeq person of interest number one.
Lastly GWU’s National Security Archive reveals further evidence shaking the claim that Mossadeq was a leader who held true to democratic principles:
“…Mossadeq’s Iran was not moving toward democracy. The Prime Minister’s increasing political isolation and the fragmentation of the National Front…had weakened his position and made him desperate. His dictatorial grab for power from the Majlis alienated his former allies and gained him new political enemies…”
To point out the obvious, this article is by no means a complete and authoritative account regarding the history of the events leading up to the 1953 Iranian coup. There is still much to learn and analyze.
The point is that in the court of opinion, Hollywood insists on finding the U.S. guilty. They do so by omitting inconvenient facts, producing flimsy evidence, and utilizing biased analysis.