**Please note that historical events have been reconstructed as accurately as possible. Every event in Iran’s timeline is important; however, “lesser” events have been left out for the purpose of brevity.**
I was twelve when the Iranian people revolted against The Shah. The details are murky; as most boys, there were far more important things happening right in my own backyard. The poignant memory for me is in that general time-period, a yellow ribbon was tied around a tree in our front yard. A yellow ribbon, hung in protest, for American citizens being held as prisoners. In 1979, Iranian extremists stormed the US Embassy in Tehran, seizing the Embassy as well as fifty-two Americans hostages. They were held for 444 Days. The assault on our embassy occurred roughly within a year of the revolution that ousted the Shah of Iran. The same Shah that was put into power by joint US-British intelligence in 1953.
It’s vital to note that Hollywood “good guys” & “bad guys” do not exist in this political mashup; the Iranian government and people mistrust and dislike Americans for reasons easily forgotten by US citizens. Time tends to erase the memory of “insignificant” events, and to the American people, our government was acting righteously, fighting the rise of Communism in the world. In 1950, the US entered into the Korean Conflict (The Korean War) on the side of the non-Communist South. Korea had been divided since the end of World War II, when the Japanese, who had been ruling Korea since 1910, surrendered to both the Soviet Union and United States simultaneously. To avoid conflict, the US and USSR divided Korea along the 38th Parallel. A Communist faction took control of North Korea in 1946, while South Korea set up a rival republic. The United States and Soviet Union, once allies against Adolf Hitler’s Germany, squared-off as adversaries.
In the last hundred years, Iran’s history, much like our own history a century earlier, has been heavily impacted by the British. Without going into overt detail, the British have had a presence in the Middle East since the early 1900’s. In a region constantly afflicted with change, The Ottoman Empire (Turkish Empire) held much of the land now known as the Middle East prior to World War I. There was no sovereign state of Israel…the Jewish people were scattered across the globe, just as foretold in the Bible. Iran was known as Persia, and Mesopatamia was still a place on the map. Due to some Ottoman military defeats and the borrowing of money from western nations, foreign powers were granted “zones of influence.” Britain was in Egypt, the French held Lebbanon and Syria, and the Russians were interested in Armenia. Italy and Austria-Hungary also had territory. Ruled by a Sultan, the Empire’s population was around 25 million when a group known as the Young Turks ousted the Sultan and resisted his attempt to re-establish power in 1908/1909.
Enter Germany. Turkey had requested that Germany aid in the reformation and modernization of it’s army following the Balkan Wars in 1912 and 1913 due to the army’s poor abilities at fighting and sustaining itself. Fearful of Russian expansion, when World War I broke out, Turkey sided with Germany, against not only Russia, but Britain as well.
This history would not have much significance if it weren’t for the discovery of vast quantities of oil around the same period. Concessions were granted to other nations to extract the oil, and the capitalization of the Middle East had begun. There were other periods of unrest, turmoil and war ( including World War II) that affected all present-day nations in the region, but for our intent, fast-forward to 1950.
Iran was led by Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq, a democratically-elected Prime Minister. Seeking to nationalize Iran’s oil industry from the British, and with heavy leanings toward Communist Russia, Mosaddeq concerned both the British and US governments. As the the world’s superpowers entered into The Cold War period, intelligence agencies such as the CIA, MI6, and Russian KGB were formed and covert operations that would forever alter the future were launched. Mossadeq succeeded in reclaiming Iran’s vast natural resource, an act which nearly resulted in open war between Britain and Iran. (The British company drilling in Iran became known as British Petroleum, or BP.) Instead, Britain labored to enlist the United States in an early coup of Mosaddeq. President Truman, already in committed conflict with Russian-backed North Korea, declined. Two years later, President Eisenhower was elected and Operation Ajax, a joint MI6 and CIA effort, aided (and funded) one of Mosaddeq’s former Generals, Fazlollah Zahedi in the overthrow of the Iranian governement. It was the CIA’s first covert operation against a foreign adversary.
The year was 1953, and the United States of America, supposed champion of fairness and Democray, staunch foe to Socialist and Communist regimes, had overthrown the ruler of a Democratic nation, propelling Iran back to it’s former state of government: Tyranny. Although it wasn’t realized at the time, the impact of this single event would ruin the United States’ credibility in the Middle East. Worse, an infection feeding on the living flesh of religious belief would spread, poisoning the entire body. Fundamental extremists, like white blood cells, would rise up to fight the source of the infection, and tear the fabric of the world.
I started writing this series for two reasons: The first being that I saw the video of Neda’s death and was profoundly impacted. The second was the realization that, in regard to Iran, my perceptions were formed by sound bytes.