Taghi Amirani on the Legacy of the U.S.-Backed Coup in Iran
Almost 70 years after a U.S.-backed coup deposed Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and replaced him with Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, relations between the two countries remain at a fever pitch.
In the documentary Coup 53, writer and director Taghi Amirani tells the story of how British and American secret agents overthrew Mosaddegh after he nationalized his country’s oil industry, starting a series of events that would eventually enable the rise of the autocratic, U.S.-hating Islamic regime that reigns to this day. Beyond its tragic effects on Iran and the Middle East, Amirani argues that the 1953 coup became the “playbook” for future U.S. covert actions in countries such as Guatemala, Vietnam, and Chile, changing the face of global politics.
In September, Amirani spoke to Reason‘s Nick Gillespie about his film.
Q: You make the case that this is the beginning of a pattern of American foreign policy and intervention throughout the world.
A: Very much so. The CIA was a relatively new organization in 1953. It was a new kid on the block, and it had money, and it was, you know, “We want to play.” And [British intelligence service] MI6 said, “Well, come out and play in Iran. We’ll give you some oil in return, if you help us get our oil back.” On paper, it was a huge success. It was quick. It was cheap. No American lives were lost. Don’t forget at the time America was fighting a hot war in Korea, even considering dropping a nuclear bomb. This was a trouble-free, easy way of changing leaders.
Q: In the film, you talk about how Mosaddegh was essentially a nationalist who didn’t want to have foreign powers meddling in the country.
A: Yeah. At the same time that he was
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