Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Very well written and attractive book that is clearly based on the kind of research missing in most work by journalists, and shows the world there are still intelligent Americans who can think for themselves.
At first I was sceptical of the author's claim that the CIA-organised coup against Iran's elected premier in 1953 was the "root" of today's political Islam. But the more I thought about it, the more convincing his thesis is.
The US and the British did set out in the 1950s to crush movements for self-determination in the "developing world", and the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh did set a precedent for coups elsewhere, especially in Latin America.
It's also sobering that the 1953 coup came before the undermining of Nasser, before Castro, before Fanon. Taken together, such efforts played an important part in undermining nationalist leaders who wanted good if "equal" relations with the West, and so helped produce the hardliners who came later, including political Islam (which of course the west for so long encouraged).
All the Shah's Men has a very telling quote from Ali Khamenei, now Iran's supreme leader - "We are not liberals like Mossadegh and Allende who can easily be overthrown".
Highly recommended .
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 27 August 2006
This book does not talk about only Iranian history in 20th century but also the dramatic change in American foreign policy during 1950s. It takes Iran as a case study to explain American inverventionist foreign policy and this policy's negative impacts on the democratisation process of the developing nations. The story of Iran's legendary politician, Mohammad Mossadegh, who put a big fight for democracy in his country, is portrayed righteously in a very dramatic way by the author. It is a landmark book to understand the current shortcomings of Iran as a non-secular state. It also gives hints about the roots of terror coming from the Middle East. The author claims that the roots of today's terorism (including Al-Qaeda) lie partly with the American coup at Iran. I think it is a forced conclusion because Al-Qaeda, as well as many other terorist groups, are linked to Saudi finances. He does not explain this contradiction.

Afterwards, I read a biography of Mossadegh from an Iranian author and the stories match perfectly. Kinzer basically used Mossadegh's life as an input to portray the negative impacts of American interventionist foreign policy. A "must read" material about the 20th century Middle East history. This book grew in me after reading it and now I keep it as a reference book in my library.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
What this book may lack in depth it more than makes up for in being so readable and accessible. America and the UK conspired in 1953 to overthrow a democratic government in Iran - the Americans, under Eisenhower, becuase they were fixated with a supposed threat from Soviet Russia, and the British because they didn't want to lose the massive profits they and the Anglo-Iranian oil company were making from an industry that Iran's prime minister Mohammed Moassadeq had convinced the Iranian parliament to nationalise.
Kinzer argues that it could have been different - Truman after all was having none of it - and he recalls Morgan Shuster, the American who helped the administration of Iran's fledgling constitutional revolution earlier in the century.
But the 1953 coup set a precedent - as Kinzer draws out well - for US-sponsored coups elsewhere, set up the Shah as Iran's dictator and, well, the rest is history. As Ali Khamenei, now Iran's supreme leader, said: "We are not liberals like Mossadeq and Allende whom they can easily push aside".
Good tale, well told, but with a deeply serious subject matter.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The law of unexpected consequences is an exercise that retropsective history studies allows us to savour and see what lessons can be learnt for the future. This book is an exceptional example of that approach since while focussing on an event in the early 1950s, it allows an overview of the major outcomes some 50 years later.

Since the case involves Iran the more recent evolution into an Islamic Republic and its strong anti-US stance is well known. What this book covers in a very well written and structured overview benefitting from recent US government documents and increased academic research on the subject,is how the post WWII US (anti-communist) and UK (retention of control of oil production and supplies) national interests became embroiled in overthrowing another country's democratic government which had challenged the basis on which their national resources were being exploited and the re-installation of the more friendly Shah as supreme ruler. The ramifications of that policy 50 years later in terms of Iran's depiction of the USA as "the great satan" and the rise of Islamic fundementalism in the void of democratic regimes in the Middle East have many of their roots in this story.

The book succeeds on many levels and weaves together many strands including:

a good short analysis of Iran's history and why incompetent and corrupt rulers had created the exploitative situation of its national oil resources by a UK company that existed post WWII layered onto a society that in its legacy was very different from many other Middle East countries and in Mohammad Reza Shah had a young ruler whose indecisiveness and strong belief in his need to wholly control the armed forces to survive, set the seal on his whole future;

the role of how that UK company (Anglo-Persian Oil Company) by being totally intransigent in negotiating with the democratically elected Iranian government and following a stubborn old style imperial mindset stood to lose everything under the subsequent Iranian nationalisation;

how that error was compounded by incompetent UK government ministers and diplomats (such as the unworldly Herbert Morrison as Foreign Minister under Atlee) or devious tactics (Churchill and Eden exploiting on the election of Eisenhower the anti-communist card to propose a coup to largely serve UK financial interests);

the USA's move from the initial Truman government's strong support post WWII for strong new national governments being the best bulwark against communism and large effort being devoted to applying pressure on the UK, which then all dramatically shifted with the election of Eisenhower on an anti-communist ticket. His letting the Dulles brothers in their CIA and Secretary of State roles move to inserting a US operative (the resourceful Kermit Roosevelt) to assume control of and finance the long running UK founded Iranian network to overthrow the Iranian government by fostering street riots, led to a precedent which was to then be used by the CIA several times in many other less developed countries over the next two decades;and,

finally the star of the book Mohammad Mossadegh, a man from a high ranking Iranian family who by being well educated and an international legal background was able to not only garner the support of his people for his policies in a way that Iran had not experienced before but on the interntational stage proved more than a match for the UK, especially before the UN Assembly. However those same visionary qualities as is well shown also held the seeds of his destruction since his lack of pragmatism in negotiating a deal with the UK or exercising of realpolitik when fed information as to the tactics being applied by Iranian royalists and the UK and USA against his government and unwillingness to make some hard calls, let others quickly undermine his authority by creating a perception of anarchy and communist involvement (even though it took two attempts over a week!).

While it is easy with the gift of retrospect to see everything panning out as it did subsequently happen, what this book demonstrates is that the Truman government policy which was pursued with great effort at the time has been vindicated and the claimed communist threat was risible even at the time based on then known facts to the US (sadly one missing area as the author admits is any release of Soviet documents from that period).

While I think the book is finally light on its criticism of Eisenhower (whose ongoing lack of interest in CIA activities was fatal to later international developments) and Eden (who when he was UK Prime Minister after Churchill attempted a similar approach over the 1956 Suez Canal crisis but failed to get US support and had to resign), these are small points.

What this great book sadly teaches us is the key lesson of the folly of major powers trying to build nations that are friendly and subservient to their sponsoring government will always have limited lives due to national interests re-asserting themselves eventually - the publishing of this book as the USA (& to a lesser extent the UK) try and build a "friendly" Iraq from the current turmoil in 2006 indicate that lesson has not yet been wholly learnt.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I cannot praise this book too highly, it has pace, tension and a wonderful clarity and should be an object lesson for modern authors who are addicted to over weighty tomes.
This excellent book by the New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer takes us on a step by step retelling of the British and American coup in Iran that served to topple the democratic and liberal prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. Mossadegh had nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in order to retrieve Iran's oil wealth for the benefit of his country and this was implacably opposed by Britain. The new American administration of President Eisenhower sympathised with the British view and acquiesced in the CIA determination to complete the overthrow and install a Western-centric leader.
Kinzer, whilst keeping us at the side of the CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt, takes time to lucidly sketch in the religious and political history of Iran and then returns to the pell-mell story of the plot. The author goes on to discuss the modern consequences of the British and CIA actions. This book should be required reading for those who have difficulty understanding the present anti-American and anti-British attitude of the government of Iran and their distrust of Western values. An exciting and fascinating read for those interested in our relationship to the Middle East.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 20 August 2003
Kinzer writes an excellent book. A good history of Iran precedes the actual details of the CIA sponsored coup in 1953. The actual coup reads like a John Le Carre Thriller.
The irony of America overthrowing a democratically elected government and replacing it with a dictatorship is considerable given their current activities in "bringing democracy to the middle east".
Kinzer draws a line from the '53 coup through the '79 Iranian revoloution to Hamas, Hezbollah, and the destruction of the World Trade Centre that is probably a little tenuous. But his analysis does show why America has so many problems with trust and image in the Middle East.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 15 October 2003
I found this book a very interesting read. This is particulary good for those who would like to have a crash course of Persian history. The facts presented in the book can certainly help to understand some of the problems of Middle East and inside Iran in a historic point of view. The only downside of the book I've found was the mistakes in Persian names and locations. Although they were few but perhaps a better review by some Persian speakers could have prevented them.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I fully recommended this book to anyone with an interest in the Middle East or fellow students.

Writing style:
Lots of primary sources have been used and quoted, which is used effectively, however, can have the effect of making it a bit tougher to read through. This is due to the changes in writing styles but well worth the effort. Over all this a quite easy read and highly enjoyable.

Chapters:
I enjoyed the chapter names being quotes used somewhere within the chapter. It was an excellent touch to the book. Chapters were excellent, with none being unnecessary or lacking focus.

Overview:
The book is an enjoyable read. As well as very enlightening, well worth the read. Gave me an excellent insight into the history of Iran, this has giving current events in Iran the historically context that is required to fully understand the situation.

5/5 - I fully recommend this to anyone with an interest in politics.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2013
In "All the Shah's Men" Stephen Kinzer tells the story of an American-led coup in Iran in 1953 that unseated the government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and allowed the Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, to establish a repressive dictatorship that was `friendly' to Western powers.

This is a story that has been told by several other writers whom Kinzer acknowledges. In addition, he draws on information released in 2000 by the US Government which sheds further light on how the coup was orchestrated by the CIA.

In first quarter of the twentieth century a British geologist carrying out test drilling discovered massive oil reserves in southern Iran which led to the formation of the Anglo Iranian Oil Company and the construction of the world's largest oil refinery at Abadan. Notwithstanding its name, the company was entirely British owned and managed, with the British government possessing a 51 per cent share of the stock. The deal negotiated with the (then) Shah of Iran may well have been the bargain of the century from the British point of view - it was an extremely profitable venture. The British management of the Anglo Iranian Oil Company had an entrenched 19th Century outlook that reeked of imperialism at its most blatant. The company was determined throughout to keep the lion's share of the company's profits and to do the barest minimum to improve the lot of their Iranian employees.

This situation understandably bred considerable anti-British feeling among politically minded Iranians and following WW2 nationalist and democratic sentiment gained ground forcing Shah Mohammed Reza to make his government more representative of popular will. Mohammed Mossadegh emerged as the dominant personality in the Iranian parliament and in May 1951 the Shah was obliged to accept him as Prime Minister.

Mossadegh and his supporters wanted to renegotiate the deal with the Anglo Iranian Oil Company to give his country and company employees a fairer share of profits. Because of intransigence on both sides the long drawn-out negotiations came to nothing: the British decided Mossadegh would have to go and Mossadegh himself was determined that the assets of the Anglo Iranian Oil Company should be nationalised.

A British plot to depose Mossadegh was hatched but before it could be implemented the Iranian parliament voted to expel all British diplomats from Iran. Oil production at the Abadan refinery came to a standstill when Mossadegh went ahead with nationalisation measures: British employees were sent home and there were no Iranian technicians capable of operating the plant. The British government used all its considerable financial political and legal muscle to attempt to force the Iranian government into submission, but to no avail.

An opportunity to enlist American support arose when Eisenhower succeeded Truman as President in 1953. Truman had steadfastly refused to intervene in Iran in support of British imperialism; Eisenhower, however, agreed to help the British with `regime change' in Iran because he feared that otherwise the country could be susceptible to a Communist take-over.

The CIA-led coup was successful; the Shah - who had fled the country, fearing that all was lost - was restored to his throne with the implicit promise of American support. Key plotters were rewarded with plum jobs and American companies were able to buy into the Anglo Iranian Oil Company as a reward for American support. Mossadegh served a 3-year term of imprisonment and was subsequently placed under house arrest for the remainder of his life. The Shah consolidated his power base through control of the army and the police force including his much-feared secret police, SAVAK. Nascent democracy in Iraq expired in 1953 and the Shah's regime lasted until 1979 when it was overthrown by the Islamic revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini.

Stephen Kinzer has written a very readable and well-researched book. I should have liked to see footnotes included in the text so that references could easily be followed-up, but there are detailed notes provided for each chapter of the book. A timeline listing key events would also have been useful. Four stars.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2012
Kinzer's wonderful book informs us of an important but forgotten chapter of modern Middle Eastern history - the overthrow of Iran's only democratic government in 1953. The coup may have been American, but its roots, as the author carefully recounts, were very much British. How many people here, I wonder, even know the basic details of the story? How many people know that Iran's efforts to achieve a democracy were thwarted, primarily because its Prime Minister, Mossadegh, nationalised the country's oil, taking it out of Anglo-Iranian Oil's (now BP) hands? I certainly didn't, before hearing about this book, and the vast majority still don't, I am sure. This is a travesty, especially considering Iran is back in the news again, this time with the threat(?) of creating a nuclear bomb. For this reason alone, Kinzer's book deserves to be read by as many people as possible.

Then again, I also can't help wonder if that is precisely the reason why Kinzer's story is not being widely reported. Just as the media rarely reported Britain and America's shameful past in Iraq in the run-up to the 2003 war, so they are again failing to remind us of previous Anglo-American crimes in Iran. Those who still hold notions of the British Empire as a largely benign institution will be shocked when they read how ruthlessly the Iranian people were treated well before the coup - given a scant proportion of the profits made from their own oil, while workers were kept in appalling conditions. It is therefore not surprising that before 1953, Britain was far more unpopular in Iran than the United States, and probably still is to this day. Before then, America had held a lot of sympathy for the Iranians who felt they were being exploited by Anglo-Iranian Oil, and Harry Truman resisted the British government's pleas for American support in punishing or displacing Mossadegh over his actions. That all changed when Eisenhower assumed the throne, and Britain decided to play on conservative America's fears of communist takeovers, and did everything to convince them that Mossadegh's regime posed such a danger.
A modern reader can't help wonder if we are now seeing the same occur with all the talk about Iran's nuclear threat.

The more liberal minded readers of this book (who I imagine will make up its vast majority) may also be surprised to learn it was Clement Attlee's Labour government who made the first calls for intervention in Iran. Kinzer notes more than once the irony that while Attlee's government were fervent about nationalising British institutions, they were much less supportive when Iran did the same to oil owned by a British company. It certainly challenges the widely held view that Tony Blair betrayed his party's ideals by going venturing into the Middle East. No, Attlee didn't go that far, but he almost certainly would have done, had he secured American support.

That American support eventually came when Churchill became PM again, and Eisenhower President; support that turned into an outright American coup. Churchill may be (rightly) portrayed as one the villains in this story, but at least he got one thing right when he said - "The one thing we have learned from history is that we never learn anything from it." All the Shah's Men shows he was undeniably, and sadly, correct.

The book may be slim, but it's meaning and implications are profound. Its brevity also means we don't get bogged down with fact after fact like in so many history tomes. Kinzer gets to the point, tells us what we need to know, and keeps the story interesting. The only drawback is the epilogue. As others have pointed out, the author perhaps goes too far when he argues a line could be drawn from the 1953 coup all the way to 9/11. So many differing events and causes happened in between those two events, that even if his claim is true, it's almost impossible to prove or disprove. That is only a slight drawback though, and it doesn't stop the book from being essential reading for anyone who wants to understand a crucial piece of modern Middle Eastern history, and place it in today's context.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this item also viewed

Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic
Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic by Michael Axworthy (Paperback - 27 Mar. 2014)
£8.79

 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.