History lesson

Imagine the following: It’s 1953, and new president Dwight Eisenhower is in office. But Ike and his cabinet are unhappy about something. Many of the gigantic oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico are owned by Iranco, an enormous Iranian oil company. Iranco has been working the Gulf for years, shipping loads of petroleum back to its home country, racking up huge profits and paying an extremely low price for the privilege. Ike is tired of putting up with what is a raw deal for America.

So Eisenhower announces that the oil properties owned and operated by Iranco will be nationalized, which means that those bountiful oil fields will now be owned by the U.S. government. If Iranco wants a piece of the action, they’re going to have to negotiate with the Americans on this radically different new turf, and it’s obvious we want a much better deal.

Only Iranco doesn’t feel like playing ball in this new park. Not in the slightest. So the aggressive Iranian government, working through its powerful intelligence agency, engineers a coup of the American government. This is done within a matter of weeks via an extensive system of bribes to politicians, media, influential religious figures and street gangs, leading to a quickly brewed atmosphere of social, political and economic chaos. At the height of the confusion, Eisenhower and his cabinet are taken prisoner and then flown out of Washington to a neutral country. To maintain order, the Iranians install a new leader, The Boss, a man whose orders are enforced by a ruthless new police force. These new cops quickly become notorious for their methods, which include storming the homes of suspected dissidents in the middle of the night and taking them away. These people are, for the most part, never heard from again. The Boss rules the United States in a way that is, to no one’s surprise, very favorable to Iranco. He does so for 25 years until finally, a revolutionary coalition of various Christian factions rises up and forces him out of office and out of the country.

OK, so what’s the point of this fantasy? Simply this. It’s not a fantasy. What I’ve described actually happened in ‘53. Just reverse the players. The U.S., in close concert with the Brits (the oil company that was nationalized was British, the company today known as British Petroleum) planned, funded and orchestrated the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran, fronted by CIA point man Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of Teddy. This isn’t shadowy conspiracy theory. It’s all well-documented and well-known. (Read Overthrow: A Century of American Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq by Stephen Kinzer). You want hardball? There ya go. Uncle Sam, playin’ for keeps: We toppled the Iranian government and installed our own bastard king, the Shah, and it sure as hell wasn’t done to liberate anybody. Iranians, generally, know this. Americans, generally, don’t. It’s an important piece of history to be aware of as the United States, U.K., and Iran now banter, spar and rattle their sabers.