New York Times correspondent and author Stephen Kinzer highlighted a coup against led by U.S. and British forces in 1953 Iranian Premier Mohammed Mossadeq as the root of anti-American sentiment and terrorism in the Middle East in a speech Saturday.

“We cannot believe we are able to reshape the world and change everything the way we like,” Kinzer said to a full audience of Georgetown students and members of the Washington, D.C. community in Reiss 103.

Kinzer spoke about, and then signed copies of his newly published book, All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror.

The book details the1953 U.S.-British organized coup against the democratically elected premier of Iran, Mohammed Mossadeq, which led to monarchial rule under Shah Reza Pahlavi, who received U.S. support and was largely viewed as a puppet of Western governments, according to Kinzer. Distrust and hate toward the shah ultimately led to the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and to the current religious regime.

“Not only are most Americans not aware of how important this 1953 coup was, but they’re not even aware that it happened,” Kinzer said.

Mossadeq had enraged the British by nationalizing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and the British convinced their American counterparts to join the operation claiming that Mossadeq had Communist tendencies. Kinzer compared the personalities involved to those of a James Bond film.

“This is so much more than a story about international relations, it is really a very melodramatic, very exciting spy story.”

Among the notable players in the event were President Eisenhower, Winston Churchill and Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, who was the primary CIA operative in Iran.

Fariba Amini, who introduced Kinzer, was the son of the mayor of Tehran during the Mossadeq era and a close confidant of the Premier. “[Mossadeq] was and remains the most admired politician in Iran not only by the old generation, but even today by the new generation,” Amini said.

Mossadeq, however, plays a complicated role for the Islamic government – his status as a nationalist figure is undeniable, but his record of being a democratic and secular leader is contradictory to the current regime.

“I felt like I was resurrecting, in a way, the figure of a man who at one time shook the world, but couldn’t be appreciated at the time because the world had not evolved to the point at which he was thinking,” Kinzer said.

Later, he tied the events of 1953 to current world events, rhetorically asking the audience how the Middle East would have developed differently had democracy been allowed to prosper in Iran.

“The Iran operation was the template for everything that followed,” he said. “It was what sent the United States into the `regime change’ business.”

During the question and answer session that followed the speech, Bahman Batmanghelidj, who was 16 years old and vacationing in Iran at the time of the coup, laid much of the responsibility with the British government.

“As far as I’m concerned from what I’ve studied the last 45 years, America is like putty in British hands,” he said, referring both to the events of 1953 as well as the recent American reliance on British intelligence as justification for the Iraqi war. Several Georgetown students were scattered among the largely Iranian-American audience that vocalized its support for Kinzer’s comments throughout the speech.

“It was obviously a very personal book for [Kinzer] and that came through in the speech,” Lucas Wittmann (COL ’07) said.

Maryam Iman (COL ’06), president of the Georgetown University Iranian Student Alliance in America, who helped organize the event, said that Kinzer’s speech helped to create a non-partisan political debate on campus concerning Iran.

“It’s important because people from all different backgrounds can participate in activities that might contradict what their parents believe,” she said.

The event was sponsored by the ISAA and Pejvak, an online Iranian-American community.

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