All The Shah’s Men is a popular work that many students have to write book reports on. It talks about how justice triumphed in the middle east amidst a period of extreme turmoil and aggression. See the following sample book report to read a comprehensive review and analysis of the work.
Economic and Ideological Goals: All The Shah’s Men
In writing All the Shah’s Men, Stephen Kinzer takes the reader through a historical outline of the 1953 Iranian coup d’état in which the CIA aided British forces in overtaking Mohammed Mossadegh’s regime. Throughout his analysis, the themes of political ideology, economics and international diplomacy are recurrent. Kinzer offers different levels of analysis from a domestic Iranian point of view all the way to what was going on in Washington. The inherent struggle for military commitment from the US on behalf of Great Britain was ultimately rooted in the oil industry that Mossadegh was nationalizing. Ultimately, the US caved into international pressure from Great Britain and aided in Operation Ajax to overthrow the Iranian leader and re-install the Shah as its rightful leader. In his final analysis, Kinzer argued that while it is inconclusive whether the threat of communism was a realistic threat for intervention, the whole ordeal resulted in tensions and negative diplomatic relations amongst the US, Great Britain and Iran.
Kinzer began by quickly summarizing the events that took place both domestically in Iran and internationally surrounding the revolution. In the beginning, the relationship between Iran and GB was an economically beneficial for the Brits. It was only until that the Iranian leader retracted on his business operations with Britain that “they demonized the colonialist oppressor that exploited them” (Kinzer, 2). In essence, the problem was that Mossadegh tried to throw the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) out of the nation for monopolizing the industry. This was an effort to avoid foreign power and control over one of the most abundant middle-eastern resources, oil. Consequently, Britain asked the US to intervene on their behalf because the US had emerged as a superpower along with Russia after WWII. Unfortunately for Britain, “Truman, however, sympathized viscerally with the nationalist movements like the one Mossadegh led” (Kinzer, 2). The US was reluctant to enter another conflict that did not offer much gain to the US’s foreign policy agenda.
The United States Intervenes
As Eisenhower came to office, the possible threat of communist expansion prompted the US to aid Operation Ajax, and overthrow the Iranian leader. In rationalizing that the Soviet Union would target the unstable nation as part of its ‘red expansion,’ Eisenhower assembled a team of CIA operatives that was labeled as “doing vital dirty work of freedom” (4). Kinzer also offered some detailed background information about the problem of foreign companies conducting exploitive business in Iran. As country assets were sold, like the tobacco industry for 15000 pounds and the oil industry, Iranians were essentially being compromised of their nation’s resources. When Reza Shah was in office, he had a reputation of stealing money and land from local businesses. He imposed brutality that left Iran in a weak economic and diplomatic position at the conclusion of WWII (46). Consequently, Mossagedh ran for office in 1943 and succeeded in overtaking the throne. After his formidable enemy, the Shah, was conquered, the tyrannical leader turned his attention toward the British and their lucrative oil industry.
The intervention and military involvement of the US stemmed from sour Iranian-US relations, communist fears and economic interests. Mossadegh argued vehemently that the US “once upheld moral principles but was wilting in the face of British pressure” (100). As Eisenhower was elected into office, he willingly accepted involvement on behalf of GB. Not only would this aid their Atlantic counterpart, help stop the potential spread of communism but also gain entry into the middle-east’s lucrative oil industry. Consequently, while the first coup failed, the team of CIA agents as well as Brits was successful four days later (166). They utilized propaganda, the press and local mobs to encourage domestic instability in Iran. As the streets were turned into battlegrounds for a new leader to come in, the CIA succeeded and Mossadegh was forced into house arrest for the remainder of his life.
A Quasi-Victory for America
The aftermath did not prove entirely successful in all aspects of victory. Indeed, American corporations held a 40% stake in AIOC afterwards while Britain retained 40% as well (193). Unfortunately, relations between Iran and the US soured. Continued domestic uproar and hatred towards the US/GB continued throughout the next thirty years. Even the man who led the campaign, Kermit Roosevelt, warned that “the CIA should not take his success in Iran to mean that it could now overthrow governments at will” (202). Despite the overwhelming success of the operation, Kinzer did not directly conclude that the Soviet’s would have even intervened and taken political control of Iran if the US had not intervened. Nonetheless, these valiant efforts seemed to have been done in vain as by the 1979 Iranian revolution, the US slowly realized that its presence was not welcomed or wanted by Iranians. The legacy remained that while the US played an integral role in aiding Iran realize democratic ideals, the US did not simultaneously gain lasting influence or approval for their actions (evident by the nuclear crisis in 2015). Kinzer went as far as to suggest that Operation Ajax was on the earlier precursors to the Islamic revolution in 1979 and the eventual world conflict as a result of the terrorist attacks of the World Trade Center.
In relation to our studies in class, the shaping of American foreign policy during the cold war period was extremely relevant. It is noteworthy to mention that it was not until Eisenhower came into office that any action occurred on behalf of the United States. Despite the positive relationship between GB and United States during WWI and WWII, Truman was extremely apprehensive in taking military action. It was only when Eisenhower came into office and the potential threat of communist expansion came into the picture that the threat was actualized and then acted upon. Indeed, America did take an international protectionist role in defending democracy and stopping the spread of communism. As Eastern Europe fell under the Iron Curtain and China was adopted communist values, Eisenhower’s regime felt that it was imperative that the US implemented its foreign policy values and ideals. Consequently, the US did end up giving the Shah and his regime over one billion dollars of financial support throughout the revolution period and afterwards (203). US foreign policy did play a central role in shaping the outcome of the Iranian conflict. Despite this, Kinzer clarified in the latter portion of his book that it is not entirely clear that Stalin was a serious threat. After his death in 1953, the Soviet Union took a much less aggressive approach in foreign policy. Whether this makes the US effort in vain with regards to foreign policy is still a question that looms to be answered.
Indicative of a Post-War Economic Boom
However, the events are relevant in terms of a booming United States economy in the post WWII era. As the oil reserves and industry of the middle-east was both lucrative and profitable, it was a rational move in terms of economics. Great Britain clearly held personal interest in the whole affair because they had been effectively monopolizing the oil industry through their oil company, eventually renamed British Petroleum (BP). This was why the Iranians labeled the British as acting in an imperialist nature towards them. Nonetheless, the US gained economically from the whole ordeal. After gaining 40% ownership of the company among five different United States corporations, domestic economic goals were accomplished, albeit they may have been utterly unintended. This accurately reflects the US legacy of capitalism and free markets. Just as the open door policy in China opened up trade across the Pacific, this was yet another way for the US to develop its international economy as well. Therefore, the content of the book related to and supported the class material we studied relating to US superiority, both economically and diplomatically. Finally, US initiatives surrounding military intervention to stop the potential spread of communism abroad also coincided with our class material.
Surely, this book is very well suited for a community college level class. Merely learning facts and dates offers only minimal insight into truly understanding US history on a comprehensive level. While lectures and textbooks offer first rate and objective background information, anecdotal evidence examined by other authors is a much better opportunity to tie all the themes together and even critically asses the interpretations offered by other scholars. In analyzing some primary source content supplemented by work of a secondary scholar, students can take the information and craft their own argument. I strongly believe that the book offers a wealth of both primary and secondary information that helped me better grasp American history from a world view perspective as well. While American economic interests in oil was not explicitly listed as a motivating factor for Eisenhower to intervene on GB’s behalf, it was nonetheless a great theme that I was able to connect by reading the argument of another author. Moreover, the book did not delve too deep for an introductory level history class. While I did achieve a comprehensive and detailed view of the situation, my reading was not entirely focused on one specific aspect of it. Instead, I was able to synthesize multiple perspectives on diverse issues associated with the revolution, but most importantly communism, economic interests, America’s protectionist role and Britain’s end of imperialism.
In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. Primarily, the author did not exclusively take a pro-US perspective from which there was any clear bias. The information regarding the background and history of the Shah and Iran was extremely important and meaningful for me to fully understand what was actually going on. The historical account presented in All the Shah’s Men offered a very through perspective in detailing all of the relevant background and actions that had to take place in order for the coup d’état to even take place. Something that I had not expected to learn and did was the notion that unintended consequences are always something that need to be considered. Even though Iran did not fully idealize a democracy, the US gained an economic presence in the middle-east that was meaningful for the future of the country. These kinds of consequences did a very thorough job in helping me understand the decision making process that Eisenhower had to go through before aiding GB.
Kinzer, Stephen. (2003) All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.