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History As It Happens

Aug 29, 2023

Anniversaries have a way of concentrating our minds on important events, but most Americans paid little attention to a certain date in history when it crossed their calendars this month. On August 19, 1953, the CIA toppled Iran’s democratic prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh and installed the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, an event whose consequences haunt U.S.-Iran relations to this day. For Iran, the detested Shah’s rule, backed by billions in U.S. military aid, led to an Islamic Revolution in 1979. For the U.S., the 1953 coup was the first such operation pulled off by the new CIA, which under eight years of the Eisenhower administration perpetrated dozens of covert operations in 48 countries. Meddling in the internal affairs of other nations would become standard U.S. procedure during the Cold War following the “success” of 1953. In this episode, Eurasia Group oil historian Gregory Brew discusses the remarkable series of events that led to Mossadegh’s demise and the enduring relevance of the coup in today's geopolitics.

Note: Excerpts of the documentary COUP 53 are courtesy Amirani Media.