America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present by John Ghazvinian - review by David Blow

David Blow

Best of Enemies

America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present


Oneworld 688pp £35

This book provides a fairly damning indictment of American policy towards Iran from at least the time of the CIA-backed coup of 1953, which saw the overthrow of the Iranian nationalist prime minister Mohammad Mosaddeq. The coup shattered the hopes Iranians had placed in the United States that it would not behave like Britain and Russia, which had dominated Iran and interfered in its affairs from the early 19th century. Britain, in fact, was the chief instigator of the coup, having failed to get Mosaddeq to rescind his nationalisation of the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. It managed to persuade the strongly anti-communist Eisenhower that if Mosaddeq remained in power there was a real risk of a communist takeover, given the size of the Iranian communist movement, though that was a possibility that even British intelligence discounted. The coup ended a brief and turbulent period of democratic politics in Iran and had a devastating impact on the country. As John Ghazvinian says, ‘a generation that had adored America … quickly grew to hate it.’

The coup ushered in the authoritarian regime of Mohammad Reza Shah, the second and last ruler from the Pahlavi dynasty, who maintained a close relationship with the United States. Since his overthrow in the Islamic Revolution of 1978–9, relations between the two countries have been characterised by mistrust, misunderstanding and,

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

A Mirror - Westend

Follow Literary Review on Twitter