Archive for November 10th, 2008

1954: Hossein Fatemi, before the blowback

11 comments November 10th, 2008 Headsman

At dawn this date in 1954, the last Foreign Minister of democratic Iran was shot in Tehran.

It was a year since the dramatic events of 1953, when a CIA-backed coup d’etat overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh (or Mosaddegh, or Mossadeq, or Mosaddeq) for contemplating oil nationalization.

Over several chaotic days of “Operation Ajax” (or TPAJAX), the Mossadegh government repulsed a first coup attempt, then succumbed to another.

After Mossadegh initially appeared to have maintained his hold on power, the autocratic Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi fled for his life to Iraq and thence to Rome. Fatemi, Mossadegh’s forceful young foreign minister, excoriated the Shah in words that themselves raised the specter of execution.

A traitor is afraid. The day when you, O traitor, heard by the voice of Teheran that your foreign plot had been defeated you made your way to the nearest country where Britain has an embassy. (Quoted in the New York Times.)

Either way, it was high stakes for all concerned in oil country. There’s been contentious debate over the extent to which the affair was also a Cold War proxy conflict — or whether the involvement of the country’s Communist party was incidental, a smokescreen, or an outright stalking-horse for the west.

The coup against Mossadegh has emerged as a major historical turning point — and after the Shah was himself dramatically overthrown in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, not necessarily so successful for American foreign policy goals as it seemed at the time.

Appropriately — in fact, with eerie prescience given the events that then lay a generation in the future — a recently declassified 1954 CIA report on the coup made the first known use of a neologism that has since grown increasingly familiar: blowback.

Possibilities of blowback against the United States should always be in the back of the minds of all CIA officers involved in this type of operation. Few, if any, operations are as explosive as this type.

Maybe those possibilities should be in the front of the mind.

Today, there’s a street named for Fatemi in Tehran, and — strange to say — still some number of Americans who anticipate the greeting due liberators should they ever manage to roll a tank down it.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,History,Iran,Language,Politicians,Shot,Treason,USA

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