Most of us would love to see more democracy in the nations of the world. Just suppose the Middle East had a fledging democracy 50-plus years ago. Iran did have a thriving and growing democracy, until August 1953.

The election of Muhammad Mosaddeq as the prime minister of Iran was hailed throughout the country for a return to respectable status for ancient Persia.

Had Iran’s democracy not been stifled by an American Central Intelligence Agency-led coup, the last 50 years would have been very different. Very possibly today’s tragedy in Iraq could have been avoided had British and American interests not overthrown Mosaddeq in 1953.

This tale of intrigue and woe has been pushed to the dusty back shelves of America’s memory, but not so with the Iranians. It was part of the reason that the American embassy personnel were made hostages in Tehran in 1979.

According to Stephen Kinzer’s 2003 book All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle Eastern Terror, the United States, pressured by the British, carried out a secret operation to overthrow the Iranian prime minister, Muhammad Mosaddeq and restore the shah to the throne.

After World War II, Asian and African countries began pulling away from the outdated European colonial world. “The white man’s burden,” as Rudyard Kipling so aptly called I,t was taking that “burden” on themselves. They were seeking to run their own peoples their own way.

In Iran, it was all about oil and the British were not willing for Mosaddeq’s plan to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which made Britain a lot of money.

Mosaddeq was a well-educated pro-Marxist, but hardly a friend of the Soviet Russians. All British plans to discredit him failed. So MI-5 (British Intelligence) turned to America’s CIA chief Dulles with their coup plans.

The British had tried to get President Truman to help them, but he refused. Now with a new administration in power, they jumped at the chance to get American help in overthrowing Mosaddeq. Two weeks after General Eisenhower was elected president in 1952 the word went around of the threat of Soviet Communism in Iran.

Under the cover of the Red threat, the Dulles brothers (one was Secretary of State and one was CIA chief.), convinced the administration to send Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, to carry out a covert mission in Iraq.

Roosevelt’s mission: see that Prime Minister Mosaddeq is overthrown. The British knew they would lose the Iranian oil unless he was removed. The covert operation worked. Stranger than fiction: The democracy that Iran admired in America was shattering their democratic future.

With the Shah back on the Peacock throne, freedoms for the people quickly disappeared and Britain and America backed the new repressive regime. All these years we could have been friends–but oil was more important. Earlier in the 20th century Iran looked to the West in becoming more democratic. They got no help then either.

We have short memories, and even shorter attention spans. When the onslaught in Afghanistan began in October 2001, we have forgotten that Iran help us in those early days. We seem to have a knack for misreading the times, for taking the side of the oppressor. The choice is often the lesser of two evils, but it sure would help if our government could get it right for a change and soon.

Last week the USS Abraham Lincoln steamed into the Persian Gulf as another show of force to Iran–the very same ship from which President Bush proclaimed five years ago that hostilities were over in Iraq and we had prevailed.

No democracy can succeed without honesty and truth in dealing with its own people and the nations of the world.

Britt Towery is an author and free-lance writer in San Angelo, Texas.

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