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Shah of Iran Prime Minister Supreme Leader

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Shah of Iran - Prime Minister - Supreme Leader –

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Dr. Mohammad Mossedegh Ayatollah Khomeini


Shah Pahlavi abdicates throne


Pressure from Britain and the Soviets forces Shah Reza Pahlavi, who they see as sympathetic to the Nazi regime in Germany, to abdicate his throne. His son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, becomes shah. Allied forces are then able to occupy Iran and transport munitions to Russia to push back the Nazi advances.


Nationalist PM Mossadeq begins reign


The day after the assassination of Iranian Premier Ali Razmara, who was sympathetic to the West, the new prime minister, Mohammad Mossadeq, submits to Iran's Parliament a plan to nationalize the country's oil assets. Throughout the next couple of years, Mossadeq moves to limit foreign interests in Iran and to limit the shah's powers.


U.S.-backed coup ousts Mossadeq; reinstates shah


At the height of the Cold War, the Eisenhower administration approves a joint British-American operation to overthrow Mossadeq, worried that his nationalist aspirations will lead to an eventual communist takeover. The operation is code-named Operation Ajax. At first, the military coup seems to fail, and the shah flees the country. After widespread rioting -- and with help from the CIA and British intelligence services -- Mossadeq is defeated and the shah returns to power, ensuring support for Western oil interests and snuffing the threat of communist expansion. General Fazlollah Zahedi, who led the military coup, becomes prime minister.


The Iranian Revolution triumphs


In January, as civil rest increases, the shah and his family are forced into exile. On Feb. 1, Khomeini returns after nearly 15 years in exile and is given a triumphant welcome in Tehran. That same month, the shah's military announces its neutrality, and the monarchy collapses. With Mehdi Bazargan as prime minister, Khomeini takes power and proclaims the Islamic Republic of Iran in April.


Shah enters U.S.; Embassy in Tehran seized


In October, over the objections of Iran's revolutionary government, the U.S. allows the shah to enter the country in order to obtain treatment for cancer. On November 4, militant students seize the compound of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, demanding that the U.S. send the shah back to Iran so that he can stand trial. Thus begins the crisis in which 52 Americans are held hostage for 444 days. U.S. President Jimmy Carter orders a complete embargo of Iranian oil, with tougher sanctions to follow.

Fifty years ago this week, the CIA and the British SIS orchestrated a coup d'etat that toppled the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh. The prime minister and his nationalist supporters in parliament roused Britain's ire when they nationalised the oil industry in 1951, which had previously been exclusively controlled by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Mossadegh argued that Iran should begin profiting from its vast oil reserves.

Britain accused him of violating the company's legal rights and orchestrated a worldwide boycott of Iran's oil that plunged the country into financial crisis. The British government tried to enlist the Americans in planning a coup, an idea originally rebuffed by President Truman. But when Dwight Eisenhower took over the White House, cold war ideologues - determined to prevent the possibility of a Soviet takeover - ordered the CIA to embark on its first covert operation against a foreign government.

A new book about the coup, All the Shah's Men, which is based on recently released CIA documents, describes how the CIA - with British assistance - undermined Mossadegh's government by bribing influential figures, planting false reports in newspapers and provoking street violence. Led by an agent named Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, the CIA leaned on a young, insecure Shah to issue a decree dismissing Mossadegh as prime minister. By the end of Operation Ajax, some 300 people had died in firefights in the streets of Tehran.

The crushing of Iran's first democratic government ushered in more than two decades of dictatorship under the Shah, who relied heavily on US aid and arms. The anti-American backlash that toppled the Shah in 1979 shook the whole region and helped spread Islamic militancy, with Iran's new hardline theocracy declaring undying hostility to the US.

While it may be reaching too far to link Mossadegh's overthrow with al-Qaida's terrorism, it certainly helped unleash a wave of Islamic extremism and assisted to power the anti-American clerical leadership that still rules Iran. It is difficult to imagine a worse outcome to an expedient action.

It would be during the early 1950s that the CIA's Directorate of Plans achieved its classic covert victories. One came in Iran in 1953 in conjunction with SIS, where the Americans and British induced an unusual coup in which a constitutional monarch overthrew the government of his own country. Here the shah of Iran, relying upon popular support of the CIA, had mobilized and ousted a left-wing populist cabinet to create a virtual military dictatorship.

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