x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Patriot of Persia: the eccentric Muhammad Mossadegh

Christopher de Bellaigue tells the story of the overthrow by the US and Britain of Iran's democratically elected government in 1953.

Patriot of Persia Christopher de Bellaigue The Bodley Head Dh73
Patriot of Persia Christopher de Bellaigue The Bodley Head Dh73

Christopher de Bellaigue's fascinating biography of Muhammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected leader of Iran who was overthrown in a MI6- and CIA-orchestrated coup in 1953, serves as a cautionary tale about interventionism at this time of rising tensions between the West and Tehran.

The eccentric aristocrat was removed from power in reaction to his nationalisation of the oil industry, which had long been controlled by the British.

He was replaced by his nemesis, the shah, a US puppet whose "vulgar tyranny" provoked 1979's Islamic Revolution, a cleric-led revolt that put in power a hostile regime which is now widely seen as a major security threat.

De Bellaigue persuasively argues that the callous derailment of this early Middle East democracy was self-defeating. By destroying what could have been a political example for the region to follow 60 years before the Arab Spring, the US and Britain helped to pave the way for the extremism that plagues parts of the region today.

Patriot of Persia is required reading for anyone seeking a better understanding of Iranian political culture and the "blowback" effects of ill-conceived interventionist foreign policies.