Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Mossadegh, Mohammed (1882–1967)

Iranian nationalist and prime minister of Iran (1951–1953). Born on 19 May 1882 in Tehran to a prominent family, Mohammed Mossadegh studied at the Institute of Political Science in Paris during 1909–1911 and earned his law degree from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1913. The following year he returned to Iran, and in 1917 he was named deputy finance minister. He became finance minister in 1921 and foreign minister for a brief time in 1923. Later that same year, he withdrew from politics in protest over Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's repressive and pro-British policies. For most of the next two decades Mossadegh worked mainly in the private sector, and his political forays were quite limited.

Mossadegh was elected to parliament in 1944 on the National Front Party ticket and went on to lead a nationalist movement that sought to remove British control over Iranian oil. He became prime minister in the spring of 1951. His first actions in office were directed at enforcing the Iranian parliament's Oil Nationalization Bill, which called for seizing control of the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. His next battle was with the shah over control of the military. Although the shah reigned over the nation, his only constitutional power was direct control over the nation's armed forces. Mossadegh wanted control of the military to be vested in the cabinet, a request that the shah refused.

In 1952, Mossadegh resigned in protest but became prime minister again within weeks, following popular uproar over his apparently forced resignation. Besides raising the hackles of British oil interests, his socialist domestic reforms had begun to alarm the United States. An attempted coup in March 1953 failed, as did a similar attempt on 16 August. Three days later, however, another effort to unseat Mossadegh by force succeeded, with the backing and aid of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). On 20 August Mossadegh was placed under arrest, and the shah, who had fled several days earlier, returned to assume control of the government. The shah now exercised sweeping authority. Mossadegh was tried, convicted, and sentenced to three years in prison. Upon his release, he remained under house arrest until his death in Tehran on 4 March 1967.

Robert N. Stacy


Further Reading
Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2003.
 

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