‘The Persian Puzzle’: Misjudging Iran

Pollack184 ‘The Americans who engineered the 1953 coup understood neither Mossadegh nor the shah. Mossadegh believed that the United States thought Iran vitally important and that he could win concessions from Washington by appearing willing to bargain with the Soviet Union — making him look, to American eyes, like Moscow’s cat’s-paw. The shah saw himself as totally dependent on the United States yet so necessary to it that he could squeeze Washington like a protection racketeer — and he did, most clearly in 1973, when he prodded OPEC into its most extravagant price gouging. (”The shah turned around and screwed us,” Robert Hormats, then at the National Security Council, has been quoted as saying.) The shah’s sense of dependency was most nakedly visible in his last days, when he considered trying bloody all-out suppression of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamist revolution but told the American ambassador that he could not take such action except on orders from Washington — orders that President Jimmy Carter refused to give. Pollack is unsparing in his criticism of Carter administration policy making; hard-liners and soft-liners, he says, were both ”operating under completely false assumptions.”’

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