In the days of President Harry Truman, relations between the United States and the Middle East weren’t so sour.
In 1952, everything changed.
The United Kingdom was planning to depose the newly democratically elected prime minister of Iran: Prime Minister Mossadegh. He is the man seated in the photograph above.
Mossadegh had quickly become the archenemy of the UK.
Tensions worsened when he began making calls for the nationalization of Iranian oil. For so long, foreign nations, or colonialists, as they were called, had been exploiting the Iran’s vast oil wealth, leaving the majority of the population extremely impoverished (All the Shah’s Men, Kinzer).
Through the sly tactics of English government officials, the United Kingdom convinced the Americans to tag along. The key word was communism, which was all the Americans needed to hear.
After the Cold War however, it became increasingly clear that communism was not the threat. It was a much deeper issue.
For centuries, the West exploited countries for their resources. Nations like Iran, Syria, and countries outside the Middle East like Venezuela and Cuba, did not embrace communism simply to spite the West. On the contrary, they were doing the exact opposite. Iranians and Syrians alike began making the same demands that their American counterparts made in their early history – that they be granted the right to collect the fruits of their labor and to profit off the wealth of their natural resources. Both of these demands are fundamental principles of free market economics.
Ironically though, the U.K., with the help of the U.S., did what ever they could to prevent these countries from doing just that. They did this by conducting covert coup d’etats and assassinations. They financed monarchies and even bribed foreigners to stir uprisings in their own countries (All the Shah’s Men, Kinzer).
What is even more ironic is that the countries stirring these uprisings, namely the U.K. and the U.S., tout Western principles of freedom and democracy, while, simultaneously, investing in movements led by Islamic fundamentalists and tyrannical monarchies abroad.
In Iran, for example, one Islamic cleric turned against the popularly elected leader Prime Minister Mossadegh. A day later he received $10,000 from the CIA.
Incidents like these are scattered throughout the twentieth century. They only serve to illuminate the truth behind the politics of the Middle East. Even more so, they force me to question the current chaos gripping the Middle East today.
I ask myself questions like, who is behind these Arab protests? Are they really genuine? And why are countries like Saudi Arabia not being scrutinized for their brutal suppression of pro-democracy protests in Bahrain?
Perhaps it is for the same reason that the U.K. orchestrated the coup d’etat against Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1952 – to preserve their grasp on the oil wealth of the Middle East.