This book is essentially an analytical look at the historical origins of America’s
confrontation with radical Islam, focusing on Iran from the 1953 coup that put Shah
Pahlavi into power, up to the hostage crisis in 1979.
After WWII, with the disintegration
of imperialism, many developing nations in oil-rich areas sought to nationalize their oil
industries and increase their wealth.
The British had control of Iranian oil and the main
dissenter to such power was Mossadegh, the acting Prime Minister of Iran from 1951-
The political anti-communist landscape in the US and the strong anti-Western
rhetoric emanating from the Mossadegh administration resulted in Operation Ajax, a
covert plan approved by President Eisenhower to install a pro-US Iranian government.
Directed by Kermit Roosevelt, the operation leader, mobs of thugs and army regiments
were hired to protest.
In truth, this action simply supplied the spark needed to draw out
thousands of loyalist pro-Shah demonstrators, causing Mossadegh to flee and giving Shah
Pahlavi his throne back.
The Shah was a rather repressive ruler, however.
With the help of the CIA he
created SAVAK, an organization that abducted and tortured dissenters.
while most poor Iranians subsisted on annual incomes of only a few hundred dollars, the
Shah was fabulously wealthy, throwing one party that cost $200 million.
He was a loyal
friend to the US, however, and kept the oil flowing.
Even when OPEC began price-
gouging, he essentially returned the oil money to the US in the form of military contracts.
He bought billions of dollars worth of weaponry and combat planes from US contractors,
particularly during the Nixon administration.
Despite these policies, the Shah was also secular and somewhat modernizing.
“White Revolution” of 1963 called for land reform, secular educational expansion, and
increase of women’s rights among other reforms.
This alienated and outraged many
Islamic clerics, Ayatollah Khomeini perhaps above all.
The Ayatollah spoke out publicly
against the Shah and was eventually exiled to Iraq.
Carter changed little when he came into office.
Carter was generally disillusioned
with Congress and America’s poor humanitarian track record.
This sentiment alienated
members of Congress and Carter could not get a whole lot done.
humanitarian rhetoric, and disapproved of the Shah’s repressive policies but in the end he
kept weapons flowing to Iran and in exchange the Shah promised to work on increasing
Iranian freedoms and to keep the price of oil stable.
Meanwhile, during his years in exile the Ayatollah Khomeini continued to speak