Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Historical Figure: Mohammad Mossadegh

Mohammad Mossadegh (June 16, 1882 - March 5, 1967)

  • Member of Iranian Parliament from 1920 - 1948
  • Prime Minister of Iran from April 28, 1951 - July 16, 1952; July 21, 1952 - August 19, 1953
  • Leader of the National Front 1949 - 1967

Brief History

Mossadegh received his bachelor of arts and masters in international law from the University of Paris (Sorbonne) before pursuing a doctorate at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland. He started his political career at age 24 when he was elected to Parliament, known in Iran as the Majlis. In the late 1940s, Mossadegh founded the National Front, an organization aiming to establish democracy and end foreign presence in Iranian politics.

Most Known For

Nationalization of Iranian Oil in 1951

In the early 1950s, most of Iran's oil reserves were in the Persian Gulf area and were developed by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) specifically for export to Britain. Britain had been heavily involved in the Iranian oil industry since 1901 when they were given oil concessions by the Qajar dynasty for no money. Popular support for the nationalization of Iranian oil became increased during the early 1950s as the general populace began to realize how little Iran was receiving financially from AIOC in return for its oil. Additionally, AIOC's refusal to 50-50 profit sharing (similar to an agreement reached by Saudi Arabia with Aramco) and the occupation of Iran by the Allied forces post World War II increased the Iranian people's desire to nationalize its oil. After efforts to negotiate higher oil royalties failed in 1951, the Majlis (Parliament) and Senate voted to nationalize the British owned and operated AIOC, taking control of its Iran's oil industry. 

Mossadegh was named Prime Minister in April 1951 and proceeded to nationalize Iran's oil industry on May 1, 1951. He also canceled its oil concessions due to expire in 1993 and expropriated its assets. Mossadegh's main goals included ridding Iran of foreign influence, eliminating "corruption and intrigue" and using oil revenues to combat poverty and disease. Despite nationalization, Iran was not completely free as Britain made sure that Iran could  not sell oil after Mossadegh would not allow any British involvement in AIOC. Britain enforced a de facto blockade that resulted in a substantial decrease in Iranian oil production. Two hundred forty million barrels of oil were produced in 1950, dropping to just 10.6 million in 1952. 

Due to continued hostilities regarding oil and concerns about communism and a Soviet influence in Iran, the United States and Britain worked toward removing Mossadegh from power in Operation Ajax/Boot. In March 1953, the U.S. and British governments under Dwight D. Eisenhower and Winston Churchill approved plans to overthrow Mossadegh with CIA involvement. On August 19, 1953, Mossadegh was detained after a successful CIA-backed coup; he was convicted of treason by the Shah's military court and imprisoned for three years, followed by house arrest. After his overthrow, the Iranian government reached a new oil agreement with the Shah's backing that gave the U.S. and Britain a large share of its oil.

Mossadegh died in 1967 while still under house arrest.

  • Was named Time magazine's Man of the Year in 1951
  • Much of the discontent against Mohammad Reza Shah leading  to the 1979 Iranian Revolution stemmed directly from the overthrow of Mossadegh
  • The 1953 coup served as a rallying point in anti-U.S. protests during the the Revolution and to this day as he remains one the most popular figures in Iranian history
  • Iran under Mossadegh is considered to be the last period of democratic rule 
  • In 2004, the Egyptian government changed a Cairo street name from Pahlavi (the surname of Mohammad Reza Shah) to Mossadegh in order to improve relations with Iran

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