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All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  8,442 ratings  ·  940 reviews
Half a century ago, the United States overthrew a Middle Eastern government for the first time. The victim was Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran. Although the coup seemed a success at first, today it serves as a chilling lesson about the dangers of foreign intervention.In this book, veteran New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer giv ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published August 1st 2004 by John Wiley & Sons (Hoboken, NJ) (first published July 17th 2003)
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Mar 21, 2022 rated it really liked it
“Things looked bleak for the plotters. They had lost the advantage of surprise. Several of their key agents were out of action. Their anointed prime minister, General Zahedi, was in hiding. The Shah had fled. Foreign Minister Fatemi, free after several hours in rebel custody, was making fiery speeches denouncing the Shah for his collaboration with foreign agents…Operation Ajax had failed. Radio Tehran reported that the situation was ‘well under control,’ and so it seemed. Shock waves reverberate ...more
Jul 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I just re-read this book in preparation for a book club. This book is the tragic story of a CIA operation that removed one of the only democratically elected leaders in the Middle-East. Mossadegh came into power and angered the British by nationalizing Iranian Oil and the British were determined to oust him from office. After Truman (who opposed a coup) left office and Eisenhower came to office, the Americans also signed on and actually conducted the coup. This story is so tragic (especially if ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
All the Shah's Men, Stephen Kinzer

All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror is a book written by American journalist Stephen Kinzer.

Following the 1941 Allied Invasion of Iran, Reza Shah was forced to abdicate in favour of his son Mohammad Reza Shah, who upheld the oil agreement with APOC, which by then had been renamed the "Anglo-Iranian Oil Company".

When the first democratically elected parliament and prime minister in Iran took power in 1950 they planned to sei
Aug 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: america, iran
"My countrymen lack the bare necessities of existence. Their standard of living is perhaps the lowest in the world. Our greatest natural asset is oil. It should properly be our national industry and the revenue from it should go to improve our conditions of life."

"If the exploitation of our oil industry continues in which the Iranian plays the part of a mere manual worker, and if foreign exploiters continue to appropriate practically all of the income, then our people will remain forever in a st
Eye-opening, sad and infuriating read. Tells how the U.S. destroyed the birth of democracy in the middle east, which began in Iran, and now falsely accuses Iran as a sponsor of Mid-East terrorism, when in truth, it's the Saudis!
Always remember majority of Islamist terrorists are 'Sunni' Muslims, while Iran are Shia Muslims!
da AL
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Outstanding -- a must-read for all who want to understand US/Iran relations. Author & audiobook narrator are great.
Tom LA
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wow, such a great book. I had read Kinzer’s “The brothers” a few years ago, about the Dulles brothers, and found it just as engaging, well-written, and well researched.

Kinzer has a real gift to write history that is deep, accurate and, at the same time, as gripping as a novel.

I’ve often found that many history books that are very engaging lack a certain depth or seriousness. “All the Shah’s men” does not — it’s both a gripping tale, almost a page turner, and a really good history book.

The onl
Oct 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-history
Iran has a long and distinct history. Beginning in the 6th century BC with Cyrus, followed by Xerxes and Darius and on to the present, Iran’s people have had a common identity. The adoption of Shiism in the 7th century AD imparted a common set of values. Since then Arabs, Mongols and Turks ruled Iran. In the 19th century the decadent Qajar rulers exploited Iran to support their opulent lifestyle. In 1925 they were overthrown by a British engineered coup conducted to thwart Russia. The British pl ...more
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Part of what makes All The Shah's Men: An American Coup & the Roots of Middle East Terror so fascinating is Stephen Kinzer's ability to put all of the details into historical context and still formulate his story in a way that causes it to read like a spy novel at times. I initially read this book on the American involvement in Iran when I was awaiting an Iranian visa to visit a country that was officially listed as part of the "Axis of Evil".

While being very curious about the erstwhile Persia,
Jon Nakapalau
The overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh is one of the little known events that lead to Mohammad Reza Shah coming to power in Iran. This book looks at the tragic aftermath - and the continuing strife - that was a direct result of this act.
Steve Kettmann
May 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
My S.F. Chronicle review from 2003:

Nearly two years after the shock of Sept. 11, 2001, it's fair to start poking through the legacy of U.S. foreign policy and raise troubling questions about the extent to which our own past misdeeds ultimately boomeranged on us. Few readers of "All the Shah's Men," by longtime New York Times foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer, can come away without grave suspicions that Sept.
11 was in many ways a self-inflicted wound.

What American crime could explain so sens
Erik Graff
Aug 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Although over ninety, Dad is unusually active. He is a docent at the Dundee Historical Society and, thanks to the influence of his Danish wife, Lene, takes courses as a non-degree-seeking student at the Roosevelt University campus out in dreary Schaumburg, Illinois. He tends towards history and political science, having said at one time that he enjoys ganging up with the liberal teachers against his mostly right-wing, fellow suburban students. (Dad always was a pinkish Democrat.) This book was r ...more
Dec 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great Britain via Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) wanted to secure its grip on Iran's oil. The United States wanted to prevent Iran from joining Russia and going communist. Iran wanted freedom, an Iran free of British imperialism.

These three nations, and their conflicting priorities, were on a collision course in the early 1950s, and it culminated in the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh, the popular Iranian prime minister who nationalized his country's oil industry and fought for an Iranian gove
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
We remain unable to recognize the dangers of unintended consequences. Such dangers should breed caution and a reluctance to engage in foreign adventures. Does each generation have to relearn this?
Ronald Schoedel III
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks
An alternate title of this book could be "United States: Strangler of Infant Democracies". It is pretty well known among scholars and international relations experts that anti-American Mideast terrorism has its roots in the US coup that overthrew Iran's first-ever democratically elected prime minister in 1953. This book explains the history of Iran, its governments, its oppression at the hands of colonialists, its exploitation by the British oil industry, and how Britain talked the United States ...more
Why should you read All the Shah's Men?
1. Stephen Kinzer is, in my opinion, the greatest journalist of our age.
2. Also, his expertise in the Middle East is almost nonpareil. (Refer to aforementioned point on his journalistic prowess)
3. If you want to learn about why the US really, actually, does not like Iran.
4. If you, like me, think that Iran could've been a world power under Mohammad Mossadegh.
5. If you don't believe the above statement, and need proof.
6. If you want a short, concise history
Sep 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: persia-iran
The book is fabulously researched, thought-provoking, and Kinzer really knows his stuff. It also helps that the writing style flows. This is a truly powerful read.
Feb 03, 2009 rated it liked it
I wish more people read books like this. I think it is important for every citizen of the US to understand why people from other countries feel the way they do about us, particulary in the Middle East. I think most Americans are simply unaware of what our government does under the broad and vague umbrella of what is deemed "classified" information. As we are supposed to be a government "of the people" and our government therefore, in effect, represents us and our interests, I think Americans sho ...more
Feb 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Anyone interested in U.S.-Iran relations or the 1953 Coup d'etat in Iran will find "All the Shah's Men" to be an interesting read. Kinzer's language is quite simple, and I can see how this might frustrate more intellectual readers. However, for a student or young person interested in learning more about the history of the coup, Kinzer's simple language is an asset; his book is probably the easiest way to quickly learn about the coup.

The reader should bear in mind that even sixty years after t
Brian Griffith
Kinzer explores the sentiments and values of all parties concerned in the tragic destruction of Iran's first democratic government. Towards the nationalist hero Mossadegh, Kinzer shows the various sides of the man's idealism, which inspired his followers, demonized his opponents, and made compromise next to impossible. Toward the Americans, Kinzer depicts the turning of American foreign policy -- from supporting the aspirations of nationalists against colonialism, to regarding all rebels against ...more
Michael Kukubird
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
Although the subject of the book is interesting I have issues with Kinzer's prose. Maybe I took the book too seriously. ATSM reads like a historical novel instead of a factual and objective historical account of events leading up to the 1953 American backed coup.

The language used by Kinzer is highly emotional and subjective. The arguments put forth are too simplistic and almost everything is painted in black and white. The British are all evil to the core while all Iranians are noble and long su
Oleksandr Zholud
Aug 27, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a non-fic regarding Iran and specifically the 1953 Iranian coup d'état, when the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh was overthrown by the CIA and MI-5, which had a tremendous long-term impact on the region. I read it as a part of monthly reading for August-September 2022 at Non Fiction Book Club group.

The coup started with a failure: the initial idea was to come with a group of Iranian troops and a Shah’s decree that dismissed the PM from his post (in violation of t
Apr 03, 2022 rated it it was amazing
The United States in the 20th and 21st centuries has been home to American exceptionalism, the idea that the country is the possessor of the best economic and political system on the planet and that it has an obligation to spread this best system worldwide, more recently by the unilateral use of armed force than by diplomacy or clandestine operations. It is telling of the power of American exceptionalism that former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney has said that in spite of all that is now known ...more
On one dismal night in 1953, a conspiracy destroyed both Iranian democracy and American honor. At the dawn of the 1950s, Iran was struggling to free itself from British domination, a precursor to the bloody colonial revolutions that would mark the mid-20th century. Despite being a product of colonial rebellion itself, the United States would betray its own history and one of amiable relations with Iran to assert itself on the world stage. All the Shah's Men is an admirably executed mix of espion ...more
Miebara Jato
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
There's no better time to read All the Shah's Men than now. The relationship between the United States and Iran has gone from bad to worse. The Trump administration has suspended the nuclear agreement and recently assassinated General Qasem Soleimani.

But how did these two countries get to this sourish juncture?

"All the trouble started in1953. In Iran, almost everyone has for decades known that the United States was responsible for putting an end to democratic rule in 1953 and installing what b
Juliana Philippa
A must-read for anyone who wants to be able to put current events into perspective (4.5 stars)

All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror was a terrific book - a detailed and well-balanced historical non-fiction that at times reads like a spy thriller and throughout made me unbelievably angry and sad. Stephen Kinzer does a wonderful job of taking you behind the scenes of Mossadegh's overthrow and includes information from all the key players. He provides an enlighten
Regina Lindsey
Nov 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
All the Shah's Men by Stephen Kinzer
5 Stars and a heart

In 1979, Iranian students stormed the American Embassy and held fifty-two Americans hostage for 444 days. Americans were shocked because, in their minds, the U.S. and Iranians still held the mutual affinity shared pre-1953. Prior to 1953, “Americans were regarded with nearly universal admiration and affection.” Iranians saw Americans as allies, supporters of their fragile democracy, and remembered martyrs such as Howard Baskerville, the “Ame
J.M. Hushour
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Only a complete jackass would argue that the CIA-engineered overthrow of the popular Iranian prime minister Mossadegh in 1953 had positive benefits for the region, and Iran, especially. Not only did the Dulles brothers and the CIA make sure that the oil kept flowing to the profit of Western interests, but the operation placed the Shah solidly in power, ushering in a new age of repression and violence which culminated in the Iranian revolution in 1979.
None of this is controversial. It hasn't been
Jack D. Riner
Feb 03, 2009 rated it liked it
**Spoiler Alert**

This is going to shock a lot of people. Several years ago there was a Republican administration that completely failed to understand a foreign nation and its people. However, they didn't let such a small detail stop them from inducing a regime change favorable to Western big business interests at that moment.

While the need for immediate gratification was fulfilled, the Eisenhower Administration stole Iran’s future away from its people and planted the seeds of Islamic fundamenta
Dec 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1953, the CIA, aided by the British, engineered a coup to overthrow the secular, democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran, as Mossadegh had committed the "crime" of nationalizing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now British Petroleum). Before then, Americans had been regarded favorably in Iran and much of the Middle East, and veteran journalist Kinzer makes a strong case that this coup led directly to the hatred and distrust of the U.S. in this part of the world, various ...more
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Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent who has covered more than 50 countries on five continents. His articles and books have led the Washington Post to place him "among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling." (source) ...more

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“Acheson immediately understood the urgency of this message. He summoned Ambassador Franks and told him that the United States resolutely opposed “the use of force or the threat of the use of force” against Iran, and that Truman himself had “stressed most strongly that no situation should be allowed to develop into an armed conflict between a body of British troops and the Persian forces.” 0 likes
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