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Editorial Reviews

With his fast-paced narrative and deep ferreting out of the facts, Kinzer reassembles the CIA's 1953 coup of Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected leader of Iran in favor of the bloodthirsty dictatorship of Mohammad Reza Shah, who is believed to have been a puppet for the US government.

If you like Robert Ludlum or John Le Carre, you'll delight in Kinzer's account of the return of the Shah to Iran. It's written and performed like a spy novel, with code names, secret meetings, and last-minute plot twists. Kinzer's a long-time, highly experienced New York Times foreign correspondent, so he's deft at crafting hard facts into compelling narrative.

Michael Prichard, a veteran narrator of everything from walking tours to military nonfiction, maintains a deliberate and steady pace. No shocking detail is overemphasized, and this contributes to the overall impact of the book.

What's most frightening is that in the middle of this listen you begin to see connections between the installation of the Shah in Iran and the events of 9/11. "Past is prologue" has rarely been as accurate as it is here.

Publisher's Summary

Half a century ago, the United States overthrew the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, whose "crime" was nationalizing the country's oil industry.

In a cloak-and-dagger story of spies, saboteurs, and secret agents, Kinzer reveals the involvement of Eisenhower, Churchill, Kermit Roosevelt, and the CIA in Operation Ajax, which restored Mohammad Reza Shah to power. Reza imposed a tyranny that ultimately sparked the Islamic Revolution of 1979 which, in turn, inspired fundamentalists throughout the Muslim world, including the Taliban and terrorists who thrived under its protection.

"It is not far-fetched," Kinzer asserts, "to draw a line from Operation Ajax through the Shah's repressive regime and the Islamic Revolution to the fireballs that engulfed the World Trade Center in New York."

©2003 Stephen Kinzer; (P)2003 Tantor Media, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Breezy storytelling and diligent research....This stands as a textbook lesson in how not to conduct foreign policy." (Publisher's Weekly)
"With a keen journalistic eye, and with a novelist's pen....a very gripping read." (The New York Times)
"Kinzer's brilliant reconstruction of the Iranian coup is made even more fascinating by the fact that it is true. It is as gripping as a thriller, and also tells much about why the United States is involved today in places like Afgahanistan and Iraq." (Gore Vidal)

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Robert
  • Worcester, MA, USA
  • 05-08-06

great book

excellent listen, chapter 2 provides an excellent history of the shia faith. the first few chapters of the book provide an excellent history of Iran, and the author does a fantastic job of weaving the history of iran with the formation of the anglo-persian oil company, the rise and fall of mohammed mossadegh, and the islamic revolution of 1979.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • A Mellor
  • Las Vegas, NV, United States
  • 07-20-05

The beginning of the end

THis was an absolutely great book on Iran/American history. After reading this book it is clear why IRAN dislikes us. It is not hard to understand why we bacame the target of extremeists by other middle east countries given our involvement in Iran int he 1950's. I never thought that just 50 years ago the American govt would lead a covert operation to overthrow a democracy and instal a represive monarchy. But that is exactly what happened. Now I am going to go read Charlie Wilson's War to find out how we armed these people we pissed off.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great insight into US/Iran relationship

Great documentary, and a must hear/read for all those interested in understanding the US/Iran relationship. The US hostage crisis was always a puzzle for me until I read this book. It also gives an great insight into the history of Iran. Excellent narration.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Kayvon
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • 09-08-04


This book was incredibly researched and detailed, yet engaging and accessable. While the book is sympathetic towards the plight of the Iranian people and the nationalist/Anit-colonial movement, the views of the multiple factions involved are reported fairly. If this book has a "hero," it is MohammAd Mossadegh. Yet, for all his passion and vision, he is portrayed as a real human being with flaws, not a near-mythical giant-slaying figure. A MUST for anyone concerned with current events.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Dan
  • palo alto, CA, USA
  • 08-23-07

Wow, a great (and useful) read!

Kinzer tells a fascinating story that grabs your attention while providing detailed information about a historical topic that is still very salient today.

After finishing this book, one can't help but be fascinated by the fact that the US and British role in squelching Iranian democracy and installing their own puppet ruler is not more widely known. This book was very enlightening in helping me understand an important part of Iranian history; and one which still has a significant impact on middle east policy today. I found the level of detail and quality of storytelling superb.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • John E
  • Clinton, CT, United States
  • 09-27-11

Blew me away.

I had no idea. I thought I did, but I was wrong. Very well written. Well read. I will be listening again.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

I understand a bit better now

This is a fascinating book. The background of US/Iranian relations becomes a lot clearer when you have read this well written and well presented history that includes how we look to the Iranians. All of a sudden, their behavior no longer seems so inexplicable.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A revelation

"All the Shah's Men" shines a bright light on one of the darker epochs of world history. Here is a story of greed, botched colonial adventurism, a misguided coup, and a neo-colonial puppet show that arguably ushered in the age of terrorism that we're living in today. Well-researched and well-written, the book actually made me rather embarrassed by my ignorance of the region, period, and characters. I'm very glad to have had the opportunity to listen to this first-rate book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Craig C.
  • austin, TX United States
  • 08-18-09

Paying for the short-term perspective

Kinzer does a very good job describing the overthrow of the Shah in the 1950s. The actions that are described make one want to scream do the right thing for the long haul, not some immediate battle victory with long-term negative consequences. Doing the right thing does not have to be juxtaposed to a "reality" and a focus on consequences that are perceived on a short-term vision paradigm.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Fahd
  • Moodus, CT, USA
  • 09-22-08

Excellent work!

Excellent work performed with complete integrity and thorough investigation of all the relevant facts surrounding the beloved Iranian nationalist M. Musadiq's rise and fall, much to the detriment of the United States foreign policy in the Middle East.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful