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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

Should be mandatory reading for all kids in school

We should know the dark history of our Nation every bit as thoroughly as we know about its success. What a terrible thing we did in the days of the Red Scare.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A good history, but the narration could be better

Although I wasn't crazy about the narrator or sound quality, the subject matter and writing were engaging. Shame on Ike for allowing the coup to happen!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

How and why we got embroiled in the Middle East

This is a powerful history. It does much to explain how and why the United States first got into the business of overthrowing governments.

The book is interesting, and I enjoyed following it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • despinne
  • Edgewater, MD, United States
  • 03-13-06

Iran for Iranians

Despite the title, this audio does not have much to say about the Shah himself. I recall when he and his wife fled Iran, and it seemed he was a national leader, but not in this book. However, the emphasis is on the mistreatment of Iran, such as Great Britain's colonialist practices of stealing the raw materials of a country (oil), and when the natives complain, entice the USA to help them force Iran to continue shipping their oil to England. The British oil company made something like $100 million against $8 million for Iran. They don't need it; they've lived for thousands of years without electricity, the Brits said. When a popular leader arose and became prime minister in the early 1950s, a good man who stood up for his country and wanted to bring them into the 20th century, the USA decided to get rid of him--and did, altho it seems he was not murdered. Apparently the idea was that Iran would remain subject to the West. However, by putting a halt to developing democracy, we opened the door for the current fanatics to take over. We met the enemy, and indeed he IS us! We sowed the wind, and now we are reaping the whirlwind. Now: what have we done in other countries to cause them to hate us as they do?

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Hua
  • Albuquerque, NM, USA
  • 11-14-05


fantastic book with a deep insight. reads really well. a must read for anybody who is interested in mideast history

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Caleb
  • Madison, WI, USA
  • 01-30-05

Excellent history

This book reminds us how America is partly responsible for the current mess in Iran. The book raises good, hard questions about American foreign policy. Some of the middle section is pretty dry. But, overall, this was a fast, enjoyable listen. Highly recommended.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Why are we in Iraq? Read This and Understand

For anyone who wants to understand why we are currently in Iraq, this book on Iran is essential reading. Tracing the history of British and US interventions in Iran in the twentieth century, it provides a set of historical parallels worth some serious thought. It shows how a joint action by the USA and Great Britain against Mohammad Mossadeh, in 1953, offers an uncanny anticipation of the Bush administration's current doctrine of preemptive war. Importantly, tragically, that preemptive coup in 1953 helped to foster in the Arab world (Iran, Iraq, Afganistan) the very fundamentalist and terrorist forces that the Bush administration now invokes to justify that new doctrine of preemptive war. In short, there are some appalling precedents to the Bush doctrine: the United States today is acting in the tradition first established by Kermit Roosevelt in 1953, when with the backing of Eisenhower's White House as well as Churchill, he engineered the ouster of a man who could have brought a moderate nationalism to Iran. In removing from power the charismatic leader who nationalized the oil fields, Roosevelt's central concern was not the well-being of Iran, but the protection and extension of British and US interests in Iranian oil. The author acknowledges that such an action may have brought 25 years of stability in Iran, but he (and we as readers) are only too aware that the long-term costs for such stability are only beginning to be known. Gripping to listen to, cogently and carefully argued, this book narrates the crucial historical backdrop in Iran against which we should understand our current involvement in Iraq.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Engaging and highly informative

A very engaging book that illuminates some of the darker sides of historical US foreign policy in the mid-east, and explains a major part of the roots of anti-american sentiment in that part of the world.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A sad story

The story told her reveals the amazing obtuseness of the British government and business and the duplicity of the United States government. It helps one understand how we got where we were in Iran in 1979 and where we are today.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story


I loved this book. it explains the origins of Iranian distrust of the United States and other western nations. I will continue to study on the life and times of Mossedegh.