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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

What a book!

Reads like a spy thriller, yet provides you deep insights into politics of Middle East and identifies the roots of 9/11.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

The Law of Unintended Consequences writ large

I already knew something about the events that Kinzer describes here, but he tells the tale in a captivating fashion with rich detail and excellent historical background. He presents his conclusions in a balanced way, but his case against this American involvement is very compelling and makes me shudder when I consider the unintended consequences that could result from our latest Gulf adventure. This as the stated intended consequence of a stable, democratic, and friendly Iraq is looking more and more like a pipe dream turning into a nightmare. Truman emerges from this story as a real hero with the longer view of the dangers while various British and American leaders (particularly the Dulles brothers) are shown to be blinded by their own arrogance and in the end brought about incalculable harm.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Rick
  • Houston, TX, USA
  • 09-25-04

Hard to please

Being fairly conservative, I expected a liberal slant from a New York Times reporter. I felt the book was well researched and very well written. I'll never remember all of the Middle Eastern names mentioned in the book but I received an education that helps me understand current events in a more enlightened frame of mind.

27 of 29 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Outstanding nonfiction title

Excellent book on US/Iran relations. The kind of thing our policymakers ought to be reading as they raise the level of din about Iran & its nuclear program & its mullah leaders. Our poor relationship with the Iran of today cannot be 100% traced back to our joint imperialist effort with Britain in the early-1950s, but there is certainly a line from that time to this. Mossadegh was no saint, the author makes that clear, but neither was he completely recalcitrant with the Shah & with the British oil interests. And he certainly was no communist. It was the weak-kneed Shah, his corrupt cronies (who ran the military) and the the British leaders pining away for the time "when the sun never set on the British Empire" who were most responsible for the state of the affairs back in 1950. Absolutely no doubt about that. And it was the Eisenhower Administration that made things happen (just as they would in Guatemala a year later). Sad. Anyhow, I thought the book was very well put together, unbiased, and very well narrated.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Carla
  • los osos, CA, USA
  • 09-09-04

Great & timely read, but I'll avoid the reader

All the reviews laud the content, so let me submit my one gripe: the reader. I had to force myself to continue listening past the monotone and pedantic characteristics of the reader. I will actively avoid this reader from now on.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

You need to hear this history

The history of U.S. involvement in Iran is largely unknown to Americans. This book is very enlightening with respect to the U.S. involvement in the Iranian coup in the 1950's. The author does an excellent job of describing the events leading up to and immediately following the coup. The history of Iran following these events is glossed over (and I would have liked to hear more on this), but that is not the focus of the book. I now have a much better understanding of the roots of the current relationship between Iran and the U.S.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great book

This compelling book couldn't be more timely. It presents a complex and nuanced understanding of the dynamics at play in the Middle East through the historical lens of Operation Ajax.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Aidan
  • New York, NY, United States
  • 08-12-09

The most important book you will download

This is the story of how Iran became the country it is today, how the American government overthrew a popular, moderate democracy there because of the fear of Communism and greed for oil. It was the first time our government covertly deposed another one, and began a long dark chapter in our history which still haunts many countries, particularly in South and Central America. This is vital history to know and understand, and fortunately the characters involved are fascinating enough to make the dry unfolding of events completely engaging.
WARNING - the audio quality of the the type "4" download was terrible. I am not sure if the "enhanced" file is better, but don't bother with the normal file.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

All the Shah's Men

I was 5 to 7 years old, a British Citizen of Indian origin and living in Meshed, a city in North Eastern Iran, at the time of the Coup and I remember witnessing the street scenes while hiding behind partially open front door of our house. The descriptions by Mr. Kinzer of the riots and the rioters and how the same rioters changed there slogans from one day to the third or the fourth day are so accurate. Reading this book brought back bitter-sweet memories of my childhood days in the Iran of the Mosadeq-Shah Era. The Shah was a pragmatist progressive and overall stood for a better IRAN. It is sad how both luminary lives ended. I feel so sad for Queen Farah Diba the surviving wife of the Shah Mohamed Reza Shah Pahlavi. He was a great friend of the world.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

An eye opener

Having seen the influence of Colonial British in Pakistan (then India), this book brought sickening naustalgia. It is very ineresting to see how we as humans with power, make things that are none of our business, our business. And then when things go wrong, we blame everyone else but ourselves. A must read for everyone interested in longterm ramifications of un welcome intrusions into sovereignty of other countries.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful