US-Funded "Iran Primer" Needs
United States Institute of Peace Assembles "50 Top Experts" on Iran
A new book and web project from the United States Institute of Peace, a
Washington think tank funded by the U.S. Congress, aims to be an
authoritative reference, yet contains some false information.
The Iran Primer [link] assembles "50 top experts" to produce a comprehensive, categorized overview of the Islamic Republic, which, they predict, is "sure to become a key text on the subject of Iranian policy". Its centerpiece is "The Challenge of Iran" which offers contextual background dating back to Ancient Persia. The article was written by the editor herself, veteran journalist and author Robin Wright, a specialist on the Middle East and Iran. Yet Wright's brief summary of the Mossadegh period contains deceptive language and one glaringly non-factual detail:
Mossadegh's political demise came about through a violent military coup which took place on August 19, 1953. Army officers armed with tanks and guns attacked Mossadegh's residence and set fire to it, fully intending to kill him, as mobs looted his belongings. Mossadegh managed to escape the scene with his life, yet the coup succeeded in its task- the overthrow of Iran's legitimate government. The following day, he had no choice but to turn himself in to the new coup regime. During the November show trial conducted in military tribunal court, Dr. Mossadegh repeatedly insisted he was the legal Premier of the country. At no point did he "resign" from his post following the events of 28 Mordad, as it is known in Persian.
An essential component of the CIA plan to overthrow Mossadegh (TP-AJAX) was having the reluctant shah "dismiss" Mossadegh by royal decree, then arrest him upon refusal. Saying "The shah's attempt to have Mossadegh dismissed backfired", gives the false impression that he acted independently. After this first act of treachery failed, the Shah chose to flee to Rome. No one "forced" him to do so, as Wright claims ("The backlash forced the monarch to flee to Rome.")
Wright's misleading description of the coup gives the impression that Mossadegh had somehow knocked the Shah off his throne, and that an Anglo-American plot swooped in and rescued him ("Foreign powers restored the monarchy."), when in fact Mossadegh, who had always upheld Constitutional monarchy for the country, had no such aims.
Later in the article, Wright makes a point of mentioning the illegality of the 1979 US embassy takeover...
Here's why all this matters.
The US Institute of Peace deems The Iran Primer rather significant, describing it as "an unprecedented project by 50 of the world’s top scholars on Iran representing some 20 foreign policy think tanks, eight universities, and senior foreign policy officials from six U.S. administrations". For a report that intends to be a reliable guide on contemporary Iran, their fact-checking standards could use an upgrade.
For example, three different experts refer to Madeline Albright's cautious acknowledgement of the U.S. role in the 1953 coup during a 2000 speech as an apology. It's a common misnomer among pundits, but factually inaccurate. One expert goes so far as to claim that the former Secretary of State "formally apologized".
To their credit, they avoid repeating one ubiquitous Iran cliché (a huge mistranslation regarding Israel), but a correction is still in order. In the "Timeline of Iran's Foreign Relations" section, it states that on March 27, 2005:
Read the follow-up:
US Insitute of Peace Corrects "Iran Primer" Errors...Sort Of
The US and Shah Acted Illegally, Not Mossadegh
All the Sham's Men: How the CIA Used 'Anti-Communism' to Destroy Iran's Democracy
The Dulles Brothers: How To Wreak Havoc in Guatemala and Iran
MOSSADEGH t-shirts — "If I sit silently, I have sinned"