As former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw recounted publicly in a 2006 forum at Davos, Switzerland, the first time he met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he was immediately chided about England's role in the 1953 coup. A delegation of religious leaders who visited Iran in February 2007 report that in addition to the Iranian people, the coup was repeatedly brought up by the many government officials they met with, including Ahmadinejad.
It is highly unlikely that the current regime in Iran would even be raising the subject of the 1953 coup, and particularly the name of Mossadegh, were it not under such enormous pressure from the West over its contested nuclear program. Though the Islamic Republic is no friend of democracy, they know full well that the United States and Britain have a history of opposing democratic movements in foreign countries, including Iran, and their claims to the contrary ring hollow to a people who endured 27 years of an imposed, brutal U.S. sponsored dictatorship.
Clearly, there are similarities between Iran's oil nationalization struggle in the 50's and the nuclear issue today. Yet as tensions rise, other Iranian officials have exploited the 1953 coup for political leverage with increasing frequency. Provoking Iran over what it terms its "obvious right" to nuclear fuel has allowed the mullahs to continue to consign blame to the United States and its allies.
It is in this heated atmosphere that the coup of '53 resurfaces in Iranian political affairs.
January 2009 Speech Directed Toward Obama In 2008, Ahmadinejad wrote Barack Obama a congratulatory letter on his election as the new U.S. President. Obama also made overtures to Iran in his Inaugural address and an interview with Al Arabiya in the first few days of Presidency.
In a speech delivered to thousands in the town of Kermanshah, Ahmadinejad responded to Obama's message of Change by demanding a change in U.S. policy toward Iran and an apology for past crimes, including the 1953 coup, support for the Shah, support for Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran, and the U.S. Navy's bombing of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988. The speech made headlines in Western media. Our translation of Ahmadinejad's speech from farsi: [To read the full portion of the speech unedited, see our exclusive translation IRAN to OBAMA: Show Us the Change].
"Those who say they want to change their policies should now pay attention. It is more than 60 years that the successive American governments stood at the opposition of the Iranian nation. In 1332  with a coup they toppled the national government of Iran and replaced it with a harsh, unpopular and despotic regime. They took our oil and our wealth. They corrupted our culture and in return gave us a Satanic entity called SAVAK [Shah's security agency] that tortured our scholars, our young and learned people in their dungeons with one hundred percent American support."
September 22, 2008 - National Public Radio (NPR) Interview NPR interview with Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep:
AHMADINEJAD: I think that it's necessary to open up a bit regarding the relations between Iran and the United States.
You are aware that 55 years ago, the U.S. government overthrew the national government of Iran through a coup, and imposed a tyrannical dictator on our people.
For over 25 years under the dictatorship, hundreds of thousands of our people went to prison and spent time there, whilst our oil was being looted by American companies. Our people were demeaned. Our independence was harmed.
August 22, 2008 - Charlie Rose Interview President Ahmadinejad was interviewed by Charlie Rose in Tehran on August 22, 2008. Rose asked Ahmadinejad why he criticizes America so harshly and is always "attacking" the United States.
AHMADINEJAD: We have always been on the defensive position. We did not initiate any attack. We only defended ourselves. You know, from the coup d'etat of 1953 to the downfall of Shah, the government of United States has mistreated our people very badly.
"...We have never interfered in the internal affairs of the United States."
July 28, 2008 - NBC TV Interview with Brian Williams In 2008, NBC News anchor Brian Williams went to Tehran to interview Ahmadinejad, who implicitly referenced the 1953 coup twice as the beginning of decades of confrontational U.S. behavior toward Iran.
WILLIAMS: Thank you Mr. President. This is our third meeting in 3 years. We last spoke on the record in a setting like this two years ago in New York. You’ve accepted our request for an interview, we’ve traveled a great distance to have this conversation. So I am curious to hear in a more specific sense, is your message to world, is your message to the United States, one of confrontation or cooperation?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, this question which I am asking from American statesmen, when it comes to the Iranian people, what road do they want to choose? What approach? For more than 50 years now the policy of American statesmen has been to confront the Iranian people. And our people, to a large extent, have become acclimated with this situation, and we have tried to work around it.
Today, we see new behavior shown by the United States and the officials of the United States. My question is: Is such behavior rooted in a new approach; in other words, mutual respect, cooperation, and justice? Or is this approach a continuation in the confrontation with the Iranian people but in a new guise?
Midpoint in the interview, Ahmadinejad suggested that U.S. policy toward Iran for the past 50 years was clearly counterproductive to American interests.
WILLIAMS: So, one more attempt. While you may not recognize the coming Saturday deadline for your answer would you be willing to suspend nuclear enrichment if it meant a more prosperous Iran, and a more peaceful world going forward?
AHMADINEJAD: Today, Iran is prosperous. It’s happy. And every day we become more prosperous compared to the previous day. Why do certain people think that their lifestyles are the best lifestyles in the world? People, nations have their own lifestyles. I think that you should look at the situation through the interests of the U.S. The question is, whether American statesmen want to continue with their policies of the past 50 years. Have they at all benefited from such policies?
I think that the most pessimistic analysts inside the U.S. would say that they have lost out. And, of course, optimists would say that these policies on the part of the U.S. have been very detrimental. I believe that in the life of man, there are things that are more important than material welfare and prosperity. In other words, we are talking about the dignity of human beings.
September 24, 2007 - National Press Club, Washington, DCMODERATOR
: In 1979, during the Islamic revolution in Iran, Iranian students captured more than 50 American hostages and held them captive for 444 days. Do you believe this was morally justified, and if so, why? Or was it wrong?
AHMADINEJAD (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I propose we don't return to the past, because then we'd have to talk about records of 25 years of measures taken by the U.S. administration inside Iran and that history as well, from the coup in 1953 through its support of a dictatorship and the humiliation of the Iranian people and efforts to divide Iran and to insult the Iranian people, robbing Iran of its resources, and defending Saddam during an eight-year war against Iran.
I think everything should be examined within it's own time period and frame, and instead of the past, we must now begin to think of the future. Let the future be a bright future.
April 5, 2007 - Press Conference on Captured Marines
On 4/5/07, the day the captured British marines who allegedly trespassed into Iranian waters were released, the Iranian government held a press conference in which Ahmadinejad took the opportunity to lecture the West about its history of anti-Iranian crimes.
According to the Islamic Republic News Agency, a reporter from The Independent (a British newspaper) asked what the US and Britain had done to Iran in the past. IRNA's translation of Ahmadinejad's response:
"The 1953 coup, supporting the last Iranian dictator for 25 years, supporting the past tyrant regime's vast massacre of the Iranians in 1963 and 1978, are a few of those antagonist moves." The president also referred to a coup plot before the victory of the Islamic revolution, the eight-year Iraqi imposed war that was backed by both those governments, and moves aimed at sowing the seeds of discord among the different Iranian ethnic groups as other cases of US-British plots hatched against the Iranian nation.
"Recently, too, the terrorists arrested in Khuzestan confessed to having ties with London and let us not forget that a number of our citizens in Ahvaz had got killed in bomb attacks committed by those terrorists."
"In nuclear issue, too, those two powers are acting against our nation jointly."
August 8, 2006 - 60 Minutes Interview with Mike Wallace
Ahmadinejad mentioned the 1953 coup in his August 2006 "60 Minutes" interview with a combative Mike Wallace, but it was not included in the CBS TV prime time edit. However, it was later broadcast on C-SPAN unedited. At this point in the interview, Wallace is pressing Ahmadinejad on his statement that the U.S. is against Iranian progress and development.
Ahmadinejad: Before the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a dictatorship used to rule this country.
Wallace: The Shah of Iran?
Ahmadinejad: 100,000 American advisors used to be here, in this country working. All the affairs of this country were run by the Americans. In 1332 (Iranian calendar), they opposed a popular government taking power in this country. They helped the coup organizers.. of course, later they apologized - 50 years later.
May 9, 2006 - Letter to President Bush
In May 2006, Ahmadinejad penned a well-publicized 18 page letter to President George W. Bush. The letter touched on the various grievances of the Iranian nation, beginning, as usual, with the 1953 coup:
The courageous and faithful people of Iran also have many questions to pose. In particular, the coup d'etat of August 19, 1953, it has been over 52 years since the fall of the legal government of the time, the opposition to the Islamic revolution and the transformation of the embassy to the headquarters of opponents of the Islamic Republic (there are thousands of documents to prove this), the support for Saddam Hussein in the war against Iran, the shooting down of the Iranian airliner, the seizure of the assets of the Iranian people, the increased threats and complaints over the scientific and nuclear progress of the Iranian people, while all the Iranians are cheering the advances of their country. There are many other cases which I will not expose in this letter.
September 19, 2005 - Newsweek / Washington Post
In one of the first interviews he granted to US media, Ahmadinejad spoke to Lally Weymouth of The Washington Post
magazine. He called for a change in US policy toward Iran and denied allegations against him and his country's nuclear program.
Q: Do you feel you have been portrayed incorrectly in the Western media?
AHMADINEJAD: It is clear that some countries wish that our people would have taken a different course of action in our elections. . . . Immediately after the elections, I started hearing threats against me, all sorts of condemnations and accusations. I was asked whether I was one of the hostage-takers [in 1979].
Q: Were you?
AHMADINEJAD: Obviously no. Even the people who were responsible for that act say I was not there. If you want to understand this event, the right question to ask is not who did it but why did this occur. I think that the root causes are in the behavior of the American government since 1953 up to the day when our revolution became victorious.
September 14, 2005 - UN General Assembly
Ahmadinejad's first reference to the coup to an international audience occurred during his 2005 speech before the United Nations General Assembly
. Note the spin he employs to help legitimize the Islamic regime.
Today, my nation calls on other nations and governments to "move forward to a durable tranquility and peace based on justice and spirituality." Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Islamic Republic of Iran is born out of a movement, based on the pure primordial nature of a people who rose up to regain their dignity, esteem and human rights.
The Islamic Revolution toppled a regime which had been put in place through a coup, and supported by those who claim to be advocates of democracy and human rights thwarted the aspirations of the nation for development and progress for 25 years through intimidation and torture of the populace and submission and subservience to outsiders. The Islamic Republic of Iran is the manifestation of true democracy in the region. The discourse of the Iranian nation is focused on respect for the rights of human beings and a quest for tranquility, peace, justice and development for all through monotheism.