"The tired assertion that America "supports democracy" in the Middle East
is increasingly transparent. It was false 50 years ago, when we supported and funded the hated Shah of Iran to prevent
nationalization of Iranian oil, and it’s false today."- Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)
No other elected U.S. official has raised the subject of the 1953 coup that destroyed
Iran's popular, democratically elected government more often than Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
An obstetrician, author, and U.S. representative of over 35 years, Mr. Paul ran for President in 1988 as a Libertarian and
again in 2008 on the Republican ticket. His platform of Constitutional law, a non-interventionist foreign policy,
federal economic accountability and limited government gained such a big following that his "Campaign for Liberty" got a
new nickname: the "Ron Paul Revolution". Its popularity has grown steadily in recent years. In May 2011, the 75 year old
officially announced his candicacy for the 2012 Presidential race.
Congressman Paul has discussed the unintended consequences, or "blowback", of the illegal overthrow of Iran's popular,
democratically elected Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh on the floor of the House of
Representatives at least 10 times in the space of 5 years, plus numerous other mentions in speeches, interviews, and
articles. The event has clearly influenced his views on foreign policy and how America ought to engage with the world.
For the record, The Mossadegh Project presents a nearly comprehensive chronology of
Ron Paul's public statements on this subject since 2002.
University of Iowa Rally: October 21, 2011
Speaking at youth rally in Iowa City:
"...we were involved in Iran, they were on their way to a developing a pretty democratic system, so in 1953 we said 'No, we don't want you to have democracy, you might keep all your oil'... so we wanted to have our dictator in and so we installed the Shah and he was brutal. Then after, what, 53'-79', what'd it do — it stirred up hatred and antagonism, not only against the Shah, but against us. And just look at the consequences..."
First 2012 Republican Presidential Debate: August 11, 2011
In response to Rick Santorum's comments on the threat from Iran and history of hostilities:
The Senator is wrong on his history. We've been at war in Iran for a lot longer than '79 [1979 revolution/hostage crisis]. We started it in 1953 when we sent in a coup, installed the Shah, and the reaction, the blowback came in 1979, it's been going on and on because we don't plain mind our own business. That's our problem!
According to a FOX News poll "Who Won the GOP Debate?", Ron Paul was the overwhelming favorite of the night.
Message on the Situation in Egypt: January 31, 2010
Addressing the unfolding revolution in Egypt against U.S. supported dictator Hosni Mubarak:
It reminds me of what happened in Iran when we ousted one leader, Mossadegh in 1953, and it took a good many years before the Islamic revolution occurred in 1979, but we lost out on that...
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
If this continues, what the American people have to figure out is, should we just leave and be out of this and quit spending the money and spend that money at home? Or if we're engaged, then the question is, what kind of a revolution is this? Is this more like the overthrow of the Shah by the radical Muslims in 1979? Or is it more like us orchestrating a coup and throwing out Mossadegh in 1953? And quite frankly, I'm not sure anybody knows that answer.
The Revolution: A Manifesto by Ron Paul (2009)
Ron Paul's book The Revolution: A Manifesto became a New York Times Best Seller.
The 1953 coup in Iran was discussed in Chapter 2: The Foreign Policy of the Founding Fathers.
"Blowback should not be a difficult or surprising concept for conservatives and libertarians, since they often emphasize the
unintended consequences that even the most well-intentioned domestic program can have. We can only imagine how much greater and
unpredictable the consequences of intervention abroad might be.
A classic example of blowback involves the overthrow of Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadegh in Iran in 1953. American and British intelligence
collaborated on the overthrow of Mossadegh's popularly elected government, replacing him with the politically reliable but repressive shah.
Years later, a revolutionary Iranian government took American citizens hostage for 444 days.There is a connection here—not because
supporters of radical Islam would have had much use for the secular Mossadegh, but because on a human level people resent that kind of
interference in their affairs."
The Washington Times Op-Ed: July 1, 2009
Ron Paul's guest opinion column "Fight Them Over There vs. Over Here' a False Choice" advocates five principles in foreign affairs:
1. We do not abdicate American sovereignty to global institutions.
2. We provide a strong national defense, but we do not police the world.
3. We obey the Constitution and follow the rule of law.
4. We do not engage in nation-building.
5. We stay out of the internal affairs of other nations.
America should conduct trade, travel and diplomacy with all willing nations. Intervention, however, always has unintended consequences and almost always gets us in trouble. For example, in 1953, our CIA helped overthrow Mohammad Mosaddeq, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran and installed the Shah of Iran, a ruthless dictator. The blowback from our actions was in large part responsible for the extremist Iranian Revolution of 1979, the taking of our hostages and the many problems we have had with Iran ever since. So much of our intervention makes no sense. We backed Saddam Hussein for much of the 1980s, and then twice went to war against him. In the 1990s, we bribed North Korea not to pursue atomic weapons with nuclear technology, and Kim Jong-il used that assistance to build several nuclear bombs.
Intervention simply does not serve our long-term interests.
Pillars of Prosperity: Free Markets, Honest Money, Private Property by Ron Paul (2008)
Most Americans forget how our policies have systematically and needlessly antagonized the Iranians over the years. In 1953 the CIA helped overthrow a democratically elected president [correction: Prime Minister], Mohammed Mossadeqh [sic], and install the authoritarian Shah, who was friendly to the U.S. The Iranians were still fuming over this when the hostages were seized in 1979. Our alliance with Saddam Hussein in his invasion of Iran in the early 1980s did not help matters, and obviously did not do much for our relationship with Saddam Hussein. The administration announcement in 2001 that Iran was part of the axis of evil didn't do much to improve the diplomatic relationship between our two countries.
September 10, 2007 — Ron Paul vs. Bill O'Reilly:
There was no time for history lessons during Ron Paul's live interview with FOX News channel's Bill O'Reilly show in
O'REILLY: But when they're [Iran] seeking a nuclear weapon, when a country's seeking
a nuclear weapon that's a danger to the USA, a stated danger, and you want to withdraw from the theater, that gives them carte blanche
to do what they want, does it not?
RON PAUL: Well - well first off, you know, you have Pakistan, and they're not exactly the most pro-Western country...
O'REILLY: Yeah, but I'm talking about Iran, Congressman, I'm not talking about Pakistan at this point.
RON PAUL: Well, why don't you ever let me, you know, answer the question?
O'REILLY: -Because you're not directly answering the question, sir.
RON PAUL: Because — no, I do not fear them as you do, as many do, because they want another war. They want to spread this war.
This has been the plan by the neoconservatives to have this major overall — this revamping of the whole Middle East,
precisely the reason the Al Qaeda is growing. The Al Qaeda is growing because of our policy. Our national security is
threatened because of our policy. And it makes it much worse.
So I see the Iranians as acting logically and defensively. We've been fighting the Iranians since 1953. We overthrew their
government through the CIA in 1953. We were allies with Saddam Hussein in the 1980's. And we encouraged him to invade Iran...
O'REILLY: All right, so I just want to — we don't need the history lesson. But I do want to get this on the record.
RON PAUL: But you have to understand...
O'REILLY: I do understand the region...
RON PAUL: You have to understand the history.. If you don't understand
the history, you can't....
O'REILLY: But we don't have time to do the history lesson tonight.
August 2, 2007 — Human Events Interview
Ron Paul on the 1953-9/11 connection in his interview with the far-right publication Human Events:
To me, if you overthrow a regime, it’s an act of war, and it backfires
on us. It has never served us well over the last 100 years. It’s sort
of like what we did with 1953 by installing the Shah. We worked with
the regime, we worked the British then, and we’re still suffering the
You’re saying overthrowing Mossadegh in 1953 and putting in the Shah led to
the hostage-taking and 9/11?
Ron Paul: Absolutely.
In other words, the militant fundamentalist regime took revenge on us for
overthrowing the secular left-of-center regime in ’53?
Ron Paul: There is always some militant-violent-jihadist looking
to rally that faction, but they have to have incentives. The incentive
is when we impose our will on them and we get involved in their
internal politics. Besides, it contradicts everything the Founders
theorized, and there’s no constitutional authority for us to march
around the world undermining different governments.
June 5, 2007 — NHPR Radio Interview
In this New Hampshire Public Radio interview with Laura Knoy from June 5, 2007, Ron Paul is asked to defend his
criticism of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East:
"It isn't my thoughts that came out of the blue, it's reading and studying what our CIA has reported and looking at history. And it shows that most often, our messing around and meddling in the affairs of other countries have unintended consequences. Sometimes just over in those countries that we mess with, we might support one faction, and it doesn't work, and it's used against us. But there's the blowback effect, that the CIA talks about, that it comes back to haunt us later on."
"For instance, a good example of this is what happened in 1953 when our government overthrew the Mossadegh government and we installed the Shah, in Iran. And for 25 years we had an authoritarian friend over there, and the people hated him, they finally overthrew him, and they've resented it ever since. And that had a lot to do with the taking of the hostages in 1979, and for us to ignore that is to ignore history and ignore causes. . . It wasn't just because they "hated Americans" that they captured the hostages, it was because they were angry at us. Also, we have antagonized the Iranians by supporting Saddam Hussein, encouraging him to invade
Iran. Why wouldn't they be angry at us?"
". . .the founders were absolutely right: stay out of the internal affairs of foreign nations, mind our own business, bring our troops home, and have a strong defense. I think our defense is weaker now than ever."
June 5, 2007 — Republican Presidential Debates 2
Following his dust-up with Giuliani in May, Ron Paul brought up Mossadegh and the 1953 coup for the second time during the 2008 GOP
Debates in response to a question about oil from moderator Wolf Blitzer:
Wolf Blitzer [CNN]: Let me bring Congressman Paul back into this conversation. In 2005, President Bush signed an energy bill that provided billions of dollars in tax breaks, subsidies to the oil companies with the goal of boosting domestic production at a time of these record profits.
Do you believe these companies need a helping hand from the federal government?
Ron Paul: I don’t think the profits is the issue. The profits are okay if they’re legitimately earned in a free market.
What I object to are subsidies to big corporations when we subsidize them and give them R&D money. I don’t think that should be that way. They should take it out of the funds that they earn.
But I’m also — you can’t discuss energy without discussing our foreign policy. Why — why do we go to the Middle East? You know that oil is very important about the Middle East and why we’re there.
Why did we, our government, help overthrow Mossadegh in 1953? It had to do with oil. So our foreign policy is designed to protect our oil interests. The profits — that’s not the problem. It’s the problem that we succumb to the temptation to protect oil interests by literally going out and fighting wars over oil.
May 25, 2007: Ron Paul on Real Time with Bill Maher
Shortly after his debate with Rudy Giuliani, Ron Paul was a guest on the HBO talk show Real Time with Bill Maher.
Maher asked Paul to review the reading list he suggested for Giuliani at the National Press Club the day before.
As actor Ben Affleck nodded in approval, Mr. Paul offered his controversial talking points.
[Video and transcript below]:
BILL MAHER: And what of the things you suggested he read do you think are most important that he be aware of?
RON PAUL: Well, I think it's been known for quite a few decades that our foreign policy has what the CIA calls "blowback". It has unintended consequences. You can go back to 1953, when we put the Shah into power, us supporting Osama bin Laden and radicalizing Islamics to go after the Soviets, and that comes back as blowback, our support for Saddam Hussein in the 1980's, and this comes back to haunt us, and that's why I have been very attractive and very supportive of what I call a non-interventionist foreign policy—mind our own business, and stay out of the internal affairs of other nations. [applause]
May 15, 2007: Ron Paul vs. Rudy Giuliani
Ron Paul first ran for President as a
Libertarian in 1988. As a candidate for President in the 2008 election, Ron
Paul made his most public reference to the 1953 coup during the 2007
Republican debates in South Carolina. The remark occurred during a question about 9/11 which was
jumped on by fellow candidate Rudy Giuliani. Although his initial comment and
Giuliani's indignant verbal ambush responding to Paul were widely broadcast on
TV news highlights, Paul's response to Guiliani mentioning the 1953 coup was
Below a transcript of the entire exchange. Co-moderator Wendell Goler had asked Mr. Paul if
non-interventionist tendencies in American foreign policy changed after
September 11th, to which Mr. Paul responded:
Ron Paul: Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we've been over there- we've been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We've been in the Middle East — I think Reagan was right. We don't understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. So right now we're building an embassy in Iraq that's bigger than the Vatican. We're building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us.
Goler: Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?
Ron Paul: I'm suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we're over there because Osama bin Laden has said, 'I am glad you're over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.' They have already now since that time have killed 3,400 of our men, and I don't think it was necessary.
Rudy Giuliani: Wendell, may I comment on that? That's really an extraordinary statement. That's an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I'vr ever heard that before, and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th.
And I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn't really mean that.
Ron Paul: I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the Shah- yes, there was blowback. The reaction to that was the taking of our hostages. And that persists, and if we ignore that, we ignore it at our own risk. If we think we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem. They don't come here to attack us because we’re rich and we're free, they
come here to attack us because we’re over there.
MOYERS: Most people I've talked to say that without an American military presence in Iraq, the country will almost certainly fall into civil war with bloody conflict that could bring the rest of the region in. What if they're right?
RON PAUL: Well, you know, I guess it's always possible. There's no way to say there will be none. But I think that's exactly what my concern has always been is that if we go over there and disrupt that area and pick sides and be involved, which we've been for years literally since we got rid of Mossadegh in Iran. You know, that has led to many problems.
And that, still, is festering. The fact that we were an ally of Iraq and in the war against Iran is another festering sore there. So yes, I think our interference does exactly what we say we're there to prevent. There is that possibility. But I think it would be a lot less. And besides, I don't… I never find… I'm never comfortable with assuming we have this moral authority to do what we're trying to do.
Here are excerpts from Ron Paul's speeches delivered before Congress between 2002 and 2006:
January 11, 2007: House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Ron Paul's remarks before the briefing and hearings on Next Steps in the Iran Crisis:
So far the comments I've heard are rather frightening. I'm afraid we're going in the wrong direction. I sense that there's a bit of gross overreaction to the concerns that we have about Iran. I think everything I've heard today about Iran could be applied to Iraq. What about a nuclear — I'm sorry, to Pakistan. We have a nuclear Pakistan. Pakistan is run by a military dictator. He's vulnerable to overthrow. He took over by ousting an elected leader. And some claim — and it's reasonable to assume that they're sympathetic to the Taliban. And who knows, Osama bin Laden may well even be in Pakistan.
So I think this is gross overreaction, considering the fact that we created most of the problems anyway. It was in 1953, it wasn't in 1979 when this problem started. It was in 1953 when the United States went in and put in their own dictator, the Shah, a ruthless dictator. So we have to look at the entire history to realize how we contribute to some of our problems. And this is some blowback that we're getting — the unintended consequences. And it's the overall policy that, I think, puts us in such great danger. And all the arguments used by the same people to generate this excitement about going into Iraq are doing this to Iran. We have to consider some negotiations and talking because even today we're considering what day will we be bombing Iran, tragically.
Our policy toward Iran for the past 50 years is every bit as disconcerting. It makes no sense unless one concedes that our government is manipulated by those who seek physical control over the vast oil riches of the Middle East and egged on by Israel’s desires.
We have attacked the sovereignty of Iran on two occasions, and are in the process of threatening her for the third time. In 1953, the U.S. and British overthrew the democratically elected Mohammad Mossadegh and installed the Shah. His brutal regime lasted over 25 years, and ended with the Ayatollah taking power in 1979. Our support for the Shah incited the radicalization of the Shiite Clerics in Iran, resulting in the hostage takeover.
In the 1980s we provided weapons— including poisonous gas— to Saddam Hussein as we supported his invasion of Iran. These events are not forgotten by the Iranians, who see us once again looking for another confrontation with them. We insist that the UN ignore the guarantees under the NPT that grant countries like Iran the right to enrich uranium. The pressure on the UN and the threats we cast toward Iran are quite harmful to the cause of peace. They are entirely unnecessary and serve no useful purpose. Our policy toward Iran is much more likely to result in her getting a nuclear weapon than prevent it.
Our own effort at democratizing Iran has resulted instead in radicalizing a population whose instincts are to like Americans and our economic system. Our meddling these past 50 years has only served to alienate and unify the entire country against us.
In 1953, our CIA, with help of the British, participated in overthrowing the democratically elected leader, Mohammad Mossadegh. We placed the shah in power. He ruled ruthlessly but protected our oil interests, and for that we protected him – that is, until 1979. We even provided him with Iran's first nuclear reactor. Evidently, we didn't buy the argument that his oil supplies precluded a need for civilian nuclear energy. From 1953 to 1979, his authoritarian rule served to incite a radical Muslim opposition led by the Ayatollah Khomeini, who overthrew the Shah and took our hostages in 1979. This blowback event was slow in coming, but Muslims have long memories. The hostage crisis and overthrow of the shah by the ayatollah was a major victory for the radical Islamists. Most Americans either never knew about or easily forgot our unwise meddling in the internal affairs of Iran in 1953.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
There are long-term consequences or blowback from our militant policy of intervention around the world. They are unpredictable as to time and place. 9/11 was a consequence of our military presence on Muslim holy lands; the Ayatollah Khomeini's success in taking over the Iranian government in 1979 was a consequence of our CIA overthrowing Mossadegh in 1953. These connections are rarely recognized by the American people and never acknowledged by our government. We never seem to learn how dangerous interventionism is to us and to our security.
House of Representatives — March 28, 2006:
The Muslim world is not fooled by our talk about spreading democracy and values. The evidence is too overwhelming that we do not hesitate to support dictators and install puppet governments when it serves our interests. When democratic elections result in the elevation of a leader or party not to our liking, we do not hesitate for a minute to undermine that government. This hypocrisy is rarely recognized by the American people. It’s much more comfortable to believe in slogans, to believe that we’re defending our goodness and spreading true liberty. We accept this and believe strongly in the cause, strongly enough to sacrifice many of our sons and daughters, and stupendous amounts of money, to spread our ideals through force.
House of Representatives — February 15, 2006:
Most Americans forget how our policies have systematically and needlessly antagonized the Iranians over the years. In 1953 the CIA helped overthrow a democratically elected president, Mohammad Mossadegh, and install the authoritarian Shah, who was friendly to the U.S. The Iranians were still fuming over this when the hostages were seized in 1979. Our alliance with Saddam Hussein in his invasion of Iran in the early 1980's did not help matters, and obviously did not do much for our relationship with Saddam Hussein. The administration announcement in 2001 that Iran was part of the axis of evil didn’t do much to improve the diplomatic relationship between our two countries. Recent threats over nuclear power, while ignoring the fact that they are surrounded by countries with nuclear weapons, doesn’t seem to register with those who continue to provoke Iran. With what most Muslims perceive as our war against Islam, and this recent history, there’s little wonder why Iran might choose to harm America by undermining the dollar. Iran, like Iraq, has zero capability to attack us. But that didn’t stop us from turning Saddam Hussein into a modern day Hitler ready to take over the world. Now Iran, especially since she’s made plans for pricing oil in Euros, has been on the receiving end of a propaganda war not unlike that waged against Iraq before our invasion.
House of Representatives — September 8th, 2005:
After World War II the U.S. emerged as the #1 world power, and moved to assume what some believed was our responsibility to control Middle East oil in competition with the Soviets. This role prompted us to use our CIA, along with the help of the British, to oust democratically elected Mohammad Mossadegh from power in Iran and install the Shah as a U.S. puppet.
We not only supported Saddam Hussein against Iran, we also supported Osama bin Laden in the 1980s – aggravating the situation in the Middle East and causing unintended consequences. With CIA assistance we helped develop the educational program to radicalize Islamic youth in many Arab nations, especially in Saudi Arabia to fight the Soviets. We even provided a nuclear reactor to Iran in 1967 – which today leads us to threaten another war. All of this has come back to haunt us. Meddling in the affairs of others has consequences.
House of Representatives — June 23, 2004:
Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this legislation. Though I certainly recognize the legitimate national security role of our intelligence community, I have concerns about this authorization and the questionable role played by components of the intelligence community.
Specifically, I am concerned about our history of secret regime changes carried out by our intelligence apparatus. More often than not, we see many of the problems we face today were created as a result of this unwise practice of forcibly changing regimes in secret.
The stories of such activities are numerous. In 1953 the CIA overthrew Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran, installing the Shah as dictator. This led to increasing anti-Americanism, the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, the kidnapping of Americans, the establishment of a hard-line Islamic regime hostile to the United States. In the 1980s the United States provided covert support to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in its war with Iran. Ten years later the United States went to war against Saddam Hussein and then 11 years after that the United States went to war again against Saddam’s Iraq. In the 1980s the United States provided weapons and training to the Taliban and what later became Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan as they sought to overthrow the communist government in power. Some 20 years later, that same Taliban and Osama bin Laden struck out against the United States. The United States then went to war against that Taliban government.
House of Representatives — May 6, 2004:
It is somewhat ironic that we are again meddling in Iranian affairs. Students of history will recall that the US government's ill-advised coup against Iranian leader Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 and its subsequent installation of the Shah as the supreme ruler led to intense hatred of the United States and eventually to the radical Islamic revolution of 1979. One can only wonder what our relations would be with Iran if not for the decades of meddling in that country's internal affairs. We likely would not be considering resolutions such as this. Yet the solution to all the difficulties created by our meddling foreign policy always seems to always be yet more meddling. Will Congress ever learn?
House of Representatives — October 9th, 2004:
Ever since its creation by the National Security Act of 1947, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been meddling in affairs that have nothing to do with the security of the United States. Considering the CIA's overthrow of Iranian leader Mohammad Mossadegh in the 1950s, and the CIA's training of the Mujahedin jihadists in Afghanistan in the 1980s, it is entirely possible the actions of the CIA abroad have actually made us less safe and more vulnerable to foreign attack. It would be best to confine our intelligence community to the defense of our territory from foreign attack. This may well mean turning intelligence functions over to the Department of Defense, where they belong.
House of Representatives — December 3, 2002:
The tired assertion that America "supports democracy" in the Middle East is increasingly transparent. It was false 50 years ago, when we supported and funded the hated Shah of Iran to prevent nationalization of Iranian oil, and it’s false today when we back an unelected military dictator in Pakistan – just to name two examples. If honest popular elections were held throughout the Middle East tomorrow, the people in most countries would elect religious fundamentalist leaders hostile to the United States. Cliché or not, the Arab Street really doesn’t like America, so we should stop the charade about democracy and start pursuing a coherent foreign policy that serves America’s long-term interests.