The Harder They Fall
August 22, 1953 — The Chicago Daily Tribune

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | September 10, 2015                    

The 1953 coup in Iran

You’re looking at the very first reaction to the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh in “The World’s Greatest Newspaper”, The Chicago Tribune. This lead editorial was followed by five others, the final of which was titled Meditation on Salad Dressing.

“In our view”, they pronounced, “every soul on earth has a natural, God-given right to lubricate his salad with the substance or combination of substances that best pleases him. If anybody finds brown shoe polish dissolved in nitric acid to his taste, he can have it as far as we are concerned, and welcome.”

The Chicago Daily Tribune


The downfall of Premier Mossadegh in Iran in a royalist revolt is another demonstration of the adage, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” It is impossible to rejoice in the overthrow of the old scoundrel, for he is in the hands of his enemies, and, as the incidents of the Tehran uprising show, the Iranians can be a barbaric and bloodthirsty crowd.

If you’re up in that country, you’re way up; if you’re down, you are slightly worse than dead. Mossadegh rode high for more than two years. He pushed around the young shah, decreed that he should reign but not rule, ordered members of the royal family out of the country, expropriated the monarch’s estates, kicked out the speaker and other important opponents in the Iranian majlis or lower house, survived two other monarchist putsches in six months, and forced the shah and his queen to flee the country. [Soraya Esfandiari Bakhtiari]

He nationalized the great British oil industry in Iran, defied the world and juggled the currency to keep a bankrupt country running when he could not operate the refineries with native technicians or find markets, stood up to the Russians when it suited him but played along with the native Communists when it was to his advantage, and pulled off a “ja” election that would have been the envy of Hitler. In that election, less than two weeks ago, Mossadegh won a referendum to dissolve parliament. He had more than 99 per cent of the vote.

Hitler used to do almost as well and so, we suppose, did Mussolini if he ever bothered to poll the Italians under fascism. But these days Russia is the only other place that gives such overwhelming mandates, the reason being, of course, that the voter gets only one choice and runs the chance of a concentration camp or firing squad if he doesn’t mark the right way and look the opposite to glum in doing so.

But, as the experience in Iran goes to show, 99 per cent approval means nothing when the mobs and the uniformed boys with the hardware decide that it’s time for a change. The shah looks good at the moment, but so did Mossy up to the second he found himself on the spot. The moral may be read in Moscow, Peiping, and the capitals of the communist stooge states, as well as in certain presidential palaces in Latin America.

In dictatorships nothing succeeds like success, but it is foolhardy to think that there is any automatic assurance that success will be permanent. We are reminded again that the United States has expanded much diplomatic energy and many millions to influence things favorably towards us in Iran, but that all of the motion was wasted, for it had no effect on events. If the new dispensation is slightly more sympathetic to us, that is the product of chance. We might profit from the experience and quit the futile and costly process.

70th Anniversary of TIME’s Man of the Year Article


Related links:

Is Iran Next on the Red Timetable? | Los Angeles Times, Aug. 18, 1953

Danger Signals In Iran | The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 1, 1951

Democracy in Eclipse | The Christian Science Monitor, August 3, 1953

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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