All the world’s a stage...
— The Great Pretender —

Mossadegh the Actor (+ Writer, Producer, Director)

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | July 29, 2014                    

Mossadegh the Actor

Iranian Premier Mohammad Mossadegh was often accused of “acting” and other such “histrionics”, but rarely as pointedly as in this Thursday evening editorial from Troy, New York newspaper The Times Record. And its editors, who previously labeled him a “madman” and a dictator, would have known something about playing make-believe.

Without a shred of evidence, the paper fibbed that Mossadegh had “called on the Russian Communists for aid”. In August, the Record made up the yarn that Mossadegh “held the Shah under house arrest” in his own palace. After the coup, they baldly stated that the entire Iranian nation was demanding he be executed as a traitor. Talk about pretending...

“...Mossadegh has shown a definite aptitude for the tricks of the theater.” U.S. editorial, November 1951
"THE MERCHANT OF PERSIA" — Mossadegh by Illingsworth in PUNCH, June 18, 1952 Whomever was using it, the thespian theme was clearly meant as a dig against Mossadegh, depicted variously as a shameless faker and an emotive, tragi-comic figure straight out of fiction.

In September 1951, one commentator opined that “Mossadegh has established a clear claim to the international Oscar for great emotional acting.” The references even got Shakespearian — columnist James Marlow dubbed him an “Iranian Hamlet”, while British political cartoonist Leslie Illingsworth once portrayed the Prime Minister as Shylock, the enigmatic character from William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

In his memoirs, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson offered the backhanded compliment that Mossadegh was “a great actor and a great gambler”. Americans would later send a former Hollywood actor to the White House twice, but of course that was fine. To quote Ronald Reagan, “How can a president not be an actor?”

What is true is that Mossadegh’s military trial indeed became a stage of sorts, and the fallen leader certainly gave his captive audience quite a show (TIME described him as its “writer, producer, director and star performer”). The proceedings were largely a show trial to begin with, prosecuted by the same entity that had attacked and nearly killed their elderly defendant.

Even the prequel resembled a distasteful burlesque show. The CIA had, after all, carefully choreographed and financed a coup, launched a promotional campaign featuring planted black propaganda, bribed street mobs containing thugs and prostitutes, and staged other action-packed theatrics.

If Dr. Mossadegh was just a slapstick showman better suited for the vaudeville circuit, then the State Department = Warner Bros. and Allen and John Foster Dulles were P.T. Barnum and Cecil B. DeMille.

The Times Record | December 3, 1953


Mossadegh is more of an actor than a statesman. When he failed in his coup and was arrested he did not succumb to the inevitable. He postponed it and fought it as far as possible by the dramatic performances which are his stock in trade. First he talked volubly. Then he said he wouldn’t talk any more, but he broke this wise promise within a few hours and continued his tirade. Then he denounced the court as unconstitutional and refused to plead. Later he entered his plea of “not guilty.” Twice he has announced a hunger strike; but he never continues it more than a day or two. On the second day of his trial he said he would never recognize any verdict of an illegal court and therefore would not appeal. Now he says he certainly intends to appeal the decision if it is adverse.

Mossadegh belongs on the stage. But since he prefers the dangerous business of revolutionary politics he must abide by the rules—in so far as there are rules in such circumstances. He tried to seize power and become a dictator. He called on the Russian Communists for aid. [nope.] He was defeated. It is hard to see how he can avoid the verdict of treason. And all his super-acting hardly can help him if the court, however constituted, finds the evidence sharply against him.


Related links:

Mossadegh “Puts on an act”, Theorized Foreign Analyst Edgar Ansel Mowrer

A Good Show ExpectedThe Knickerbocker News, October 10, 1951

Elvis Presley “Can’t Sing”, Mossadegh “Red-Backed” Claimed The Cedar Rapids Gazette

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

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