We Loathe Dictators*
The Wall Street Journal — August 19, 1953

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | August 19, 2017                       

The 1953 coup in Iran

When the Wall Street Journal first reacted to the chaotic situation in Iran on Aug. 19, 1953, they were still under the impression that Mossadegh was victorious in the face of the royalist coup attempt.

Their sanctimonious editorial, Rise Of A Dictator, placed Mossadegh in the pantheon of classic, power-mad tyrants with all of the usual defects. This might have given the impression that they had nothing for contempt for unaccountable tyrants, but their criteria was selective. After this decisive day in history, a hereditary monarch who assumed the throne in 1941 would rule absolutely, unchallenged for another 26 years.

• Read the follow-up:
Lessons From Iran | The Wall Street Journal, August 21, 1953

The Wall Street Journal - August 21, 1953


Dictators come in various sizes and shapes, but they all come the same way.

They come like Mossadegh by emotional appeals to their countrymen and their designs are always the same: A search for complete power.

Mussolini was vain and pompous and he appealed to his people’s pride by promising to bring again the grandeur that was Rome. [Italian fascist Benito Mussolini] Hitler, the cruel fanatic, was an egoist who talked of a race destined to master the world, and his people believed he foretold their destiny. [German Nazi Adolf Hitler] Stalin was ruthless, silent and cunning, but when he spoke to his people he was always the little father of the Russians, posing as the man who had dedicated his life to bringing about the greatest good, for the greatest number. [Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin] Even [Louisiana governor] Huey Long, who cussed and talked of corn pone wars, promised to make every man a king and the people at the crossroads and creek forks believed him. Peron appealed to his shirtless ones and rode to vast and dictatorial power. [Argentine dictator Juan Perón]

Mossadegh puts a different twist to all of this, but the appeal is just the same. The Iranian premier plays on the sympathies of his people; he is bedridden and he faints and swoons to get the support of his country for his plans. He seized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company through appeals to national pride and cupidity. He told his people that the British were stealing their oil and that he would make them richer. Instead, they are poorer. When some opposition to his demands for more and more power arose in the Iranian parliament, his followers simply stayed away and, since there was no quorum, parliament was helpless.

Mossadegh has had the support of the Communists in all these things and as his power grew he knew that eventually the young Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, would have to go. [Mohammad Reza Pahlavi] And the young Shah knew also that one or the other would have to go. Over the weekend, the showdown came. It is difficult to say just how it happened, but both sides agree that the young Shah tried to depose Mossadegh. The premier’s government reports that members of the imperial guard, sent to arrest Mossadegh, were themselves disarmed and arrested by his personal bodyguards. The Shah and his empress [Soraya] fled to Iraq, and Major General Zahedi, the man he named as premier, is hunted in the mountains. [Fazlollah Zahedi]

Zahedi had the paper naming him premier, but Mossadegh had the power. Mossadegh has now dissolved the parliament and it is not hard to guess that in the new one no voices will question whatever he wants done. Today he holds Iran’s fate and fortune in his thin hands. He has achieved what he sought: Complete power. It is clear that he had to achieve it to keep what power he already had. Like all the dictators before him, he had played on his people’s pride and promised them he would do things he could not do, any more than Mussolini could revive the Roman empire or Hitler could rule the world.

And when a man with some power cannot please all his people or carry out his foolish promises, he must have complete power to quiet their mutterings. The way of quieting the mutterings is always the same and the end is always the loss of whatever liberties the people had before.

After 1953 Coup, Henderson Scorns Iranian Conspiracy Theorists
After 1953 Coup in Iran, Ambassador Loy Henderson Scorns Iranian Conspiracy Theorists

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Related links:

Dictatorship Replaces Monarchy in Little Iran | August 18, 1953 editorial

Dismissal Of A Tiresome Old Man | The Danville Bee (Virginia), August 20, 1953

Along the Road Toward Dictatorship | CIA Propaganda (Aug. 1953)

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

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