Thursday, December 12, 2013

Post-Mossadeq Middle East

In a conference in Chicago last September, entitled Mossadeq’s Legacy for Future Generations, I examined former Iranian premier’s contributions to issues that were to become key in the present day struggles for freedom and independence in the Middle East.

The short talk (in Farsi), under the title of “Post-Mossadeq Middle East”, was meant to distinguish three areas that Mossadeq led the Middle East region as early as 1950s:
1. The national rights of ownership of natural resources; which became the norm in the region, and the world, decades later.
2. Opposing colonialism from a liberal democratic viewpoint; what later became  the struggle for secular democracy in the region.
3. Struggle against government corruption; something that to this day is destroying the governments through out the region and beyond.

I have added the video for Farsi-speakers, starting at 12:57 of the YouTube video.

Let me extend my thanks and appreciation to Professor Hamid Akbari of Northeastern Illinois University for arranging the timely conference on Mossadeq, and to Dr. Avita Motmaen Far f
or providing the video.


Anonymous said...

I listened to part of this video. More like a monologue than anything meaningful. The speaker compares the coup d'etat in Iran with other countries and as usual the blame hjas to lie with US (yes the country that these speakers have made home there). One thing that never misses my mind is that why as usual we have to blame anyone else except ourselves for our problems and backwardness. It is about time we turn to ourselves and examine methodically where we have failed. In 21st Century there is nothing to be learned about what happened 60 years ago. Do Chinese and Japanese think the same way. In almost one generation South Korea has gone from a third world country to being the second largest producers of electronics in the World (Samsung, LG etc) and there we are sitting ranting about what could have happened if Imperialism (Estemar) was not there. I am sorry about the way our intellectuals think!

Nader Uskowi said...

I am surprised that you watched my talk, starting at 12:57 on the video., and came out saying the talk was about events 60 years ago! The only thing I did not talk about was just that! My talk was about the post-Mossadeq Middle East, how the current struggles for freedom and independence in the Middle East have as their goals what Mossadeq practiced during his premiership, as outlined above in English. Please watch it again and send me your comments.

Anonymous said...

Mr Uskowi,

With respect when was the last time your were PHYSICALLY in Iran? I doubt that you have been since you left that country decades ago.

I am not asking this question to be sarcastic but if you answer that question we can start a discussion of interest to all. I trust the question is simple enough to answer


Nader Uskowi said...

Interesting the personal question is coming from someone who does not have the courtesy to introduce him/herself, a person who wants to start a discussion of interest to all that depends on the date of last visit to Iran!!

In any case, as said on other occasions on this blog before, I have visited Iran many times since I left the country few years after the revolution, last time in September 2006.

Anonymous said...

Frankly I will look at it a bit suspicious that last you were in Iran was in 2006. That is by your account almost 8 years ago. Now you are sitting over there criticising me why I asked when it was last you were in Iran.

Anyway it does not matter what my name is. But what matters (and I listened to your talk) it is typical Iranian (if it hasd happened). Guys of your age (no disrespect) have a romantic view of Iran. It sounds like you think that history hass cheated Iran (and citizens of Iran by thgat account). That is not the case I am afraid. Iranians are dilluding themselves by making up these web of uncertainty, foreign conspricy etc around something simple.

I go back the point. What would have happened if the democratically elected Governmenty of Dr Mossadegh was in power. Would that made any changes to peoples political maturity in a country with 20-30% litteracy? I don't think so. Just because 20% of people appreciated democracy, the remaining 80% would not have been affected. Look what has happened now. The Mullah's have taken religion from cottage industry (mosques) into enterprize class and institionalised it like a great money making machine and we now have at least 70% litterate. Yes ther same Iraniasn people are still believing in that religious nonsense.

Now you consider yourself an intellectual but behind the facade you are trying to taint my opinion. I think your world and the world of your generation is a fantasy world built on (ey kash) than anything practical.

Personally I believe it will take Iranians many many years before they can develop political process. There are no short cuts about it. Unless you can prove me otherwise sir!

Nader Uskowi said...

So what happened to the promise that if I told you the date of my last visit to Iran, you will start a conversation that all would benefit? This is it, the conversation that is? But few points:

1. You asked a question and I answered you. Height of rudeness to suggest that my answer was not correct, and I resent that. I did not criticize you for asking the question, but suggested to you that in a civilized conversation, when you bring up a personal question you do not ask it anonymously. But that’s hard for you to digest, I assume.

2. You state “Guys of age have romantic view of Iran,” what does that mean when the topic of my talk in the development in the present-day Middle East. My thesis was that Mossadeq was the frontrunner of four important trends that were either implemented or still resonates in present-day Middle East: National right over natural resources; anti-colonialism from a liberal viewpoint (as opposed the reactionary varieties); call for secular democracy as the way to take the countries in the region into future (as opposed to religious sectarianism); and anti-corruption. Any problem with this thesis?

Anonymous said...

While I understand this may not be the most popular viewpoint among some people, I am of the opinion that Mossadegh was in fact a terrible leader, and that Iran was better off without him as prime minister (he was a secular version of Ahmadinejad in my opinion).

The manner in which he handled the oil nationalization was simply undiplomatic and self-destructive for his own nation and people. While obviously his nationalism does resonate with the generation of Iranians six decades after the crisis, for people who actually lived through it wasn't any better than Ahmadinejad's handling of the nuclear issue. And the end result was the same. By 1953 Iran was under an embargo, the economy was in a free fall, and people were literally starving (sound familiar?).

But ignoring the nationalization issue, it was his domestic policies which I find the most fault with. While obviously the National Front party was brought to power via relatively democratic means, it stopped behaving democratically soon afterward. Mossadegh allied himself first with the fundamentalist group Fadaiyan-e-Islam and the Ayatollah Abol-Qasem Kashani, and afterwards the Communist Tudeh Party. The only reason Mossadegh even became prime minister was because one of his recent predecessors, Haj-Ali Razmara was assasinated by Khalil Tahmasebi, a Fadaiyan member. Days later, the minister of education was assasinated by another Fadaiyan member. The oil nationalization vote was achieved through the same political violence (it was reported that one parliament deputy angrily declared "Eight grains of gunpowder brought about this vote!").

Throughout his entire premiership, dissidents were summarily beaten and even assasinated by his supporters. Whether or not Mossadegh personally ordered these attacks is debatable, but he obviously benefited from them politically (it certainly didn't help when he personally freed Razmara's murderer), and was in effect morally guilty.

By 1952 he was losing his popularity. He illegally cancelled the 1952 parliamentary elections when exit polls showed that his party was going to lose vital seats. He attempted to wrest control of the military from the Shah by temporarily resigning, and then having his supporters create riots that caused over 50 people to die (how caring of him). Worse, shortly after he managed to have an special bill passed allowing him extensive, Hosni Mubarak style emergency powers. After an assasination attempt, he put those powers to use, jailing dozens of opponents (some of whom allegedly even claimed that they faced torture, according to a report by WK Kressin). When his National Front party began crumbling due to his increasing unpopularity, he blatantly violated the constitution by carrying out a referendum (which passed with 99.9% of the vote, does THAT sound familiar?) giving him total dictatorial powers. He then ignored the Shah's dismissal decree (remember the Shah had exercised his constitutional right to dismiss a prime minister).

B.M.A said...

ARE you Paul Iddon ?-just a guess!!.

Anonymous said...

"You asked a question and I answered you. Height of rudeness to suggest that my answer was not correct, and I resent that. I did not criticize you for asking the question, but suggested to you that in a civilized conversation, when you bring up a personal question you do not ask it anonymously. But that’s hard for you to digest, I assume."

AS a prelude with respect I am entitled to my opinion as much as you are. I do not have to assume what you are saying is necessarily correct. In a civilised society we are allowed to agree to disagree with each other. What I questioned was your sincerity in telling me that the last time you were in Iran was 8 years ago. Fair enough if that offends you so be it. Tough! With respect one should practice what one preaches; civil correspondence.

Your raised the following:

“My thesis was that Mossadeq was the frontrunner of four important trends that were either implemented or still resonates in present-day Middle East: National right over natural resources; anti-colonialism from a liberal viewpoint (as opposed the reactionary varieties); call for secular democracy as the way to take the countries in the region into future (as opposed to religious sectarianism); and anti-corruption.”

Just a minor mater. This is not commonly called a thesis Sir. It is called “presentation” or “deck” and “Mossadeq “ is spelt “Mosaddegh”

I am asked to comment on merits in these points. I will address them separately if I may:

1. National right over natural resources
This is something which I believe has more to do with what one nation wants to do or can do with a single/high value commodity that has in her disposal and little else. Albeit the nation lacks the skills and material development to market that product. The statement “National right over natural resources” does not mean much unless another nation came, captured the land and started using the said commodity for their own benefit. That is NOT what happened during Shah and Mossadegh’s time. The British did not come and capture Iranian land and forcefully capitalised on the oil. The oil was there as crude and frankly Iranians did not know what to do with it. They lacked the technical know how and how to market it. “National right over natural resources” was never in question

2. anti-colonialism from a liberal viewpoint (as opposed the reactionary varieties);
I fail to see what this is supposed to mean. Granted one can label interference on the part of more powerful nations as colonialism. What to be learned about colonial times of 19th and early 20th century in the start of 2014? Where is the example of colonialism in the Middle East as of now? Are you referring to colonial puppets that are ruling in Saudi Arabia etc? Ok they had a chance in Iraq and Egypt. Look at the state of these countries. Are they democratic after 10 years since Saddam was kicked off from the throne and three years after Egyptian spring? The correct inference is “old hat” so to speak.

Anonymous said...

Second part

3. call for secular democracy as the way to take the countries in the region into future (as opposed to religious sectarianism);
Interesting I think that is more of a wish list than anything substantial. A call for secular democracy can only work if the society has the cultural development and maturity to accept and practice democracy. Name one country in ME that is at this level! The answer is none. Unfortunately this rigid/intolerant religion is imbedded in the culture and peoples frame of mind. Democracy’s pre-requisites are obeying the law, respect for others’ views and tolerance. None of them as of now exist in Iranian society to a substantial degree, less so others. Granted Iranians once they get rid of this religious ideology will be in a better position to embrace freedom and tolerance. I think Khatami was right in championing a civil society during his tenure.

4. and anti-corruption
This will come about when society moves to a level of material development and comfort when people do not need to rob or accept bribes. As of now due to dire situation (yes I was in Iran few months ago), there is no way for an average Iranian to survive on meagre wages where he/she earns Rials but have to spend in Dollar to survive. Even my understanding is that corruption in the neighbouring country Turkey is rife on par or worse that Iran. So this change is all going to come when these countries get to the level that south Korea is now, that is they can survive being honest.

I hate to burst your bubble but in conclusion I found your points passé and a qualified rant.

Nader Uskowi said...

Glad you entered into a substantive discussion (although I still do not know what did the date of my last visit to Iran have anything to do with any of your arguments.)

1. Nationalization of Iranian oil by Mossadeq was such a huge act at the time that the U.S. and Britain had to pull a coup against him, and de-nationalize, so to speak, the Iranian oil industry by forming the Consortium. After half a century, having a national company controlling the natural resources of the country is the norm in the Middle East, accepted by all. Mossadeq was the trailblazer here.

2. People can approach colonialism from different viewpoints. These days, the fundamentalist Islamic groups’ “anti-colonial” and ‘anti-imperialist” tendencies are based on their reactionary opposition to modernity and any attempt to pull the countries of the region out backwardness and into the 21st century. But one can oppose colonialism from a liberal viewpoint. You are saying it is a difficult proposition, and I agree. But something that needs to be adhered and done; these movements take a longtime to triumph. Mossadeq started it in Iran.

3. Secular democracy is not a wish list, is a distinct viewpoint. There were two extreme movements in the region to deal with modernity and democracy. Ataturk and Reza Shah wanted to bring modernity and secularism to their countries through absolutism and dictatorship. There is an inherent problem with the model: modernity, even if led by secular leaders, and dictatorship do not mix well! Then there is the religious movements which at best want to bring some form of democracy led by religious institution (the “wish list” of some of the adherents to Islamic revolution in its early days.) Iran showed clearly that democracy and religious rule do not mix well! Secular democracy is the only way forward, as tough as it sounds. Iran experienced that during post-world war II years, climaxed in Mossadeq’s government, and destroyed by the coup.

4. Anti-corruption should be an on-going social movement in the region. Corruption is destroying the fabrics of Middle Eastern societies (as is the case in many other parts of the world). You need leaders championing clean governments to break the vicious cycle. Mossadeq did that.

Even if we believe Mossadeq did not leave a lasting legacy in tackling these four tough issues during his very short premiership (merely 2 years), as suggested by an anon at 12:17 AM, we should give him credit that he tried.

Anonymous said...


Are you black man adam? just a guess!!

Nader Uskowi said...

BTW, all the four points covered above were in the original video, in Farsi, if you had reviewed and understood it.

Nader Uskowi said...


We did not publish your latest comments as they constitute personal attacks on the author, not contributing to the conversation here. We have publish five rather long commentaries by you, which aside from some personal attacks and accusations did contain commentary on the subject.

B.M.A said...

OF CAUSE i am!! ,the Black Shia convert living in a mud hut surrounded by a thicket! hyenas roaming in the night !, indeed, I am -any qualms??