Argo, the new movie about the Iran hostage crisis (how well some of us elders remember) is not only a terrific thriller but also extremely funny–a refreshing and unusual combination. Alan Arkin has been a favorite of mine for ages, ever since his very first movie, The Russians Are Coming (see it!), and this is one of his most amusing performances.
But the reason for this blog is to remind us all that MI5 and CIA derring-do can be more pernicious than glamorous. In 1953, Great Britain and the United States collaborated to engineer a coup to remove Mohammed Mossadegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran and Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1951. This was not Winston Churchill’s finest hour, nor Eisenhower’s, nor the Dulles brothers.’ Why did we do this? You can look it up in Wikipedia, but the principal reasons were 1) Mossadegh, a reformer, had the temerity to nationalize the British oil companies, and 2) United States was in a state of paranoia about Communism. Mossadegh, an elegant and educated man, was held in solitary confinement for three years and then under house arrest until his death.
Many years later, Madeleine Albright, no pushover, made a statement regretting this action. It can certainly be argued that many of our problems today date from this atrocious intervention on the part of the two Western powers. The movie Argo spends only a minute or two, at the very beginning, reminding us of this, but it’s clearly laid out, and that’s all it takes to start one thinking.