An author, administrator, lawyer and prominent parliamentarian, his administration introduced a range of social and political measures such as social security, land reforms and higher taxes including the introduction of taxation of the rent on land. His government’s most significant policy, however, was the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, which had been built by the British on Persian lands since 1913 through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC/AIOC), later known as British Petroleum (BP).
Many Iranians regard Mosaddegh as the leading champion of secular democracy and resistance to foreign domination in Iran’s modern history. Following an initial, failed coup attempt by the CIA/MI6-backed General Fazlollah Zahedi, Mosaddegh resigned four days later on 19 August 1953, with Zahedi succeeding him as prime minister.
While the coup is at times referred to in the West as Operation Ajax after its CIA cryptonym, in Iran it is referred to as the 28 Mordad 1332 Coup d’état, after its date on the Iranian calendar. Mosaddegh was imprisoned for three years, then put under house arrest until his death and was buried in his own home so as to prevent a political furor. In 2013, the U.S. government formally acknowledged the U.S. role in the coup, as a part of its foreign policy initiatives.
Who Was Mohammad Mossadegh?
Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh was Iran’s prime minister elected as such by the Iranian Parliament at a time when parliamentary elections were in fact considered legitimate in Iran. For millions of Iranians he symbolizes Iranian sovereignty and patriotism. During his short tenure in office (April 1951-August 1953) he managed to implement the legislation (which he had spearheaded in Parliament) that nationalized the oil industry, ending almost 50 years of British monopoly over Iran’s petroleum excavation, extraction, research, marketing and sales.
In a now infamous covert military operation known as “Operation Ajax” (referred to as the Coup in Iranian,) British and American intelligence services, with the help of Iranian elements, used rogue elements in the military and removed him from office on Aug. 19, 1953 (28 Mordad 1332). After the Coup he was court-martialed and sentenced to three years in prison. In an illegal move even by the regime’s own standards, Shah’s government exiled him to house arrest in a remote village his family owned until his death on March 5, 1967. He was laid to rest inside the dining room of his residence in the village of Ahmadabad in a private ceremony.
Mohammad Mossadegh was one of crown prince Abbas Mirza’s great grandsons. Born in Tehran on June 16, 1882, his father was a finance minister and his mother a Qajar princess. In 1909 he married Zahra Khanom, one of Nasir al-Din Shah’s granddaughters. Mossadegh was educated at Institut d’études politiques de Paris in France and University of Neuchâtel Switzerland where he received his doctorate degree in law in June 1913.
When he returned to Iran he briefly taught at Tehran School of Political Science and then held various posts in government. He served as a member of parliament, governor of the provinces of Fars and Azerbaijan, and became justice, finance and foreign minister at different periods before leading the government as prime minister.