Final Paper Proposal

           At the start of the 20th century, the oil industry in the Middle East was beginning to make a profound impact on the global economy. Western countries carving up the globe were at the forefront of the oil boom. In the search for economic independence and military might, they sought to bring oil under their control. Unsurprisingly, Iran became a victim of this conflict. “In 1901, George Reynolds, a self-taught geologist and a petroleum engineer, signed an agreement with the Shah of Iran, Muzzaffar al-Din, under which he assumed the exclusive right to prospect for oil in a vast tract of Iranian territory” [Stephen Kinzer-Bibliography]. Britain in particular became very dependent on Iranian oil. “The interests of Britain and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company became one and inseparable” [Kinzer-Bibliography]. As the British drilled more, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (formally the Anglo-Persian Oil Company) became richer. This wealth not only benefited Britain, but her allies as well, including the United States. The United States and Britain came to rely heavily on cheap access to Iranian oil. American reliance on cheap Iranian oil was so important that when it was threatened in 1953, the United States infamously took matters into its own hands and organized a coup. This leads to the question I intend on researching: was Western reliance on Iranian oil so strong, that the United States organized Operation Ajax in 1953 to overthrow Mossadeq? Was oil the reason we organized the coup?

             In 1951, Mohammad Mossadeq was democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran. He was a very passionate and charismatic leader as well as the “chief protagonist of an anti-imperialist civic nationalist movement and wanted to assert Iranian national sovereignty by the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company” [Malcolm Byrne and Mark J Gasiorowski-Bibliography]. For precisely this reason American and British policymakers wanted Mossadeq ousted and for the pro-Western Shah restored. After months of careful planning the CIA and British Secret Intelligence Service carried out Operation Ajax, also referred to as Operation TPAJAX, in which they aided Iranian opposition in overthrowing Mossadeq and reinstating the Shah.

               Mossadeq had publicly espoused the view that “the British had exploited Iran through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and had exerted political control over Iran.” Therefore, “there could be no compromise with the British. From 1951, plans to overthrow him were set in train.” [Byrne and Gaziorowski- Bibliography] Furthermore, he was a Marxist and had developed close ties with Moscow. Conversely, Reza Shah compromised with the British about the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and had been a stable and predictable puppet for British and American interests. The United States and Britain undertook Operation Ajax in 1953 with the hope of returning the status quo, which most importantly meant having control over Iranian oil.

             During my research, I identified valuable primary and secondary sources, and these have helped me to organize all of my information and to plan the structure of my research paper. So far, I have found about twelve books that will be useful for my research. I have found four primary sources from the National Security Council specifically pertaining to Operation Ajax and the planning stages of it. I also found several articles from JSTOR which have proved beneficial. Some of the books I have are Inside the Iranian Revolution, by John D. Stempel. Although it does not primarily discuss Operation Ajax, it provides a detailed account of the Iranian Revolution and the major role Operation Ajax played leading up to this. A second book I have is Mohammad Mossadeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran which is edited by Malcolm Byrne and David J Gasiorowski. This book provides an abundance of information about the coup and the role that oil played in it. The third book I found which is extremely helpful is called All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer. This book provides a lot of information about Iran before, during, and after the coup. It also has a detailed chapter specifically about oil and the effects it had on the United States and Britain. The primary sources are going to be critical in my research because they offer insight into how U.S. Policymakers (especially the National Security Council) felt about Iran and how to deal with it. Another book that I have yet to pick up is The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power by Daniel Yergin. This book will help me to understand the profound importance of oil lobbyists and executives in the forging of American foreign policy. One book that is critical is Oil Diplomacy, by Nasrollah Saifpour Fatemi. This book specifically discusses the oil crisis in Iran since before World War I, which will provide a lot of background information. The book also has a chapter specifically for the nationalization of the Iranian Oil Industry, which is key to the coup and central to my research.

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