The Mossadegh Prize 2015
The Mossadegh Foundation is pleased to announce that the 2015 recipient of the biennial Mossadegh Prize is Professor Ervand Abrahamian, distinguished Professor of History at Baruch College and the Graduate Centre in the City University of New York, for his book The Coup: 1953, The CIA and the Roots of Modern US-Iranian Relations (The New Press, 2013).
In the judgment of the Foundation The Coup is a major achievement and masterly contribution to modern Iranian history in a subject of central interest: the dramatic, but peaceful and legal struggle waged by Mossadegh and the national movement to achieve meaningful control over the oil industry from the moment of nationalization in April 1951 to the coup in August 1953. Professor Abrahamian has painstakingly re-assessed the range of archival material used by earlier historians, and on some issues has brought new documents, to piece together a powerful argument that the coup was the outcome, not of Mossadegh’s claimed intransigence or “irrationality,” but of a zero-sum struggle which left no room for compromise on either side. The British were ready to concede nationalization in name, but they could never contemplate the prospect of genuine control of the oil industry passing to Iran. Yet, for Mossadegh and Iran, nationalization was inseparable from national sovereignty which in their turn were inseparable from firmly held beliefs in the rule of law and parliamentary democracy. Throughout the negotiations the British never dealt with Mossadegh in good faith; nor was the United States the “honest broker” it often claimed. Even the much heralded final “compromise” presented through the World Bank is demonstrated by Abrahamian to have been a cynical sham that the State Department and Foreign Office knew would be unacceptable and which Mossadegh legitimately rejected.
Professor Abrahamian also argues that, despite the rhetoric of the Cold War, the US decision to carry out a coup was not so much for fear of a Tudeh seizure of power as for a desire, in an age of anticolonial nationalism, to prevent the dangerous repercussions that oil nationalization could have throughout the world.
In the view of our selection committee, Professor Abrahamian’s book also has the great merit of presenting sound accounts of most of the key events and personalities of the story, including a meticulous portrait of Mossadegh’s political development, in a fast-paced, accessible prose which will engage the reader, making it an unrivaled introduction to the history of this episode.
The Mossadegh Prize is awarded to recognize distinguished accomplishments in the field of Iranian studies in any language. The Foundation considers it an honour to bestow this award upon Professor Abrahamian in recognition not only of this book but also his outstanding contribution to scholarship on contemporary Iran over three decades.