“Miss Lambton’s advice”
Wonderful piece by Martin Kramer over at MESH on the late Ann K.S. Lambton, OBE FBA, whose Persian Grammar I have not five feet from my desk. Her knowledge of Iran was such that she realized that Mohammad Mosaddegh, the populist-socialist prime minister of Iran who nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, not only could be forced out of power, but provided crucial cultural and political advice on how such a removal could be done. In the event, the CIA got Mossadegh removed (in one of its few successful operations known to the public) in 1953, after the U.S. government—initially neutral between Britain and Iran—became convinced (rightly or wrongly, historians debate) that Mosaddegh was sliding into the Soviet orbit under the influence of the Tudeh (the Iranian Communist party).
The Mosaddegh affair is retrospectively regarded as one of the keys for understanding anti-Western feeling in Iran, though to be fair, anti-Western conspiracy theories (mostly centering around the British until the ’60s or ’70s, thereafter the U.S.) had long histories in Iranian (and Arab) culture, antedating the incident, which generally served to validate the paranoid worldview. In consequence, the Islamic Revolution of 1979 is often laid at the feet of the U.S. or UK as blowback for meddling in Iranian affairs. That’s a pleasant morality play, but the history is not as simple as all that by any means. Certainly memories of Mosaddegh’s overthrow fed anti-Western opinion in the middle classes, but it likely would have remained a relatively obscure Anglo-Iranian quarrel over expropriation without compensation had Mohammad Reza Shah not proved a heavy-handed—and worse, incompetent—ruler.
I had no idea that Professor Lambton was still alive (until last month), or I’d have dropped her a note of thanks for her magisterial and pellucid grammar of Persian. And now I have to go buy some of her works on medieval Persia.
Requiescat in pace, magistra magna.
Don’t ask impertinent questions like that jackass Adept Lu.