But that wasn't good enough for Rick Santorum who verbally jumped out of turn in front of Herman Cain to defend his anti-Iran policy. During Santorum's defense he claimed we had been at war with Iran since 1979; in turn Ron Paul corrected him claiming 1953.
As a student of history, I found it appropriate to share with you the truth in Dr. Paul's words. For the vast majority of adulthood, the history lesson we remember and are told begins with the violent overthrow of a pro-American Iranian leader, the Shah, with the subsequent hostage taking of Americans at our embassy. I remember those days well. Yet most of us aren't quite old enough to remember a complex story of American interventionism gone awry. Nor were the secret events of 1953 fully elucidated to the American public as they have been in more recent times. Lets examine some history together and learn how events all across the globe impacted our relations with Iran.
During WWII, Venezuela passed the Hydrocarbons Act of 1943 which asserted that profits made from foreign oil companies had to be shared 50/50 with the state. This precursor to oil nationalization was copied in 1950 by Saudia Arabia in its dealings with Aramco as King Ibn Saud achieved a similar agreement under the threat of nationalization. Seeing successful profit-sharing results in other oil producing nations, the idea of nationalization grew wildly popular in Iran with regards to Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC, whom we know today as British Petroleum or BP) and its Abadan refinery at the time responsible for 20% of the world supply (Abadan is my sweetheart's birthplace so there is personal familiarity). While the British slowly reacted to the profit-sharing demands, a group of radical Iranians terrorists lead by Navvab Safari and his secret society Fada'iyan-e Islam with a history of assassinations since 1946, assassinated the Prime Minister Haj Ali Razmara while praying in a mosque on March 7, 1951--just days after Razmara had spoken out against AOIC nationalization. Razmara's assassination vaulted the issue into the Iranian parliament which days later voted for nationalization and a new pro-nationalization Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh.
This expropriation naturally resulted in an outcry from the British who blocked the Persian Gulf and succeed in dropping Iranian oil production by 95%. After a period of time realizing that Mosaddegh would offer no recourse to the stolen assets, the British planned a coup using MI6. As historian John W. Limbert points out in Chapter 3 of his work Negotiating with Iran: Wrestling the Ghosts of History (2009) with the UK under Socialist Party rule they hardly held the moral high ground:
Prime Minister Clement Attlee's socialist government, which had nationalized much of British heavy industry, could not well oppose the Iranian oil nationalization on principle. (p.72)During 1951-2 both the UK and the US would change the party in control of leadership, first the UK choosing Prime Minister Winston Churchill and followed by US Churchill's wartime ally, Dwight Eisenhower. Churchill began to lobby the US to assist in the coup playing on American fears that the UK might withdraw from the Korean War:
"Britain was supporting the Americans in Korea, [Churchill] reminded Truman, and had a right to expect Anglo-American unity on Iran." (Wikipedia, 1953 Iranian Coup D'état quoting Stephen Kinzer: All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, John Wiley and Sons, 2003, p.145)With the election of Eisenhower and installation in January of 1953, the new president authorized using the CIA to cosponsor the coup codenamed "Operation Ajax". The coup then occurred on August 19, 1953. Whereas pro-American Mosaddegh had been democratically elected, the result of the coup was to install a king, the Shah, who ruled with tyranny as an American puppet over the nation. The Sharia-law loving Islamic fundamentalists, angered both by the coup and the secularism of the Shah, staged their own revolution in 1979. The CIA created the word "blowback" specifically to mean the unintended consequences of this anti-democratic American imperialism.
Quite simply, Americans were fighting their first war--the Korean War--under the banner of the United Nations and leaving behind the notions of both non-interventionism and with Truman declaring the it a "police action" circumventing the constitutional requirement for a congressional declaration of war. Because Truman had illegally intervened into Korea, the pressure was augmented for the US to support its longtime ally. Additionally, the Korean War removed the moral high ground of non-interventionism and may have help signal to Churchill that such actions by the US were now acceptable leaving the door open for Churchill to petition the US into a second instance of interventionism when clearly this was a dispute between--at that time two friends of the US: Iran and the UK. Ron Paul obviously knows his history and were we all to study Iran would learn of a classic case of interventionism gone awry and a warning echoed by Paul for us not to intervene.
Additional reading: TotallyFreePress, Iran’s History, the CIA / MI6 & Operation Ajax