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All the Shah's Men

An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror
Written by: Stephen Kinzer
Length: 11 hrs and 7 mins
Categories: History, Americas
4.5 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)

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Audible Editor Reviews

With his fast-paced narrative and deep ferreting out of the facts, Kinzer reassembles the CIA's 1953 coup of Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected leader of Iran in favor of the bloodthirsty dictatorship of Mohammad Reza Shah, who is believed to have been a puppet for the US government. 

If you like Robert Ludlum or John Le Carre, you'll delight in Kinzer's account of the return of the Shah to Iran. It's written and performed like a spy novel, with code names, secret meetings, and last-minute plot twists. Kinzer's a long-time, highly experienced New York Times foreign correspondent, so he's deft at crafting hard facts into compelling narrative. 

Michael Prichard, a veteran narrator of everything from walking tours to military nonfiction, maintains a deliberate and steady pace. No shocking detail is overemphasized, and this contributes to the overall impact of the book. 

What's most frightening is that in the middle of this listen you begin to see connections between the installation of the Shah in Iran and the events of 9/11. "Past is prologue" has rarely been as accurate as it is here.

Publisher's Summary

Half a century ago, the United States overthrew the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, whose "crime" was nationalizing the country's oil industry. 

In a cloak-and-dagger story of spies, saboteurs, and secret agents, Kinzer reveals the involvement of Eisenhower, Churchill, Kermit Roosevelt, and the CIA in Operation Ajax, which restored Mohammad Reza Shah to power. Reza imposed a tyranny that ultimately sparked the Islamic Revolution of 1979 which, in turn, inspired fundamentalists throughout the Muslim world, including the Taliban and terrorists who thrived under its protection. 

"It is not far-fetched", Kinzer asserts, "to draw a line from Operation Ajax through the Shah's repressive regime and the Islamic Revolution to the fireballs that engulfed the World Trade Center in New York."

©2003 Stephen Kinzer (P)2003 Tantor Media, Inc.

What the critics say

"Breezy storytelling and diligent research.... This stands as a textbook lesson in how not to conduct foreign policy." (Publishers Weekly)

"With a keen journalistic eye, and with a novelist's pen....a very gripping read." (The New York Times)

"Kinzer's brilliant reconstruction of the Iranian coup is made even more fascinating by the fact that it is true. It is as gripping as a thriller, and also tells much about why the United States is involved today in places like Afgahanistan and Iraq." (Gore Vidal)

What members say

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Extremely well written, hard to put down

Brilliant account of the 1953 coup. Exciting to listen to. I had some idea of the history, but was still shocked at the details.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Rick
  • 2004-09-25

Hard to please

Being fairly conservative, I expected a liberal slant from a New York Times reporter. I felt the book was well researched and very well written. I'll never remember all of the Middle Eastern names mentioned in the book but I received an education that helps me understand current events in a more enlightened frame of mind.

33 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • D. Keith
  • 2004-04-10

The Law of Unintended Consequences writ large

I already knew something about the events that Kinzer describes here, but he tells the tale in a captivating fashion with rich detail and excellent historical background. He presents his conclusions in a balanced way, but his case against this American involvement is very compelling and makes me shudder when I consider the unintended consequences that could result from our latest Gulf adventure. This as the stated intended consequence of a stable, democratic, and friendly Iraq is looking more and more like a pipe dream turning into a nightmare. Truman emerges from this story as a real hero with the longer view of the dangers while various British and American leaders (particularly the Dulles brothers) are shown to be blinded by their own arrogance and in the end brought about incalculable harm.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • A Reader
  • 2004-03-01

What a book!

Reads like a spy thriller, yet provides you deep insights into politics of Middle East and identifies the roots of 9/11.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Robert
  • 2006-05-08

great book

excellent listen, chapter 2 provides an excellent history of the shia faith. the first few chapters of the book provide an excellent history of Iran, and the author does a fantastic job of weaving the history of iran with the formation of the anglo-persian oil company, the rise and fall of mohammed mossadegh, and the islamic revolution of 1979.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mr. M Metwally
  • 2004-10-22

Great insight into US/Iran relationship

Great documentary, and a must hear/read for all those interested in understanding the US/Iran relationship. The US hostage crisis was always a puzzle for me until I read this book. It also gives an great insight into the history of Iran. Excellent narration.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jeremy
  • 2004-03-03

Great book

This compelling book couldn't be more timely. It presents a complex and nuanced understanding of the dynamics at play in the Middle East through the historical lens of Operation Ajax.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Carla
  • 2004-09-09

Great & timely read, but I'll avoid the reader

All the reviews laud the content, so let me submit my one gripe: the reader. I had to force myself to continue listening past the monotone and pedantic characteristics of the reader. I will actively avoid this reader from now on.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • A Mellor
  • 2005-07-20

The beginning of the end

THis was an absolutely great book on Iran/American history. After reading this book it is clear why IRAN dislikes us. It is not hard to understand why we bacame the target of extremeists by other middle east countries given our involvement in Iran int he 1950's. I never thought that just 50 years ago the American govt would lead a covert operation to overthrow a democracy and instal a represive monarchy. But that is exactly what happened. Now I am going to go read Charlie Wilson's War to find out how we armed these people we pissed off.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Helen Olmsted
  • 2005-09-06

You need to hear this history

The history of U.S. involvement in Iran is largely unknown to Americans. This book is very enlightening with respect to the U.S. involvement in the Iranian coup in the 1950's. The author does an excellent job of describing the events leading up to and immediately following the coup. The history of Iran following these events is glossed over (and I would have liked to hear more on this), but that is not the focus of the book. I now have a much better understanding of the roots of the current relationship between Iran and the U.S.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Dan
  • 2007-08-23

Wow, a great (and useful) read!

Kinzer tells a fascinating story that grabs your attention while providing detailed information about a historical topic that is still very salient today.

After finishing this book, one can't help but be fascinated by the fact that the US and British role in squelching Iranian democracy and installing their own puppet ruler is not more widely known. This book was very enlightening in helping me understand an important part of Iranian history; and one which still has a significant impact on middle east policy today. I found the level of detail and quality of storytelling superb.

6 people found this helpful