Mohammad Mosaddegh started his career as a teacher at the ‘Tehran School of Political Science’ and the World War I began around the same time. He shifted his focus to politics by joining the ‘Iranian Constitutional Revolution’ of 1905-07. He was elected from Isfahan to the parliament (the Majlis of Iran), which was newly inaugurated, but as he was just 24, so couldn’t assume his seat; the legal age was 30,
He served as the Deputy Leader of the ‘Society of Humanity’ under Mostowfi ol-Mamalek, ‘Chancellor of the Realm,’ an Iranian politician.
To protest against the Anglo-Persian Treaty of 1919, he relocated to Switzerland for a year. He returned back in 1920 after the newly appointed Prime Minister, Hassan Pirnia, invited him to become the new Minister of Justice.
He took up the position of Governor of the Fars Province at the behest of the people of Shiraz, the position of Finance Minister in the government of Ahmad Qavan in 1921, and the position of Foreign Minister in the government of Moshir-ed- Dowleeh in June 1923.
In 1923, Mohammad Mosaddegh also became the Governor of the Azerbaijan Province and was re-elected to the Iranian Parliament.
In 1925, he opposed the appointment of Reza Khan as the new Shah because he felt it was against the 1906 Constitution of Iran. He urged Reza Khan to remain the Prime Minister.
He retired from politics due to disagreements with the regime after the appointment of Reza Khan as the new monarch and the first Shah of the ‘Pahlavi dynasty’ on December 12, 1925 by the ‘Majlis.’
He returned to politics in 1944 after being elected to the Parliament again. However, he announced his retirement yet again in 1947 after his electoral-reform bill did not pass through the ‘Majlis.’
In 1949, he founded the ‘Jebhe Melli’ (National Front of Iran) with nineteen other pro-democracy supporters, such as Hossein Fatemi, Ali Shayegan, Ahmad Zirakzadeh and Karim Sanjabi in order to end the foreign domination in Iranian politics. His aim was to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.
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Mohammad Mosaddegh was appointed as the Prime Minister of Iran on April 28, 1951 by the Shah amidst furor. Once he took the office, he was able to introduce a number of social reforms. The following year, he passed the Land Reform Act, according to which landlords had to pay 20% of their revenues to their tenants. The revenue would go into a fund that would be used for public welfare.
He nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Company on May 1, 1951. In June, a committee of five majli deputies went to Khuzistan to enforce it.
The nationalization caused conflict between Britain and Iran, as he did not allow any British involvement in the Company. As a result, the entire Iranian oil industry came to a standstill after Britain retaliated by using force and other means to stop Iran from selling its oil. This oil crisis was called the ‘Abadan Crisis.’
He called for elections in 1951, but his bill for electoral reform was rejected. He ended up suspending the elections by stating that there was manipulation by ‘foreign agents.’
He was granted emergency powers by the ‘Majilis’ in 1952. He used the said powers to downsize the power of the Shah, place the control of the armed forces in the hands of the government, and introduce land reforms.
He announced his resignation after the Shah refused to let him appoint a Minister of War and a Chief of Staff. After his resignation, Ahmad Qavam became the new Prime Minister of Iran, but protests and strikes broke out in his support. The Shah got scared by the protests and reappointed Mosaddegh as the Prime Minister, and gave him the full control of the military.
Regaining the strength and power, he urged the Parliament to grant him emergency powers for a period of six months so that he could “decree any law he felt necessary for obtaining not only financial solvency but also electoral, judicial, and educational reforms.”
He gained allies in the ‘Tudeh Party’ and Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani, who was elected as the house speaker despite constant friction between them.
With his new emergency powers, he tried to squash the importance of the monarchy; he reduced the Shah’s financial budget, restricting the Shah from contacting foreign diplomats and transferring the royal land back to the government. He also banned the Shah’s sister, Ashraf Pahlavi, from politics.
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He had his emergency powers extended for another year in January 1953. He introduced another land reform law by increasing peasants’ share in production, which weakened the landed aristocracy. This made agriculture more centralized in his government.
His increasing power made his allies such as Mozzafar Baghai, Hossein Makki, and Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani turn against him.
He declared Britain an enemy in October 1952, after several failed attempts of reaching an agreement. He also cut all diplomatic relations with them. This made Britain seek U.S help for a resolution. They teamed up to overthrow Mossadegh from the office and made their dissent against his policies public.
In January 1953, the alliance between Kashani and Mosaddegh finally ended after Kashani refused to support Mosaddegh’s demand to increase the duration of his emergency powers for another year.
’Operation Ajax,’ a plan to oust Mosaddegh from office by convincing Iran’s Shah to issue a decree to remove him from office, started taking shape. It was envisaged by the U.S, after the then Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, put the CIA to the task in March 1953.
Allen Dulles approved $1 million for ‘Operation Ajax’ on April 4, 1953. The plan was put into action by starting a campaign against Mosaddegh in CIA’s Tehran station. The U.S and the U.K worked together on it. President Theodore Roosevelt’s grandson, Kermit Roosevelt Jr, directed it from Tehran.
U.S tried to get the Shah to dismiss Shah by bribing him and his sister Ashraf but they didn’t relent. Mosaddegh came to know of the plan. Iranian CIA operatives cracked a whip on Muslim leaders by warning them of dire consequences if they opposed Mohammad Mosaddegh. By doing this, they created anti-Mosaddegh sentiments.
In mid-August the Parliament was dissolved but Mosaddegh managed to get the duration of his emergency powers extended by arranging a vote which he won with a big margin.
The Shah finally agreed to help the US after he realized they would go ahead with or without his support. He released two Farmans or decrees, one dismissing Mosaddegh and another appointing General Fazlollah Zahedi as the new Prime Minister under the direction of the U.S.
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U.S financed protests of pro and anti-monarchy protestors took place across the city, killing around 300 people. The whole operation was aided by General Fazlollah Zahedi, Rashidian brothers and Shaban Jafari, a local strongman and they gained a strong hand on August 19, 1953.
Tank regiments from the Shah raided the capital and attacked the Prime Ministers official residence under Roosevelt Jr’s instruction. Mosaddegh somehow managed to flee but finally surrendered to General Zahedi the following day at the Officer’s Club which was Zahedi’s make shift Prime Minister’s office.
Mosaddegh was arrested and transferred to a military jail. Many of his supporters and associated were tried and tortured after being imprisoned. Some were even executed or sentenced to death.
On December 21, 1953, he was sentenced to three years of solitary confinement in a military prison instead of being sentenced to death. He died on March 5, 1967 while being kept under house arrest in his Ahmadabad residence. He was buried in his living room without a funeral.