Christopher de Bellaigue: Patriot of Persia


Muhammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup

On August 19, 1953, American and British intelligence agencies launched a coup against Iranian prime minister Muhammad Mossadegh. His crimes had been to flirt with communism and to nationalize his country's oil industry, which for forty years had been in British hands. In one of the most dramatic episodes in modern Middle Eastern history, he was overthrown. But the countries that overthrew him would, in time, deeply regret their decision. Mossadegh was one of the first liberals of the Middle East, a man whose conception of liberty was as sophisticated as any in Europe or America. He wanted friendship with the West, but not slavish dependence. The West therefore sided against him and in favor of his great foe, Shah Muhammad-Reza Pahlavi. Who was this political guerrilla of noble blood, who was so adored in the Middle East and so reviled in the West? By the time of the Shah's accession in 1941, Mossadegh had become the nation's conscience, and he spent the rest of his life in conflict with a monarch whose regime was eventually toppled in the Islamic Revolution of 1979. In Patriot of Persia, Christopher de Bellaigue reveals for the first time a man who not only embodied his nation's struggle for freedom but also was one of the great eccentrics of modern times — and uncovers the coup that undid him.

Christopher de Bellaigue in conversation with Suzanne DiMaggio

Christopher de Bellaigue has spent the past 15 years working as a journalist in the Middle East and South Asia, writing for the Economist, the Financial Times, the Independent, and the New York Review of Books. In addition to Patriot of Persia, he is the author of Rebel Land: Among Turkey's Forgotten PeopleThe Struggle for Iran, and In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: A Memoir of Iran, which was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize. He and his Iranian wife, the artist Bita Ghezelayagh, returned from Tehran to the UK in 2007 so that de Bellaigue could take up a fellowship at St. Antony’s College, Oxford. They now divide their time between London and Tehran.   

Suzanne DiMaggio is Vice President of Global Policy Programs at Asia Society, where she oversees task forces, working groups, and Track II initiatives aimed at promoting effective policy responses to the most critical challenges facing the United States and Asia. She is currently leading projects focused on US-Iran relations, Burma/Myanmar, regional security in South Asia, and sustainability issues in Asia. 

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Event Details

Tue 15 May 2012
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
725 Park Avenue (at East 70th Street), New York, NY
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$10 Asia Society members; $12 students with ID/seniors; $15 non-members
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