Mohammad Mosaddegh was the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran from 1951 to 1953 when he was overthrown in a coup d'état backed by the United States Central Intelligence Agency.
From a royal and aristocratic background, Mosaddegh was an author, administrator, lawyer, prominent parliamentarian, and politician. During his time as prime minister, a wide range of progressive social reforms were carried out. Unemployment compensation was introduced, factory owners were ordered to pay benefits to sick and injured workers, and peasants were freed from forced labor in their landlords' estates. Twenty percent of the money landlords received in rent was placed in a fund to pay for development projects such as public baths, rural housing, and pest control.
He is most famous as the architect of the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913 through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) (later British Petroleum or BP). The Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. was controlled by the British government. Mosaddegh was removed from power in a coup on 19 August 1953, organised and carried out by the United States CIA at the request of the British MI6 which chose Iranian General Fazlollah Zahedi to succeed Mosaddegh. The CIA called the coup Operation Ajax after its CIA cryptonym, and as the 28 Mordad 1332 coup in Iran, after its date on the Iranian calendar.Mosaddegh was imprisoned for three years, then put under house arrest until his death.
The US role in Mosaddegh's overthrow was not formally acknowledged for many years, although the Eisenhower administration vehemently opposed Mossadegh's policies. President Eisenhower wrote angrily about Mosaddegh in his memoirs, describing him as impractical and naive. However, Eisenhower did not admit any involvement with the coup.
Eventually the CIA's involvement with the coup was exposed. This caused controversy within the organization and the CIA congressional hearings of the 1970s. CIA supporters maintained that the coup was strategically necessary, and praised the efficiency of the agents responsible. Critics say the scheme was paranoid, colonial, illegal, and immoral.
In March 2000, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated her regret that Mosaddegh was ousted: "The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons. But the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development and it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America." In the same year, The New York Times published a detailed report about the coup based on declassified CIA documents.
Due to his worldwide popularity, defiance of Britain, and fight for democracy, Mosaddegh was named as Time Magazine's 1951 Man of the Year. Others considered for that year's title included Dean Acheson, then-General (and future President) Dwight D. Eisenhower and General Douglas MacArthur.
The secret U.S. overthrow of Mosaddegh served as a rallying point in anti-US protests during the 1979 Iranian Revolution and to this day he is said to be one of the most popular figures in Iranian history. Despite this he is generally ignored by the government of the Islamic Republic because of his secularism and western manners.