The Patriots Who Triggered Demise of the Empire: Gandhi, Mossadegh and Nasser

March 27, 2019 by  

Reza Vaghefi

Indian Independence 

The British Empire was probably the only empire in history of mankind that at one time covered one-fourth of the world (Grand Improvisation, by Derek Leebaert). It included colonies, protectorates and proxies that were run by Anglophiles like in Iran or directly administered by the British civil servants. These territories from Far East, Middle East to Southeast Asia and North Africa were managed by a massive number of British citizens in the Colonial Services which numbered 18,000 people by l957, at which time Anthony Eden, the Foreign Secretary of the British government announced the British withdrawal from the Eastern Mediterranean by l962. How this vast empire and the British influence began to shrink is what this piece is to explore.

From the ashes of WW 11, two new superpowers emerged that overshadowed the empire. The United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). The British Empire, the most active warrior against the Axis (Germany, Japan and Italy) had inherited much of the Ottoman’s holdings, was beginning to feel the pinch and totally unprepared for diminishing its influence. However, the ingredients of the forces that were emboldened by the major changes in the global architecture did their bit-by-bit work.



World War 11 depleted the financial and gold resources of the British government and provided an opportunity for the people and nations that had been subjected to or exploited by British, for a long time, to rise and let their voices be heard. 

The first move came from India, a vast land which was conveniently called: The Indian-subcontinent. The movement was led by Mohandes Mehatma Gandhi. Gandhi embodied the most precious elements of Indian culture and that is precisely why his leadership, trusted and admired by millions of Indians, bore the intended fruit, independence of India from the British Empire. Unlike other territories or countries where Britain still maintains some formal relationship, like Canada where the head of states is a Governor installed by the Queen of England, India’s separation was full and complete.

The complete separation took a long time beginning with the end of WW 11, during which many Indians were recruited or voluntarily served in the British army facing the Axis. They all had a first-hand knowledge of British officers’ treatment which was not comparable to how the British officers and soldiers were treated. Gandhi’s non-violent resistance and civil disobedience did not always go well. At times, there were some bloodshed but was not so massive that may have tarnished the movement’s noble objectives. Finally, in l947 the British government granted India the independence they were seeking. It must be stated that up to this moment the British had done everything to protect their Indian colony for 150 years. This strategy included, but not limited to, establishing their presence in peripheral part of India that is Afghanistan, in which they had deep interest. While trying to rule from distance by installing surrogates in countries like Afghanistan, they seemed to be totally unaware of the cultural elements which cemented those nations. So, they installed Shahshoja, a potentate for Afghanistan, and left the country leaving behind an army of slightly over 16000 soldiers “, that were forced to flee Kabul in 1884 and were reduced to a single man by the time it reached the British garrison at Jalalabad, ninety miles away” (Overthrow, by S. Kinzer, p.263). Shahshoja was also eliminated and the soldiers who were designed to protect the western part of the Indian sub-continent did not last long. This may provide a historical perspective for the United States which continues to lose ground after 18 years of war with billions of dollars of money spent with no evidence that the money was used productively, and precious loss of Afghan security forces, (over 28000 since 2015) and the coalition’s, mostly American security personnel (at times by local people) in thousands with no end in sight.


Iranian Experience

The British government never admitted that they had direct influence in Iran knowing full well that their surrogates were doing what they were cultivated to do: to protect the British interests. The British influence was ubiquitous and these elements worked surreptitiously to let their presence work for Britain. Some were known openly as Anglophiles. Others worked in various positions in the government or commerce and industry and were led by invisible forces that were designed to remain hidden from the public eye. They were members of Free Masons Society which in Western countries exist to perform charity work and many people take pride in being Masons. The existence of Free Masons in Iran was secret and of course was led by distinct personalities in Britain. It had been determined that public knowledge of such people was harmful to interest of the Empire. In l960s Ismail Raeen, an Iranian journalist, published two volumes in which for the first time the names and positions, political or economic, of these Free Masons (over 280 of them) were disclosed. Publication of these two volumes was itself a feast in spite of stiff resistance that was applied by many top officials in the government and oil industry including, but not limited to, late Jaafar Sharif-Emami, one of the last prime ministers before Islamic Revolution of February 1979. His incompetence in leading the nation was a major factor in flaming the revolution, which means that at those most critical moments the only criterion for selecting a leader to form a government was loyalty to Shah who had a deep misunderstanding of structural and societal as well as political forces at work which made the uprising possible.

But going back to the man who contributed to the demise of the British empire, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, the supreme patriot, he grasped the changes in the global arena and devised policies and legal actions that could help Iran confront the interests of the British government the institutional vehicle of which was known to be Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. There had been attempts, in the past, to confront the Company in order to extract some benefits, a phenomenon that had been denied stupidly and various governments had failed to penetrate the thinking of this bizarre institution. But beginning late l940s Dr. Mossadegh launched his strategy through parliamentary elections, the first one of which was held in Tehran (1949) which had 12 electoral deputies and then pursued free election throughout the nation. The elections in Tehran awarded Dr. Mossadegh to be at the top of 12 deputies. Other towns and cities went through the election and Parliament was ready for business. Through Dr. Mossadegh’s leadership the Parliament approved a bill to nationalize the oil resources of Iran a great feast, and by almost unanimous vote he was elected to be the Prime Minister and with approval of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, he formed a cabinet and implementation the Oil Nationalization Law began in earnest.

The British government announced from the outset that they would oppose this law and will use every level of power, world-wide, to deny Dr. Mossadegh the opportunity to actualize the law. Ultimately, after 28 months, with C.I.A. leading a plot and British M16, the British military intelligence, in tandem, and their Iranian agents following ferociously, set up the Coup of August l953 which brought in a pro-American government to power.

The British damage to political and economic development of Iran has been immense. They did their best to prevent any major economic plan. This statement by Abol Hassan Ebtehaj who at certain critical time managed the Plan Organization, the institution that was responsible for planning and implementation of some lasting economic projects done with missionary zeal, was made to the author during an interview which was published in the: “Entrepreneurs of Iran” (Altoan

Press, Palo Alto, California, 1974). The American spy agency, CIA, damaged Iran immensely though in different ways. By not comprehending the unintended consequences of their infamous plot, they did a lot by inflicting pain to the country, the least of which was that they denied a nascent democratic process initiated by Dr. Mossadegh to solidify. It is interesting that in many of the cases that CIA was involved (world -wide) in Latin America or Middle East, the pronounced objective was to introduce or enhance democratic process? Instead the results have been quite contrary with outcomes being absolutely undemocratic and mostly becoming authoritarian with massive human cost which is contrary to American values.

Much has been written about the oil issue by the author and many other scholars. But by stubbornly refusing the lawful demand of the Iranians to a fair share of the country’s basic resource, the British oil company damaged its own interest. Dr. Mossadegh was prepared to compensate the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company the full price of the assets, but the imperialistic mindset under-mind economic logic and the outcome was not something the MI6 had been pursuing. They also laid the foundation of what emerged 25 years late.

There was no more inexpensive oil to lubricate the Royal Navy roaming around the world and the British elite to enjoy high life at the expense of the people who owned Iran’s single most precious resource.

The moral of the story is that Dr. Mossadegh showed the world and the nations that had been exploited by the British, for a long time, that they could rise and demand their rights. They may not completely succeed but they have to fight for their inherent rights.


Jemal Abdul Nasser of Egypt

In 1954, there was a major upheaval in Egypt. A group of young military officers, under the leadership of General Najeeb, who was soon put under house arrest, took control of the government. Their first act was to remove corrupt King Farouq and send him to exile. Very soon and emboldened by what had taken place in Iran, Nasser regime nationalized Suez Canal which had been a major source of income for Britain and France that owned the Canal. The nationalization of the Canal took the two government by surprise but soon they decided act and reclaim the ownership of it. In l956 they launched a joint attack at the Canal. They also solicited help from the newly established state of Israel which attacked from Sinai Peninsula. This operation was initiated without informing or consulting the United State a brand-new superpower.

Very soon President Eisenhower, alarmed by what he saw, ordered the warring parties to stop. At the same time Soviet Union, the other Superpower, intervened and warned that if the British and French do not stop, the Soviets would deploy military resources. This was another alarming factor in Eisenhower’s demanding an end to the conflict. All sides stopped and the Israelis withdrew their forces from the war zone and left the Sinai Peninsula. Nasser was further encouraged to exploit the rivalries and invited the Soviets to help the Egyptian army and laid the foundation of what came in June 1967 the Six Day war.


The Outcome

Britain’s success during WW1 and the collapse of Ottoman empire, the sick man of Europe, as British were propagating, had emboldened British to scheming new map of the Middle East. They had in mind to convert a WW11 relic like the Middle East Supply Center to a realignment of the countries in the region where they had had good influence not realizing that there were new forces, the product of he WW11, United States and the Soviet Union, that were going to influence any new map of the area. It seemed for a while that the old mindset had not yet realized that there was no space for the good old colonial minds and they had to adopt a new set of strategies. Further, the British leaders were slow in realizing that shrinking of the empire had started and even today by using treacherous techniques, like the Turks are coming (Farrange), they led people to vote for the Brexit, a process which most likely would further shrink the leftovers of the Empire on which at certain time, Sun Never Set.



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