Mohammed Mossadegh’s House Arrest Dream
We accept the real so readily only because we sense that reality does not exist.
- Jorge Luis Borges
If the exploitation of our oil industry continues in the future as it has in the past, if we are to tolerate a situation in which the Iranian plays the part of a mere manual worker in the oil fields of Masjid-I-Suleiman, Agha Jari and Kermanshah and in the Abadan refinery, and if foreign exploiters continue to appropriate practically all of the income, then our people will remain forever in a state of poverty and misery. These are the reasons that have prompted the Iranian parliament – the Majlis and the Senate – to vote unanimously in favour of nationalizing the oil industry.
Mossadegh to the United Nations Security Council, October 15th,1951
The deposition of the Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh* in 1953, marked the first covert operative by a Western democratic nation (the United States) to deter the burgeoning of democracy, in a sovereign state. Mossadegh’s dissenting Nationalism, and determination to secure oil royalties for his people, equivalent to Iran’s enormous output, pitted him against the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company; Britain’s largest corporation. The press, which Mossadegh refused to censor, was reportedly four-fifths Central Intelligence propaganda. Condemnations of the first Middle Eastern democratically-elected leader abounded, and were generated through forms of bribery and cash. Staged rallies, mock pro-Shah marches, and clueless athletes paid by U.S. cloak-and-dagger agents, all contributed to fatefully abolish democratic reforms, and ushered Iran into a spectacle of staged National sentiment that Baudrillard would be remiss not to incorporate in his desert of the real, wherein meaning is usurped by representation.
With his towering, but slight frame, and his distinct features, Mossadegh resembles at once an elder statesman, and the spiteful eminence of the undead filmic icon of Nosferatu – eternal symbol of human predator. The former Iranian leader often bled from the mouth, and became severely depressed. He was unwavering in instituting parliamentary reform in his ancient country, and stolid in the face of international influence. In the space of the gallery, where a tiny Mossadegh showcases a dream scenario, the cowboy and the vampire inquire into their illusory roles in the somnian landscape. The ‘maverick’ province of Alberta, Canada’s wealthiest, embodied in the figure of the cowboy, looms on the global stage as world oil producer, with its lexicon of self-mythologies. The polarity of the personification of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ becomes null through a qualitative plane of cardboard cut-outs, lurking behind the curtain as the absence of the real lurks in the heart of reality. Nosferatu visits the small sleeping, perhaps dying, Mossadegh through the curtain. He lays as an antiquated museum artefact – a relic of Persia. So too does the world’s carbon prize, encased with Mossadegh, as a tortured pool. Tar sands feathered. In Baudrillard’s increasingly real world, in which we are integrated so fully into the real that we cannot determine an alternate, an operative of policing through deterrence exercises its will in the terrain of reality to eradicate ‘evil’:
Evil, which was once a metaphysical, or moral principle, is today pursued materially right down to the genes (and also the Axis of Evil). It has become an objective reality and hence, objectively eliminable. We are going to be able to exercise it at the root, and with it, increasingly, all dreams, utopias, illusions and fantasies – all these things being, by the same general process, wrested from the possible, to be put back into the real.1
In this public space, the false hauntings of a troubled historical icon become an arena wherein the mythologized cowboy, characterized by toughness and outlaw justice, enables its counter-point – the Law – which deters a reordering of the sign cowboy. No further from the surface, the vampire who deletes life to sustain life, short-circuits into a self-devouring mechanism, addicted to the energy that consumes it. Imperial Empire and Nation State prey upon the symbols they produce, as smoke and flares - flags to an eventless horizon – produce the spectacle of dream history.
* Mossadegh, educated at the Paris Sorbonne, where he completed his B.A. and Masters in International Law, received his Ph.D. in Swizterland, and taught at the University of Teheran before entering his political career. As the first democratically-elected leader in the Middle East, in 1951, he was deposed in a military coup d’etat lead by the United States, in 1953. President Eisenhower utilized force on behalf of the British whose major concerns revolved around Mossadegh’s attempts at nationalizing the oil industry to provide Iranians with a fairer share of the oil profits. At this time the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company had full control of production, and profits. Largely regarded as the turning point in Iranian history of the 20th Century, the CIA-orchestrated coup brought to power General Fazlollah Zahedi, which ultimately secured the Shah’s return to power. This violent overthrow set the stage for the current political tensions between the predominantly Muslim nation, and the West, or specifically the United States. Mossadegh was charged with treason, spent time in prison, and lived out the remainder of his life under house arrest. 2
1 Baudrillard, Jean. The Intelligence of Evil or The Lucidity Pact. New York: Berg, 2005, p. 29.
2 Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. New Jersey: Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2003.