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August 19, 2007

The "1953/1991 Test" for Future US Policymakers
Posted by Shadi Hamid

I hereby propose “The 1953/1991 Test”: all US experts and policymakers who are involved even tangentially in US-Middle East policy should be aware of what happened during those two crucial years in modern Middle Eastern history. I think if you asked all the presidential candidates, particularly the Republicans, most if not all would fail the test. This is a problem, but, luckily, it can be solved in a couple hours through a little independent research.

I'm curious though. I'm not providing links or giving any hints, because I want to see if Democracy Arsenal readers can pass the test. Please submit your answers in the comments section. The question again is "what two major (U.S.-relevant) events occurred in 1953 and 1991 in the Middle East." (ok, one hint: the 1991 event has nothing to do with the Gulf War). Go! 


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Mossadegh and Oslo.

But lots of important things happened in 1991. It was a busy year.

In 1953 a successful CIA sponsored coup in Iran took place. The US was instrumental in making Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi the new leader of Iran. This was done to consolidate control over oil reserves and, apparently, set the stage for bitter anti-American sentiment in the middle east.

Not to mention ensuring that the Soviet army could never re-enter Iran. Not that this would have been a priority for American policymakers at the height of the Cold War or anything.

1953 - The CIA overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq's elected government in Iran
1991 - Could be the election in Algeria where the muslim parties won, and then were overthrown.

In 1991 the US and Britain imposed devastating economic sanctions on Iraq. As a consequence hundreds of thousands die. The US maintained the position that the sanctions would remain in place as long as Saddam Hussein remained in power.

Dan Kervick on August 19, 2007 at 02:04 PM posted:

Mossadegh and Oslo.

But lots of important things happened in 1991. It was a busy year.

I presume you include the Madrid Conference under your reference to Oslo.

1953 was indeed easy.

But the Gulf War was important, too. It shouldn't be dismissed casually. It led to (short-hand version) OBL objecting to US troops being based on the peninsula, etc, etc. 9/11.

53 Everybody got that one - Mossadegh overthrow.

91 Looks like some confusion. My guess - the placement of thousands of US soldiers in Saudi Arabia (post Gulf War) which irritates the bejabbers out of the Muslim world and is is cited as one of the main reasons for 9/11.

I thought of the Shah and the aborted coup attempt in Iraq (though I don't recall if that was '91 or '92). Others seem to say Oslo. Checking the Wikipedia article for that year, I have to think that 1991 was a busy year for US - Middle East relations.

this is interesting, seems people are having trouble with 1991.


Terry Anderson release?

Bakhtiar assasination?

Iraqi National Accord founded?

US place troops in Saudi Arabia?

Bin Laden forced out of Saudi Arabia and moves to Yemen?

Of course, there is also the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had a profound impact on US foreign policy everywhere, not just the Middle East.


The start of the civil war in Somalia following fall of Barre government

Bin Laden forced out of Saudi Arabia and moves to Yemen?

Sorry, I meant Sudan.

That's an old game, Shadi, to ask what the significance of a certain date is.

If you take a geopolitical view, then the right answer has got to be the collapse of the socialist dream, which left millions with no other rejectionist option but Islamism of one stripe or another.

But to reject outright the significance of the Gulf War is silly -- this too was of enormous significance, psychological if nothing else, across the region. Particularly when coupled with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Then again, you could argue that the most significant thing about 1991 was that the U.S. neither went to Baghdad to remove Saddam, nor supported the Shi'ite uprising in the South (since the failure to do so set the stage for all that has happened since).

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