With that unexpected greeting from an Iranian diplomat in New York last December, my trip to Iran began to take shape. A few months earlier I had published a book that tells how, in 1953, the CIA deposed Iran's last democratic leader, Mohammed Mossadegh, and set his country on a path toward dictatorship and tragedy. Because my book honors Mossadegh, who was a secular liberal and who detested fundamentalism, I hardly expected any representative of the current Iranian regime, especially one who would rule on my visa application, to praise it.
In a year of enormous global turmoil, the most astonishing political revolution of all has been unfolding not in Iraq but next door in Turkey. The first hint of its depth came on March 1, when Turkey's parliament shocked the world by refusing to grant the United States permission to launch an Iraq invasion from Turkish soil. Since then, an audacious new government has been working relentlessly to redefine both the nature of the Turkish state and the country's role in the world.
A very happy group of men convened at the White House on Sept. 4, 1953, to hear a cloak-and-dagger story that would resonate through all of subsequent American history. Two weeks before, the Central Intelligence Agency had overthrown Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran. It was the first time the CIA had deposed a foreign leader, and on this day the agent who ran the operation, Kermit Roosevelt, was to explain how he did it.