United States Propaganda in Iran and the Cold War Paradigm

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In this essay, I use American correspondences about their propaganda in Iran, along with CIA intelligence, to show that the U.S. recognized that nationalism was distinct from Communism, and that the former was viewed as the true threat to Western interests in Iran. This validates historian Ervand Abrahamian’s aforementioned argument that the Cold War paradigm is insufficient for interpreting U.S. and Iranian relations in the early 1950s. American propaganda in Iran was heavily discussed within the CIA, State Department, and U.S. Embassy in Iran. The sources prominently feature Secretary of State Dean Acheson and embassy ambassador Loy Henderson. Studying propaganda not only illuminates the shortcomings of the common policy critique that the U.S. conflated Communism with nationalism when applied to America’s approach to Iran, but also illuminates the role of Orientalism in the U.S. government. As a supplemental argument, I show that primary sources regarding the propaganda program reveals that government officials had a contradictory relationship with Orientalism. The U.S. clearly viewed Iran under an Orientalist framework, while simultaneously promoting propaganda that used historical knowledge of the connections between East and West to garner Iranian support, despite the fact that such knowledge subverted Orientalism.

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