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Fazlollah Zahedi
63rd Prime Minister of Iran

In office
19 August 1953 – 7 April 1955
Monarch Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Preceded by Mohammad Mosaddegh
Succeeded by Hossein Ala'
Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran

In office
7 April 1953 – 29 April 1953
Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh
Preceded by Abdol-Hossein Meftah
Succeeded by Abdollah Entezam
Personal details
Born 1897
Hamedan, Iran
Died September 2, 1963(1963-09-02)
Geneva, Switzerland
Political party Military
Religion Shia Islam
Military service
Allegiance IAI
Years of service 1920-1963
Rank General

Fazlollah Zahedi (Persian: فضل الله زاهدی) (c. 1897- 2 September [or 1 September] 1963) was an Iranian general and statesman who replaced democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh through a western-backed coup d'état, in which he played a major role.


Early years[]

Born in Hamedan in 1897, Fazlollah Zahedi was the son of Abol Hassan "Bassir Diwan" Zahedi, a wealthy land owner at the city of Hamedan. During his service at the Imperial Russian-trained Iranian Cossack Brigade, one of his military superiors was Reza Khan, who later became the Iranian monarch. Zahedi was among the officers dispatched to Gilan to put an end to the Jangal movement of Mirza Kuchak Khan. At the age of 23, as a company commander, Zahedi led troops into battle against rebel tribesmen in the northern provinces.[1] Two years later Reza Shah promoted him to the rank of brigadier general.

He was also involved in the overthrow of Seyyed Zia'eddin Tabatabaee's government in 1920. It was Colonel Zahedi who arrested Sheikh Khaz'al Khan and brought him to Tehran.[citation needed]

During Reza Shah's reign, General Zahedi was named (1926) military governor of Khuzestan province, holding the hub of Iran's oil industry, and in 1932 chief of national police, one of the nation's top internal posts. During World War II he was appointed (1941) commanding general of the Isfahan Division. Following the forced abdication of Reza Shah in 1941, the British came to believe that Zahedi was planning a general uprising in cooperation with German forces, and as one of the worst grain-hoarders, was responsible for widespread popular discontent.[2][3] He was arrested in his own office by Fitzroy Maclean, who details the adventure in his 1949 memoir Eastern Approaches. Zahedi was flown out of the country and (despite rumours that the British had liquidated him) interned in Palestine.[2] On searching Zahedi's bedroom Maclean found "a collection of automatic weapons of German manufacture, a good deal of silk underwear, some opium, an illustrated register of the prostitutes of Isfahan," and correspondence from a local German agent.[2]

Return from Internment[]

Returned from internment in Palestine in 1945, during the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah (Reza Shah's son and successor), General Zahedi became Inspector of military forces in southern Iran. He became once more chief of national police (Shahrbani) in 1949, when Mohammad Reza Shah appointed him as chief of the Shahrbani Police Forces, in order to counter the growing threat of Sepahbod Haj Ali Razmara.[citation needed]


After retiring from the army, he was named Senator in 1950. Zahedi was appointed Minister of the Interior (1951) in Hossein Ala''s administration, a post he would retain when Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh became Prime Minister. Zahedi actively supported the new government's nationalisation of the oil industry, which had previously been owned by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, now BP.[4] However, he was at odds with Mossadegh over his increasing tolerance for the outlawed communist party Tudeh, which had boldly demonstrated in favor of nationalisation. Both of these moves antagonised the Western Powers, especially the United Kingdom and the United States. Zahedi was dismissed by Prime Minister Mossadegh after a bloody crackdown on pro-nationalization protesters in mid-1951 in which 20 people were killed and 2000 wounded.[5]

Zahedi finally broke with Mossadegh, with the latter accusing him of fostering plans for a coup. Meanwhile, sanctions levied by the Western Powers significantly curtailed Iranian oil exports, leading to an economic crisis. Disorder among several ethnic groups in southern Iran and labor unrest among oil-field workers put further pressures on the government.

1953 Coup[]

File:Zahedi Shah August 1953.jpg

General Zahedi (l) and Mohammad Reza Shah, April 1955.

At the behest of the British and American government, the Iranian military carried out a coup d'état which put an end to Mossadeq's rule and the era of constitutional monarchy and replaced it by direct rule of the Shah. The newly formed CIA, along with the British intelligence agency MI6, took an active role in the developments, terming their involvement Operation Ajax. Zahedi and his followers, financed by the foreign intelligence services, planted newspaper articles in Iranian publications and paid agent provocateurs to start riots. There were such riots in Tehran and other cities. Fearing his arrest, Zahedi went into hiding.

On August 15, after the first attempted coup d'état failed, the Shah fled first to Baghdad and then to Rome, Italy, after signing two decrees, one dismissing Mossadegh and the other naming Zahedi to replace him as Prime Minister. Both decrees were in direct violation of the Iranian constitution which stated that only the Parliament had the right to elect and dismiss Prime Ministers.

Backed by the United Kingdom and the United States, and encouraged by the intelligence agents Kermit Roosevelt Jr and Donald Wilber, Zahedi staged a second coup on the 19 August 1953. Military units arrested Mossadeq at his home at night. The Shah returned from exile on 22 August 1953.[6]

Final Exile[]

General Zahedi's role as Iran's Prime Minister ended in 1955. His final post was Ambassador to the United Nations, in Geneva.[citation needed]


Zahedi's Family

Zahedi was a descendant of the Sufi mystics Sheikh Zahed Gilani (1216 - 1301) and Sheikh Safi-ad-din Ardabili, the eponym of the Safavid Dynasty, and through his mother, Djavaher Khanom, he traced his descent to the dynastic ruler Karim Khan Zand.

Zahedi married Khadijeh Pirnia, daughter of Mirza Hussein Khan Pirnia (titled Motamen-ol-Molk), and granddaughter to Mozzafar-al-Din Shah Qajar (1853 - 1907). They had a son, Ardeshir, and a daughter, Homa.

His son Ardeshir became a politician and diplomat and married Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi, the daughter of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi from his first marriage to Princess Fawzia of Egypt, daughter of King Fuad I.

His daughter Homa Zahedi was a member of Parliament, representing the constituency of the region of Hamadan.

According to The New York Times report a day after the 1953 coup, "General Zahedi has been married twice, but it is not known here whether his second wife is living. By his second wife he had two sons, one of whom lives in Sydney, Australia, while the second son, an air force officer, was killed in a crash."[7]

See also[]



  1. Kinzer, Stephen, All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, Stephen Kinzer, John Wiley and Sons, 2003 p.142
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 MacLean, Fitzroy. Eastern Approaches. 1949. Jonathan Cape, London. No ISBN.
  3. Louis, Wm. Roger (2007). Ends of British Imperialism: The Scramble for Empire, Suez, and Decolonization. I. B. Tauris. p. 776. ISBN 978-1-84511-347-6. 
  4. Kinzer, Stephen, All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, Stephen Kinzer, John Wiley and Sons, 2003, p.195-196
  5. Kinzer, Stephen, All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, Stephen Kinzer, John Wiley and Sons, 2003, p.102
  6. Kinzer, Stephen, All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, Stephen Kinzer, John Wiley and Sons, 2003
  7. "Royalists Oust Mossadegh; Army Seizes Helm". The New York Times. 


  • 'Alí Rizā Awsatí (عليرضا اوسطى), Iran in the past three centuries (Irān dar Se Qarn-e Goz̲ashteh - ايران در سه قرن گذشته), Volumes 1 and 2 (Paktāb Publishing - انتشارات پاکتاب, Tehran, Iran, 2003). ISBN 964-93406-6-1 (Vol. 1), ISBN 964-93406-5-3 (Vol. 2).
  • Encyclopædia Britannica

External links[]

Political offices
Preceded by
Mohammed Mossadegh
Prime Minister of Iran
1953 – 1955
Succeeded by
Hossein Ala'
Preceded by
Abdol-Hossein Meftah
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran
Succeeded by
Abdollah Entezam
Preceded by
Hossein Ala'
Minister of Interior of Iran
1951 – 1953
Succeeded by
Hossein Ala'
Military offices
Preceded by
Aboulfazl Sa'datmand
Chief commander of Imperial Army
1938 –1942
Succeeded by
Haj Ali Razmara
Preceded by
Haj Ali Razmara
Chief commander of Imperial Army
1950 –1951
Succeeded by
Mohammad Khatam

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