Although the President has often mentioned in unflattering terms the U.S.-backed coup in Iran that overthrew then-Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, the White House said Friday that he has "no specific plans" to issue a formal apology — something the present government in Iran has long insisted upon as part of a more cordial relationship with the U.S.
At the regular White House press briefing Friday, Newsmax recalled how President Obama has twice mentioned the coup that deposed Mossadegh and restored the Shah of Iran to power.
Noting that Obama came very close to apologizing in both his famed Cairo speech on democracy in 2009 and his address to the United Nations in 2013, we asked Press Secretary Josh Earnest if a formal apology to Tehran for the events of 1953 would be forthcoming.
"I'm not aware of any specific plans for an apology," Earnest replied.
The President's top spokesman went on to tell us he was "confident that the comments you cited that the President delivered both in Cairo and at the United Nations were words that were carefully chosen.
"So when it comes to the Administration and the President's view of these historic events, I would refer you to his comments there."
Newsmax also referred to the suggestion of some that rather than an apology, the administration might consider a joint statement by Washington and Tehran in which each acknowledged there were mistakes made in the 1953 coup and in the seizure of American embassy personnel as hostages in 1979.
But Earnest did not offer anything more on the subject, simply agreeing there was "nothing new" on a statement dealing with "these historic events."
In 1953, With CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt (grandson of Teddy) overseeing street demonstrations and contacts with the Iranian military in Tehran, Mossadegh was deposed and the Shah— then in exile in Rome — returned to power and ruled until the Islamic revolution of 1979.
Mossadegh was found guilty of misuse of power and remained under house arrest in Ahmadabad until his death in 1967 at age 84.
The subject of Mossadegh's overthrow and the U.S. hand in it has long interested the President. In his 2006 book "The Audacity of Hope," then-Sen. Obama mentioned the 1953 coup as an example of U.S. overreach and making alliances with friendly strongmen. In his address in Cairo in June of '09, Obama, speaking to "the Muslim world," became the first sitting president to acknowledge the 1953 coup.
Referring to the long mistrust of the U.S. by Iran, Obama told the U.N. in September 2013, "This mistrust has deep roots. Iranians have long complained of a history of U.S. interference in their affairs, and America's role in overthrowing an Iranian government during the Cold War.
"I don't believe this difficult history can be overcome overnight," he added. "The suspicions run too deep."
During the recent negotiations over Iran's nuclear capability, talk of a U.S. apology for its role in the overthrow of Mossadegh resurfaced. Believing that a "nuanced apology" with "too many 'ifs,' 'ands' and 'buts'" serves no useful purpose, Brown University professor and former New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer began the call for a joint statement in which both the U.S. and Iran acknowledged errors in the 1953 coup and the 1979 hostage seizure respectively.
"A very senior Iranian official with ties to its religious leaders should sit down with a U.S. official who is above politics," said Kinzer, author of "All the Shah's Men" about the topping of Mossadegh, "I think Tom Pickering [career diplomat and U.N. ambassador under George H.W. Bush] would be outstanding for a job like this. Let's send him to Iran and let him go from there."
On Sunday, returning to the U.S. after two weeks in Iran, Kinzer told Newsmax that "[P]erhaps the time is not yet ripe. But after the nuclear deal is concluded, all kinds of possibilities might open up. [Secretary of State] John Kerry must be dreaming about going to Iran. That would be a good time for a joint statement."
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