Deep Politics Forum

Full Version: Operation Ajax
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
The 1953 Iranian coup d’état was the Western-led covert operation that deposed the democratically-elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq.[1][2][3] The coup was organized by the United States' CIA and the United Kingdom's MI6, who aided and abetted anti-Mosaddeq royalists and mutinous Iranian army officers in overthrowing the Prime Minister.[4] CIA officer Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. organized Operation Ajax[5] to aid retired General Fazlollah Zahedi and Imperial Guard Colonel Nematollah Nassiri to establish a pro-US and pro-UK government, by bribing Iranian government officials, reporters, and businessmen.[6]
This Anglo–American coup d’état was ensured a Western-friendly, petroleum-rich Iran and prevented Iran from falling under the influence of the Soviet Union.[7][8][9][10] Prime Minister Churchill of the United Kingdom was infuriated by the nationalisation of Iran's oil industry by Mossadeq, while President Eisenhower of the United States feared Iran becoming a Soviet puppet state.[11][12] Moreover, the Iranian motivations for deposing PM Mosaddeq included reactionary clerical dissatisfaction with a secular government, fomented with CIA propaganda.[6]
Originally, the Eisenhower Administration considered Operation Ajax a successful secret war, but, given its blowback, it is now considered a failure, because of its "haunting and terrible legacy".[13] In 2000, Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State, apologised to Iran, saying that intervention by America in the internal affairs of Iran was a setback for democratic government.[11] This anti-democratic coup d’état was a "a critical event in post-war world history" that destroyed Iran’s post-monarchic, secular parliamentary democracy, by re-installing the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, as absolute ruler,[14] replacing an elected native democracy with a pro-foreign monarchic dictatorship. The coup is widely believed to have significantly contributed to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which deposed the pro-Western Shah and replaced the monarchy with an anti-Western Islamic Republic.[15]

C.I.A. records of 1953 coup

While the broad outlines of the Iran operation are known: the agency led a coup in 1953 that re-installed the pro-American Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi to the throne, where he remained until overthrown in 1979. "But the C.I.A.'s records were widely thought by historians to have the potential to add depth and clarity to a famous but little-documented intelligence operation," reporter Tim Weiner wrote in The New York Times May 29, 1997[16]
"The Central Intelligence Agency, which has repeatedly pledged for more than five years to make public the files from its secret mission to overthrow the government of Iran in 1953, said today that it had destroyed or lost almost all the documents decades ago." [16][17] [18]
"A historian who was a member of the C.I.A. staff in 1992 and 1993 said in an interview today that the records were obliterated by a culture of destruction at the agency. The historian, Nick Cullather, said he believed that records on other major cold war covert operations had been burned, including those on secret missions in Indonesia in the 1950's and a successful C.I.A.-sponsored coup in Guyana in the early 1960's. Iran -- there's nothing, Mr. Cullather said. Indonesia -- very little. Guyana -- that was burned. [16]
According to the CIA officer who planned the coup in his account titled, Clandestine Service History Overthrow Of Premier Mossadeq of Iran: November 1952-August 1953, one goal of the coup was to strengthen the Shah.
By the end of 1952, it had become clear that the Mossadeq government in Iran was incapable of reaching an oil settlement with interested Western countries; was reaching a dangerous and advanced stage of illegal, deficit financing; was disregarding the Iranian constitution in prolonging Premier Mohammed Mossadeq's tenure of office; was motivated mainly by Mossadeq's desire for personal power; was governed by irresponsible policies based on emotion; had weakened the Shah and the Iranian Army to a dangerous degree; and had cooperated closely with the Tudeh (Communist) Party of Iran.... It was the aim of the TPAJAX project to cause the fall of the Mossadeq government to reestablish the prestige and power of the Shah; and to replace the Mossadeq government with one which would govern Iran according to constructive policies. Specifically, the aim was to bring to power a government which would reach an equitable oil settlement, enabling Iran to become economically sound and financially solvent, and which would vigorously prosecute the dangerously strong Communist Party. Clandestine Service History Overthrow Of Premier Mossadeq of Iran: November 1952-August 1953 by Donald Wilber
The author of that account, Donald Wilber, "played an active role in the operation," according to CIA historical officer Dean L, Dodge, who released the account in March, 1969. [2]


The Shah appreciated the coup, Kermit Roosevelt wrote in his account of the affair. "'I owe my throne to God, my people, my army and to you!' By 'you' he [the shah] meant me and the two countries—Great Britain and the United States—I was representing. We were all heroes." [19]
On June 16, 2000, The New York Times published the secret CIA report, "Clandestine Service History, Overthrow Of Premier Mossadeq Of Iran, November 1952-August 1953," partly explaining the coup from CIA agent Wilber's perspective. In a related story, New York Times reporter James Risen penned a story revealing that Wilber's report, hidden for nearly five decades, had recently come to light.
In the summer of 2001, Ervand Abrahamian wrote in the journal, Science & Society that Wilber's version of the coup was missing key information some of which was available elsewhere. Abrahamian wrote:
The New York Times recently leaked a CIA report on the 1953 American–British overthrow of Mossadeq, Iran’s Prime Minister. It billed the report as a secret history of the secret coup, and treated it as an invaluable substitute for the U. S. files that remain inaccessible. But a reconstruction of the coup from other sources, especially from the archives of the British Foreign Office, indicates that this report is highly sanitized. It glosses over such sensitive issues as the crucial participation of the U. S. ambassador in the actual overthrow; the role of U. S. military advisers; the harnessing of local Nazis and Muslim terrorists; and the use of assassinations to destabilize the government. What is more, it places the coup in the context the Cold War rather than that of the Anglo-Iranian oil crisis — a classic case of nationalism clashing with imperialism in the Third World. [20]
In a review of Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes, historian Michael Beschloss wrote, "Mr. Weiner argues that a bad C.I.A. track record has encouraged many of our gravest contemporary problems... A generation of Iranians grew up knowing that the C.I.A. had installed the shah," Mr. Weiner notes. "In time, the chaos that the agency had created in the streets of Tehran would return to haunt the United States."[21]
The administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower considered the coup a success, but, given its blowback, it is now considered a failure, because of its "haunting and terrible legacy".[22] In 2000, Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State, said that intervention by the U.S. in the internal affairs of Iran was a setback for democratic government.[11][23] This anti-democratic coup d’état was "a critical event in post-war world history" that destroyed Iran’s secular parliamentary democracy, by re-installing the monarchy of the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, as absolute ruler,[24] replacing an elected native democracy with a pro-foreign monarchic dictatorship. The coup is widely believed to have significantly contributed to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which deposed the pro-Western Shah and replaced the monarchy with an anti-Western Islamic Republic.[25]


Further information: Abadan Crisis timeline
According to The Guardian newspaper, the principal motive for overthrowing Iran's elected government was US and UK refusal to accept the nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the business agreement, between the Imperial British and the Iranian civil governments.[26] However according to scholar Mark Gasiorowski, while "it is often argued that the main motive behind the coup was the desire of U.S. policy makers to help U.S. oil companies gain a share in Iranian oil production ... it seems more plausible" the U.S. policymakers "were motivated mainly by fears of a communist takeover in Iran."[27]

Early oil development

Further information: Anglo-Persian Oil Company
In May 1901, Mozzafar al-Din Shah Qajar, the Shah of Persia, sought to pay debts owed to Britain by granting a 60-year petroleum search concession to William Knox D'Arcy. The exploration took seven years, was almost canceled, but yielded an enormous oil field discovered— from which Persia would receive only 16 percent of the future profits.[28]
The company slowly grew, until World War I, when Persia's strategic importance led the British Government to buy a controlling share in the company, essentially nationalizing British oil production in Iran for a short time, becoming the Royal Navy's chief fuel source in defeating the Central Powers.

Post–World War I

The Persians were dissatisfied with the royalty terms of the British oil concession, the Anglo–Persian Oil Company (APOC), whereby Persia received only 16 per cent of net profits. [29] Furthermore, the British exacerbated that business dissatisfaction, by intervening in the national, internal affair of the Persian Constitutional Revolution (the transition from dynastic to parliamentary government), [30][31][32].
In 1921, a military coup d’état — “widely believed to be a British attempt to enforce, at least, the spirit of the Anglo–Persian agreement” effected with the “financial and logisti*cal support of British military personnel” — permitted the political emergence of Reza Pahlavi, whom they enthroned as the “Shah of Iran”, in 1925. The Shah modernised Persia to the advantage of the British and the Iranians (Persians); one result was the Persian Corridor railroad for military and civil transport.[33]
In the 1930s, the Shah tried to terminate the APOC concession, but Britain would not allow it. The concession was renegotiated on terms favorable to the British. On 21 March 1935, Reza Shah Pahlavi changed the name of the country from Persia to Iran. That is also when the Anglo-Persian Oil Company was re-named the Anglo Iranian Oil Company.[34]

World War II

In 1941, after the Nazi invasion of the USSR, the British and Commonwealth forces and the Red Army invaded Iran, to secure petroleum (cf. Persian Corridor) for the Soviet Union fighting the Nazis in the Eastern Front and for the British elsewhere; to wit, monarchic Britain and the USSR deposed the pro–Nazi Shah Reza, and enthroned his twenty-two-year-old son, Crown Prince Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, as the Shah of Iran.
The Brits secured the oilfields and seaports.
By June 1941 the British had reasserted their influence in Iraq and planned to protect their interests more effectively. This decision was made more pertinent when Germany invaded the USSR (now Russia) on 22 June 1941. The Royal Engineers were given the task of executing and supervising a series of large works projects to secure the RAF stations at Habbaniya and Shaiba, the Kirkuk oilfields, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company's installations in south-west Iran, as well as, the development of ports and communication infrastructure in both Iran and Iraq. [35]
Post-World War II

In Iran, a constitutional monarchy since 1906, nationalist leaders became powerful in seeking reduction of long-term foreign intervention in their country — especially the greatly-profitable British oil concession. In particular, the AIOC's refusal to allow auditing of accounts to determine whether or not the Iranian government was being paid its due royalties in full. The AIOC's refusal escalated nationalist demands to: an equal share of petroleum revenue. Finally, the crisis was the AIOC's closing rather than accepting Iranian government "interference" in its business. The AIOC and the Iranian government resisted nationalist pressure to a renewed deal in 1949.


In 1953 Mosaddeq held a referendum to give himself powers to legislate law. It was alleged to have been rigged by Mosaddeq's royalist opponents, since it was not a secret a ballot.[36][37]. The royalists also alleged that there were some irregularities in the 1951 parliamentary election.[38]

Support for nationalization

Further information: Abadan Crisis timeline
In 1951, the AIOC's resistance to re-negotiating their petroleum concession — and increasing the royalty paid to Iran — created popular support for nationalising the company; the nationalisation impulse was not only strong, but passionate. In March, the pro-Western PM Ali Razmara was assassinated; the next month, the parliament legislated the petroleum industry's nationalisation, by creating the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). This legislation was guided by the Western-educated Dr. Mohammed Mosaddeq, then a member of the Iranian parliament and leader of the nationalization movement; by May, the Shah had appointed Mosaddeq Prime Minister.
Mohammad Mosaddeq attempted to negotiate with the AIOC, but the company rejected his proposed compromise. Mosaddeq's plan, based on the 1948 compromise between the Venezuelan Government of Romulo Gallegos and Creole Petroleum,[39] would divide the profits from oil 50/50 between Iran and Britain. This proved unacceptable to Britain and the Foreign Office began planning for his overthrow.[40]
That summer, American diplomat Averell Harriman went to Iran to negotiate an Anglo-Iranian compromise, asking the Shah's help; his reply was that "in the face of public opinion, there was no way he could say a word against nationalization".[41] Harriman held a press conference in Tehran, calling for reason and enthusiasm in confronting the "nationalization crisis". As soon as he spoke, a journalist rose and shouted: "We and the Iranian people all support Premier Mossadegh and oil nationalization!" Everyone present began cheering and then marched out of the room; the abandoned Harriman shook his head in dismay.[41]


Further information: Abadan Crisis
The National Iranian Oil Company suffered decreased production, because of Iranian inexperience and the AIOC's orders that British technicians not work with them, thus provoking the Abadan Crisis that was aggravated by the Royal Navy's blockading its export markets to force Iran to not nationalise its petroleum. The Iranian revenues were greater, because the profits went to Iran's national treasury rather than to private, foreign oil companies. By September 1951, the British had virtually ceased Abadan oil field production, forbidden British export to Iran of key British commodities (including sugar and steel),[42] and had frozen Iran's hard currency accounts in British banks.[43]
The United Kingdom took its anti-nationalisation case against Iran to the International Court of Justice at The Hague; PM Mossadegh said the world would learn of a "cruel and imperialistic country" stealing from a "needy and naked people". Representing the AIOC, the UK lost its case. Worried about the UK's other interests in Iran, and believing the misconception that Iran's nationalism was Soviet-backed, the UK persuaded Secretary of State John Foster Dulles that Iran was falling to the Soviets — effectively exploiting the American Cold War mindset. While President Harry S. Truman was busy fighting a war with in Korea, he did not agree to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq. However, in 1953, when Dwight D. Eisenhower became president, the UK convinced him to a joint coup d'état deposing Iran's democratically-elected government [44] in order to gain control of Iran's oil with the British.
Although nationalization of the oil industry increased Iranian revenues, it inevitably resulted in a socialist style economy, addicted to subsidization and impervious to taxation, according to a December 2008 article in the Washington Post. With all revenues flowing into the national treasury, the Iranian people saw the central government as the answer to their material needs. The government — rather than independent industries — became responsible for providing jobs, building the infrastructure and providing education. Moreover, the expectation grew that the government should provide heavy subsidies for most essential needs. However, the lack of effective mechanisms for distribution of subsidies or enforcing taxation lead to extremely poor distribution of wealth and an unsustainable economy[45] — and became a main source of widespread dissatisfaction with both the Pahlavi regime and the Islamic republic[46] .


Overthrowing Mosaddeq's government was a British idea for which they asked President Truman's aid; he refused.[47] Later, in 1953, when Eisenhower became president, the British asked him and he agreed to their jointly deposing the elected Iranian civil government.[48]
Prime Minister Mosaddegh, having decided that Iran must profit from its own petroleum, acted to nationalise that natural resource previously controlled by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Britain complained the Iranian government was violating the AIOC's legal rights and headed a worldwide boycott of Iranian petroleum, provoking a financial crisis for Iran's economy.[49] The monarchy, supported by the US and the UK invited Western oil companies back to exploit Iran's petroleum.[49]
"The crushing of Iran's first democratic government ushered in more than two decades of dictatorship under the Shah, who relied heavily on U.S. aid and arms", wrote Dan De Luce in The Guardian in reviewing All the Shah's Men, by New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer.

Cold War

Among the controversies involved in the coup is the importance and/or legitimacy of American and British fears of Communist influence in Iran. In the decades following the October Revolution, Iran's very large northern neighbor, the Soviet Union, had expanded its domain to rule over tens of millions of Muslim in Central Asia, and following World War II over much of Eastern Europe.[50] On June 26, 1950, as the movement for oil nationalization was gathering momentum in Iran, communist North Korea, with Soviet approval, crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea beginning the Korean War.[51] Three years later, just before the coup d'état in Iran, the Soviets crushed an uprising of strikes and protests in East Germany.[52] In Iran itself, the well-organized, pro-Soviet Tudeh (Communist) Party, greatly exceeded the National Front in the sized of its rallies as the crisis became worse.[53]
In the view of American mainstream public and elite opinion, the crisis in Iran was a part of the conflict between Communism and "the Free world," rather than a nationalist struggle against Western colonialism.[54] Consequently,
the United States, challenged by what most Americans saw as a relentless communist advance, slowly ceased to view Iran as a country with a unique history that faced a unique political challenge.
According to Sam Falle, a young British diplomat at the time of the coup,
1952 was a very dangerous time. The Cold War was hot in Korea. The Soviet Union had tried to take all Berlin in 1948. Stalin was still alive. On no account could the Western powers risk a Soviet takeover of Iran, which would almost certainly have led to World War III[55]
From the Anglo-American perspective, Iran's internal affairs crisis, featuring the large and popular pro-Soviet Tudeh (Communist) Party, became just another part of the Cold War between Communism and "the Free world".[51]
But according to Prof. Ervand Abrahamian, the coup d'état was "a classic case of nationalism clashing with imperialism in the Third World". Secretary of State Dean Acheson admitted the “`Communist threat` was a smokescreen” in responding to Pres. Eisenhower's claim that the Tudeh party was about to assume power.[56]
Throughout the crisis, the “communist danger” was more of a rhetorical device than a real issue — i.e. it was part of the cold-war discourse ... Despite 20,000 members and 110,000 sympathizers, the Tudeh was no match for the armed tribes and the 129,000-man military. What is more, the British and Americans had enough inside information to be confident that the party had no plans to initiate armed insurrection. At the beginning of the crisis, when the Truman administration was under the impression a compromise was possible, Acheson had stressed the communist danger, and warned if Mossadeq was not helped, the Tudeh would take over. The (British) Foreign Office had retorted that the Tudeh was no real threat. But, in August 1953, when the Foreign Office echoed the Eisenhower administration’s claim that the Tudeh was about to take over, Acheson now retorted that there was no such communist danger. Acheson was honest enough to admit that the issue of the Tudeh was a smokescreen.[56]
As part of the post–coup d'état political repression of the Tudeh, the imposed imperial government revealed that the party had 477 members in the Iranian armed forces: "22 colonels, 69 majors, 100 captains, 193 lieutenants, 19 noncommissioned officers, and 63 military cadets", however, none was member of the tank divisions, stationed around Tehran, that might have participated in the Shah's anti-democratic coup d'état; he had carefully screened them.[57]
Besides fear of Soviet influence in Iranian internal affairs, the Cold War influenced the US to support — or not oppose — Britain's anti-Mossadegh policy towards Iran; using British support of the US, the PM Winston Churchill insisted they not undermine his campaign to isolate Iranian PM Mossadegh: "Britain was supporting the Americans in Korea, he reminded Truman, and had a right to expect Anglo-American unity on Iran".[58]

Planning Operation Ajax

As a condition for restoring the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the US required collapsing the AIOC's monopoly; five American petroleum companies, Royal Dutch Shell, and the Compagnie Française des Pétroles, were to draw Iran's petroleum after the successful coup d'état — Operation Ajax. [59][60]
As part of that, the CIA organized anti-Communist guerrillas to fight the Tudeh Party if they seized power in the chaos of Operation Ajax.[61] Per released National Security Archive documents, Undersecretary of State Walter Bedell Smith reported that the CIA had agreed with Qashqai tribal leaders, in south Iran, to establish a clandestine safe haven from which US-funded guerrillas and spies could operate.[60][62]
Operation Ajax's formal leader was senior CIA officer Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., while career agent Donald Wilber was the operational leader, planner, and executor of the deposition of PM Mossadegh. The coup d'état depended on the impotent Shah's dismissing the popular and powerful Prime Minister and replacing him with Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi, with help from Col. Abbas Farzanegan — a man agreed by the British and Americans after determining his anti-Soviet politics.[60]


The BBC spearheaded Britain's propaganda campaign, broadcasting the go-code launching the coup d'état against Iran's elected government.[5] At the start, the coup d'état briefly faltered — and the Shah fled from Iran. However, after a short exile in Italy, the CIA returned him to Iran. Gen. Zahedi replaced the deposed Prime Minister Mosaddeq, who was arrested, tried, and condemned to death. [63][64] Mossadegh's sentence was commuted to three-years' solitary confinement in a military prison, followed by house arrest until his death.[65]

Media report

In 2000, The New York Times published a censored version of the CIA document Clandestine Service History — Overthrow of Premier Mosaddeq of Iran — November 1952 – August 1953 describing the planning and execution of the Anglo-American coup d'état.[66][67]



An immediate consequence of the coup d'état was the political repression of National Front opposition and especially of the (Communist) Tudeh party, and concentration of political power in the Shah and his courtiers.[68] Another effect was sharp improvement of Iran's economy; the British-led oil embargo against Iran ended, and oil revenue increased significantly beyond the pre-nationalisation level. Despite Iran not controlling its national oil, the Shah agreed to replacing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company with a consortium — British Petroleum and eight European and American oil companies; in result, oil revenues increased from $34 million in 1954-1955 to $181 million in 1956-1957, and continued increasing,[69] and the United States sent development aid and advisors.
Moreover, the sight of the Shah of Iran fleeing the country until foreigners re-enthroned as Shah of Iran was the major cause of his deposition in the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The occupation of the U.S. embassy by the religious revolutionaries severed American-Iranian relations. Remembering the embassy's command-centre role in the 1953 coup d'état led them to its preventive occupation in 1979.[who?]
Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president, of The Future of Freedom Foundation, said, "U.S. officials, not surprisingly, considered the operation one of their greatest foreign policy successes — until, that is, the enormous convulsion that rocked Iranian society with the violent ouster of the Shah and the installation of a virulently anti-American Islamic regime in 1979".[70] According to him, "the coup, in essence, paved the way for the rise to power of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and all the rest that's happened right up to 9/11 and beyond".[70]


The 1953 coup d'état was the first time the US had openly overthrown an elected, civil government.[71] In the US, Operation Ajax was a success, with "immediate and far-reaching effect. Overnight, the CIA became a central part of the American foreign policy apparatus, and covert action came to be regarded as a cheap and effective way to shape the course of world events" — a coup engineered by the CIA called Operation PBSUCCESS toppling the duly elected Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, which had nationalised farm land owned by the United Fruit Company, followed the next year.[72]
A pro-American government in Iran doubled the United States' geographic and strategic advantage in the Middle East, as Turkey, also bordering the USSR, was part of NATO.[73]
In 2000 US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, acknowledged the coup's pivotal role in the troubled relationship and "came closer to apologizing than any American official ever has before".
The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons. ... But the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.[74]
In June 2009, the US President Barack Obama in a speech in Cairo, Egypt, talked about the United States' relationship with Iran, mentioning the role of the US in 1953 Iranian coup saying, "This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward."[75]

Viewpoint in the Islamic Republic of Iran

In the Islamic Republic, remembrance of the coup is quite different than that of history books published in the West, and follows the precepts of Ayatollah Khomeini that Islamic jurists must guide the country to prevent "the influence of foreign powers".[76] According to historian Ervand Abrahamian, the government tries to ignore Mosaddeq as much as possible and allocates him only two pages in "high school textbooks." "The mass media elevate Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani as the real leader of the oil nationalization campaign, depicting Mosaddeq as merely the ayatollah's hanger-on." This is despite the fact that Kashani came out against Mosaddeq by mid-1953 and "told a foreign correspondent that Mossaddeq had fallen because he had forgotten that the shah enjoyed extensive popular support."[77] A month later, Kashani "went even further and declared that Mosaddeq deserved to be executed because he had committed the ultimate offense: rebelling against the shah, `betraying` the country, and repeatedly violating the sacred law." [Cited by Y. Richard, `Ayatollah Kashani: Precursor of the Islamic Republic?` in Religion and Politics in Iran, ed. N. Keddie, (Yale University Press, 1983)] p.109
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the main exposé of the 1953 coup d'état, All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer, has been censored of descriptions of Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani's activities during the Anglo-American coup d'état. Mahmood Kashani, the son of Abol-Ghasem Kashani, "one of the top members of the current, ruling élite" whom the Iranian Council of Guardians has twice approved to run for the presidency, denies there was a coup d'état in 1953, saying Mossadegh, himself, was obeying British plans:
In my opinion, Mossadegh was the director of the British plans and implemented them ... Without a doubt Mossadegh had the primary and essential role[78]
in the August 1953 coup. Kashani says Mossadegh, the British and the Americans worked against the Ayatollah Kashani to undermine the role of Shia clerics.[79] According to Masoud Kazemzadeh, this theory is contradicted by the fact that "the second person who spoke on Radio Tehran announcing and celebrating the overthrow of Mossadegh was Ayatollah Kashani’s son, who was hand-picked by Kermit Roosevelt".[80]
This allegation also is posited in the book Khaterat-e Arteshbod-e Baznesheshteh Hossein Fardoust (The Memoirs of Retired General Hossein Fardoust), published in the Islamic Republic and allegedly written by Hossein Fardoust, a former SAVAK officer. It claims that Mohammad Mossadeq was not a mortal enemy of the British, but had always favored them, and his nationalisation campaign of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was inspired by "the British themselves".[81] Scholar Ervand Abrahamian suggests that the Islamic Republican authorities may have had Fardoust tortured, and the fact that his death was announced before publication of the book may be significant.[81]

See also


  1. ^ O'Reilly, Kevin (2007). Decision Making in US History. The Cold War & the 1950s. Social Studies. pp. 108. ISBN 1560042931.
  2. ^ Mohammed Amjad. "Iran: From Royal Dictatorship to Theocracy‎". Greenwood Press, 1989. p. 62 "the United States had decided to save the 'free world' by overthrowing the democratically elected government of Mossadegh."
  3. ^ Iran by Andrew Burke, Mark Elliott - Page 37
  4. ^ Page 15, “Targeting Iran”, by David Barsamian, Noam Chomsky, Ervand Abrahamian, and Nahid Mozaffari
  5. ^ a b "A Very British Coup" (in English) (radio show). Document. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2005. Retrieved on 2006-06-14.
  6. ^ a b How to Overthrow A Government Pt. 1 on March 5, 2004
  7. ^ Nasr, Vali, "The Shia Revival", Norton, (2006), p.124
  8. ^ Review by Jonathan Schanzer of "All the Shah's Men" by Stephen Kinzer
  9. ^ Mackay, Sandra, "The Iranians", Plume (1997), p.203, 4
  10. ^ Nikki Keddie: "Roots of Revolution", Yale University Press, 1981, p.140
  11. ^ a b c "U.S. Comes Clean About The Coup In Iran", CNN, 04-19-2000.
  12. ^ Dan De Luce wrote in The Guardian.
  13. ^ Stephen Kinzer: "All the Shah's Men. An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror", John Wiley and Sons, 2003, p.215
  14. ^ The Lessons of History: "All The Shah's Men"
  15. ^ International Journal of Middle East Studies, 19, 1987, p.261
  16. ^ a b c "C.I.A. Destroyed Files on 1953 Iran Coup" May 29, 1997 The New York Times
  17. ^ C.I.A. Is Slow to Tell Early Cold War Secrets by Tim Weiner April 8, 1996
  18. ^ "C.I.A., Breaking Promises, Puts Off Release of Cold War Files" by Tim Weiner July 15, 1998 The New York Times'
  19. ^ Countercoup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran, Kermit Roosevelt, (New York: McGraw Hill) 1979
  20. ^ The 1953 Coup in Iran by Ervand Abrahamian. Science & Society, Vol. 65, No. 2, Summer 2001, 182–215
  21. ^ "The C.I.A.'s Missteps, From Past to Present" "The New York Times, " July 12, 2007
  22. ^ Stephen Kinzer: "All the Shah's Men. An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror", John Wiley and Sons, 2003, p.215
  23. ^ The comments were not an apology.
  24. ^ "The Lessons of History: "All The Shah's Men"". Archived from the original on 2009-06-19. Retrieved on 2009-06-17.
  25. ^ International Journal of Middle East Studies, 19, 1987, p.261
  26. ^ Dan De Luce wrote in The Guardian.
  27. ^ The 1953 Coup D'etat in Iran, Mark J. Gasiorowski 1998-08-23. accessed 2009-June-17. Archived 2009-06-19.
  28. ^ 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.48
  29. ^ Stephen Kinzer: "All the Shah's Men. An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror", John Wiley and Sons, 2003.
  30. ^ Mangol Bayat, Iran’s First Revolution: Shi’ism and the Constitutional Revolution of 1905 – 1909, Studies in Middle Eastern History, 336 p. (Oxford University Press, 1991). ISBN 019506822X.
  31. ^ Browne, Edward G., "The Persian Revolution of 1905-1909", Mage Publishers (July 1995). ISBN 0-934211-45-0
  32. ^ Afary, Janet, "The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906-1911", Columbia University Press. 1996. ISBN 0-231-10351-4
  33. ^ COUP D’ETAT OF 1299/1921 in the Encyclopaedia Iranica, retrieved 8 July 2008.
  34. ^ Mackey, Iranians, Plume, (1998), p.178
  35. ^ (U.K.) Royal Engineers Museum history.
  36. ^ "The referendum was rigged which caused a great public outcry against Mosaddeq" [1]. Accessed 2009-06-06. Archived 2009-06-08.
  37. ^ New York Times, July 28, 1953, p.6, "Mossadegh Voids Secret Balloting : Decrees `Yes` and `No` Booths for Iranian Plebiscite on Dissolution of Majlis" by Kennett Love
  38. ^ "Realizing that the opposition would take the vast majority of the provincial seats, Mossadeq stopped the voting as soon as 79 deputies - just enough to form a parliamentary quorum - had been elected." Kinzer (2003), All the Shah's Men p. 137
  39. ^ Chatfield, Wayne, The Creole Petroleum Corporation in Venezuela Ayer Publishing 1976 p. 29
  40. ^ Gasiorowski, M. (1998)."The 1953 Coup D'etat in Iran". University of Toronto, Accessed 2009-06-06. Archived 2009-06-08.
  41. ^ a b 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.106
  42. ^ Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.110
  43. ^ Abrahamian, (1982) p.268
  44. ^ Stephen Kinzer: "All the Shah's Men. An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror", John Wiley and Sons, 2003
  45. ^,00.html Time, "Shah on a shoestring" (01 March 1976) p.268
  46. ^ Washington Post, "Iran Confronts an 'Economic Evolution'" (04 December 2008) p.268
  47. ^ The spectre of Operation Ajax | Guardian daily comment | Guardian Unlimited
  48. ^ Book review of Stephen Kinzer's All the Shah's Men by CIA historian David S. Robarge
  49. ^ a b "The spectre of Operation Ajax". Article. Guardian Unlimited. 2003.,00.html. Retrieved on 2007-04-02.
  50. ^ "Revolt of Islam" by Bernard Lewis, New Yorker, 11-19-2001, p.54
  51. ^ a b Stephen Kinzer: All the Shah's Men. An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, John Wiley and Sons, 2003, p.84
  52. ^ "Books And Arts: How to change a regime in 30 days; Iran", The Economist. London: Aug 16, 2003. Vol. 368, Iss. 8337; p. 74
  53. ^ New York Times, "100,000 Red Rally in Iranian Capital", July 15, 1953
  54. ^ Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003), p.84
  55. ^ Kinzer, All the Shah's Men, (2003), p.205
  56. ^ a [url=ht...
The CIA history of operation TPAJAX excerpted below was first disclosed by James Risen of The New York Times in its editions of April 16 and June 18, 2000, and posted in this form on its website at:
This extremely important document is one of the last major pieces of the puzzle explaining American and British roles in the August 1953 coup against Iranian Premier Mohammad Mossadeq. Written in March 1954 by Donald Wilber, one of the operation’s chief planners, the 200-page document is essentially an after-action report, apparently based in part on agency cable traffic and Wilber’s interviews with agents who had been on the ground in Iran as the operation lurched to its conclusion.
Long-sought by historians, the Wilber history is all the more valuable because it is one of the relatively few documents that still exists after an unknown quantity of materials was destroyed by CIA operatives – reportedly “routinely” – in the 1960s, according to former CIA Director James Woolsey. However, according to an investigation by the National Archives and Records Administration, released in March 2000, “no schedules in effect during the period 1959-1963 provided for the disposal of records related to covert actions and, therefore, the destruction of records related to Iran was unauthorized.” (p. 22) The CIA now says that about 1,000 pages of documentation remain locked in agency vaults.
During the 1990s, three successive CIA heads pledged to review and release historically valuable materials on this and 10 other widely-known covert operations from the period of the Cold War, but in 1998, citing resource restrictions, current Director George Tenet reneged on these promises, a decision which prompted the National Security Archive to file a lawsuit in 1999 for this history of the 1953 operation and one other that is known to exist. So far, the CIA has effectively refused to declassify either document, releasing just one sentence out of 339 pages at issue. That sentence reads: “Headquarters spent a day featured by depression and despair.” In a sworn statement by William McNair, the information review officer for the CIA’s directorate of operations, McNair claimed that release of any other part of this document other than the one line that had previously appeared in Wilber’s memoirs, would “reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to the national security of the United States.” Clearly, the “former official” who gave this document to The New York Times disagreed with McNair, and we suspect you will too, once you read this for yourself. The case is currently pending before a federal judge. (See related item on this site: “Archive Wins Freedom of Information Ruling Versus CIA”)
In disclosing this history, the Times initially reproduced only a summary and four appendixes to the original document. It prefaced each excerpt with a statement explaining that it was withholding the main text of the document on the grounds that “there might be serious risk that some of those named as foreign agents would face retribution in Iran.” Eventually, the Times produced the main document after excising the names and descriptions of virtually every Iranian mentioned.
In posting the main body of the history on June 18, 2000, the Times’ technical staff tried to digitally black out the unfamiliar Iranian names, but enterprising Web users soon discovered that in some cases the hidden text could be “revealed” without much technical savvy. The Times quickly pulled those portions of the document and reposted them using a more fool-proof redaction method. The Archive is reproducing the latter versions of the document, even though most of the individuals known to be named in the history are either already dead or have long since left Iran.
The posting of this document is itself an important event. Although newspapers regularly print stories based on leaked documents, they far more rarely publish the documents themselves, typically for lack of space. The World Wide Web now offers a tremendous opportunity for the public to get direct access to at least some of the sources underlying these important stories — much like footnotes — rather than relying on second-hand accounts alone. The Times performed a valuable public service in making available virtually the entire Wilber history. Its precedent should be a model for future reporting that unveils the documentary record.
Although the Times’ publication was not without controversy, mainly over the unwitting revelation of Iranian names, fundamental responsibility for their exposure rests with those officials at the CIA who, despite compelling public interest and the filing of a lawsuit, insisted that virtually the entire document had to remain sealed. As Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists put it:
If the CIA had exercised a more discerning classification policy and had declassified the bulk of the report, then there would have been no "leak" to the New York Times, and no subsequent disclosure of agent names. Instead, through overclassification, [Director of Central Intelligence George] Tenet failed in this case to fulfill his statutory obligation to protect intelligence sources and methods.
As a brief substantive introduction, the Archive is reproducing a preliminary analysis of the document by Prof. Mark Gasiorowski (Louisiana State University), the most prominent scholar of the coup, and a member of the Advisory Panel of the Archive’s Project on Iran-U.S. Relations. It takes the form of a response to a request for his “take” on the document from the listserv Gulf2000, directed by Dr. Gary Sick of Columbia University. From June 7-8, 2000, the Archive co-sponsored an international conference in Tehran on Iran and the great powers during the early 1950s, specifically focusing on the Mossadeq coup.
“What’s New on the Iran 1953 Coup in the New York Times Article (April 16, 2000, front page) and the Documents Posted on the Web”
By Professor Mark Gasiorowski
19 April 2000
There is not much in the NYT article itself that is not covered in my article on the coup (“The 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran” published in 1987 in the International Journal of Middle East Studies, and available in the Gulf2000 archives) or other sources on the coup. The most interesting new tidbit here is that the CIA’s agents harassed religious leaders and bombed one’s home in order to turn them against Mossadeq. The article does not say, but this was probably done by Iranians working in the BEDAMN network, which is described in my article. There are also some new details on how that US persuaded the shah to agree to the coup, including a statement that Assadollah Rashidian was involved in this effort and that General Schwartzkopf, Sr. played a larger role in this than was previously known. There are also a few details reported in the article that I knew about but chose not to reveal, including that Donald Wilber and Norman Derbyshire developed the original coup plan and that the plan was known as TPAJAX, rather than simply AJAX. (The TP prefix indicated that the operation was to be carried out in Iran.) The NYT article does not say anything about a couple of matters that remain controversial about the coup, including whether Ayatollah Kashani played a role in organizing the crowds and whether the CIA team organized “fake” Tudeh Party crowds as part of the effort. There may be something on these issues in the 200-page history itself. Much more important than the NYT article are the two documents appended to the summary document giving operational plans for the coup. These contain a wealth of interesting information. They indicate that the British played a larger—though still subordinate—role in the coup than was previously known, providing part of the financing for it and using their intelligence network (led by the Rashidian brothers) to influence members of the parliament and do other things. The CIA described the coup plan as “quasi-legal,” referring to the fact that the shah legally dismissed Mossadeq but presumably acknowledging that he did not do so on his own initiative. These documents make clear that the CIA was prepared to go forward with the coup even if the shah opposed it. There is a suggestion that the CIA use counterfeit Iranian currency to somehow show that Mossadeq was ruining the economy, though I’m not sure this was ever done. The documents indicate that Fazlollah Zahedi and his military colleagues were given large sums of money (at least $50,000) before the coup, perhaps to buy their support. Most interestingly, they indicate that various clerical leaders and organizations—whose names are blanked out—were to play a major role in the coup. Finally, the author(s) of the London plan—presumably Wilber and Derbyshire—say some rather nasty things about the Iranians, including that there is a “recognized incapacity of Iranians to plan or act in a thoroughly logical manner.”
Perhaps the most general conclusion that can be drawn from these documents is that the CIA extensively stage-managed the entire coup, not only carrying it out but also preparing the groundwork for it by subordinating various important Iranian political actors and using propaganda and other instruments to influence public opinion against Mossadeq. This is a point that was made in my article and other published accounts, but it is strongly confirmed in these documents. In my view, this thoroughly refutes the argument that is commonly made in Iranian monarchist exile circles that the coup was a legitimate “popular uprising” on behalf of the shah.
In reply to Nikki Keddie’s (UCLA) questions about whether the NYT article got the story right, I would say it is impossible to tell until the 200-page document comes out. Nikki’s additional comment that these documents may not be entirely factual but may instead reveal certain biases held by their authors is an important one. Wilber was not in Iran while the coup was occurring, and his account of it can only have been based on his debriefing of Kermit Roosevelt and other participants. Some facts were inevitably lost or misinterpreted in this process, especially since this was a rapidly changing series of events. This being said, I doubt that there will be any major errors in the 200-page history. While Wilber had his biases, he certainly was a competent historian. I can think of no reason he might have wanted to distort this account.
Here are a few other notes. It is my understanding that these documents were given to the NYT well before Secretary Albright’s recent speech, implying that they were not an attempt to upstage or add to the speech by the unnamed “former official” who provided them to the NYT. I think there is still some reason to hope that the 200-page document will be released with excisions by the NYT. I certainly hope they do so.
CIA Clandestine Service History, "Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran,
November 1952-August 1953," March 1954, by Dr. Donald Wilber.
[Image: doc.gif] Cover Sheet, Historian's Note and Table of Contents [Image: doc.gif] Summary [Image: doc.gif] I. PRELIMINARY STEPS [Image: doc.gif] II. DRAFTING THE PLAN [Image: doc.gif] III. CONSOLIDATING THE OPERATIONAL PLAN [Image: doc.gif] IV. THE DECISIONS ARE MADE: ACTIVITY BEGINS [Image: doc.gif] V. MOUNTING PRESSURE AGAINST THE SHAH [Image: doc.gif] VI. THE FIRST TRY [Image: doc.gif] VII. APPARENT FAILURE [Image: doc.gif] VIII. THE SHAH IS VICTORIOUS [Image: doc.gif] IX. REPORT TO LONDON [Image: doc.gif] X. WHAT WAS LEARNED FROM THE OPERATION [Image: doc.gif] APPENDIX A - Initial Operational Plan for TPAJAX as Cabled from Nicosia to Headquarters on 1 June 1953 [Image: doc.gif] APPENDIX B - "London" Draft of the TPAJAX Operational Plan [Image: doc.gif] APPENDIX C - Foreign Office Memorandum of 23 July 1953 from British Ambassador Makins to Assistant Secretary of State Smith [Image: doc.gif] APPENDIX D - Report on Military Planning Aspect of TPAJAX [Image: doc.gif] APPENDIX E - Military Critique - Lessons Learned from TPAJAX re Military Planning Aspects of Coup d'Etat
The CIA's Broken Promises on Declassification
Follow the link above for information on the Archive's lawsuit against the CIA to force the declassification of key documents on the agency's role in the European elections of 1948 and the 1953 coup in Iran, and to read what five former CIA directors and others have said about the agency's declassification policies. From there, follow the link at the bottom to view the complaint filed with U.S. District Court on May 13, 1999. The document below is the court filing of a sworn statement from William H. McNair, the Information Review Officer for the CIA's Directorate of Operations. In the statement, McNair explained why he believed that all but one sentence out of the 200 page history later disclosed the the Times should remain classified.
[Image: doc.gif] Defendant's Notice of Filing of Defendant's 'Vaughn Index', which Includes Defendant's 'Glomar' Response to Plaintiff's Request for Certain Documentation
Introduction, Declaration of William H. McNair, Information Review Officer, Directorate of Operations, United States Central Intelligence Agency
Summary of Plaintiff's FOIA Requests
FOIA Exemptions Claimed for the CIA Withholdings
Categories of Information Withheld Under the Applicable FOIA Exemptions
Appendix A. Document Index
Magda Hassan Wrote:The CIA history of operation TPAJAX excerpted below was first disclosed by James Risen of The New York Times in its editions of April 16 and June 18, 2000, and posted in this form on its website at:
This extremely important document is one of the last major pieces of the puzzle explaining American and British roles in the August 1953 coup against Iranian Premier Mohammad Mossadeq. Written in March 1954 by Donald Wilber, one of the operation’s chief planners, the 200-page document is essentially an after-action report, apparently based in part on agency cable traffic and Wilber’s interviews with agents who had been on the ground in Iran as the operation lurched to its conclusion.

Wonderful and essential background, Maggie, as we watch Ajax II (or "Son of Ajax") unfold, for which many thanks.


PS I wonder how many millions of Iranians must be destroyed and displaced by the American exterminator to "liberate" that beautiful country?
Paul Rigby Wrote:Wonderful and essential background, Maggie, as we watch Ajax II (or "Son of Ajax") unfold, for which many thanks.


PS I wonder how many millions of Iranians must be destroyed and displaced by the American exterminator to "liberate" that beautiful country?

Thanks Paul. I thought the time was right to remind us all that we have been down this path once or twice before. I am sure the Iranians will be as grateful as the Iraqis for the US liberation.:banghead: