On the 60th anniversary of the 1953 military coup in Iran that overthrew the government of radical nationalist Mohammad Mossadegh, the US has declassified documents detailing how the CIA’s secret operation brought the country’s Shah back to power.
“American and British involvement in Mossadegh’s ouster has
long been public knowledge, but today’s posting includes what is
believed to be the CIA’s first formal acknowledgement that the
agency helped to plan and execute the coup,” the US National
Security Archive said.
Monday’s publication under the US Freedom of Information Act
came as something of a surprise, since most of the materials and
records of the 1953 coup were believed to have been destroyed by
the CIA, the Archive said. The CIA said at time that its
“safes were too full.”
The newly-revealed documents declassify documents about CIA’s
TPAJAX operation that sought regime change in Iran through the
bribery of Iranian politicians, security and army high-ranking
officials, and massive anti-Mossadegh propaganda that helped to
instigate public revolt in 1953.
Among the declassified documents there are several examples of
CIA propaganda presenting Iranian PM Mossadegh disparagingly.
“This propaganda piece accuses the Prime Minister of
pretending to be ‘the savior of Iran’ and alleges that he has
instead built up a vast spying apparatus which he has trained on
virtually every sector of society, from the army to newspapers to
political and religious leaders,” the Archive said.
“Stirring up images of his purported alliance with ‘murderous
Qashqai Khan’ and the Bolsheviks, the authors charge: ‘Is this
the way you save Iran, Mossadegh? We know what you want to save.
You want to save Mossadegh’s dictatorship in Iran!’”
Iran became independent from Britain after WWII and in April 1951
Iranians democratically elected the head of the National Front
party, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, as prime minister. Mossadegh moved
quickly to nationalize the assets in Iran of the Anglo-Iranian
Oil Company (the forerunner of today’s BP) a step that brought
his government into confrontation with Britain and the US.
Britain’s MI6 military intelligence then teamed up with the CIA
and planned, elaborated and carried out a coup that ousted
Mossadegh in August 1953 and returned Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
The first attempted coup failed after Mossadegh got wind of the
conspiracy, but American and British intelligence services in
Iran then improvized a second stage of the coup, pulling pro-Shah
forces together and organizing mass protests on August 19, 1953.
These protests were immediately supported by army and
police. Mossadegh’s house was destroyed after a prolonged assault
by pro-coup forces, including several tanks.
Mossadegh was replaced with Iranian general Fazlollah Zahedi, who
was handpicked by MI6 and the CIA. Mossaddegh was later sentenced
to death, but the Shah never dared to carry out the sentence.
Mossadegh died in his residence near Tehran in 1967.
The Shah’s pro-Western dictatorship continued for 27 years and
ended with the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which paved the way
for today’s Iran, where anti-American sentiments remain strong.
The 1953 coup still casts a long shadow over Iranian-US
The declassified documents originated from an interim report,
called “The Battle for Iran,” prepared by a CIA in-house
historian in the mid-1970s. The historian wrote: “[T]he
military coup that overthrew Mossadegh and his National Front
cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of U.S.
foreign policy.” The report also mentions that the US
establishment feared that Iran could be “open to Soviet
aggression,” and therefore initiated Operation TPAJAX, which
eventually became the American part of the joint US-British
‘Operation Ajax’ that brought the Shah to power.
The “aggression” mentioned by the CIA historian is likely a
reference to the Soviet Union’s intervention in Iran during WWII,
when a USSR-Iran treaty signed in 1940 enabled Moscow to
establish military prescriptive in Iran in case of any threat to
the borders of the Soviet Union. Moscow did put this treaty to
use during the WWII and partly occupied Iran in 1941-1945.
The National Security Archive said it that while it “applauds
the CIA’s decision to make these materials available, today’s
posting shows clearly that these materials could have been safely
declassified many years ago without risk of damage to national
Though at least two US Presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama,
have publicly acknowledged the US role in the Iranian coup, the
intelligence services in Washington have always been reluctant to
admit direct involvement in the 1953 coup.
After the collapse of the USSR, the CIA proclaimed a “policy of
openness” and made a commitment to declassify some documents
regarding Cold War covert operations, including the coup in Iran,
by US intelligence.
Three successive CIA directors — Robert M. Gates, R. James
Woolsey, and John M. Deutch — promised to publish documents, but
Archive deputy director Malcolm Byrne appealed to the US
intelligence community “to make fully available the remaining
records on the coup period.”
“There is no longer good reason to keep secrets about such a
critical episode in our recent past. The basic facts are widely
known to every schoolchild in Iran. Suppressing the details only
distorts history, and feeds into myth-making on all sides,”
Republished from: RT