Iran’s History, the CIA / MI6 & Operation Ajax

Posted: March 17, 2011 in All Articles / Posts, Main Stream Media Omission, US Foreign Policy

Source: wikipedia

Iran’s first encompassing Shi’a Islamic state was established under the Safavid Dynasty (1501–1722) by Shah Ismail I. The Safavid dynasty soon became a major political power and promoted the flow of bilateral state contacts. The Safavid peak was during the rule of Shah Abbas The Great.[26] The Safavid Dynasty frequently warred with the Ottoman Empire, Uzbek tribes and the Portuguese Empire.

The Safavids moved their capital from Tabriz to Qazvin and then to Isfahan, where their patronage for the arts propelled Iran into one of its most aesthetically productive eras. Under their rule, the state became highly centralized, the first attempts to modernize the military were made, and even a distinct style of architecture developed. In 1722 Pashtun rebels headed by the Hotakis of Kandahar defeated Shah Sultan Hossein and ended the Safavid Dynasty, but in 1735, Nader Shah successfully drove out the Pashtuns from Isfahan and established the Afsharid Dynasty.

He then staged an incursion into India in 1738, securing the Peacock throne, Koh-i-Noor, and Darya-ye Noor among other royal treasures. His rule did not last long, however, as he was assassinated in 1747. The Mashhad based Afshar Dynasty was succeeded by the Zand dynasty in 1750, founded by Karim Khan, who established his capital at Shiraz. His rule brought a period of relative peace and renewed prosperity.

The Zand dynasty lasted three generations, until Aga Muhammad Khan executed Lotf Ali Khan, and founded his new capital in Tehran, marking the dawn of the Qajar Dynasty in 1794. The Qajar chancellor Amir Kabir established Iran’s first modern college system, among other modernizing reforms. Iran suffered several wars with Imperial Russia during the Qajar era, resulting in Iran losing almost half of its territories to Imperial Russia and the British Empire, via the treaties of Gulistan, Turkmenchay and Akhal. The Great Persian Famine of 1870–1871 is believed to have caused the death of 2 million persons.[108]

In spite of The Great Game Iran managed to maintain her sovereignty and was never colonized, unlike neighbouring states in the region. Repeated foreign intervention and a corrupt and weakened Qajar rule led to various protests and constitutionalization efforts which eventually resulted in the establishment of the nation’s first parliament in 1906.

Recent history (1921–present)

Further information: 1953 Iranian coup d’état

Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq

In 1925, Reza Khan overthrew the weakening Qajar Dynasty and became Shah. Reza Shah initiated industrialization, railroad construction, and the establishment of a national education system. Reza Shah sought to balance Russian and British influence, but when World War II started, his nascent ties to Germany alarmed Britain and Russia. In 1941, Britain and the USSR invaded Iran to use Iranian railroad capacity during World War II. The Shah was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

In 1951, after the assassination of prime minister Ali Razmara, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh was elected prime minister by a parliamentary vote which was then ratified by the Shah. As prime minister, Mossadegh became enormously popular in Iran after he nationalized Iran’s petroleum industry and oil reserves. In response, the British government, headed by Winston Churchill, embargoed Iranian oil and successfully enlisted the United States to join in a plot to depose the democratically elected government of Mossadegh.

From a royal and aristocratic background, Mosaddegh was an author, administrator, lawyer, prominent parliamentarian, and politician. During his time as prime minister, a wide range of progressive social reforms were carried out. Unemployment compensation was introduced, factory owners were ordered to pay benefits to sick and injured workers, and peasants were freed from forced labor in their landlords’ estates. Twenty percent of the money landlords received in rent was placed in a fund to pay for development projects such as public baths, rural housing, and pest control.[4]

He is most famous as the architect of the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913 through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) (later British Petroleum or BP). The Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. was controlled by the British government.[5] Mosaddegh was removed from power in a coup on 19 August 1953, organised and carried out by the United States CIA at the request of the British MI6 which chose Iranian General Fazlollah Zahedi to succeed Mosaddegh.[6] The CIA called the coup Operation Ajax[7] after its CIA cryptonym, and as the 28 Mordad 1332 coup in Iran, after its date on the Iranian calendar.[8] Mosaddegh was imprisoned for three years, then put under house arrest until his death.

Support for oil nationalization

Most of Iran’s oil reserves were in the Persian Gulf area and had been developed by the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) for export to Britain. For a number of reasons — a growing consciousness of how little Iran was getting from the AIOC for its oil; refusal of the AIOC to offer of a ‘50–50% profit sharing deal’ to Iran as Aramco had to Saudi Arabia; anger over Iran’s defeat and occupation by the Allied powers — nationalization of oil was an important and popular issue with “a broad cross-section of the Iranian people.”[16]

General Haj-Ali Razmara, the Shah’s choice, was approved as prime minister June 1950. On 3 March 1951 he appeared before the Majlis (parliament) in an attempt to persuade the deputies against “full nationalization on the grounds that Iran could not override its international obligations and lacked the capacity to run the oil industry on its own.” He was assassinated four days later by Khalil Tahmasebi, a member of the militant fundamentalist group Fadayan-e Islam.[17] This order of events, while appearing in many mainstream historical accounts, confronts countervailing evidence. Firstly, “[US]embassy staffers early on speculated that Razmara might either be assassinated or become involved in a power struggle with the Shah.”[18] These two concerns appear to converge according to Steven Kinzer, who notes that:

“[e]vidence emerged to suggest that the fatal shot had been fired not by Tahmasibi but by a soldier acting on behalf of the Shah or members of his inner circle, and that Asadollah Alam had knowingly driven him to his fatal rendezvous. Years later a retired Iranian colonel wrote in his memoir that the fatal shot had come from a Colt revolver, available only to soldiers. “An army sergeant, in civilian clothes, was chosen for the deed”, he asserted. “He had been told to shoot and kill Razmara with a Colt, the moment Tahmasibi began to shoot… Those who had examined the wounds in Razmara’s body were in no doubt that he had been killed by a Colt bullet, not by the bullet of a weak gun.”[19][20]

While this account is corroborated by several other studies,[21] it remains a point of contention among historians. After negotiations for higher oil royalties failed, on 15 March and 20 March 1951, the Iranian Majlis and Senate voted to nationalize the British-owned and operated AIOC, taking control of Iran’s oil industry.

Another force for nationalization was the Tudeh or Communist party. In early April 1951 the party organised nationwide strikes and riots in protest against delays in nationalization of the oil industry along with low wages and bad housing in the oil industry. This display of strength, along with public celebration at the assassination of General Razmara made an impact on the deputies of the Majlis.[22]

In 1953 US President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized Operation Ajax. The operation was successful, and Mossadegh was arrested on 19 August 1953. The coup was the first time the US had openly overthrown an elected, civilian government.[109]

In October 1952, Mosaddegh declared Britain an enemy, and cut all diplomatic relations.[44] In November and December 1952, British intelligence officials suggested to American intelligence that the prime minister should be ousted. The new US administration under Dwight D. Eisenhower and the British government under Winston Churchill agreed to work together toward Mosaddegh’s removal. In March 1953, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles directed the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which was headed by his younger brother Allen Dulles, to draft plans to overthrow Mosaddegh.[45]

On 4 April 1953, CIA director Dulles approved US$1 million to be used “in any way that would bring about the fall of Mosaddegh”. Soon the CIA’s Tehran station started to launch a propaganda campaign against Mosaddegh. Finally, according to The New York Times, in early June, American and British intelligence officials met again, this time in Beirut, and put the finishing touches on the strategy. Soon afterward, according to his later published accounts, the chief of the CIA’s Near East and Africa division, Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. the grandson of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, arrived in Tehran to direct it.[46] In 2000, The New York Times made partial publication of a leaked CIA document titled, Clandestine Service History – Overthrow of Premier Mosaddegh of Iran – November 1952-August 1953. This document describes the point-by-point planning of the coup by agent Donald Wilbur, and execution conducted by the American and British governments. The New York Times published this critical document with the names censored. The New York Times also limited its publication to scanned image (bitmap) format, rather than machine-readable text. This document was eventually published properly – in text form, and fully unexpurgated. The complete CIA document is now web published. The word ‘blowback‘ appeared for the very first time in this document.

Operation Ajax

The plot, known as Operation Ajax, centered on convincing Iran’s monarch to issue a decree to dismiss Mosaddegh from office, as he had attempted some months earlier. But the Shah was terrified to attempt such a dangerously unpopular and legally questionable move, and it would take much persuasion and many U.S. funded meetings, which included bribing his sister Ashraf with a mink coat and money, to successfully change his mind[citation needed].

Mosaddegh became aware of the plots against him and grew increasingly wary of conspirators acting within his government.[47] Mosaddegh then moved to dissolve the parliament “by calling for a national referendum”.[47] After taking the additional step of abolishing the Constitutional guarantee of a secret ballot[48], Mosaddegh’s victory in the national plebiscite was assured. The electorate was forced into a non-secret ballot and Mosaddegh won “99.9 percent the vote” in the Aug. 4, 1953 referendum.[47] On or around Aug. 16, Mosaddegh “overreached, playing into the C.I.A.’s hands by dissolving Parliament”,[49] and Mosaddegh’s emergency powers were extended[citation needed].

A few days later on Aug. 19, 1953, Mosaddegh was rounded up as the CIA-backed coup came to a successful end.[50] He was then tried, imprisoned for three years and kept “under house arrest at his estate” until he died in March 1967.[51]

Shah’s exile

Shaban Jafari, commonly known as “Shaban the Brainless” in Tehran

In August 1953, the Shah finally succumbed to the CIA plot, having been finally told by Roosevelt[citation needed] that the U.S. would proceed with him or without him, and formally dismissed the Prime Minister in a written decree, an act explicitly permitted under the constitution.[52] Then, as a precautionary measure, he flew to Baghdad and from there hid safely in Rome, Italy. He actually signed two decrees, one dismissing Mosaddegh and the other nominating the CIA’s choice, General Fazlollah Zahedi, as Prime Minister. These decrees, or Farmāns as they are called, were specifically written as dictated by Donald Wilbur the CIA architect of the plan, which were designed as a major part of Wilbur’s strategy to give the impression of legitimacy to the secret coup, as can be read in the declassified plan itself which bears his name. Wilbur was later given a letter of commendation by Alan Dulles, CIA head, for his work. It too is now declassified, and appears in Wilbur’s autobiography.

Coup d’état

Soon, massive protests, engineered by Roosevelt’s team, took place across the city and elsewhere with tribesmen paid to be at the ready to assist the coup. Fake anti- and pro-monarchy protesters, both paid by Roosevelt (as he reports in his book, cited), violently clashed in the streets, looting and burning mosques and newspapers, leaving almost 300 dead. The pro-monarchy leadership, chosen, hidden and finally unleashed at the right moment by the CIA team, led by retired army General and former Minister of Interior in Mosaddegh’s cabinet, Fazlollah Zahedi joined with underworld figures such as the Rashidian brothers and local strongman Shaban Jafari,[53] to gain the upper hand on 19 August 1953 (28 Mordad). The military joined on cue: pro-Shah tank regiments stormed the capital and bombarded the prime minister’s official residence, on Roosevelt’s cue, according to his book. Mosaddegh managed to flee from the mob that set in to ransack his house, and, the following day, surrendered to General Zahedi, who was meanwhile set up by the CIA with makeshift headquarters at the Officers’ Club. Mosaddegh was arrested at the Officers’ Club and transferred to a military jail shortly after.

U.S. role

Execution of Operation Ajax

Having obtained the Shah’s concurrence, the CIA team headed by Roosevelt executed the coup. Firmans (royal decrees) dismissing Mosaddegh and appointing Zahedi were drawn up by the coup plotters and signed by the Shah. On Saturday August 15, Colonel Nematollah Nassiri, the commander of the Imperial Guard, delivered to Mosaddegh a firman from the shah dismissing him. Mosaddegh, who had been warned of the plot (probably by the Tudeh party) rejected the firman as a forgery and had Nassiri arrested.[47] Mosaddegh argued at his trial after the coup that under the Iranian constitutional monarchy, the Shah had no constitutional right to issue an order for the elected Prime Minster’s dismissal without Parliament’s consent.[48] The action was publicized and the Shah, fearing a popular backlash, fled to Rome, Italy. After a short exile in Italy, the CIA completed the coup against Mossadegh, and returned the Shah to Iran. Alan Dulles, the director of the CIA, flew back with the Shah from Rome to Teheran.[49] Gen. Zahedi replaced the deposed Prime Minister Mosaddegh, who was arrested, tried, and originally sentenced to death.[50][51] Mosaddegh’s sentence was commuted to three years’ solitary confinement in a military prison, followed by house arrest until his death.[52]

As a condition for restoring the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the U.S. required removal of 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.[citation needed]

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.[53] 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 U.S.-funded guerrillas and spies could operate.[53][54]

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 Mosaddegh. 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.[54]

The CIA sent Major general Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr. to persuade the exiled Shah to return to rule Iran. Schwarzkopf trained the security forces that would become known as SAVAK to secure the shah’s hold on power.[55][56]

The coup and CIA records

The coup was carried out by the U.S. administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower in a covert action advocated by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and implemented under the supervision of his brother Allen Dulles, the Director of Central Intelligence.[57] The coup was organized by the United States’ CIA and the United Kingdom‘s MI6, two spy agencies that aided royalists and royalist elements of the Iranian army.[58]

According to a heavily redacted CIA document[59] released to the National Security Archive in response to a Freedom of Information request, “Available documents do not indicate who authorized CIA to begin planning the operation, but it almost certainly was President Eisenhower himself. Eisenhower biographer Stephen Ambrose has written that the absence of documentation reflected the President’s style.”

The CIA document then quotes from the Ambrose biography of Eisenhower:

Before going into the operation, Ajax had to have the approval of the President. Eisenhower participated in none of the meetings that set up Ajax; he received only oral reports on the plan; and he did not discuss it with his Cabinet or the NSC. Establishing a pattern he would hold to throughout his Presidency, he kept his distance and left no documents behind that could implicate the President in any projected coup. But in the privacy of the Oval Office, over cocktails, he was kept informed by Foster Dulles, and he maintained a tight control over the activities of the CIA.[60]

CIA officer Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., the grandson of former President Theodore Roosevelt, carried out the operation planned by CIA agent Donald Wilber. One version of the CIA history, written by Wilber, referred to the operation as TPAJAX.[61][62]

During the coup, Roosevelt and Wilber, representatives of the Eisenhower administration, bribed Iranian government officials, reporters, and businessmen. They also bribed street thugs to support the Shah and oppose Mosaddegh.[63] The deposed Iranian leader, Mosaddegh, was taken to jail and Iranian General Fazlollah Zahedi named himself prime minister in the new, pro-western government.

Iranian fascists and Nazis played prominent roles in the coup regime. Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi, who had been arrested and imprisoned by the British during World War II for his attempt to establish a pro-Nazi government, was made Prime Minister on August 19, 1953. The CIA gave Zahedi about $100,000 before the coup and an additional $5 million the day after the coup to help consolidate support for the coup. Bahram Shahrokh, a trainee of Joseph Goebbels and Berlin Radio’s Persian-language program announcer during the Nazi rule, became director of propaganda. Mr. Sharif-Emami, who also had spent some time in jail for his pro-Nazi activities in the 1940s, assumed several positions after 1953 coup, including Secretary General of the Oil Industry, President of the Senate, and Prime Minister (twice). [64][65]

The British and American spy agencies returned the monarchy to Iran by installing the pro-western Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on the throne where his rule lasted 26 years. Pahlavi was overthrown in 1979.[30][66] Masoud Kazemzadeh, associate professor of political science at the Sam Houston State University, wrote that Pahlavi was directed by the CIA and MI6, and assisted by high-ranking Shia clerics.[67] He wrote that the coup employed mercenaries including “prostitutes and thugs” from Tehran’s red light district.[67]

The overthrow of Iran’s elected government in 1953 ensured Western control of Iran’s petroleum resources and prevented the Soviet Union from competing for Iranian oil.[68][69][70][71] Some Iranian clerics cooperated with the western spy agencies because they were dissatisfied with Mosaddegh’s secular government.[63]

While the broad outlines of the Iran operation are known: the agency led a coup in 1953 that re-installed the pro-American Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi 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[72]

“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.”[72][73][74]

“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 1950s and a successful C.I.A.-sponsored coup in Guyana in the early 1960s. ‘Iran—there’s nothing’, Mr. Cullather said. ‘Indonesia—very little. Guyana—that was burned.’”[72]

According to Donald Wilber one of the CIA officers who planned the 1953 coup in Iran wrote an account titled, Clandestine Service History Overthrow Of Premier Mossadeq of Iran: November 1952 – August 1953. Wilber said one goal of the coup was to strengthen the Shah.

In 2000, James Risen at The New York Times obtained the previously secret CIA version of the coup written by Wilber and summarized [75] its contents, which includes the following.

In early August, the C.I.A. stepped up the pressure. Iranian operatives pretending to be Communists threatened Muslim leaders with savage punishment if they opposed Mossadegh, seeking to stir anti-Communist sentiment in the religious community. In addition, the secret history says, the house of at least one prominent Muslim was bombed by C.I.A. agents posing as Communists. It does not say whether anyone was hurt in this attack. The agency was also intensifying its propaganda campaign. A leading newspaper owner was granted a personal loan of about $45,000, in the belief that this would make his organ amenable to our purposes. But the shah remained intransigent. In an Aug. 1 meeting with General Norman Schwarzkopf, he refused to sign the C.I.A.-written decrees firing Mr. Mossadegh and appointing General Zahedi. He said he doubted that the army would support him in a showdown.

The National Security Archive at George Washington University contains the full account by Wilber along with many other coup-related documents and analysis.

U.S. Motives

Historians disagree on what motivated the United States to change its policy towards Iran and stage the coup. Middle East historian Ervand Abrahamian identified the coup d’état as “a classic case of nationalism clashing with imperialism in the Third World”. He states that Secretary of State Dean Acheson admitted the “‘Communist threat’ was a smokescreen” in responding to President Eisenhower’s claim that the Tudeh party was about to assume power.[76]

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 …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 Mosaddegh 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.[76]

Abrahamian states that Iran’s oil was the central focus of the coup, for both the British and the Americans, though “much of the discourse at the time linked it to the Cold War”.[77] Abrahamian wrote, “If Mosaddegh had succeeded in nationalizing the British oil industry in Iran, that would have set an example and was seen at that time by the Americans as a threat to U.S. oil interests throughout the world, because other countries would do the same.”[77] Mosaddegh did not want any compromise solution that allowed a degree of foreign control. Abrahamian said that Mosaddegh “wanted real nationalization, both in theory and practice”.[77]

Tirman points out that agricultural land owners were politically dominant in Iran, well into the 1960s and the monarch, Reza Pahlevi’s aggressive land expropriation policies—to the benefit of himself and his supporters—resulted in the Iranian government being Iran’s largest land owner. “The landlords and oil producers had new backing, moreover, as American interests were for the first time exerted in Iran. The Cold War was starting, and Soviet challenges were seen in every leftist movement. But the reformers were at root nationalists, not communists, and the issue that galvanized them above all others was the control of oil.”[78] The belief that oil was the central motivator behind the coup has been echoed in the popular media by authors such as Robert Byrd,[79] Alan Greenspan,[80] and Ted Koppel.[81]

However, Middle East political scientist Mark Gasiorowski states that while, on the face of it, there is considerable merit to the argument that U.S. policymakers helped U.S. oil companies gain a share in Iranian oil production after the coup, “it seems more plausible to argue that U.S. policymakers were motivated mainly by fears of a communist takeover in Iran, and that the involvement of U.S. companies was sought mainly to prevent this from occurring. The Cold War was at its height in the early 1950s, and the Soviet Union was viewed as an expansionist power seeking world domination. Eisenhower had made the Soviet threat a key issue in the 1952 elections, accusing the Democrats of being soft on communism and of having “lost China.” Once in power, the new administration quickly sought to put its views into practice.”[38]

Gasiorowski further states “the major U.S. oil companies were not interested in Iran at this time. A glut existed in the world oil market. The U.S. majors had increased their production in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in 1951 in order to make up for the loss of Iranian production; operating in Iran would force them to cut back production in these countries which would create tensions with Saudi and Kuwaiti leaders. Furthermore, if nationalist sentiments remained high in Iran, production there would be risky. U.S. oil companies had shown no interest in Iran in 1951 and 1952. By late 1952, the Truman administration had come to believe that participation by U.S. companies in the production of Iranian oil was essential to maintain stability in Iran and keep Iran out of Soviet hands. In order to gain the participation of the major U.S. oil companies, Truman offered to scale back a large anti-trust case then being brought against them. The Eisenhower administration shared Truman’s views on the participation of U.S. companies in Iran and also agreed to scale back the anti-trust case. Thus, not only did U.S. majors not want to participate in Iran at this time, it took a major effort by U.S. policymakers to persuade them to become involved.”[38]

In 2004, Gasiorowski edited a book on the coup [82] arguing that “the climate of intense cold war rivalry between the superpowers, together with Iran’s strategic vital location between the Soviet Union and the Persian Gulf oil fields, led U.S. officials to believe that they had to take whatever steps were necessary to prevent Iran from falling into Soviet hands.”[82] While “these concerns seem vastly overblown today”[82] the pattern of “the 1945–46 Azerbaijan crisis, the consolidation of Soviet control in Eastern Europe, the communist triumph in China, and the Korean War—and with the Red Scare at its height in the United States”[82] would not allow U.S. officials to risk allowing the Tudeh Party to gain power in Iran.[82] Furthermore, “U.S. officials believed that resolving the oil dispute was essential for restoring stability in Iran, and after March 1953 it appeared that the dispute could be resolved only at the expense either of Britain or of Mosaddeq.”[82] He concludes “it was geostrategic considerations, rather than a desire to destroy Mosaddeq’s movement, to establish a dictatorship in Iran or to gain control over Iran’s oil, that persuaded U.S. officials to undertake the coup.” [82]

Faced with choosing between British interests and Iran, the U.S. chose Britain, Gasiorowski said. “Britain was the closest ally of the United States, and the two countries were working as partners on a wide range of vitally important matters throughout the world at this time. Preserving this close relationship was more important to U.S. officials than saving Mosaddeq’s tottering regime.” A year earilier, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill used Britain’s support for the U.S. in the Cold War to insist the United States not undermine his campaign to isolate Mosaddegh. “Britain was supporting the Americans in Korea, he reminded Truman, and had a right to expect `Anglo-American unity` on Iran.” [83]

The two main winners of World War II who had been Allies during the war became superpowers and competitors as soon as the war ended, each with their own spheres of influence and client states. After the 1953 coup, Iran became one of the client states of the United States. In his earlier book, U.S. Foreign Policy and the Shah: Building a Client State in Iran Gasiorowski identifies the client states of the United States and of the Soviet Union between 1954–1977. Gasiorowski identified Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Cambodia, Iran, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, South Korea, South Vietnam, Taiwan as strong client states of the United States and identified those that were moderately important to the U.S. as Greece, Turkey, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay, Liberia, Zaire, Israel, Jordan, Tunisia, Pakistan and Thailand. He identified Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ethiopia and Japan as “weak” client states of the United States.[84]

Gasiorowski identified Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Rumania, Cuba, Mongolia and North Vietnam as “strong client states” of the Soviet Union, and he identified Guinea, Somalia, Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan and North Korea as moderately important client states. Mali and South Yemen were classified as weak client states of the Soviet Union.

According to Kinzer, for most Americans, the crisis in Iran became just part of the conflict between Communism and “the Free world.” [85] “A great sense of fear, particularly the fear of encirclement, shaped American consciousness during this period. … Soviet power had already subdued Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia. Communist governments were imposed on Bulgaria and Romania in 1946, Hungary and Poland in 1947, and Czechoslovakia in 1948. Albania and Yugoslavia also turned to communism. Greek communists made a violent bid for power. Soviet soldiers blocked land routes to Berlin for sixteen months. In 1949 the Soviet Union successfully tested a nuclear weapon. That same year, pro-Western forces in China lost their civil war to communists led by Mao Zedong. From Washington, it seemed that enemies were on the march everywhere.” [85] 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.” [86] Some historians including Douglas Little,[87] Abbas Milani[88] and George Lenczowski[89] have echoed the view that fears of a communist takeover or Soviet influence motivated the U.S. to intervene.

Blowback

According to the history based on documents released to the National Security Archive and reflected in the book Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, edited by Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, the coup caused long-lasting damage to the U.S. reputation.

“The ’28 Mordad’ coup, as it is known by its Persian date, was a watershed for Iran, for the Middle East and for the standing of the United States in the region. The joint U.S.-British operation ended Iran’s drive to assert sovereign control over its own resources and helped put an end to a vibrant chapter in the history of the country’s nationalist and democratic movements. These consequences resonated with dramatic effect in later years. When the Shah finally fell in 1979, memories of the U.S. intervention in 1953, which made possible the monarch’s subsequent, and increasingly unpopular, 25-year reign intensified the anti-American character of the revolution in the minds of many Iranians.”[90]

The authoritarian monarch installed in the coup 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.”[91]

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, The 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.

The New York Times recently leaked a CIA report on the 1953 American-British overthrow of Mosaddeq, 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. [92]

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.”[93]

The administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower considered the coup a success, but, given its blowback, that opinion is no longer generally held, because of its “haunting and terrible legacy”.[94] In 2000, Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of State, said that intervention by the U.S. in the internal affairs of Iran was a setback for democratic government.[95][96] The 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 an authoritarian ruler.[97] 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.[18]

“For many Iranians, the coup demonstrated duplicity by the United States, which presented itself as a defender of freedom but did not hesitate to use underhanded methods to overthrow a democratically elected government to suit its own economic and strategic interests”, the Agence France-Presse reported.[98]

“The world has paid a heavy price for the lack of democracy in most of the Middle East. Operation Ajax taught tyrants and aspiring tyrants that the world’s most powerful governments were willing to tolerate limitless oppression as long as oppressive regimes were friendly to the West and to Western oil companies. That helped tilt the political balance in a vast region away from freedom and toward dictatorship.”[99] The United States initially considered the coup to be a triumph of Cold War covert action, but given its blowback, Kinzer wrote that it is difficult to imagine an outcome “that would have produced as much pain and horror over the next half century as that produced by Operation Ajax” had “American and British intelligence officers not meddled so shamelessly in (Iran”s) domestic affairs.”[100]

Front cover of a Tehran Mosavar weekly with a large photograph of soldiers and armed men standing on a tank

Front cover of the weekly Magazine Tehran Mosavar, dated August 21st 1953, depicting armed men and soldiers standing on a tank.

United States Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who visited Iran both before and after the coup, wrote that “When Mossadegh and Persia started basic reforms, we became alarmed. We united with the British to destroy him; we succeeded; and ever since, our name has not been an honored one in the Middle East.” [101]

Aftermath

Iran

An immediate consequence of the coup d’état was the repression of all political dissent, specially the liberal and nationalist opposition umbrella group National Front as well as the (Communist) Tudeh party, and concentration of political power in the Shah and his courtiers.[102]

The minister of Foreign Affairs and the closest associate of Mosaddegh, Hossein Fatemi, was executed by order of the Shah’s military court. The order was carried out by firing squad on October 29, 1953.[103] According to Kinzer, “The triumphant Shah [Pahlavi] ordered the execution of several dozen military officers and student leaders who had been closely associated with Mohammad Mossadegh”[104]

As part of the post-coup d’état political repression between 1953–1958, the Shah outlawed the National Front, and arrested most of its leaders.[105] The Tudeh, however, bore the main brunt of the repression.[106] Shah’s security forces arrested 4,121 Tudeh political activists including 386 civil servants, 201 college students, 165 teachers, 125 skilled workers, 80 textile workers, 60 cobblers, and 11 housewives[clarification needed].[107] Forty were executed, another 14 died under torture and over 200 were sentenced to life imprisonment.[105] The Shah’s post-coup dragnet also captured 477 Tudeh members (“22 colonels, 69 majors, 100 captains, 193 lieutenants, 19 noncommissioned officers, and 63 military cadets”) who were in the Iranian armed forces.[108] After their presence was revealed, some National Front supporters complained that this Tudeh military network could have saved Mosaddegh. However, few Tudeh officers commanded powerful field units, especially tank divisions that might have countered the coup. Most of the captured Tudeh officers came from the military academies, police and medical corps.[108][109] At least eleven of the captured army officers were tortured to death between 1953 and 1958.[107]

After the 1953 coup, the Shah’s government formed the SAVAK (secret police), many of whose agents were trained in the United States. The SAVAK was given a “loose leash” to torture suspected dissidents with “brute force” that, over the years, “increased dramatically”.[110]

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,[111] and the United States sent development aid and advisors.

In the 1970s the Shah’s government increased taxes that foreign companies were obliged to pay from 50% to 80% and royalty payments from 12.5% to 20%. At the same time the price of oil reverted to Iranian control. Oil companies now only earned 22 cents per barrel of oil.[112]

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″.[113] 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”.[113]

Internationally

The 1953 coup d’état was the first time the U.S. used the CIA to overthrown a democratically elected, civil government.[114] The Eisenhower administration viewed Operation Ajax as 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.[115]

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.[116]

In 2000 U.S. 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.[117]

In June 2009, the U.S. President Barack Obama in a speech in Cairo, Egypt, talked about the United States’ relationship with Iran, mentioning the role of the U.S. 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.[118]

Historical viewpoint in the Islamic Republic

Men associated with Mossadegh and his ideals dominated Iran’s first post-revolutionary government. The first prime minister after the Iranian revolution , was Mehdi Bazargan, a close associate of Mossadegh. But with the subsequent rift between the conservative Islamic establishment and the secular liberal forces, Mossadegh’s work and legacy has been largely ignored by the Islamic Republic establishment. [119] However, Mosaddegh remains a popular historical figure among Iranian opposition factions. Mosaddegh’s image is one of the symbols of Iran’s opposition movement, also known as the Green Movement. [120] Kinzer writes that Mosaddegh “for most Iranians” is “the most vivid symbol of Iran’s long struggle for democracy” and that modern protesters carrying a picture of Mosaddegh is the equivalent of saying “We want democracy” and “No foreign intervention”.[120]

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”.[121] According to historian Ervand Abrahamian, the government tries to ignore Mosaddegh 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 Mosaddegh as merely the ayatollah’s hanger-on.” This is despite the fact that Kashani came out against Mosaddegh by mid-1953 and “told a foreign correspondent that Mosaddegh had fallen because he had forgotten that the shah enjoyed extensive popular support.”[122] A month later, Kashani “went even further and declared that Mosaddegh deserved to be executed because he had committed the ultimate offense: rebelling against the shah, ‘betraying’ the country, and repeatedly violating the sacred law.”[123]

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kinzer’s book All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror 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”[124] whom the Iranian Council of Guardians has twice approved to run for the presidency, denies there was a coup d’état in 1953, saying Mosaddegh, himself, was obeying British plans: “In my opinion, Mosaddegh was the director of the British plans and implemented them … Without a doubt Mosaddegh had the primary and essential role”[125] in the August 1953 coup. Kashani says Mosaddegh, the British and the Americans worked against the Ayatollah Kashani to undermine the role of Shia clerics.[124]

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 Mosaddegh 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”.[126] 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.[126]

See also

Iran vs Israel: What The Media Wants You To Forget

The corporate media have been given their orders to throw the focus back on to Iran.

Here is a recap of what they are trying to make you forget.

1. Last Spring, Rose Gottemoeller, an assistant secretary of state and Washington’s chief nuclear arms negotiator, asked Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel refused.

2. The United Nations passed a resolution calling on Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to submit to inspections. Israel refused.

3. The IAEA asked Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to submit to inspections. Israel refused.

4. Iran’s formal notification to the IAEA of the planned construction of the backup fuel-rod facility underscores that Iran is playing by the rules of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which Iran has signed.

5. Iran allows IAEA inspections of all its facilities.

6. Contrary to face-saving claims, it appears that the US and Israel were both caught off guard by Iran’s announcement. The reasoning is simple. Had the US or Israel announced the existence of he new facility before Iran’s notified the IAEA, it would have put Iran on the defensive. As it is now, the US and Israel seem to be playing catch up, casting doubt on the veracity of Israel’s claims to “know” that Iran is a nuclear threat.

7. The IAEA and all 16 United States Intelligence Agencies are unanimous in agreement that Iran is not building and does not possess nuclear weapons.

8. In 1986, Mordachai Vanunu blew the whistle and provided photographs showing Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons factory underneath the reactor at Dimona.

9. Israel made the same accusations against Iraq that it is making against Iran, leading up to Israel’s bombing of the power station at Osirik. Following the invasion of 2003, international experts examined the ruins of the power station at Osirik and found no evidence of a clandestine weapons factory in the rubble.

10. The United Nations has just released the Goldstone Report, a scathing report which accuses Israel of 37 specific war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza earlier this year. Israel has denounced the report as “Anti-Semitic (even though Judge Goldstone is himself Jewish), and the United States will block the report from being referred to the War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague, thereby making the US Government an accessory after-the-fact.

11. Recently revealed documents prove not only that Israel has nuclear weapos, but actually tried to sell some to Apartheid South Africa. Who else Israel approached to sell nuclear weapons remains an unasked question.

12. In 1965, Israel stole over 200-600 pounds of weapons-grade uranium from the United States.

13. Declassified documents from the former South African regime prove not only that Israel has had nuclear weapons for decades, but has tried to sell them to other countries!

We all need to be Joe Wilson right now. We need to stand up and scream, “LIAR!” at every politician and every talking media moron that is pushing this war in Iran. And we need to keep dong it until they get the message that we will not be deceived any more.

Israel wants to send your kids off to die in Iran, and YOU are the only one that can stop them.

Please forward this comment to your social networks.

Comments
  1. Danny Hunt says:

    One thing I don`t think that is made clear here is the continued activity of the CIA terrorists and the MOSSAD terrorists as they controlled SAVAK until the 1979 Revolution of Iran. The CIA continued a grave control over Iran via SAVAK, the secret police, which controlled Death Squads, Disappearances, assassinations (murders) and vile attacks upon Iranian students. The Shah was a week man and easily controlled by SAVAK (CIA) and not the other way around. The Shah, who was returned to power by the CIA, was the perfect puppet as he idolized America but, at the same time, did not wish to return democracy to Iran.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s