64 Years Later, CIA Finally Releases Details Of Iranian Coup

Authored by Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian via ForeignPolicy.com,

Declassified documents released last week shed light on the Central Intelligence Agency’s central role in the 1953 coup that brought down Iranian Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadegh, fueling a surge of nationalism which culminated in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and poisoning U.S.-Iran relations into the 21st century.

The approximately 1,000 pages of documents also reveal for the first time the details of how the CIA attempted to call off the failing coup — only to be salvaged at the last minute by an insubordinate spy on the ground.

Known as Operation Ajax, the CIA plot was ultimately about oil. Western firms had for decades controlled the region’s oil wealth, whether Arabian-American Oil Company in Saudi Arabia, or the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in Iran. When the U.S. firm in Saudi Arabia bowed to pressure in late 1950 and agreed to share oil revenues evenly with Riyadh, the British concession in Iran came under intense pressure to follow suit. But London adamantly refused.

So in early 1951, amid great popular acclaim, Mossadegh nationalized Iran’s oil industry. A fuming Great Britain began conspiring with U.S. intelligence services to overthrow Mossadegh and restore the monarchy under the shah. (Though some in the U.S. State Department, the newly-released cables show, blamed British intransigence for the tensions and sought to work with Mossadegh.)

The coup attempt began on August 15 but was swiftly thwarted. Mossadegh made dozens of arrests. General Fazlollah Zahedi, a top conspirator, went into hiding, and the shah fled the country.

The CIA, believing the coup to have failed, called it off.

“Operation has been tried and failed and we should not participate in any operation against Mossadegh which could be traced back to US,” CIA headquarters wrote to its station chief in Iran in  a newly declassified cable sent on August 18, 1953. “Operations against Mossadegh should be discontinued.”

That is the cable which Kermit Roosevelt, top CIA officer in Iran, purportedly and famously ignored, according to Malcolm Byrne, who directs the U.S.-Iran Relations Project at the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

“One guy was in the room with Kermit Roosevelt when he got this cable,” Byrne told Foreign Policy. “[Roosevelt] said no – we’re not done here.” It was already known that Roosevelt had not carried out an order from Langley to cease and desist. But the cable itself and its contents were not previously known.

The consequences of his decision were momentous. The next day, on August 19, 1953, with the aid of “rented” crowds widely believed to have been arranged with CIA assistance, the coup succeeded. Iran’s nationalist hero was jailed, the monarchy restored under a Western-friendly shah, and Anglo-Iranian oil — renamed British Petroleum — tried to get its fields back. (But didn’t really: Despite the coup, nationalist pushback against a return to foreign control of oil was too much, leaving BP and other majors to share Iran’s oil wealth with Tehran.)

Operation Ajax has long been a bogeyman for conservatives in Iran — but also for liberals. The coup fanned the flames of anti-Western sentiment, which reached a crescendo in 1979 with the U.S. hostage crisis, the final overthrow of the shah, and the creation of the Islamic Republic to counter the “Great Satan.”

The coup alienated liberals in Iran as well. Mossadegh is widely considered to be the closest thing Iran has ever had to a democratic leader. He openly championed democratic values and hoped to establish a democracy in Iran. The elected parliament selected him as prime minister, a position he used to reduce the power of the shah, thus bringing Iran closer in line with the political traditions that had developed in Europe. But any further democratic development was stymied on August 19.

The U.S government long denied involvement in the coup. The State Department first released coup-related documents in 1989, but edited out any reference to CIA involvement. Public outrage coaxed a government promise to release a more complete edition, and some material came out in 2013. Two years later, the full installment of declassified material was scheduled — but might have interfered with Iran nuclear talks and were delayed again, Byrne said. They were finally released last week, though numerous original CIA telegrams from that period are known to have disappeared or been destroyed long ago.

Byrne said that the long delay is due to several factors. Intelligence services are always concerned about protecting “sources and methods,” said Byrne, meaning the secret spycraft that enables them to operate on the ground. The CIA also needed to protect its relationship with British intelligence, which may have wished some of the material safeguarded.

Beyond final proof of CIA involvement, there’s another very interesting takeaway in the documents, said Abbas Milani, a professor of Iranian studies at Stanford University: New details on the true political leanings of Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani, a cleric and leading political figure in the 1950s.

In the Islamic Republic, clerics are always the good guys. Kashani has long been seen as one of the heroes of nationalism during that period. As recently as January of this year, Iran’s supreme leader praised Kashani’s role in the nationalization of oil.

Kashani’s eventual split from Mossadegh is widely known. Religious leaders in the country feared the growing power of the communist Tudeh Party, and believed that Mossadegh was too weak to save the country from the socialist threat.

But the newly released documents show that Kashani wasn’t just opposed to Mossadegh — he was also in close communication with the Americans throughout the period leading up to the coup, and he actually appears to have requested financial assistance from the United States, though there is no record of him receiving any money. His request was not previously known.

On the make-or-break day of August 19, “Kashani was critical,” said Milani. “On that day Kashani’s forces were out in full force to defeat Mossadegh.”



Ignatius Wed, 06/21/2017 - 22:48 Permalink

If correct, this is an interesting annecdotal historical detail about Kermit Roosevelt's role.The problem is the systemic nature of the CIA to engineer coups worldwide, including Syria today.

WTFUD Juggernaut x2 Wed, 06/21/2017 - 23:13 Permalink

When bringing up al-CIAd'uh one should probably differentiate between your communal-garden variety and Deep State's Enablers.

These Special Operations of Regime Change, Intimidation and Theft require a great deal of collusion between MIC-5 Eyes-Mossad-various other actors, as and when, of most importance Central Bank Coordination.

Kudos to the UK for being the Biggest Cunt in the Room, this said, Vichy DC's come on a bundle.

In reply to by Juggernaut x2

Déjà view navy62802 Thu, 06/22/2017 - 00:14 Permalink

Dr. Mossadegh – the man whom Time magazine had called “The Iranian George Washington.


Oil was struck in Iran in 1908. APOC was born from an oil concession obtained by a British national from the fifth Qajar King of Iran. The concession was to last for 60 years in territories covering most of Iran. In exchange, the Iranian monarch was promised a personal payment of 20,000 pounds sterling, shares in the company, and 16 percent of future profits. APOC was the first company using oil reserves in the Middle East and the refinery later built in Abadan, Iran, was for some 50 years the largest in the world. Recognizing the importance of Iranian oil to British power, the British government swiftly moved and partially nationalized APOC in 1914, assuming control of some 53 percent of the company’s shares.

With no oil of its own, and aggravated by its abundance of colonies devoid of black gold, Britain had significant interests in ensuring control over the flow of Iranian oil. Britain's interests included not only those of its navy – at the time, the heart of British power – but also the success of its entire economy at large. From the 1920s through the ‘40s, Britain received all of its oil from Iran, and enjoyed a reasonably high standard of living at least in part as a result. Meanwhile, APOC’s Iranian workers, not to mention much of the Iranian population, lived in abject poverty. To counter these deficits with any meaningful social or industrial reform, the Iranian government relied heavily on oil revenues to jumpstart such initiatives. It soon became apparent that with such little control of its country's oil resources, Iran was paralyzed to realize these aims.

On behalf of Iran, Teymourtash requested, inter alia, a 25-percent share in the company. If a new concession was to be drawn, he stressed, only a 50-50 split would be acceptable. His “bold” demands placed Teymourtash on a fast collision course with the British government.

What's more, APOC increasingly engaged in unfair practices and failed to honor even the marginal royalties that it had contracted to pay Iran. In 1948, for example, while APOC reported profits of £62 million and paid the British government £28 million in income taxes, Iran received a meager £1.4 million on its oil resources. The company also regularly reneged on obligations and withheld payments when its demands on the Iranian government were not met.

Finally on July 22, 1952 by a 9-5 vote, the ICJ declared that the 1933 agreement could not constitute a treaty between the two states as the UK claimed, but merely a concessionary contract between a private company and the government of Iran to which the UK was not a party. The court declared it lacked jurisdiction – as contended by Iran – to rule on the merits of the case.

This judicial ruling, one of the ICJ’s first, would prove critically important in what was to follow. It ended Britain’s hopes of gaining an internationally recognized solution to the nationalization question in favor of its interests. The United Kingdom had just suffered catastrophic diplomatic losses before the World Court as well as the Security Council. And yet its problems remained intact. Iran was advancing with its nationalization plans and now had the international community’s backing. Moreover, Mossadegh’s diplomatic successes before the ICJ and Security Council had won him not only a great deal of respect in the streets of Iran but also sympathy from listeners abroad.

More powerful party uses GUNBOAT DIPLOMACY...overcoming inconvenient LEGAL rulings...
Any wonder some do not prefer to abide to ICJ to this day...

In reply to by navy62802

Herp and Derp Wed, 06/21/2017 - 23:02 Permalink

You can expect the CIA's hand in most autocratic/theocracies in the world.  Whether we still control them or not is another matter.  If they reject petrodollars, only then do they get invaded.

uhland62 Herp and Derp Wed, 06/21/2017 - 23:18 Permalink

But nobody can play Napoleon for ever. The Iranian regime change in 1953 was the biggest misdeed of the CIA & Co. It is also described by CIA operative Brian Crozier in his memoirs. The loss of reputation that the US suffered from this has never been cured. People cannot say much, but the lack of goodwill is everywhere. Yes, you can force people with the petrodollar or just blow them to smitherines but the submission that the US demand is only ever temporary, with gritted teeth, and cannot be banked on. Tillerson is apparently now working on another regime change scheme for Iran. This time it will not succeed because the tectonic plates have shifted and the allies have more important things to do than submmitting their blood and treasure to yet another regime change.  

In reply to by Herp and Derp

GoinFawr Wed, 06/21/2017 - 23:11 Permalink

So 'they' finally gave up denying what everyone already knew..."Everybody knows that the dice are loaded, everybody rolls with their fingers crossed. Everybody knows that the war is over, everybody knows that the good guys lost. Everybody knows the fight was fixed: the poor stay poor, the rich get rich..." Saudi Arabia: A dictatorship, a self perpetuating autocracyIran: A Republic (if they can keep it), with term limitsWhich is your ally?"...that's how it goes, when everybody knows."- Leonard Cohen

az_patriot (not verified) Wed, 06/21/2017 - 23:16 Permalink

Here's a little tiny secret to those who want to immediately trash the CIA:  You may not have a clue.  The world is filled with intelligence agencies far worse, and far more insidious, and you've probably been protected from them.  If you take off your tinfoil hats for a moment -- our intelligence operations, even with their failings, are generally designed with the best interests of Americans in mind and conducted with care and balance.  The rest of the world could give a flying fuck and will slit your throat and throw you to the floor.  It's not a nice place out there.  The real war is hell and often conducted behind the scenes so you can keep going to McDonalds and the beach.There are stars on the wall at the entrance to the CIA for reason.  Many people have given their lives so that you have the freedom to publicly trash them.

az_patriot (not verified) GoinFawr Wed, 06/21/2017 - 23:30 Permalink

I'm pointing out that these sort of "revelations" provide no context.  And I'm thoroughly enjoying the downvotes -- it's revealing the level of ignorance here. Outfits like the CIA operate on orders from the Executive branch.  if you disagree with something the CIA apparently did, then look to who was President at the time.

In reply to by GoinFawr

Rich Monk az_patriot (not verified) Wed, 06/21/2017 - 23:43 Permalink

The CIA was created to protect the private Federal Reserve - Central banks, global companies owned by the same people, whose only objectives are to kill off all competators. The CIA controls the drug Industry, the sex slave taffic Industry, govenment assassinations, government coups, etc....... Most American sheeple think that 9/11 was carried out by 19 Arabs with box cutters! Presidents are mere figure-heads to the real power players - Zionist Jewish organized crime syndicates Worldwide whose goal of a "Greater Israel" project/ Jewish Utopia, and to create Ukraine as another Jewish homeland. 

In reply to by az_patriot (not verified)

Benito_Camela az_patriot (not verified) Thu, 06/22/2017 - 00:40 Permalink

You accusing others here of ignorance and gushing about the importance of the CIA in the same paragraph is literally the very definition of unintentional irony and hilarious limp dick fake-ass patriot projection. Let me guess....you served in the Army and you were propagandized to venerate the CIA....damn, that was easy.  Fuck off. This act isn't funny anymore. I want my money back. 

In reply to by az_patriot (not verified)

Benito_Camela az_patriot (not verified) Thu, 06/22/2017 - 00:56 Permalink

Here's an idea. I'll stop insulting you, attempt to take you seriously and stop assuming you're an MIC muppet if you can name one single positive thing that the CIA has done for the average American citizen and back it up with data or declassified documents. Come on, you believe so strongly in them - you MUST have some kind of anecdote or historical lesson to offer in their defense, right?  While you're at it, dig up their budget (what's deducible or available) for the given year you choose and write a short justification for it. Or do you really not know all that much about it?  Waiting....

In reply to by az_patriot (not verified)

ogretown GoinFawr Wed, 06/21/2017 - 23:26 Permalink

Killing Allende in Chile was as easy as chopped liver.  And lest we forget, getting Pinochet in power prompted the mock-version of Wayne Newtons one and only hit - Danke Schein.  Let me see if can remember a few lines of that popular ditty..."Pinochet, August PinochetKilling socialists each and every dayPinochet, August PinochetOh, the chosen oneYou're no bumPinochet your the onePretty much all I can remember.

In reply to by GoinFawr

Benito_Camela az_patriot (not verified) Thu, 06/22/2017 - 00:33 Permalink

LMAO @ this idiot "patriot" - The world and the USA would be infinitely better off without the CIA, which only exists to attempt to protect very large scale western (U.S., U.K. and Israel) business and energy interests abroad. Banana republics, Persian coups, death squads, drone strikes, illegal warrantless extrajudicial spying on American citizens.  AZPatriot - I say this with deeply felt intent: Fuck you and your entire family and I hope you suffer a horrible loss at the hands of the CIA or another state "intelligence" agency. 

In reply to by az_patriot (not verified)

Umh Wed, 06/21/2017 - 23:20 Permalink

And on and on and on it goes. Some strategies play out so long that it is amazing that people don't understand what is going on.