Photo Credit: Unknown, via Wikimedia
Prime minister Mohammad Mosadeq shaking hands with Mohammad Reza Schah Pahlavi in 1951.

The US State Department on Saturday released a report containing a large volume of declassified documents about the 1953 coup carried out by the CIA in Iran, including full records of the covert operation (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954: Iran, 1951-1954 (2017)). In the past, the US government denied its role and the role of British intelligence in the ousting of Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosadeq.

Mosadeq enraged the colonial powers when he announced his intention of auditing the documents of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (today’s BP), and limiting its control over his country’s petroleum reserves. When AIOC snubbed the PM, the Iranian Majlis (parliament) nationalized the entire oil industry and expelled the oil executives from the country. At which point the two heroes of the war for democracy, Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower, decided to overthrow Iran’s government.


Operation Ajax removed Mosadeq from power, replacing him with General Fazlollah Zahedi, who handed control over the country to Mohammad-Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. That was the end of democracy in Iran, which culminated in 1978 with this promising country becoming a stalwart of hate and aggression.

For decades, the US and the UK would not acknowledge their role in the coup against Mosadeq, ignoring a detailed account published in 1954 in The Saturday Evening Post. Later on, CIA and MI6 retired agents who had taken part in the coup have published their memoirs, including Kermit Roosevelt’s “Countercoup, the struggle for the control of Iran.” In 2000, The New York Times posted a 200-page classified internal CIA history of the operation.

Politicians who had been associated with the Mosadeq government later dominated Iran’s politics after the 1978-9 revolutionary, including the first prime minister after the toppling of the Shah, Mehdi Bazargan, who had been a close associate of Mosadeq. But in short order the conservative Islamic establishment ejected secular liberals, and Mosadeq’s democratic legacy was trampled by the Islamic Republic.

The Islamic Republic has done its best to erase the memory of Mosadeq – Iranian school textbooks give him only two pages. In reporting the declassified documents on Saturday, IRNA, the official news agency, copies without comment the official State Dept. press release, adding only one paragraph noting an example of the extent of American involvement in Iran’s affairs: “In one of the published documents, on August 19, 1953, there is a five-million-dollar request by a CIA agent from the US to help Zahedi’s government, which reveals that the US besides its advising role in launching the coup had the direct role of funding the coup makers against the Mosadeq government.”

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