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1953 Iran Coup


Peter McGuire
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http://www.iranchamber.com/history/coup53/coup53p1.php

A short account of 1953 Coup

Operation code-name: TP-AJAX

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Coup 53 of Iran is the CIA's (Central Intelligence Agency) first successful overthrow of a foreign government.

But a copy of the agency's secret history of the coup has surfaced, revealing the inner workings of a plot that set the stage for the Islamic revolution in 1979, and for a generation of anti-American hatred in one of the Middle East's most powerful countries. The document, which remains classified, discloses the pivotal role British intelligence officials played in initiating and planning the coup, and it shows that Washington and London shared an interest in maintaining the West's control over Iranian oil.

donald_wilber.jpg Dr. Donald N. Wilber,

a CIA spy, with the cover of

Persian architectural expert,

who planned the coup in Iran.

The secret history, written by the CIA's chief coup planner, says the operation's success was mostly a matter of chance. The document shows that the agency had almost complete contempt for the man it was empowering, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. And it recounts, for the first time, the agency's badly tried to seduce and force the shah into taking part in his own coup.

The operation, code-named TP-AJAX, was the blueprint for a succession of CIA plots to foment coups and destabilize governments during the cold war - including the agency's successful coup in Guatemala in 1954 and the disastrous Cuban intervention known as the Bay of Pigs in 1961. In more than one instance, such operations led to the same kind of long-term animosity toward the United States that occurred in Iran.

The history says agency officers orchestrating the Iran coup worked directly with royalist Iranian military officers, handpicked the prime minister's replacement, sent a stream of envoys to bolster the shah's courage, directed a campaign of bombings by Iranians posing as members of the Communist Party, and planted articles and editorial cartoons in newspapers.

But on the night set for Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq's overthrow, almost nothing went according to the meticulously drawn plans, the secret history says. In fact, CIA officials were poised to flee the country when several Iranian officers recruited by the agency, acting on their own, took command of a pro-shah demonstration in Tehran and seized the government.

Two days after the coup, the history discloses, agency officials funneled $5 million to Iran to help the government they had installed consolidate power.

Dr. Donald N. Wilber, an expert in Persian architecture, who as one of the leading planners believed that covert operatives had much to learn from history, wrote the secret history, along with operational assessments in March 1954.

In less expansive memoirs published in 1986, Dr. Wilber asserted that the Iran coup was different from later CIA efforts. Its American planners, he said, had stirred up considerable unrest in Iran, giving Iranians a clear choice between instability and supporting the shah. The move to oust the prime minister, he wrote, thus gained substantial popular support.

Dr. Wilber's memoirs were heavily censored by the agency, but he was allowed to refer to the existence of his secret history. "If this history had been read by the planners of the Bay of Pigs," he wrote, "there would have been no such operation."

"From time to time," he continued, "I gave talks on the operation to various groups within the agency, and, in hindsight, one might wonder why no one from the Cuban desk ever came or read the history."

The coup was a turning point in modern Iranian history and remains a persistent irritant in Tehran-Washington relations. It consolidated the power of the shah, who ruled with an iron hand for 26 more years in close contact with the United States. He was toppled by Iranian Revolution of 1979. Later that year, "Students of Imam Line" went to the American Embassy, took diplomats hostage and declared that they had unmasked a "nest of spies" who had been manipulating Iran for decades.

The Islamic government of Ayatollah Khomeini supported terrorist attacks against American interests largely because of the long American history of supporting the shah's suppressive regime. Even under more moderate rulers, many Iranians still resent the United States' role in the coup and its support of the shah.

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, in an address, 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," she said. "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."

The history spells out the calculations to which Dr. Albright referred in her speech. Britain, it says, initiated the plot in 1952. The Truman administration rejected it, but President Eisenhower approved it shortly after taking office in 1953, because of fears about oil and Communism.

The document pulls few punches, acknowledging at one point that the agency baldly lied to its British allies. Dr. Wilber reserves his most withering asides for the agency's local allies, referring to "the recognized incapacity of Iranians to plan or act in a thoroughly logical manner."

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  • 2 weeks later...

That is why we have all the trouble with Iran today. The big oil companies did not like losing their oil profits when Mosaddeq and his government's most notable policy, however, was the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913 they said he must be with Russia for doing that.

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