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Iranian coup d'état of 1953

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Mohammad Mosaddegh in exile after the coup, in 1965 in Ahmadabad, Iran

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The 1953 Iranian coup d'état, on August 19, 1953 (known as the 28 Mordad coup in Iran), was the overthrow of the government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh by the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom and the United States, the Central Intelligence Agency and MI6.[1] The coup launched 25 years of dictatorship under Mohammad-Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, who relied heavily on U.S. support to hold on to power until he himself was overthrown in February 1979.[2]

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (aka 'the Shah') and the Nazi sympathizer General Fazlollah Zahedi, after the coup of 1953

In 1951 with near-unanimous support of Iran's parliament, Mosaddegh nationalized the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), returning assets to the country, assets from which Iran had never received more than 16% of the profits. Popular discontent with the AIOC among both the electorate and policticians in the Representative Democracy began in the late 1940s; a large segment of Iran's public and a number of politicians saw the company as exploitative and a vestige of British imperialism.[3] Despite Mosaddegh's popular support, Britain was unwilling to negotiate its single most valuable foreign asset, and instigated a worldwide boycott of Iranian oil to pressure Iran economically.[4] Initially, Britain mobilized its military to seize control of the Abadan oil refinery, the world's largest, but Prime Minister Clement Attlee opted instead to tighten the economic boycott.[5] With a change to more conservative governments in both Britain and the United States, Churchill and the U.S. administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower decided to overthrow Iran's government though the predecessor U.S. Truman administration had opposed a coup.[6]

The Central Intelligence Agency tried to persuade the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to dismiss Mosaddegh; at first the Shah refused. Subsequently the CIA pressured the weak monarch while bribing street thugs, clergy, politicians and Iranian army officers to take part in a propaganda campaign against Mosaddegh and his government.[7] At first, the coup appeared to be a failure when on the night of August 15–16, Imperial Guard Colonel Nematollah Nassiri was arrested while attempting to arrest Mosaddegh. The Shah fled the country the next day. On August 19, a pro-Shah mob, paid by the CIA, marched on Mosaddegh's residence.[8] Mosaddegh was arrested, tried and convicted of treason by the Shah's military court. On December 21, 1953, he was sentenced to three years in jail, then placed under house arrest for the remainder of his life.[9][10][11] Mosaddegh's supporters were rounded up, imprisoned, tortured or executed.

In the wake of the coup, Britain and the U.S. selected Fazlollah Zahedi to be the next prime minister of a military government. The Shah would dismiss him two years later. Pahlevi ruled as an authoritarian monarch for the next 26 years, until he was overthrown in a popular revolt in 1979.[12] The tangible benefits the United States reaped from overthrowing Iran's elected government was a share of Iran's oil wealth[13] as well as resolute prevention of the slim possibility that the Iranian government might align itself with the Soviet Union, although the latter motivation produces controversy among historians. Washington continually supplied arms to the unpopular Shah, and the CIA-trained SAVAK, his repressive secret police force. The coup is widely believed to have significantly contributed to anti-American sentiment in Iran and the Middle East. The 1979 Iranian Revolution deposed the Shah and replaced the pro-Western royal dictatorship with the largely anti-Western Islamic Republic of Iran.[14]

Soldiers outside the Parliament building in Tehran


See: Iranian coup d'état of 1953: Background


Nineteenth century[edit]

Throughout the nineteenth century, Iran was caught between two advancing imperial powers, Russia, which was expanding southward into the Caucasus and central Asia, and Britain, which sought to dominate the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and India. Between 1801 and 1814 Iran signed treaties with Britain and France with an eye toward blocking Russian expansion. After two wars with czarist Russia, from 1804–13 and 1826–28, Iran ceded large tracts of territory to Russia, establishing the modern boundaries between those countries. Britain fought a war with Iran over Afghanistan in 1856–57 after which Afghanistan became independent. In 1892, the British diplomat George Curzon described Iran as "pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a game for the dominion of the world.[15]

In 1872, a representative of Baron Paul Reuter, founder of the news agency, met with Naser al-Din Shah Qajar and agreed to fund the Persian monarch's upcoming lavish visit to Europe in return for broadly worded concessions in Persia,[16] which was the country name through the centuries until 1935 when Reza Shah renamed it Iran. The concession the Shah had given to Reuter was never put into effect thanks to violent opposition from the Persian people and from Russia. [17]

Early petroleum development[edit]

See Wikipedia:Anglo-Persian Oil Company

In 1901, Mozzafar al-Din Shah Qajar, the Shah of Persia, granted a 60-year petroleum search concession to William Knox D'Arcy.[18] D'Arcy paid £20,000, according to journalist-turned-historian Stephen Kinzer, and promised equal ownership shares, with 16% of any future profit.[19] However, the historian L.P. Elwell-Sutton wrote, in 1955, that "Persia's share was "hardly spectacular" and no money changed hands.

The (Persian) government was promised 20,000 British pounds in cash and 20,000 in shares in the first company to be formed by the concessionaire. In addition it was to receive 16 per cent of the profits made by this or any other company concerned in the concession. As it turned out D'Arcy did not even have to put his hand in his pocket. The First Exploitation Company was duly formed on May 21, 1903, with an issued capital of 500,000 British pounds in 1 pound shares, 30,000 of which were presented to the Shah and 20,000 to other "leading personalities". The additional 30,000 in shares was felt to be adequate to take the place of the promised 20,000 pounds in cash, and so no cash payment was ever made. The remainder of the shares were issued in London. [20]

On July 31, 1907, D'Arcy withdrew from his private holdings in Persia. "A new agreement was signed under which he transferred to the Burmah Oil Company all his shares in the First Exploitation Company, and with them his last direct interest in the exploitation of oil in Persia."[21] D'Arcy received 203,067 British pounds in cash (more than ten times what the Persian monarch was supposed to have received in cash for the concession) and D'Arcy received 900,000 shares in the Burmah Oil Company, which the historian Elwell-Sutton declared was "a large sum."[21]

In early 1908, the British-owned Burmah Oil Company decided to end its exploration for oil in Persia but on May 26, oil came in at a depth of 1,180 feet, "a gusher that shot fifty feet or more above the top of the rig," Elwell-Sutton wrote. "So began the industry that was to see the Royal Navy through two world wars, and to cause Persia more trouble than all the political manoeuvrings of the great powers put together."[22]

The company grew slowly until World War I, when Persia's strategic importance led the British government to buy a controlling share in the company, essentially nationalizing British oil production in Iran. It became the Royal Navy's chief fuel source during the war. BBC News reports that at the time of the coup, Iran's oil was Britain's single largest overseas investment, but this assertion is not cited nor is to be readily found in other sources, including Google Books. It seems likely that the BBC was conflating/confusing 'Britain's largest single overseas investment' with 'World's largest refinery at Abadan'.[23][24][25] The British angered Iranians by intervening in Iranian domestic affairs including in the Persian Constitutional Revolution (the transition from dynastic to parliamentary government).[26][27][28]

Post-World War I[edit]

The Persians were dissatisfied with the royalty terms of the British petroleum concession, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC), whereby Persia received 16 per cent of net profits.[29]

In 1921, a military coup d'état—"widely believed to be a British attempt to enforce, at least, the spirit of the Anglo-Persian agreement" effected with the "financial and logistical support of British military personnel"—permitted the political emergence of Reza Pahlavi, whom they enthroned as the "Shah of Iran" in 1925. The Shah modernized Persia to the advantage of the British, and most likely the Nazis as well, as one result was the Persian Corridor railroad. Wikipedia, always fighting for the rights of the rich and possessed, sweeps gloriously past the issue of Nazi use of the railroad built by Britain for Britain with the phrase, "It is likely that Turkey, neutral until 23 February 1945, when it declared war on Nazi Germany, did not allow for war supplies to pass through into the Black Sea until that date." quite right, slick British military and civil transport used the Corridor during World War II.[30]

In the 1930s, the Shah tried to terminate the APOC concession, but Britain would not allow it. The concession was renegotiated on terms again favorable to the British. On 21 March 1935, Pahlavi changed the name of the country from Persia to Iran. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company was then re-named the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC).[31]

World War II[edit]

In 1941, after the Nazi invasion of the USSR, the British and Commonwealth of Nations forces and the Red Army invaded Iran, to secure petroleum (cf. Persian Corridor) for the Soviet Union's effort against the Nazis on the Eastern Front and for the British elsewhere. Britain and the USSR deposed and exiled the pro-Nazi Shah Reza, and enthroned his 22-year-old son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, as the Shah of Iran.

The British secured the oilfields and the seaports.[32]

During the war, Iran was used as a conduit for materiel to the USSR. US forces also entered the country replacing British in operating the southern part of the Trans-Iranian Railway.

Post-World War II[edit]

The western Allies withdrew from Iran after the end of the war. The Soviet Union remained and sponsored two "People's Democratic Republic"s within Iran's borders. The resulting crisis was resolved through diplomatic efforts in the new United Nations and US support for the Iranian army to reassert control over the breakaway areas. The Soviet-Iranian oil agreement was not ratified.

After the war, nationalist leaders in Iran became influential by seeking a reduction in long-term foreign interventions in their country—especially the oil concession which was very profitable for Britain and not very profitable to Iran. The British-controlled AIOC refused to allow its books to be audited to determine whether the Iranian government was being paid what had been promised. British intransigence irked the Iranian population.

U.S. objectives in the Middle East remained the same between 1947 and 1952 but its strategy changed. Washington remained "publicly in solidarity and privately at odds" with Britain, its WWII ally. Britain's empire was steadily weakening, and with an eye on international crises, the U.S. re-appraised its interests and the risks of being identified with British colonial interests. "In Saudi Arabia, to Britain's extreme disapproval, Washington endorsed the arrangement between ARAMCO and Saudi Arabia in the 50/50 accord that had reverberations throughout the region."[33]

Britain faced the newly elected nationalist government in Iran where Mossadegh, with strong backing of the Iranian parliament, demanded more favorable concessionary arrangements, which Britain vigorously opposed.[34]

The U.S. State Department not only rejected Britain's demand that it continue to be the primary beneficiary of Iranian oil reserves but "U.S. international oil interests were among the beneficiaries of the concessionary arrangements that followed nationalization." [35]

U.S. reluctance to overthrow Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1951, when he was elected, faded 28 months later when Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the White House and John Foster Dulles took the helm at the State Department. "Anglo-American cooperation on that occasion brought down the Iranian prime minister and reinstated a U.S.-backed shah."[35]


See Wikipedia articles: Abadan Crisis, Abadan Crisis timeline

Prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh shaking hands with Mohammad-Rezā Shāh Pahlavi

In 1951, the AIOC's resistance to re-negotiating their petroleum concession—and increasing the royalty paid to Iran—created popular support for nationalizing the company. In March, the pro-Western PM Ali Razmara was assassinated; the next month, the parliament legislated the petroleum industry's nationalization, by creating the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). This legislation was guided by the Western-educated Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh, then a member of the Iranian parliament and leader of the nationalization movement; by May, the Shah had appointed Mosaddegh Prime Minister.

Mohammad Mosaddegh attempted to negotiate with the AIOC, but the company rejected his proposed compromise. Mosaddegh's plan, based on the 1948 compromise between the Venezuelan Government of Romulo Gallegos and Creole Petroleum,[36] would divide the profits from oil 50/50 between Iran and Britain. Against the recommendation of the United States, Britain refused this proposal and began planning to undermine and overthrow the Iranian government.[37]

That summer, American diplomat Averell Harriman went to Iran to negotiate an Anglo-Iranian compromise, asking the Shah's help; his reply was that "in the face of public opinion, there was no way he could say a word against nationalization".[38] Harriman held a press conference in Tehran, calling for reason and enthusiasm in confronting the "nationalization crisis". As soon as he spoke, a journalist rose and shouted: "We and the Iranian people all support Premier Mosaddegh and oil nationalization!" Everyone present began cheering and then marched out of the room; the abandoned Harriman shook his head in dismay.[38]

The National Iranian Oil Company suffered decreased production, because of Iranian inexperience and the AIOC's orders that British technicians not work with them, thus provoking the Abadan Crisis that was aggravated by the Royal Navy's blockading its export markets to pressure Iran to not nationalize its petroleum. The Iranian revenues were greater, because the profits went to Iran's national treasury rather than to private, foreign oil companies. By September 1951, the British had virtually ceased Abadan oil field production, forbidden British export to Iran of key British commodities (including sugar and steel),[39] and had frozen Iran's hard currency accounts in British banks.[40]

The United Kingdom took its anti-nationalization case against Iran to the International Court of Justice at The Hague; PM Mosaddegh said the world would learn of a "cruel and imperialistic country" stealing from a "needy and naked people". Representing the AIOC, the UK lost its case. In August 1952, Iranian Prime Minister Mosaddegh invited an American oil executive to visit Iran and the Truman administration welcomed the invitation. However, the suggestion upset British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who insisted that the U.S. 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."[41]

In mid-1952, Britain's boycott of Iranian oil was devastatingly effective. British agents in Tehran "worked to subvert" the government of Mosaddegh, who sought help from President Truman and then the World Bank but to no avail. "Iranians were becoming poorer and unhappier by the day" and Mosaddegh's political coalition was fraying.

In the Majlis election in the spring of 1952, Mosaddegh "had little to fear from a free vote, since despite the country's problems, he was widely admired as a hero. A free vote, however, was not what others were planning. British agents had fanned out across the country, bribing candidates, and the regional bosses who controlled them. They hoped to fill the Majlis with deputies who would vote to depose Mosaddegh. It would be a coup carried out by seemingly legal means."[42]

While the National Front, which often supported Mosaddegh won handily in the big cities, there was no one to monitor voting in the rural areas. Violence broke out in Abadan and other parts of the country where elections were hotly contested. Faced with having to leave Iran for The Hague where Britain was suing for control of Iranian oil, Mossadegh's cabinet voted to postpone the remainder of the election until after the return of the Iranian delegation from The Hague.[43]

By mid-1953 a mass of resignations by Mossadegh's parliamentary supporters reduced parliament below its quorum. A referendum to dissolve parliament and give the prime minister power to make law was submitted to voters, and it passed with 99 percent approval, 2,043,300 votes to 1300 votes against.[44]

While Mosaddegh dealt with political challenge, he faced another that most Iranians considered far more urgent. The British blockade of Iranian seaports meant that Iran was left without access to markets where it could sell its oil. The embargo had the effect of causing Iran to spiral into bankruptcy. Tens of thousands had lost their jobs at the Abadan refinery, and although most understood and passionately supported the idea of nationalization, they naturally hoped that Mosaddegh would find a way to put them back to work. The only way he could do that was to sell oil." [45]

On the strength of their interests in Iran, and speaking to their shared fear of Soviet backing of Mossadegh, Britain persuaded Secretary of State John Foster Dulles that Iran was falling to the Soviets—effectively exploiting the American Cold War mindset. While President Harry S. Truman was busy fighting a war with in Korea, he did not agree to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. However, in 1953, when Dwight D. Eisenhower became president, the UK convinced him to a joint coup d'état.[29] Mossadegh could do nothing right as the economic relations between Iran and European powers dissipated like smoke, and the political relations warped, Kafka-esque.

Operation Ajax[edit]

See: Iranian coup d'état of 1953: Operation Ajax

Protesters displaying pictures of Mosaddegh alongside the Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi during anti-government demonstrations in Iran in 2009. Mosaddegh's image is one of the symbols of Iran's opposition movement, also known as the Green Movement. [46] Template:deletable image-caption

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.

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]

CIA records[edit]

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).


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.[29][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.Template:' "[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[edit]

See Iranian coup d'état of 1953: US motive for CIA's Operation Ajax

Historians disagree, but their investigations here focus on two factors: anti-communism and imperialism, largely declaring them to be mutually exclusive.

The belief that oil was the motivating factor for both sides is shared by many writers.[76][77][78][79][80] An alternative is that nationalism coalesced around the issue of oil.[81] But this only highlights the definition of nationalists: people with no issue around which to gather other than their own interests, conflating with a political cause, their search to fulfill their own identity by totemizing a flag.[82] 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.[77]

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.[77]

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".[76] 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."[76] 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".[76]

Other writers point to anti-communism and fear of communism as the root cause.[83][84] [85][86][87] Wikipedia:Mark Gasiorowski states that "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."[37]

Gasiorowski shows the corruption of the military-industrial complex, that Eisenhower himself was soon to attempt to warn the American people of, 'captains of industry' so apathetic and scared they could not even move themselves to protect their nations' interest, and the ironically tenuous situation that grabbing so very much profit had put the major oil companies into: "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."[37] Gasiorowski says "these concerns seem vastly overblown today"[88] and points to "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"[88] as factors in the decision.

See also[edit]


  1. The Ford presidency: a history By Andrew Downer Crain, p.124
  2. David Sylvan and Stephen Majeski. U.S. foreign policy in perspective: clients, enemies and empire, p. 121.
  3. U.S. Foreign Policy and the Shah: Building a Client State in Iran by Mark J. Gasiorowski (Cornell University Press: 1991) p. 59. ISBN 978-0801424120
  4. Mary Ann Heiss in Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, p.178–200
  5. Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran
  6. Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah's Men. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2008, p. 3
  7. Gasiorowski, p.237–9, 243
  8. Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, Edited by Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, Syracuse University Press, 2004, p.xiv
  9. Abrahamian, Ervand, Iran Between Two Revolutions by Ervand Abrahamian, (Princeton University Press, 1982), p.280
  10. Mossadegh – A Medical Biography by Ebrahim Norouzi
  11. Persian Oil: A Study in Power Politics by L.P. Elwell-Sutton. 1955. Lawrence and Wishart Ltd. London
  12. Kinzer, Stephen, All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, John Wiley and Sons, 2003.
  13. Kinzer, Stephen, Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (Henry Holt and Company 2006). p. 200–201
  14. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 19, 1987, p.261
  15. Mark J. Gasiorowski, U.S. Foreign Policy and the Shah: Building a Client State in Iran (Cornell University Press: 1991) p. 32; George N. Curzon, Persia and the Persian Question, vol. 1. (London: Cass, 1966) p. 3–4.
  16. Elwell-Sutton, L. P. Persian Oil: A Study in Power Politics (Lawrence and Wishart Ltd.: London) 1955. p. 11.
  17. Elwell-Sutton, L. P. Persian Oil: A Study in Power Politics (Lawrence and Wishart Ltd.: London) 1955. p. 12.
  18. All the Shah's Men : An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer, (John Wiley and Sons, 2003), p. 33
  19. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men, p. 48
  20. Elwell-Sutton, L. P. Persian Oil: A Study in Power Politics (Lawrence and Wishart Ltd.: London) 1955. p. 15
  21. 21.0 21.1 Elwell-Sutton, L. P. Persian Oil: A Study in Power Politics p. 17
  22. Elwell-Sutton, L. P. Persian Oil: A Study in Power Politics p. 19
  23. "The Company File—From Anglo-Persian Oil to BP Amoco"
  24. Google Books search for "AOIC investment in Iran" (nothing of note)
  25. PDF document "by 1950 its (AOIC's) Abadan refinery was the world's largest and Iran the leading oil producer in the Middle East"
  26. Mangol Bayat, Iran's First Revolution: Shi'ism and the Constitutional Revolution of 1905–1909, Studies in Middle Eastern History, 336 p. (Oxford University Press, 1991). ISBN 019506822X.
  27. Browne, Edward G., "The Persian Revolution of 1905–1909", Mage Publishers (July 1995). ISBN 0-934211-45-0
  28. Afary, Janet, "The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906–1911", Columbia University Press. 1996. ISBN 0-231-10351-4
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 Stephen Kinzer: "All the Shah's Men. An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror", John Wiley and Sons, 2003.
  30. Coup d'Etat 1299/1921 in the Encyclopaedia Iranica, retrieved 8 July 2008.
  31. Mackey, Iranians, Plume, (1998), p.178
  32. McKenzie, Compton (1951). Eastern Epic, p. 131–134, Chatto & Windus, London.
  33. Notes From the Minefield: United States Intervention in Lebanon and the Middle East, 1945–1958 by Boston University political science Professor Irene L. Gendzier, (Westview Press, 1999) ISBN 9780813366890 p. 34–35
  34. Notes From the Minefield: United States Intervention in Lebanon and the Middle East, 1945–1958 by Boston University political science Professor Irene L. Gendzier, (Westview Press, 1999) ISBN 9780813366890 p. 34–35
  35. 35.0 35.1 Notes From the Minefield: United States Intervention in Lebanon and the Middle East, 1945–1958 by Boston University political science Professor Irene L. Gendzier, (Westview Press, 1999) ISBN 9780813366890 p. 35
  36. Chatfield, Wayne, The Creole Petroleum Corporation in Venezuela Ayer Publishing 1976 p. 29
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 Mark J, ({{{year}}}). "The 1953 Coup D'etat in Iran," International Journal of Middle East Studies, 19, pp. 261–286. A version is available for public access at Web publication accessed from Document Revision: 1.4 Last Updated: 1998/08/23. Its is archived at Archived 2009-06-19.Google Scholar entry
  38. 38.0 38.1 Kinzer, Stephen, All the Shah's Men : An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, Stephen Kinzer, John Wiley and Sons, 2003, p.106
  39. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.110
  40. Abrahamian, (1982) p.268
  41. Stephen Kinzer: All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, John Wiley and Sons, 2003, p.145
  42. All the Shah's Men p. 135, 2008 edition ISBN 9780470185490
  43. All the Shah's Men p. 136–37 2008 edition ISBN 9780470185490
  44. Abrahamian, Iran between 2 Revolutions, 1982, (p.274)
  45. All the Shah's Men p. 136–7 2008 edition ISBN 9780470185490
  46. Kinzer, Stephen (22 June 2009). "Democracy, made in Iran". Guardian (Guardian News and Media Limited). Retrieved 12 December 2010. </li>
  47. Gasiorowski, Mark J. (1991). U.S. Foreign Policy and the Shah, Building a Client State in Iran, p. 17, Cornell University Press.
  48. Elm, Mostafu (1994). Oil, Power, and Principle: Iran's Oil Nationalization and Its Aftermath, p 333. Syracuse University Press
  49. What's Behind the Crises in Iran and Afghanistan by E Ahmed—1980
  50. Helen Chapin Metz, ed. Iran: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1987.
  51. CIA-Iran page
  52. Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq: Symbol of Iranian Nationalism and Struggle Against Imperialism by the Iran Chamber Society
  53. 53.0 53.1 The 1953 Coup D'etat in Iran. Archived from source 2009-06-08. URL accessed on 2009-06-06.
  54. 54.0 54.1 CIA Historical Paper No. 208 Clandestine Service History: Overthrow Of Premier Mossadeq Of Iran November 1952 – August 1953 by Donald N. Wilber. Archived from source 2009-06-08. URL accessed on 2009-06-06.
  55. Norman Schwarzkopf Sr.. Archived from source 2009-08-14. URL accessed on 2009-08-11.
  56. N. R. Keddie and M. J. Gasiorowski, eds., Neither East Nor West. Iran, the United States, and the Soviet Union, New Haven, 1990, 154–55; personal interviews
  57. Review of All the Shah's Men by CIA staff historian David S. Robarge. Archived from source 2009-06-22. URL accessed on 2009-06-21.
  58. p.15, "Targeting Iran", by David Barsamian, Noam Chomsky, Ervand Abrahamian, and Nahid Mozaffari
  59. CIA document mentions who ordered the 1953 coup
  60. Eisenhower, vol.2, The President by Stephen E. Ambrose,(New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984), p. 111. "Ambrose repeats this paragraph" in Eisenhower: Soldier and President (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990), p. 333, according to the note by a CIA staff member in the same document.
  61. Michael Evans. Secret Notes by CIA agent Donald Wilber on the overthrow of Premier Mossadegh of Iran (PDF).
  62. Notes, formerly classified as "Secret" by CIA agent Donald Wilber on the overthrow of Premier Mossadegh of Iran (plain text). Accessed 2009-06-06.
  63. 63.0 63.1 How to Overthrow A Government Pt. 1 on March 5, 2004
  64. The Day Democracy Died: The 50th Anniversary of the CIA Coup in Iran by historian Masoud Kazemzadeh.
  65. Kinzer, pp. 6, 13. In addition to the secret $5 million dollars CIA delivered to Zahedi, the U.S. government sent another $28 million in September 1953 to assist Zahedi in consolidating the coup regime. Another $40 million was delivered in 1954 as soon as the regime signed the oil consortium deal giving Iranian oil to American and British oil companies. See Ervand Abrahamian, "The 1953 Coup in Iran," in Science & Society, Vol. 65, No. 2 (Summer 2001), p. 211. See also Habib Ladjevardi, "The Origins of U.S. Support for an Autocratic Iran," in International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 15, No. 2 (May 1983).
  66. "Foucault and the Iranian Revolution" By Janet Afary, Kevin Anderson, Michel Foucault. University of Chicago Press: June 2005 ISBN 9780226007861 "protesters killed by the Shah's brutal repression"
  67. 67.0 67.1 "The Day Democracy Died: The 50th Anniversary of the CIA Coup in Iran" by Masoud Kazemzadeh, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the Department of History and Political Science at Utah Valley State College.. URL accessed on 2009-06-18.
  68. Nasr, Vali, "The Shia Revival", Norton, (2006), p.124
  69. Review by Jonathan Schanzer of "All the Shah's Men" by Stephen Kinzer
  70. Mackay, Sandra, "The Iranians", Plume (1997), p.203, 4
  71. Nikki Keddie: "Roots of Revolution", Yale University Press, 1981, p.140
  72. 72.0 72.1 72.2 "C.I.A. Destroyed Files on 1953 Iran Coup" May 29, 1997 The New York Times
  73. C.I.A. Is Slow to Tell Early Cold War Secrets by Tim Weiner April 8, 1996
  74. "C.I.A., Breaking Promises, Puts Off Release of Cold War Files" by Tim Weiner July 15, 1998 The New York Times
  75. "Secrets Of History: The C.I.A. in Iran—A special report. How a Plot Convulsed Iran in '53 (and in '79)" April 16, 2000. The New York Times
  76. 76.0 76.1 76.2 76.3 Democracy Now. Goodman-Abrahamian interview Democracy Now!
  77. 77.0 77.1 77.2 The 1953 Coup in Iran, Science & Society, Vol. 65, No. 2, Summer 2001, pp.182–215.
  78. Byrd, Robert (2004). Losing America: confronting a reckless and arrogant presidency, W. W. Norton & Company,.
  79. Greenspan, Alan (2008). The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, reprint, illustrated, Penguin Group.
  80. Koppel, Ted (February 24, 2006). "Will Fight for Oil". Op-Ed (New York Times). Retrieved 27 March 2010. </li>
  81. Spoils of War: The Human Cost of America's Arms Trade by John Tirman (Free Press 1997) P. 30 ISBN 978-0684827261
  82. Billig, Michael (1995). Banal Nationalism, London: Sage.
  83. U.S. Foreign Policy and the Shah: Building a Client State in Iran by Mark J. Gasiorowski (Cornell University Press: 1991) p. 27.
  84. Note 'subdued', 'imposed', and 'violent bid for power' instead of the usual 'coup': Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003), p.84 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. Little, Douglas (2003). American orientalism: the United States and the Middle East since 1945, p. 216, I.B.Tauris.
  86. Milani, Abbas (2008). Eminent Persians: the men and women who made modern Iran, 1941–1979 :, Syracuse University Press,.
  87. Lenczowski,, George (1990). American Presidents and the Middle East,, p. 36, Duke University Press,.
  88. 88.0 88.1 Gasiorowski, Mark J., Editor; Malcolm Byrne, Editor (2004). Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, Syracuse University Press.
  89. </ol>


  • Abrahamian, Ervand, Iran Between Two Revolutions (Princeton University Press, 1982)
  • Dorril, Stephen, Mi6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service ISBN 9780743203791 (paperback is separately titled: MI6: Fifty Years of Special Operations Fourth Estate: London, a division of HarperCollins ISBN 1857027019)
  • Dreyfuss, Robert, Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (Henry Holt and Company: 2005)
  • Elm, Mostafa. Oil, Power and Principle: Iran's Oil Nationalization and Its Aftermath.(Syracuse University Press, 1994) ISBN 9780815626428 Documents competition between Britain and the United States for Iranian oil, both before and after the coup. Publishers Weekly summary: "an impressive work of scholarship by an Iranian economist and former diplomat [showing how] the CIA-orchestrated coup, followed by U.S. backing of the dictatorial Shah, planted
  • Elwell-Sutton, L. P. Persian Oil: A Study in Power Politics (Lawrence and Wishart Ltd.: London) 1955. Reprinted by Greenwood Press 1976. 978-0837171227
  • Farmanfarmaiyan, Manuchihr, Roxane Farmanfarmaian Blood and Oil: A Prince's Memoir of Iran, from the Shah to the Ayatollah (Random House 2005.). A cousin of Mosaddeq, Farmanfarmaiyan was the Shah's oil adviser. Sympathetic to the Shah and antagonistic to Khomeini, Farmanfarmaiyan offers many insider details of the epic battle for Iranian oil, both in Iran's historic relationship with Britain and then, after the coup, with the United States.
  • Gasiorowski, Mark J. U.S. Foreign Policy and the Shah: Building a Client State in Iran (Cornell University Press: 1991). Traces the exact changes in U.S. foreign policy that led to the coup in Iran soon after the inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower; describes "the consequences of the coup for Iran's domestic politics" including "an extensive series of arrests and installation of a rigid authoritarian regime under which all forms of opposition political activity were prohibited." Documents how U.S. oil industry benefited from the coup with, for the first time, 40 percent post-coup share in Iran's oil revenue.
  • Gasiorowski, Mark J., Editor; Malcolm Byrne (Editor) (2004). Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, Syracuse University Press.
  • Mark J., (1987). "The 1953 Coup D'etat in Iran," International Journal of Middle East Studies, 10, 261–286.
  • Gendzier, Irene. Notes From the Minefield: United States Intervention in Lebanon and the Middle East, 1945–1958 Westview Press, 1999. ISBN 9780813366890
  • Heiss, Mary Ann, Empire and Nationhood: The United States, Great Britain, and Iranian Oil, 1950–1954, Columbia University Press,1997. ISBN 0231108192
  • Kapuscinski, Ryszard (1982). Shah of Shahs, Vintage.
  • Kinzer, Stephen (2003). All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, John Wiley & Sons.
  • Kinzer, Stephen, Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (Henry Holt and Company 2006). ISBN /9780805082401 Assesses the influence of John Foster Dulles on U.S. foreign policy. "Dulles was tragically mistaken in his view that the Kremlin lay behind the emergence of nationalism in the developing world. He could... claim consistency in his uncompromising opposition to every nationalist, leftist, or Marxist regime on earth."
  • McCoy, Alfred, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (Metropolitan Books 2006)
  • Rashid, Ahmed. Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (Yale University Press 2010) ISBN 9780300163681
  • Wikipedia:Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. (1979). Countercoup: The struggle for the control of Iran, McGraw-Hill.
  • Weiner, Tim. Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (Doubleday 2007) ISBN 9780307389008
  • Wilber "Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, Nov. 1952–1953" [CIA] CS Historial Paper no. 208. March 1954.
  • Yergin, Daniel. The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power (Simon & Schuster 1991) ISBN 9780671502485

External links[edit]

  • Template:Cold War Template:Coordsimple:Iranian coup d'etat (1953)