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What Were the US and British Intelligence Agency Roles in Orchestrating the 1953 Coup in Iran?

Table of Contents


1953 Iranian Coup.

Documents of CIA acknowledges about its role in the coup.

CIA Admitted its role in the coup.

How CIA Articulated the coup.



Introduction to Racial Liberalism and US Foreign Policy

Iranian coup of 1953 has significant involvement of the CIA and the British intelligence agency. Though they do not acknowledge it initially when the documents get revealed and published under the law of information act then they are forced to admit it. The Iranian coup was effectively planned and executed, the reason that leads to this coup is the nationalisation of oil reservoirs in Iran which was previously controlled by Britishers, this nationalisation tensed the Britishers and those alongside with the US planned a coup to overthrow the democratically elected Prime Minister Mosaddegh and appoint a pro-western government there. 

This paper highlights the details of the coup along with the roles played by different agencies and nations in it. It also highlights the detailing of the root cause which eventually resulted in the coup. A complete understanding is presented in this essay. 

1953 Iranian Coup

The 1953 Iranian coup is regarded as a major political event in the history of Iran and it also provided a major blow to the country's proceedings. The court destroyed democracy as it resulted at the end of the government elected democratically under the leadership of “Mohammed Mossadegh”; it was done to strengthen the monarch rule of the “Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi”, on the 19th of August 1953. The then prime minister Mossadegh was about to audit the documents associated with Anglo Iranian company that deals in oil, it was a British corporation, and this audit was intended to bring in restrictions to minimised the control of organisation over the oil reserves of Iran. However the company AIOC do not showed cooperation with the government, the parliament that is known as majlis voted in favour of nationalisation of oil reserves and it also demanded that the foreign corporate representatives must be expelled from the country (Anderson, 2016). Britain started planning against Iran and after this vote, Britain decided to impart economical pressure over Iran via boycotting its oil industry nationally and Britain also mobilised its army towards Iran to take control of Abadan Oil refinery that was established by Britain. This refinery was the largest in the world at that time but the British prime minister opted otherwise and he tightened the economic boycott of Iran, he was also using the agents of IRAN to undermine the Mossadegh government (Stickel, 2020). He conveyed that his government might be in danger and it might be replaced by a communist government as he was turning out to be an unreliable leader. The prime minister of UK Winston Churchill and the administration of Eisenhower decided to destabilised the Iranian government through a military coup but the administration of Truman opposed the coup as they feared that an investigation might be initiated by the Central Intelligence Agency CIA. The solicitations of the UK government and British intelligence officials were instrumental to plan and execute the coup but it is an evident fact that the government of the United States had already considered unilateral action in 1952 to assist the Mossadegh government. 

The coup resulted in the formation of a new government led by General Faziullah Zahedi and it also allowed Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to rule much effectively as a monarch. The monarch also heavily relied on the support of the US government to hold on to power. The reports of the CIA suggest that some feared and dangerous mobsters were recruited by the CIA in Tehran to instigate pro shah riots. Other men paid by the CIA were brought to Tehran in buses and trucks, these men were highly instrumental in taking over the streets. This conflict resulted in the killing of around 300 people, Mosaddegh himself arrested, tried and convicted in the military court of Shah. He was sentenced for three years in jail and then in house arrest for the remainder of his life. Other Mossadegh supporters are imprisoned and some of them also received the death penalty. Shah continuously ruled for 26 years after this coup only to be overthrown in the Iranian revolution in 1979 (Arjana, 2016). 

After sixty years of the coup in the year 2013, the US government formally acknowledged the role played by the government of the US at that time in the coup (Simpson, 2018). It also releases a bulk of documents that have major evidence of bribing Iranian politicians, high ranked officials of the army, security and pro-coup propaganda. The CIA also quoted that this coup was instigated accordingly with the directions provided by the CIA and it was considered as an act associated with the United States foreign policy, this was also conceived and approved by highest ranked government officials. 

The disturbing background of Iran suggests the major reasons behind the coup, in 19th-century Iran, was brutally caught in between two of the advancing imperial powers that are Britain and Russia. George Curzon in the year 1892 described Iran as a valuable piece of chessboard through which the whole world can be ruled. The concession policies passed by the monarch had faced increased opposition. The monarch was looking for his gains and he was chasing high profits for himself, in league with this chase he provided exclusive contracts for the telegraphs, Iranian roads, factories, mills, resources extractions to the British companies, however, this was never executed because of the heavy opposition at home and also by the Russian government. 

There was rising anti-incumbency against Shah and an assassination attempt was also made on him. Shah was shocked by this incident and he had also gained public sympathy by this incident and started taking an active role in the Iranian politics and then quickly established the constituent assembly of Iran to amend the constitution so that his power can be increased. He had also established the senate of Iran that is the part of the constitution however it was never established before. Shah also has the power to appoint half of the senators and he chooses men loyal to him. Mosaddegh believed that this is not the democratical way and he also stated that Shah should reign but not rule as Europe's constitutional monarchs (Blout, 2017). An alliance was created by Mosaddegh and other political parties that oppose the policies of Shah and they together formed a national front and their primary goals are the nationalisation of major policy goals for the party. The national front won maximum seats in the majlis. Oil nationalisation is the priority of the government and it can also be regarded as the major reason behind the coup, the nationalisation of oil reservoirs had upset Shah as well as British government who conspired against the Iranian government. The nationalisation made Mosaddegh a national hero and placed him at the centre of attraction for the world. Many Iranians had also believed that this will ultimately increase their wealth. This is the background that leads to unrest among Shah and other opponents of Mosaddegh and the Government of Britain, and they planned and executed the coup which was believed to be in their favour. 

The year 1953 brings in the great political crisis in Iran as economic tensions rise because of the British embargo and the political turmoil; this resulted in decreasing popularity of Mosaddegh's popularity and political powers. The people of Iran started accusing him of the political instability and the economic tensions of Iran. Political violence also started in Iran and political rivals started taking up on the streets and this often resulted in clashes between them. Mosaddegh has strong support by the side of the working class but this turmoil resulted in decreasing popularity, the lost support made him vulnerable and he started becoming more autocratic (Breen, 2017). In August 1952, he started relying on the emergency powers to rule the country and this generated a widespread controversy among his supporters. An assassination attempt was made over him and one of his ministers and after this; he ordered the jailing of so many of his political opponents. This act angered the public and they started accusing Mosaddegh that he is trying to become a dictator. His party also established an unofficial alliance with the Tudeh party and this created the fear of communism and the communists started participating in Mosaddegh rallies in huge numbers and they also started launching an attack on his opponents. The national front seats get reduced simultaneously after a massif his supporters in the parliament resigned; a referendum was passed that demanded the dissolution of parliament along with the change in the law-making powers. This bill was passed with huge approval that is 99.99 per cent, this referendum was also termed as treason by the opponents, and this can also be regarded as one of the many reasons that resulted in his deposition. However the Shah himself opposed the plan of a coup at the initial period and he had also supported the nationalisation of oil reservoirs but later on, he joined when CIA said that he can also be despised if he does not support this (Bruggeman, 2018). This experience made him a puppet of American power till the rest of his life and he highly contributed to the US by his pro-US policies while hating the Britishers. 

Documents of CIA Acknowledges About Its Role in The Coup

The CIA released the documents in the year 2013 that first time clearly and formally acknowledged the role of the US in the Iranian coup of 1953 that ousted the democratically elected leader of Iran and Mohammed Mosaddegh. These documents were first highlighted by the internal history of the CIA in 1970 and this states that this military coup was carried under the supervision and direction of the CIA as a part of the foreign policy. The US secretary of state in 2000 “Madeleine Albright” and “President Barack Obama” stated the role of the US in the coup. This can be regarded as the first instance when the CIA admitted that part which is played in concert with the “British intelligence agency”. These documents were obtained under the act of freedom of information. Mosaddeq was elected by Iranians in 1951 and he swiftly moved towards renationalisation of the production of oil within the territory, which was previously under the control of “British via the Anglo Persian oil company” which was later converted into the British petroleum. This became a serious concern for both the US and Uk which regards the Iranian oil as the key through which it can rebuild the economy after the war. Cold war can also be regarded as one of the important factor which played crucial role in calculation. Experts had estimated that Iran might be in some serious trouble and if this gets executed effectively then it will be coined as a victory for soviets and huge setback the Middle East. Covert action plan was the only remedial action and these facts were stated by the coup planner Donald Wilber (Daniels, 2020). The documents reflect how the CIA prepared for the coup via placing stories that are anti-Mosaddeq in both the US media and the Iranian media. This coup ultimately made the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi rule robust in spite of his previous fled because of the power struggle between him and Mosaddeq but he eventually returned after the coup and also became a close ally of the US. 

The intelligence agencies of the United States and the United Kingdom bolstered the pro shah movement and till noon it became clear that the provincial area including Tehran was controlled by the pro shah forces and the army units. This wasn't stopped at that point and it spread with time, by the august 19 the Mossadeq government and their members were either hiding or they were incarcerated. Shah also returned to Iran following the coup but he left Iran in 1979 when he was overthrown by the Islamic revolution. 

CIA Admitted Its Role in The Coup 

It was the first time when the CIA admitted that it was behind the notorious Iranian coup of 1953 and they had plotted against the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq, the documents recovered by the agency also reflect the ways through which British government tried to block the information release regarding its involvement. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the event that is often invoked by Iranians as the western meddling evidence, the national security of the United States archived it at the George Washington University. The military coup that was executed to overthrow Mossadeq and his associated cabinet was effectively carried out under the direction and supervision of the CIA as a part of US foreign policy. This was also conceived and approved at the highest levels of governments (Ebrahimi, 2016). Various documents are published on archives website under the law that provides access to freedom of information and it also describes the event in detail which signifies the fact that British help had played a crucial role in engineering the coup. Britain also played a significant role in it particularly Sir Anthony Eden who was the foreign secretary of Britain at that time and he also believes that Mosaddeq can be a major threat to its economic and strategic interests, this is stated when the Iranian leaders nationalised British Anglo Iranian oil company. The United Kingdom needed the support of the United States to effectively execute the plan. The British documents also reflect how seriously the British leaders tried to stop Washington from publishing documents that can be highly embarrassing for the UK (Ebrahimi, 2016). There are also other papers in the UK that remain secret even though the role played by the UK in the coup is widespread. Jack Straw also publicly referred to various interferences by the side of British officials into the Iranian affairs in the 20th century. 

The archived documents of the CIA also include a draft of that determines the internal history of the coup. This campaign was totaled as the establishment of a pro-western government in Iran. These documents determine the operation through legal or quasi-legal methods that are eventually aimed at the fall of the Mosaddeq government and also to replace it with a government that is pro-western led by Shah and Zahedi as the Prime Minister (Lucey, 2018). One document also describes Mossadeq among the most mercurial maddening, proactive and adroit leaders with whom they had ever dealt. The documents have also revealed that Mosaddeq believed the British evil is not incomprehensible and he also had millions of Iranians who had believed this for years, they also know that Britain has manipulated their country, another document highlighted that a war of nerve is needed against Mosaddeq (Pytkowska, 2018). 

Mosaddeq was treated differently than other anti-colonial leaders such as Egypt's Abdel Nasser, Mosaddeq epitomised a unique anti-colonial figure who is also committed towards the values of democracy and human rights. Certain analysts argued that Mosaddeq failed to compromise with the west and this can be considered as the primary reason because of which the coup takes place. This coup was planned behind the propagating fear of communism in Iran and the propaganda makes it look like a pro-Iranian revolution (Nayeri, 2020). It is also an evident fact that Mosaddeq was never offered with a fair deal and thus he had no option but to deny, Britishers wanted Mosaddeq to give up the oil nationalisation and if Mosaddeq had given it then his national movement would be left with no credibility. All these arguments created and propagated during the coup have no resemblance with truth and it is also an evident fact there is no actual threat of communism; it was created to justify the actions behind communist danger. The Iranian politicians had also compared the disputes over the country's nuclear activities and the oil nationalisation under Mosaddeq. US officials had also expressed regret about our but they fell short of issuing an official apology. However, the British government has never acknowledged its role in the coup. 

How CIA Articulated the Coup

The documents revealed provide the details of the coup that is led by the senior officer Kermit Roosevolt Jr. Mohammed Mosaddegh who was a beloved figure in Iran during his tenure as the prime minister he had introduced various economic and social policies and the most significant among these is the nationalisation of oil reservoirs in Iran. A series of talks continued for months but at the end, the prime minister denied any involvement of Brothers in Iranian oil corporation. After this Britain appealed to the US to assist them and this led to the coup orchestrated by CIA and it was meant to overthrow Mosaddegh and restore the power of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi who was the last shah of Iran. 

Roosevelt planned in an effective manner and he also executed his plans decently, first of all, he took the control of Iranian media by bribing them and he used them to circulate anti-Mosaddegh propaganda in the national television. Later on, he also recruited various allies in Islamic Clergy and he had also effectively convinced the Shah of Uran that Mosaddegh is a threat for the nation (Pahuja & Storr, 2017). The last step can be termed as dramatic as it is entailed to attempt an assassination of Mosaddegh at his home in midnight. But eventually, Mosaddegh learned about it and the coup failed. He had also announced the victory over the radio on the following morning. 

Mosaddegh believed that he had overcome the upcoming issues but Roosevelt was not the man who can give up easily, he then planned and executed a second coup that succeeded. Mosaddegh was then placed in a trial and was also forced to lead the rest of his life under house arrest. 

Conclusion on Racial Liberalism and US Foreign Policy

The above essay highlights the events that lead to the Iranian coup of 1953. A complete account is presented in the essay that includes the role played by the United States and the United Kingdom. The CIA has articulated the coup as a part of its foreign policy and it was also acknowledged by the officers at highest ranks in the government. The information presented in the essay is collected by the secondary sources and ethical considerations were also made to avoid any sort of discrepancies. A complete understanding of the coup can be inculcated via going through this essay. 

References for Racial Liberalism and US Foreign Policy

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