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OIL, COMMUNISM, AND THE ASCENDANCY OF THE CIA FOLLOWING THE 1953 COUP IN IRAN
A Senior Honors Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the Department of History University of Houston
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Bachelor of Arts
____________________ By Andrew Shay Terrell May, 2009
TABLE OF CONTENTS
EPIGRAPH...............................................................................................................2 ABSTRACT...............................................................................................................3 INTRODUCTION......................................................................................................4 CHAPTER I: OIL SHOWDOWN...............................................................................14
Historical Context: Oil as a Source of Early Cold War Conﬂict....................................................15 Iranian Oil Politics and the Rise of the Tudeh Party.....................................................................20 Failed Negotiations and the National Front..................................................................................31
CHAPTER II: CLANDESTINE PREPARATIONS.....................................................43
Drawing in American Support......................................................................................................43 The CIAʼs Proposal......................................................................................................................53 Obtaining State Authorization......................................................................................................57
CHAPTER III: THE COUP AND ITS IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH.............................62
15 August 1953 and the Initial Attack...........................................................................................65 Reactions to the Attempted Coup................................................................................................70 Learned from the Operation.........................................................................................................76
“In international affairs, we abide by certain accepted rules of conduct. We do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. We believe in respecting the political and legal institutions of others and their right to organize their political life as they see ﬁt.” --Allen W. Dulles 30 November 1954 Address to the Alumni Dinner of the University of Chicago Law School.
In the post-World War II era, America had become the world’s greatest superpower. The Cold War, however, was not a period of total war but rather a period of clandestine confrontations. The Central Intelligence Agency was the clandestine arm of the United States in this period, and despite its small amount of experience in such activities, the agency was destined to become as dominant among the intelligence community as Washington, D.C. was in the United Nations. The 1953 coup marked the point where the CIA replaced the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). In essence, the American agency was the only agency capable of carrying out a proposal from the British directed at the nationalist Prime Minister of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh. The SIS wanted Mossadegh removed and to bring to power a leader that would seek an end to an oil crisis that had enveloped London and Tehran since the conclusion of WWII. The outcome of the coup rested in American hands in August 1953 because the British had become incapable of action.
When did the Central Intelligence Agency first reach a point of power? The birth of the CIA was a culmination of individual efforts--chiefly by William Donovan--and necessity. The agency was officially created in 1947 and within a decade would be revered throughout the international intelligence community. The events within its first decade of existence shaped the agency into the foreign arm of American influence and determination against the spread of communism. In 1953, the capabilities of the CIA were tested in Iran where an oil dispute was engulfing Great Britain and Iran in political impasse. Additionally, the growing influence of communist sympathizers within Iran pulled the United States into the situation. The resulting coup in August 1953 replaced the standing democracy of Iran with what would become more of a Western-friendly autocracy. With the overthrow of the Iranian government, the CIA’s position of power and leadership was secured. Every successful mission thereafter worked to further strengthen the image of the agency. The coup thus served as a test case for the feasibility of clandestine warfare. In the years after WWII’s conclusion, the Farsi-speaking State of Iran dared to challenge a major European power that had a monopoly on Iranian oil--Great Britain. While the United States could not initially support Iran or Britain more than the other, the failing economy in Iran hastened American intervention because the conflict had lasted too long. While the oil question distracted Iranian politicians from the domestic strife of Iran’s citizens who were bearing the brunt of the economic hardships, the country was slowly falling under the expanding Iron Curtain. U.S. leaders realized prolonged negotiations had allowed pro-Communist factions to
spread throughout Iran. The United States could not afford to lose Iran to the Soviet bloc and therefore agreed to carryout a proposal by the British SIS to remove the nationalist prime minister, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, from office and instate a more Western-friendly regime. The coup in Iran that took place August 1953, was a result of both the oil dispute and Communist expansion and these factors led to the CIA’s stature of supremacy over the international intelligence community at the start of the Cold War. The history between the conclusion of WWII and 1953 coup illustrates the growing tensions between East and West forces. The United States became one of two global superpowers in the post World War II era. The Soviet Union and the United States had greater political leverage, economic capacity, and military might than any other country in the world, but the Soviets came out of the war in a worsened economic and demographic condition than did the United States because so much of the fighting occurred on Russian soil. While the Soviet Union was working to rebuild in the post war era before becoming an equal opponent to the United States, however, America had already established its supremacy over the West; neither Britain nor France could rival the military or economic might of postwar America.1 The elements of U.S. strength can be measured in foreign and domestic accomplishments: The U.S. Senate ratified a treaty creating the United Nations, which built off the failed League of Nations and promised to implement international collective security. Additionally, the Marshall Plan was the most wide-reaching and successful manifestation of U.S. economic leadership at that time. As a result of it, billions of dollars and tons of American products flowed into a joint recovery plan in order to rebuild the economies of war-torn Europe.
1 Thomas J. McCormick, Americaʼs Half-Century: United States Foreign Policy in the Cold War ! and After (Batlimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), 43-47.
Additionally, the military arm of the United States was consolidated with the National Security Act of 1947 that reorganized the armed service branches, created a council of advisers to help the president, and formed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). These extensions of American power worked to unify many Western nations behind the United States in the developing confrontation with the Soviet Union over its expansive aims. 2 The Central Intelligence Agency, in particular, reinforced the increasing influence of the United States abroad. Prior to WWII, the United States had lacked a permanent peacetime intelligence agency. Each branch of the military had their independent intelligence groups, but they had limited use and answered solely to their respective branches of the armed forces. The National Security Act of 1947, however, created an unprecedented prospect for America: a foreign arm of the United States designed to operate like the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS).3 Thus, President Harry S. Truman had effectively abolished whatever sense of
international isolationism was left among officials in Washington.4 The creation of the CIA was the culmination of events dating to the first decade of the twentieth century. The British had determined by 1909 than an independent, peacetime intelligence bureau was necessary to monitor interests not necessarily pertinent to their military intelligence services. Such a venture proved useful in the interwar period with the rise of
3 Elias Huzar, “Reorganization for National Security,” The Journal for Politics, Vol. 12, No. 1 ! (February, 1950): 128-149. 4 Isolationism had become more of a mythical term used to identify those who wanted the United ! States to retract from its global leadership. The term however is problematic in that one can argue the United States had not been isolationist in practice since the eighteenth century at its founding. Whether in aspirations for Manifest Destiny or Caribbean, Central, and South American interference, the United States has been involved in the affairs of other nations since its inception. The term is here used to identify the anti-war, anti-involvement groups within Washington at the end of WWII.
Nazism and Fascism in addition to the early surveillance on Soviet Russia. The United States followed suit during WWII with the creation of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) whose members were trained by the SIS. Still, at the end of the war, the OSS was dissected and its responsibilities dispersed among different organizations because officials believed its usefulness ended once Germany and Japan surrendered. Because the world had transformed with the conclusion of WWII, President Truman became convinced that a centralized foreign intelligence agency was necessary to combat and check the rising communist threat. The expanding Soviet Union forced Washington to change its policies toward Stalin and his regime. In Eastern Europe, the Soviets dictated governmental structures, contradicting agreements made with its Western allies during wartime. Additionally, its new line of satellite states stretched from the Arctic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. Where once the USSR had been an ally, it had become a threatening menace to Western principles of freedom and democracy. This realization came to light when American troops were withdrawing from Europe and the Middle East along with other former allied powers, but Soviet troops were not. Because a conventional defense was not possible with the withdrawing armies, the former Central Intelligence Group (CIG)--which had been used to appease parties wanting a peacetime intelligence agency before the CIA was established--was authorized to work clandestinely to thwart Soviet expansion.5
5 Trevor Barnes, “The Secret Cold War: The C.I.A. and American Foreign Policy in Europe, ! 1946-1956. Part I,” The Historical Journal, Vol. 24, No. 2 (June, 1981): 399-415.
While the CIA’s mandate was clearly defined in the National Security Act, the agency’s role would expand significantly within a few short years of its inception. 6 In 1953, the growing capabilities of the CIA culminated in the overthrow of an alleged communist-sympathetic regime in Iran. Iranian Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, had engrossed his country in a conflict with Great Britain over oil concessions and the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC).7 Because of the declining capability of Great Britain--in particular the SIS-the CIA was approached with a plan for removing Mossadegh. By carrying out the covert operation, named TPAJAX, the CIA exercised its increasing credence among the international intelligence community. In essence, the successful coup was a direct result of CIA interference in Iran and created the threatening image of the new arm of the United States whereby third world leaders feared the CIA could topple any regime.8 When approaching Iran, one must realize that it had undergone continual change throughout the twentieth century, but, oil had remained its chief export. In the first chapter we will explore the role oil played in the CIA’s intervention and eventual coup. Iran lies on the border of the Soviet Union and was a major trafficking region during WWII for the Allies. The AIOC in the postwar period was the dominant benefactor of Iranian oil and Britain had developed a monopoly over Iran’s oil. However, the AIOC was a manifestation of neoimperialism--which is subtle approach to controlling a foreign country, in this case by
6 The National Security Act of 1947 is available from the United States Intelligence Community ! Online, “National Security Act of 1947,” 50 U.S.C. 401, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, signed 26 July 1947, http://www.intelligence.gov/0-natsecact_1947.shtml. 7 Also referred to as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company by some scholars because of the name ! change from Persia to Iran in 1935. 8 This myth was tested the next year, in 1954, and proved to be correct with the regime change in ! Guatemala. See Chief of Station, Guatemala, “PBHistory Summary Report,” Central Intelligence Agency, 1 October 1954, http://www.foia.cia.gov/.
economic extortion--and Iran, under Mossadegh’s leadership, was undergoing a new wave of nationalism in resistance to these Western initiatives championed by Mossadegh.9 In negotiations during the late 1940s and early 1950s, the AIOC failed to find an acceptable settlement with Iran. This was in part because Mossadegh and others in the Iranian Parliament (the Majlis) were advocating the nationalization of the AIOC. However, it was also because of the attitudes presented by AIOC officials who were not accepting the declining influence of Great Britain. Yet the protracted oil negotiation was leading to detrimental estimates in Washington, so when the CIA was approached by SIS officials, a way to secure Iran in the Western bloc was realized. National security ordinances and foreign policy directives in the Middle East were only attainable if Iran sided with the West. The second chapter will explore the extent to which the American intelligence agency approached the proposed coup. Although the plans were first established by the British SIS, the planning stages during late 1953 through summer 1953 revealed how the CIA had a greater capacity to carryout clandestine operations. All in all, the CIA was realizing how powerful the agency could be. The plan sought to remove Premier Mossadegh from office as he was deemed the culprit obstructing an oil settlement and allowing the Communist Tudeh Party to flourish. Because of the British resolve to counter the oil crisis between the AIOC and Iran, the M16 foreign branch of the SIS was asked to implement an operation to overthrow Mossadegh and replace him with a more favorable prime minister. The SIS had to call on the CIA to finish its
9 Neoimperialism is a subtle approach to domination of a third world country using modern ! systems such as economic methodology, setting up governmental framework and military prowess. The distinct difference between older imperialism or colonialism, was that the mother country would directly be in control of every aspect of life, whereas with neoimperialism any source of control is mostly through indirect forces. For more see Jerome Slater, “Is United States Foreign Policy Imperialist or Imperial,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 91, No. 1 (Spring, 1976), 63-87.
operation because the British were thrown out of Iran before their clandestine operation could begin because of failed oil negotiations. Borne from the proposals given the CIA was Operation TPAJAX. 10 In the third chapter, the coup’s military portion will be examined in order to answer how the CIA recovered from an initial failure. Operation TPAJAX was originally unsuccessful at ousting Prime Minister Mossadegh. This was largely because of delays due to communication failures, but within a week of the initial failure, the CIA saved face. The field agents were able to adapt to chaotic environment filled with mass protests in the wake of the initial coup attempt and incited popular uprisings against Mossadegh who was portrayed as a tyrant who had disbanded the Majlis and refused to accept royal decrees from the Shah replacing him with General Fazlollah Zahedi. The CIA chose to feed on popular discontent that had developed because of the economic sanctions placed on Iran due to the failed AIOC negotiations and subsequent nationalization. The success of the operation secured the dominance of the new American intelligence agency within the international intelligence community. However, both the success and initial failures leant a hand to future covert operations because the agency learned much from the Iranian coup. Notwithstanding the assertions made by the TPAJAX planners, the operation was almost lost to history. Truman had originally revoked the proposals of TPAJAX because he felt it went beyond the mandate of the CIA. However, the new Dwight D. Eisenhower administration in 1953 was more accepting of the proposal. This was because the CIA worked to successfully portray Mossadegh as a communist sympathizer. The Tudeh Party of Iran had originally been
10 Dr. Donald Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, ! November 1952-August 1953,” Central Intelligence Agency, Historical Paper No. 208, Written March 1954, Published 1969. i-iii
founded as a pro-Soviet faction in Iran, not necessarily as a communist party. Nonetheless, Soviet infiltrators in the party transformed it into a perceivable communist support party in a nation on the border of the Soviet Union.11 The presence of communism in Tehran and its growing influence forced Eisenhower’s hand in authorizing the coup. By 1951, the British were realizing their inevitable descent from imperial domination. They had released India, retreated from Greece, and handed the Palestinian mandate to the United Nations. The last remnants of a weakening British Empire were the oil monopolies in Iraq and Iran.12 The nationalization of the AIOC in Iran, however, challenged the legitimacy of British authority in Iran. The SIS was also losing power along with the declining British Empire.13 Thus, From November 1952 through summer 1953, plans were made that further revealed the CIA’s capacity and capability. Continually, the SIS bowed to the wishes of the CIA proposals regarding Iran and the TPAJAX project. In essence the British were forced to accept CIA supremacy in the operation because only the CIA had the funds and personnel to carry out the coup. The coup’s success firmly established the CIA as the dominant intelligence agency in the world. The SIS had fallen from its power mainly because of the constraint placed upon by the declining condition in Great Britain. So the power vacuum for Western leadership was filled by the only country capable of financing a broad-reaching intelligence agency: the United States
“The Tudeh Party: Vehicle of Communism in Iran,” Central Intelligence Agency, 18 July 1949.
12Zachary Karabell, Architects of Intervention: The United States, the Third World, and the Cold ! War, 1946-1962 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana States University Press, 1999), 50-57. 13 For more on the decline of British power see Andrew Gambleʼs chapter "Hegemony and ! Decline: Britain and the United States,"within Patrick Karl O'Brien and Armand Clesse, eds., Two Hegemonies: Britain 1846-1914 and the United States 1941-2001 (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2002)
and its Central Intelligence Agency. While the United States was guided by containment foreign policies, conventional warfare was becoming a fleeting solution to the new era of the Cold War.14 No longer could the United States send entire armies to fight wars; it was publicly unpopular and economically unsound. Clandestine operations, thus, became the ideal way to exert American influence and advance U.S. interests abroad. The 1953 Iranian coup marked a pivotal moment in twentieth century history where the United States replaced Britain as the dominant force for the West through the rise of the Central Intelligence Agency. Iran was chosen as the test case for clandestine warfare because it met the preliminary requirements that Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA’s Near East Division chair, outlined. The public had to want what the same end that America wanted. In this case, it was the removal of the forces ruining the country’s economy by not finding a solution to the oil crisis. American propaganda had been working to indict the once popular Iranian Prime Minister, Mossadegh, throughout the early 1950s. If the propaganda campaign was successful, popular sentiments would turn against Mossadegh making a regime change more feasible. Furthermore, while there were several forms of nationalism within Iran in 1953, the Shah was still popular because of his title and ceremonial position in Tehran. Iranian citizens, Roosevelt believed, would support their Shah over a prime minister if they had to make a choice. For these reasons, Iran became the ideal trial spot for the CIA’s clandestine work.15
14 The wars in Korea and Vietnam signiﬁed the last massive deployment of American troops and ! the draft. 15 Kermit Roosevelt, Counter Coup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran, (New York: McGraw-Hill ! Book Company, 1979), 210. For more information on the American propaganda campaign in Iran see, Haimeh Saghaye-Biria, “United States Propaganda in Iran: 1951-1953,” Masterʼs Thesis. !Louisiana State University. May, 2009.
Chapter I: Oil Showdown
Oil has been at the root of most conflicts involving the Middle East throughout the twentieth century. Iran is no exception to this approach of oil’s role in the 1953 coup. The conflict between the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and Iran had been escalating since the first British oil entrepreneur, William D’Arcy was granted an oil concession in 1901 through its renegotiations in 1933 and culminating mid century in the oil crisis that all but destroyed Iran’s domestic economy. Because of the vast history of confrontations and the animosity shared between Great Britain and Iran over oil revenues the oil crisis never met an equatable, nor an agreeable conclusion. It was this inability of the AIOC and Iran to reach a settlement that brought the United States into the equation.1 The Soviet Union had also been vying for oil concession rights within Iran since the first decade of the twentieth century. For the Soviets, however, the world wars made Moscow realize that there was more to be had than just oil from Iran. There was also a satellite state that could inhibit Western advances against the spread of Communism. The prospect of a Soviet-friendly, if not Soviet-dominated Iran was unacceptable for the United States and this too added to the entrance of Washington into the oil crisis during the early 1950s.2 Oil played a crucial role in bringing the United States into a conflict that was between two separate sovereign states - Iran and the United Kingdom. Because of the protracted and
1 Reader Bullard, “Behind the Oil Dispute in Iran: a Birth View,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 31, No. 3 ! (April, 1953): 463. 2 “The Break-Up of the Colonial Empires and its Implications for US Security,” Central Intelligence ! Agency, 3 September 1948. All Central Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Group, and Ofﬁce of Strategic Services released documents are available at http://www.foia.cia.gov/.
failing negotiation processes over oil concessions concerning Iranian oil and the profit sharing between Tehran and the AIOC, the United States became an important player first as a mediator and later as a protagonist of intervention. However, the growing influence and presumed aspirations of Soviet expansion into Iran hastened an American response as U.S. foreign policy could not allow a Soviet takeover of Iran. If Iran were to fall behind the Iron Curtain, Washington believed the results would have been detrimental to the strategic interests of the West in the region and the European recovery. The United States had emerged from WWII as the dominant country and the Truman administration recognized the importance the country had in the post-war world. It was under this pretext of American hegemony that the United States had to intervene in the oil crisis that served as a precursor for actions to be taken by the CIA in 1953 when Mossadegh was removed from power.3
Historical Context: Oil as a Source of Early Cold War Conflict Iran had mostly been an issue left to the British who were--the Truman administration believed--more than capable of representing the West for the region in the early decades of the twentieth century. However, the British withdrawal from Greece in 1947 troubled Truman and his foreign policy advisors. It became apparent that the British Empire was no longer in a position equal to that of Soviet Russia who stood as the reigning opponent of the British in that region before and after WWII. Moreover within three years of the Allied victory over Germany and Japan, the Big Three were at ideological odds with each other. The Soviet Union had
3 Melvyn P. Lefﬂer, A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and ! the Cold War (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992), 237; “Memorandum of a Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the United States and the United Kingdom at the Department of State,” United States Department of State. Glennon, John P., Editor, 9 January 1952, Foreign relations of the United States, Iran, 1952-1954, Vol. X, (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Ofﬁce, 1989), 311-320.
reneged on agreements for troop withdrawal and free elections, causing the United Kingdom and the United States to react with containment policies that pitted the West against the Communist USSR. Iran, thus, stood in the middle of the East-West conflict. Coincidentally, the tripartite Anglo-Soviet-Iranian Treaty of 1942, which provided for the integrity and independence of Iran to be maintained by withdrawing troops within six months of the war’s conclusion, was upheld only by the United States and Great Britain; Soviet troops remained in Iran past the deadline. 4 The United States negotiated with the Soviet Union in hopes of overcoming the troop withdrawal and returning Iran to an independent, yet Western-leaning state. The USSR, on the other hand, sought an oil concession and means to defend the rising Tudeh Party of Iran. The only bargaining chip the USSR had for their aspirations was their extended military presence. By March 1946, it was apparent that Iran would be one of the obstacles limiting future relations among the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union.5 This realization so early after WWII set the stage for the oil controversy that would engulf Iran until the eventual coup in 1953 would bring to power a U.S.-UK friendly administration. Oil was among the chief reasons for the East-West conflict, more specifically, Iranian oil. At its core, the East-West confrontation in Iran was focused on two contrasting views of the region: the Soviets wanted oil and another buffer state, while the West also sought oil in addition to policies that would give no more influence to the USSR than already existed. The way events were unfolding, both sides in the amassing Cold War had legitimate reasons to distrust their
4 The treaty is printed in Philip W. Ireland, ed., The Near East (Chicago: University of Chicago ! Press, 1942; 2nd edition, 1945); also in Philip W. Ireland, The Middle East, 1948 (London: Europa Publications, Ltd., 1948), 29-30. 5 “Russians Said to Bar Curb on Iranian Bloc,” New York Times, 2 September 1945 and “Text of ! U.S. Note to Russia on Iran,” New York Times, 7 March 1946.
former allies. The Soviets distrusted the West because Premier Stalin feared any possible aggressor to be in close proximity of its borders while the West distrusted the Soviets for the expansionist moves since WWII’s conclusion. In reality, each side had plans for the abundant Iranian oil reservoirs and did not want the other to have greater influence over the future of Iran’s oil supply. Oil had been a point of contention among Iran, Russia, and Great Britain since the turn of the twentieth century. The United States, however, had been remote from the oil conflict in Iran during the first half of the century because it held sufficient domestic sources of petroleum and a large component of the Arabian American Oil Company in Saudi Arabia6. The discord between Russia and Great Britain over Iran began in 1901 when British entrepreneur William D’Arcy was given a sixty-year franchise on all oil in the country. D’Arcy’s enterprise took twelve years to find commercial amounts of petroleum and build a refinery independent of Iranian aid, however. The large amount of funds and person hours spent in developing the original refining capacity of the future AIOC became a point of contention in negotiations years later. 7 Nonetheless, the concession lacked foresight on the part of the ruling Qajar monarchy at the time as it constrained economic growth throughout the subsequent decades because iranian oil would become the country’s largest export capital. Furthermore, Britain and Russia in 1907 split Iran into three zones during the Anglo-Russian Entente Convention without the consent of the Iranian Parliament (Majlis). The partitions were a way to isolate oil exploitation whereby the North was
6 Graph, “Consumption, Production, and Import Trends (1950-2007),” Energy Information ! Administration, U.S. Department of Energy Study found in article “How Dependent are we on Foreign Oil?,” http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/energy_in_brief/foreign_oil_dependence.cfm.
Bullard, “Behind the Oil Dispute in Iran: a Birth View,” 463. 17
dominated by Russia, the South by Britain, and a neutral zone placed between the two.8 Iran was not being treated as a sovereign state. Foreign interference with Iranian oil continued after WWI when the proposed AngloIranian Agreement of 1919 sought to establish unprecedented British oversight of all economic reforms and social modernization in Iran. The agreement failed to pass ultimately, but it still represented the enormity of British power and influence over Iranian sovereignty. Members of the Majlis, chiefly Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, the future Prime Minister, fought against the proposed agreement. Iranian mistrust of the Soviets took root when Marxist rebels occupied Rasht, the Capital of the Gilan province in northern Iran where the Red Army moved into defensive postures and recognized the new Soviet Republic of Gilan from 1920-1921. 9 Both Britain and Russia were becoming more of a nuisance than models for modernization. Nationalist reactions to these early interventions in Iran ultimately led to the establishment of the Pahlavi Dynasty in 1925, which harkened in little more than a new dictatorship that was purportedly against foreign influences. Under Shah Reza Khan, Iran began its own modernization strategy and claimed to seek the withdrawal of all external influence over the country. Reza Khan granted American Standard Oil Company an oil concession in the North in hopes of combating the British AIOC in the South. However, Standard Oil and the AIOC negotiated a shared concession thus counteracting the Shah’s attempts to pit the United States against the UK; Americans would mostly support the AIOC rather than Iranian sovereignty. The
8 T. Cuyler Young, “The Problem of Westernization in Modern Iran,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 2, ! No. 1 (January, 1948): 51; A copy of the Anglo-Russian Entente Agreement can be accessed from Lillian Gold Library at Yale Law School, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/angrusen.asp. 9 P. Avery, G.R.G. Hambly, C. Melville, eds., The Cambridge History of Iran Volume 7 ! (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 214-215; Homayoun Katouzian, “Nationalist Trends in Iran, 1921-1926,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 10, No. 1 (November 1979): 533-536.
oil crisis that would develop after WWII had its roots in this episode; like before, the British AIOC would be predominantly supported by the United States. Cheap oil was sought well before the outbreak of the Great Depression revealing its importance to the growing power of the United States. The importance of oil would only increase as WWII approached in the late 1930s. Iranian oil was seen as the next reasonable source of oil for the West because of the large refinery at the port of Abadan which was the largest oil refinery in the world at the time. Despite this brief appearance of U.S. enterprises before WWII, Iran continued to be dominated by Britain throughout the interwar years. 10 Because of the history of oil controversies throughout the first half of the twentieth century, Iranian discontent with foreign powers was growing. Nationalist movements culminated in the post-WWII years when oil nationalization was suggested by a number of different faction leaders within the Majlis. Arguments for nationalization of the oil industry in Iran did not come about abruptly. Rather, it was the culmination of events that had plagued Iranian supremacy throughout the twentieth century thus far. 11 Immediately after WWII’s conclusion, Iranian nationalism had climaxed and mentions of oil nationalization became mainstream. While the Soviet Union’s extended occupation remained the dominant concern of Tehran, the solution for an agreed withdrawal was none other than oil. The CIG (Central Intelligence Group) and later CIA in 1947 onward became involved with the situation because of the alleged existence of Communism in the state of Iran. The Tudeh Party, in particular, was
10 Mamed Abbasov, “The Anglo-Iranian Oil Controversy in Iran 1919-1924,” hosted by Khazar ! University. Abbasov calls on many primary documents between the AIOC and Standard Oil in his essay on the controversy in the early 1920s, http://www.khazar.org/jas/text/politics.htmla. 11 Edward Ashley Bayne, “Crisis of Conﬁdence in Iran,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 29, No. 4 (July, ! 1951): 580.
deemed to be the most ardent pro-Soviet, pro-Communist vehicle that Iran had seen. Once the Tudeh party gained momentum in the postwar years, the party sought to envelop all of Tehran in a greater Soviet scheme to control Iran. So it was because of the mass nationalist movements that the Communist Tudeh Party became popular. This is the great irony of the Iranian oil equation: foreign powers aggravated Iranian citizens culminating in the acceptance of strong nationalist movements like that of the Tudeh Party in turn causing foreign powers such as the United States and Great Britain to repress the popularity of the Tudeh Party. This circle of events surrounding Iranian oil’s role in the twentieth century can be found at each step of the growing crisis after WWII.
Iranian Oil Politics and the Rise of the Tudeh Party Oil had become the major export of Iran by 1949, but oil assets were mostly owned by the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The D’Arcy oil concession was renegotiated in 1933 and increased the contribution of the AIOC that doubled payments to Tehran from 1933-1944. 12 But, by the late 1940s, a new wave of discontent among the public against the seemingly inescapable form of Western control brought the AIOC and Tehran into negotiations yet again. Iranian nationalist waves had all pinpointed foreign interference as the root cause for the economic hardships of the country. While such a claim had relevant arguments, the AIOC did hold the D’Arcy concession and its revisions giving the oil company the legal rights to Iranian oil exploitation. Both sides had legitimate arguments, but what brought America into the equation was the inability of the AIOC and Tehran to reach a settlement in a timely manner. The
12 Mark J. Gasiorowski, “The 1953 Coup Dʼetat in Iran,” International Journal of Middle East ! Studies, Vol. 19, No. 3, (August, 1987): 261-263.
pro-Soviet Tudeh Party was gaining momentum amid the escalating atmosphere between Iran and Britain, and the United States was not prepared to let Iran become another Soviet puppet state. The British AIOC was the largest oil supplier for the Royal Fleet and most of the British Isles in 1946. It also contributed roughly thirty-two percent of the Iranian government’s income, despite the alleged unfair concessions. Its operations accounted for eighty percent of the foreign exchange of Iran. The AIOC was all encompassing and dwarfed all other enterprises in Iran. Yet even with such vast wealth, Tehran was only receiving marginal funds compared to Britain. The ambitious Seven-Year Development Plan proposed by Mohammad Reza Shah was not in the realm of financial feasibility, which added to the escalating tensions between Tehran and the AIOC. The new Shah’s development plan was a last attempt at domestic reform geared towards modernizing Iran. The plan would begin May 1949 despite the obvious lack of available funds. Inflation from 1939 to 1945 had caused wages to increase 200 percent compared to the cost of living at 585 percent increase. The growing Tudeh Party was benefiting from the economic situation, however.13 It was only natural that during hard economic times, the Iranian public moved to support outspoken groups such as the Tudeh Party. As the escalating crisis absorbed the attention of Tehran authorities and Majlis officials, the Tudeh Party was rallying support from the lower classes that had become disillusioned with the postwar government deficiencies. Growth of the Tudeh Party had begun soon after the Allied victory in Europe. The Tudeh Party had helped with the northern Azerbaijan province rebellion of 1945 where the Soviets also backed the establishment of an independent state. From this rebellion, the Tudeh Party gained
13 “British Report their Iranian Oil,” New York Times, 1 April 1946 and Bayne, “Crisis of ! Conﬁdence in Iran,” 582-587.
momentum. They were armed with the weapons previously confiscated by the Allied occupation of 1941. By December, the province declared itself autonomous from Tehran and received Soviet support immediately. The new leader of Azerbaijan was Jaafar Pishevari who also was considered to be the head of the Tudeh Party by U.S. estimates. When Tehran sent forces to recapture Azerbaijan in February they met significant resistance from Soviet-supplied troops in the northern province. The Azerbaijan crisis served as an early warning to the United States that the USSR had the capability to meddle in Iranian affairs and was not easily matched by the meager defense forces under the Shah.14 Happening so soon after WWII’s conclusion, the United States depended mostly on media reports and estimates from the State Department because there was no CIG nor CIA - there was no centralized intelligence gathering service. Concurrently, the Tudeh Party was very active in Tehran. On 4 March 1946, Tudeh personnel barred the entrance to the Parliament building to obstruct meetings of politicians that were catering to foreign powers. The demonstration amassed a crowd reaching into the thousands and required police to break it apart. To that point the fourteenth Majlis was still in session because of a clause in the constitution that didn’t allow for new elections amid times of armed conflict (the Azerbaijan crisis). Western audiences saw the demonstrations as a Sovietsupported uprising in the capital because the Tudeh in Azerbaijan were the root of the armed confrontation in the first place.15 For the Western observer, impeding legislature meetings was a travesty of immense proportions that could not be overlooked. Unsupportive views of Iran then
14 “North Iran Sets up Autonomous Rule,” New York Times, 16 December 1945; “Fighting in ! Progress in North Iran: Rebels Clash With Teheran Army,” New York Times, 21 February 1946.
Gene Currivan, “Clash in Tehran Bars Parliament,” New York Times, 4 March 1946. 22
grew among the West which aided in the eventual condemnation of groups such as the Tudeh Party by the CIA and State Department. The eventual halt of Tudeh demonstrations succeeded in ending the fourteenth Majlis. When Prime Minister Ahmad Qavam returned from Moscow after lengthy oil concession negotiations, there were not enough deputies to convene the parliament legally.16 Nevertheless, after heated diplomatic battles between the Soviet Union and Iran, the Red Army withdrew from the country with a modest oil concession for Moscow. 17 However, the fifteenth Iranian Majlis did not accept the concession as negotiated by Prime Minister Qavam with the Kremlin. In response, Qavam outlined his own five-point bill that was approved by the Majlis. The bill stated:
“1) Iran would explore her own oil resources during the next five years and exploit them with her own capital. 2) The Premier’s negotiations for an oil pact with Russia were null and void. 3) Iran would not be permitted to grant any concessions to foreign powers or to have foreign partners or assistance in oil exploration. 4) If oil were found by Iran in the next five years, the country might negotiate with Russia with a view to selling oil. 5) Iran must negotiate with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company to obtain a higher share of its profits.”18
! ! !
16 17 18
Gene Currivan, “Sole Rule Passes to Premier,” New York Times, 12 March 1946. Gene Currivan, “Big Issues Settled,” New York Times, 5 April 1946. “Iranʼs Parliament Rejects Oil Accord with Soviet, 102-2,” New York Times, 22 October 1947. 23
The proposal pleased neither Russia nor Britain. In fact, this bill was the start of a renewed oil crisis that would soon envelop Iran. Iranian government was seen as a weak entity where the legislature could overrule any executive diplomatic agreement hindering any progress in foreign relations. Furthermore, the fifth point calling for larger AIOC subsidiaries was the move than created the oil crisis and let the crisis last as long as it did. But, why was the postwar oil battle focused on Iran? Iran had a lush supply of oil in the north and south--more so in the North--but for the Soviet Union, Iran was a country with grain, livestock, fruit, timber, and a warm water port. Likewise, the British saw Iran’s geographic position as the final stronghold against Soviet expansion into the Middle East. Notwithstanding geographic significance, however, oil was the prime target for both Britain and the Soviet Union because of its strategic value.19 Within a year of WWII’s conclusion, Iran had become a focal point in the escalating East-West confrontation. The political atmosphere of Iran was of rising discontent with economic mismanagement championed by the strengthening Tudeh Party. At its roots, the Tudeh Party was originally a pro-Soviet organ in Iran, yet because of the infiltration by Soviet agents and a unifying sense of nationalism against all foreign intervention, the party was labeled Communist by the West. The difference between being pro-Soviet, and Communist was vague for Western observers. Essentially, the Tudeh Party supported the ability of Stalin as de-facto leader to get things done. But, it seems most of the purported ‘pro-Soviet but not Communist’ propaganda of the early Tudeh Party was fabrication; the Tudeh media papers were simply trying to appear as if they were independent of foreign support or identity because they were supposed
19 C.L. Sulzberger, “British, Soviet Aims Clash in Iran,” New York Times, 24 November 1945 and ! Edwin M. Wright, “Iran as a Gateway to Russia,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 20, No. 2 (January, 1942). 367-371.
to be against all foreign intervention. This, however, was simply not the case. The growing concern over Tudeh aspirations was exacerbated when Qavam named three of their members to his cabinet 1 August 1946.20 The recognition of the Tudeh Communists in Tehran, however, began another uprising in southern Iran. Along the Persian Gulf, the southern provinces of Iran were filled with large land owners who had a natural distaste for communism. Therefore, they sought a similar autonomy as Azerbaijan. Their proposed regime wanted to outlaw communism in its entirety. 21 So by the end of 1946, Iran was effectively split. The undeclared civil war during the postwar years advanced simultaneously with worsening relations among Britain, Iran, and the Soviet Union. The constant notions for oil nationalization seemed to be the perfect route to fix the economy of Iran and satisfy anti-imperial nationalist sentiments. But, underlying all the seemingly short term fixes was the question of Iran’s alignment in the world; was the Tehran government ultimately for, or against communism? Qavam had convinced U.S. Ambassador George Allen that without American military and financial support, the Shah’s regime would fall if it were attacked by the rising factions throughout Iran.22 This assertion brought the United States closer to the conflict as it continued to become an international incident rather than a conflict solely between Iran’s oil and the British AIOC. Because of Iran’s strategic importance to both the West and to the USSR, oil negotiations had the potential to affect every major power. In 1947, the CIA estimated that the massive
20 “The Tudeh Party: Vehicle of Communism in Iran,” Central Intelligence Agency, 18 July 1949 ! and “Tudeh Gets 3 Posts in New Iran Cabinet,” New York Times, 1 August 1946
“Trouble in Iran,” New York Times, 10 October 1946
22 State Department, Cable #1293, Ambassador Allen to Secretary of State. 30 September 1946. ! As reprinted in Yora Alexander and Allan Names, eds, The United States and Iran: A Documentary History (Frederick, Maryland: Publications of America, 1980), 178-179
propaganda campaign throughout Iran was intended to soften the country for Soviet domination. They accurately pinpointed the weakness of the government and the economy as the main culprits for the increasing Soviet influence, especially through the Tudeh Party. The estimate also recognized the declining state of the British Empire. While Britain had been left as the chief representative of Western influence in the Middle East after WWII, their power was declining as domestic issues began to mount in England. Consequently, Iran turned more and more to the United States and the United Nations for support. But, Iran was not united as it had once been; widespread corruption practiced by the civil and military officials were alienating a large portion of the population, the tribal groups. Moreover, continued failures to give “effective execution to long-standing promises of economic and social reforms” was working to the benefit of leftist parties such as the Tudeh. In lieu of such deficiencies, the CIA feared Iran would fall to Soviet domination in the near future.23 To understand why the public would approve of oil nationalization, one must delve into the failing economic structure of Iran. The economy of Iran was based on agriculture and petroleum. Its agriculture had the capacity to supply 80 percent of the population and produced all foods for the country except tea and sugar. In 1947, Iran was the fourth largest petroleum producer and had a production of 145 million barrels annually. The oil income had allowed Iran to survive much of the immediate post war years without extensive external debt. Additionally the oil reserves in Iran provided the government large credence among the international scene. Yet despite the prosperity of the oil business, the national budget had not been balanced in years because of increased expenses that accompanied Iran’s ambitions to become a modernized state.
“The Current Situation in Iran,” Central Intelligence Agency, 20 October 1947 26
The Shah’s seven-year plan for modernization was not supported by the tax base either.24 In essence, the budget control officers and bureaucracies in Iran were ill trained to deal with the rising costs associated with a developing modern state. Iran’s foreign policies under the standing government lacked direction, also. The Majlis had the ability to reject foreign agreements, so any ground made with the Soviet Union through negotiations could be lost to party conflict in the Majlis. Iran had become accustomed to having two opposing foreign powers vying for influence, the British and Soviets. However, as the British presence in the Middle East retreated, Iran should have changed its foreign outlook. This did not happen immediately, and much of the negotiations with the Soviet Union found no superior counter offer from the British; the lack of offers from the British in this period allowed the Soviet Union to believe they were gaining ground in the battle for influence over Iran. Because America had grown to dominate the Western powers, Washington had to step in to serve as a moderating influence on traditional Anglo-Russian rivalry.25 Again, the protracted line of negotiations was forcing Washington to become more involved with the Iranian oil situation. Political dissension further pushed Tehran into turmoil through the remaining years of the 1940s. The declining political stability within Iran hastened America’s entrance into the conflict between the AIOC and Iran because the weakened state of the country was feared to be a breeding ground for Communist fervor. Of great importance in the political insecurity problem was the office of the prime minister and the Majlis itself. Abd al-Hussein Hajir was appointed Prime Minister in 1948 because of the support of Qavam’s coalition in the Majlis. Before his
25 “The Break-Up of the Colonial Empires and its Implications for US Security,” Central ! Intelligence Agency, 3 September 1948.
election, a six month cabinet under Premier Ebrahim Hakimi had perpetuated the American’s fear of Iran by failing to act against the rising power of the Tudeh Party; he had reformed little if anything. Hajir had enemies within the anti-court faction, religious representatives and the leftists, it was as if nobody in the country approved of his administration. One might wonder why Qavam was not elected again to be Prime Minister, but it was Qavam who expressed no desire for the office after his previous terms.26 After 1947, the Prime Minister position was in constant flux with six men holding the position over the course of three years. The inconsistencies within the Majlis and the central Tehran government perpetuated the declining economic and social conditions of the Iranian people. This realization allowed the Shah to condemn the Majlis, citing irresponsibility and creating subsequent proposals aimed at curtailing the power of the Majlis. The Shah wanted to dissolve the Majlis for six months and end the ability of the Majlis to dismiss the Prime Minister and his cabinet at any time. However the wealthy bureaucrats and Majlis officials feared a revival of the dictatorship of the former Shah, so the Shah’s proposals only added to the internal problems of Iran.27 All of this coupled with the ongoing economic woes of the country to create the breeding ground for Communism that Washington feared. Underneath the endless political strife in Tehran, the Tudeh Party was gaining additional momentum. In 1948, the party was believed to be the only representative of the people, but it had no official representation of its own in the Majlis. Only the Tudeh Party was composed of the majority poor population while other significant parties in the country were mostly led by
26 “Communist and Pro-Soviet Groups in the Arab World,” Ofﬁce of Strategic Services, Research ! and Analysis Branch, 30 March 1945. OSS Documents are available through the CIAʼs FOIA online reading room.
“Current Situation in Iran,” Central Intelligence Agency, September 1948. 28
large landowners, tribal leaders and “other notables, who use their local power to obtain the election of their candidates.” The Tudeh Party, however, had formed cells throughout the country in 1947 and 1948 instituting provincial and urban councils. The CIA labeled the Tudeh Party the “best organized political party in Iran,” and expected it to run campaigns for the Majlis elections in 1949.28 This was troubling news for the Americans and British who hoped the illegality of their Communist ties would have been dealt with by the Shah or at least the Prime Minister. While Iran was dealing with intergovernmental conflicts, the USSR began more provocative attacks on the country. Although not in a state of war, the Soviets were transmitting radio propaganda twenty-four hours a day around the world. Within Iran, the previous CIG noticed that the Red Army had left a parting gift in Tabriz (the Azerbaijan capital): a powerful radio transmitter. From the Soviet Azerbaijan Republic, the USSR broadcasted agitprop against the Iranian Government and Western influences. The propaganda radios were helping to establish and maintain the USSR as a major contender for world supremacy at the time, and it worked alongside the expansive conventional war material buildup already underway. The USSR was afraid that America was aiming to become the sole world hegemon and was going to subvert communism with an “Anglo-American military alliance against the USSR.”29 Within the boundaries of Iran, Stalin both feared American military influence and was irritated with non committal negotiations over the oil question by Iranian diplomats. The Soviet Union was not oblivious to Western movements to contain the USSR in its current borders, but due to the vast
29 “Analysis of Soviet Foreign Propaganda Broadcasts.” Central Intelligence Group, 23 July 1946; ! Central Intelligence Group documents are accessible through the CIAʼs online FOIA reading room.
history between Iran and Russia, Stalin continued to antagonize the West in hopes of gaining a new satellite state, or at least an additional source of oil. In spring 1947, Soviet policy seemed to calm down. Rather than beckoning an imminent armed conquest, the Kremlin was moving to consolidate power with what it had conquered. The Soviet interest in the Middle East for oil supply and a warm water port was still strong, but domination of the Aegean Sea rather than the Persian Gulf was obviously more enticing. In Greece, the Soviets went up against the British ultimately forcing the British to withdraw men and money from the country. Unfortunately for the Soviets, the United States forked the necessary arms and funding to drive the Soviets out.30 With the communist defeat in Greece, the United States had made its first stand to contain communist expansion. Nevertheless, the USSR still wanted a warm water port and access to the oil of the Persian Gulf area, so it returned to the Iranian theatre. The Americans feared the USSR was trying to form coalitions among neighboring Arab states in the Middle East; Washington believed the USSR sought to seclude and surround Iran. Leaving Iran isolated in the region was not an option for the United States at that time.31 As time would show, the rising Tudeh Party in Iran was a new expansionist element in Soviet foreign policy. The 1947 refusal to grant oil rights to the USSR was, nonetheless, the main culprit for the new line of attacks on Iran and United States that increased before the end of the year. Moscow began sending a series of threatening notes rebuking U.S. military missions inside the Iranian Army and the purchase of U.S. military supplies. The Soviets believed the United States was
“The Greek Situation.” Central Intelligence Group, 7 February 1947.
31 Gene Currivan, “Iran Faces Showdown with Russians on Oil: Britain has Great Interest in ! Buffer, Role of U.S. is Enlarged,” New York Times, 27 September 1947
slowly taking over the Iranian Army and would use this influence to encourage an anti-Soviet press and armed forces. The threats were hinting at a likely intervention in Iran, which would be legal under the Iranian-Soviet Treaty from 1921 that permitted such action “if Iran is unable to halt the efforts of a third party to turn Iranian territory into a base for military attack against the USSR.”32 What the Soviets did not fathom, however, was that Iran’s move for oil nationalization was real. Thus, the popular movement was against interference from both the Soviet Union and Great Britain. If any Western country was gaining footing with Tehran, it was the United States who had been a calm median power throughout the war years and post-war era thus far. Iran was enveloped in an ever-escalating oil crisis and the calls for oil nationalization exacerbated tensions. The United States by that time was worried about Soviet relations improving between Tehran and Moscow in the absence of Great Britain. This concern was well founded as it would turn out, because neither Iran nor Britain had any desire to appease the other and reach a settlement.
Failed Negotiations and the National Front The British AIOC held strong to their view that the renewed concession of 1933 had no contingency for future revisions. Early in 1947, the AIOC stated that they would refuse anything more than minor revisions in the oil concession with Iran that was not to expire until 1993. 33 But, Iran wondered why it--as the oil rich country--could not receive a greater profit share. After all, the AIOC had seen its greatest profit in 1947, more than double the production income from
32 “Current Situation in Iran,” Central Intelligence Agency, September 1948; Rami Ginat, “Soviet ! Policy towards the Arab World, 1945-48,” Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4 (October, 1996), 326; “Soviet Foreign and Military Policy,” Central Intelligence Group, 23 July 1946
“Britain will Resist Iran Pact Changes,” New York Times, 23 October 1947. 31
1946.34 While the worsening confrontation over oil revenue was being fought, the United States was becoming more aware of the severity of Soviet expansion. The Truman Doctrine of 1947 outlined the new American foreign policy: containment. Even the American press was aware of the disastrous implications a Soviet expansion into the Middle East would curtail.35 The Soviets would have great advantages over any Western tactical response in the event of a military confrontation because Iranian oil would give the USSR an additional source of fuel near to home. However, Iran was still largely under the influence of the British as negotiations had not yet gone afoul. Estimates and other reports were being ordered among American bureaus, but all contingencies and concerns required failed negotiations or an anxious Moscow move into Iran before U.S. national interests would be compromised. Rather than bearing down on America, the British government--which then still owned a large portion of the AIOC--was battling Tehran in oil negotiations on behalf of the AIOC. The Iranian economy was faltering and the main source of income for the country was owned by the British who demonstrated no sense of urgency in resolving complaints from Iran. Such sentiments gave rise to new factions within the Majlis, chiefly among them was the National Front that would dominate Iranian politics by 1951. 36 Ongoing political discourse engulfed Iran ever more through the early stages of the AIOC negotiations. The 1933 amendment agreement to the D’Arcy concession and the Iranian discontent with its existence was revived in 1948. A twenty-five point memorandum was handed
“Bonds and Shares on London Market,” New York Times, 1 June 1948. J. H. Carmical, “Oil Shortage seen in Event of War,” New York Times, 30 October, 1948.
36 “Developments in the Azerbaijan Situation,” Central Intelligence Group, 4 June 1947; “Weekly ! Summary: Soviet Union; Molotov-Mikoyan Shift; Iran; Soviet Relations,” Central Intelligence Agency, 18 March 1949.
to AIOC Vice Chairman N.A. Gass upon his arrival in Tehran in September 1948. This memorandum outlined the Iranian complaints about the 1933 oil agreement. While the Tehran government still seemed willing to negotiate grievances, a movement towards oil nationalization was gaining momentum, even more so as factionalism increased among the Majlis. In fact, the first cancellation proposal of the AIOC concession was introduced December 1948 to the Majlis. Following this startling development, the Shah was shot at during a speech at Tehran University in January 1949, creating an upsurge of popular support for the Shah in Iran.37 To the AIOC negotiating team, however, it seemed to signal a point of contention between the Shah and his people. Thus, the AIOC remained rigid in negotiations and continued to present small changes to the existing 1933 concession. The Majlis could not vote on the matter for the fifteenth Majlis expired 28 July when debate had only begun in the parliament five days earlier. The elections to the sixteenth Majlis were rigged and discovered, thus weakening the momentum the Shah had enjoyed after his assassination attempt. In 1950, the oil agreement was introduced to the new sixteenth Majlis’s special oil commission, where Mossadegh was chair. For several months the oil commission brooded over the implications finally rejecting it 25 November. About this time, the Arab-American Oil Company (ARAMCO) in Saudi Arabia negotiated a 50/50 profit-sharing agreement between the government of Saudi Arabia and the United States. Similarly, the British had given Venezuela a 50 percent profit-sharing concession. The AIOC, though likely taken aback, then aimed negotiations at matching that of the new Saudi ARAMCO.38 The sudden face change of the
37 Chris Paine and Erica Schoenberger, “Iranian Nationalism and the Great Powers: 1872-1954,” ! MERIP Reports, No. 37 (May, 1975): 22. Middle East Research and Information Project, http:// www.merip.org/mer/backissues.html.
negotiators may have come too late, however. For within the Majlis in 1950, interior conflict was slowing any progress for or against an oil concession. The theme of nationalization was reemerging. The National Front, a broad coalition of political parties comprised of urban middle and lower classes, gained power in the sixteenth Majlis. At its helm was Mossadegh who called for mass demonstrations against the British and their puppet Shah. The coalition’s main aims in the Majlis were the reduction of Shah’s powers and oil nationalization. While they wreaked havoc in the Majlis and for the Shah, Mossadegh submitted a bill March 1951 officially calling for the nationalization of the AIOC in Iran. Because of the support behind the broad National Front coalition, the notion passed and the Shah was forced to name Mossadegh Prime Minister of Iran. The first day of May 1951, Mossadegh signed the nationalization bill into law.39 In doing so, he fomented the British fear that Iran was too susceptible to regime change. It seems important to take a brief period to explain how Mossadegh became the center focus of Iranian politics by 1950. He was born into a politically active family where his father was Minister of Budget and Finance for the Qajar government in the late nineteenth century. Mossadegh himself began his political career during the Constitutional Revolution in 1905 where he developed his strong sense of nationalism. During WWI, he was given a post in the School for Political Science in Tehran where he published Capitulations and Iran speaking out against British interference with the new constitutional monarchy. These actions caused the British foreign legion to condemn his work and this history surely carried over to his later political career. After WWI, he organized the famous Sheikh Abdol-Hussein Mosque sit-in demonstrating
Gasiorowski, “The 1953 Coup Dʼetat in Iran,” 262. 34
against the 1919 Anglo-Iranian proposal that would have given the British incredible power over Iranian domestic progress for decades. In 1921 he was elected to the Majlis where he protested everything foreign bred until his self exile in 1928 after the secret police purged the Shah’s political enemies. 40 Mossadegh returned from exile in 1941 when the new Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi gave a comprehensive pardon for political prisoners and dissenters. Throughout the 1940s, Mossadegh reemerged as a defender of what Iranian nationalism had been at the beginning of the twentieth century: anti-imperial, anti-colonial, anti-foreign intervention. Nevertheless, his past was filled with confrontations among him, both Pahlavi Shahs, and the British. In a meeting with Ambassador Grady, the day after the nationalization bill was signed, Mossadegh rejected American sponsored loans to Iran citing that the conditions necessary for disbursement would undermine the advances already made. Mossadegh may have been portrayed more negatively towards the 1953 coup, but immediately after the nationalization bill was signed, he was demonstrating his mastery of politics. He had already recognized that even if the United States wanted to side with him against British neocolonialism, Washington could not
40 Farhad Diba, Mohammad Mossadegh: A Political Biography, (Dover, NH: Croom helm, 1986), ! 3-7, 14-20; Richard H. Pfaff, “Disengagement from Traditionalism in Turkey and Iran,” The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 1 (March, 1963): 84; Psychological assertion originally from Edward G. Browne, The Persian Revolution of 1905-09, (London: Luzac & CO, 1910) and defended by Richard H. Pfaff, “Disengagement from Traditionalism in Turkey and Iran,” The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 1 (March, 1963): 84; T. Cuyler Young, “The Problem of Westernization in Modern Iran,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 2 No, 1 (January, 1948): 51; P. Avery, G.R.G. Hambly, C. Melville, eds., The Cambridge History of Iran Volume 7 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 214-215; Homayoun Katouzian, “Nationalist Trends in Iran, 1921-1926,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 10, No. 1 (November 1979): 533-536; Michael P. Zirinsky, “Imperial Power and Dictatorship: Britain and the Rise of Reza Shah 1921-1926,” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 24 (1992): 639.
afford to lose its close ally.41 Throughout May 1951, Mossadegh escalated the fears that many estimates had predicted. By continuing down the tract to ardent anti-foreign interference Iran was doomed. Tehran was politically weak aside from Mossadegh’s growing influence and power. The U.S. State Department feared Mossadegh was leading the country into a decline where the Tudeh Party could prosper while it (the Tudeh Party) restructured the country into a Soviet friendly satellite state.42 For the AIOC, the loss of 50 percent of their stock was absurd and they prompted London to pressure Mossadegh to reenter negotiations. The greater implication here was that they turned to the British government, a recognition of Britain’s historic dominance in the region. The conflict was between AIOC and Tehran, though, and seeing how quickly the British government got involved once things went sour signaled trouble for Mossadegh’s new government in Tehran. The AIOC then took their case to the new International Court of Justice within the UN seeking an arbiter likely to be sympathetic to their side of the nationalization argument. The court suggested a 50/50 profit-share between the two parties, just like Saudi ARAMCO, but it was rejected by Mossadegh. A second proposal was introduced by Richard Stokes, a British Labor Party politician who briefly served as Lord Privy Seal, but it too was turned down by the Iranian Prime Minister. Thereafter, the AIOC and the British government refused to work with
41 Telegram, “No. 18: The Ambassador in Iran (Grady) to the Department of State.” United States ! Department of State. Glennon, John P., Editor, in ﬁle “The Question of Economic Assistance to Iran; United States Interest in the Settlement of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Dispute, January-December 1951,” United States Department of State. Glennon, John P., Editor, 2 May 1951, Foreign relations of the United States, 1952-1954. Iran, 1952-1954, Vol. X, (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Ofﬁce, 1989), 46-47. 42 Telegram, “No. 20: The Secretary of State to Embassy in Iran.” United States Department of ! State. Glennon, John P., Editor, “The Question of Economic Assistance to Iran; United States Interest in the Settlement of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Dispute, January-December 1951,” 10 May 1951, United States Department of State. Glennon, John P., Editor, Foreign relations of the United States, 1952-1954. Iran, 1952-1954, Vol. X, (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Ofﬁce, 1989), 50-51.
Mossadegh and turned more to the UN and the United States for mediation. Because the legal attacks failed, the British moved to undermine Mossadegh’s popularity with his people; they imposed economic sanctions and began military maneuvers in the region. Within these economic sanctions was also a steady slowdown in production of oil ultimately leading to a blockade of the Abadan port. Mossadegh was still not to be dissuaded, and he announced that the first shot fired from the British military just off shore would “signal the start of World War III.”43 Mossadegh’s actions during the crisis are often approached through a negative slant as it is easier to attribute the harsh atmosphere with Iran and the conflict abroad to him alone. However, one most realize that Mossadegh was a seasoned politician and recognized inevitable scenarios. In this case, because oil nationalization had become a public outcry, returning to the UK part of the Iranian oil supply would have been political suicide. The situation became an example of Mossadegh’s unyielding stance against what he saw as encroaching Western imperialism. The new Prime Minister was thrust into power amid the worst possible time for his dreams of modernization to be realized; the domestic situation was dire and required immediate action rather than slow, progressive reform. The Shah’s seven-year plan for development had to be fulfilled to some extent to keep what cohesion still existed in Tehran. Thus, the oil dispute that intensified until the 1953 coup was fundamentally related to domestic issues. The Nationalization Law of 1951 was the result of failed negotiations between
43 Gasiorowski, “The 1953 Coup Dʼetat in Iran,” 263 and Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, ! eds. Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2004), 6-10.
Iran and the British, and it set in motion the clandestine operations that would lead eventually to the change of regime.44 The AIOC moved to threaten any importers of Iranian oil, effectively cutting off the flow of money for Iran. Simultaneously, the AIOC was abolished and replaced with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), but it had trouble hiring workers in Europe because of British legal threats to censure and even blockade countries who would work with the NIOC. Despite all of this, Mossadegh did not change his stance, so the British initiated a strategy aimed at removing the Prime Minister through covert, political action. Since no negotiations could be scheduled through Mossadegh, the British envoys met with the Shah pushing for him to remove Mossadegh. But, such a notion was political suicide for the Shah, and Mohammad Reza knew this even though he has been presented often as an inexperienced politician.45 Ironically, the oil nationalization had not resolved the bruised, overexerted economy of Iran. Anti-British propaganda spread by the National Front created the impression that Britain was to blame for the bitter domestic situation. The public slowly turned against Mossadegh then, because the policies he was enforcing were doing nothing different than the former Prime Minister’s. Negotiations continued between Tehran and London, much with American mediation. The Americans understood the nationalist credo of Iran and wanted to remain neutral to avoid offending Iran while at the same time avoiding any problem with the special relationship
44 N. Marbury Eﬁmenco, “An Experiment with Civilian Dictatorship in Iran; The Case of ! Mohammed Mossadegh,” The Journal of Politics, Vol. 17, No. 3 (August, 1955), 390-392. 45 While the young Shah was still a relative newcomer to international politics, he had grown up ! under the watch of his father and inﬂuence of his strong-minded mother and sister. Both of these women in his life continued to scold him for political choices throughout this time, but he was nonetheless educated as well if not better than other vying politicians within the Majlis at the time. The Shah was growing into his position still in the early 1950s. Perhaps the coup was his deﬁning moment also in terms of ﬁnding a way to overcome the criticisms thrown on him from multiple parties.
developed between Britain and the United States. The United States was in a binding relationship with Britain as a maritime ally and therefore limited in the amount of pressure it could exert on London. However, the Washington negotiation team was a bit concerned with the British behavior which seemed to be “out of tune with the mood of modern times.” The Americans questioned British motives in Iran because Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Truman--though Truman not to the same extent as FDR--both sought an end to colonial empires.46 Despite these early reservations in helping the British mediate the oil negotiations, Mossadegh did not help his cause with intransigence. Amid the British assault on Iran, the United States originally began protesting in defense of Mossadegh and his government. The Americans felt Mossadegh was surely anxious to reach settlement by that point and advised the British to reopen negotiations. Even without U.S. support, the British increased their pressure on Mossadegh culminating in their expulsion 20 September 1951 from the oil fields. The notion to invade Iran at Abadan was then, also, scolded by the Truman administration and Prime Minister Clement Attlee was forced to tell his cabinet that because the Americans were against any invasion, they would have to abandon their plans.47 So here one sees another prime example of the United States gaining supremacy. Even in the region where Truman had previously decided to grant sway to the British, Truman now was exerting the influence of the United States over its once equal ally. Mossadegh seemed to exploit the xenophobia between the Iranian public and the British. He moved to expel all British presence in Iran in 1952, including journalists and educators, but
46 George Lenezowski, “United Statesʼ Support for Iranʼs Independence and Integrity, 1945-1959,” ! Annals of American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 401, America and the Middle East (May, 1972), 51-53. The major push for an end of colonialism was championed by FDR throughout WWII.
Gasiorowski, “The 1953 Coup Dʼetat in Iran,” 264. 39
failed to replace the vacuum left behind from the British expulsion. It was British citizens who were largely responsible for shaping Iran into a modernized states and without their presence, Iran was set back. Additionally, the thousands of workers formerly employed by the AIOC site in Iran found themselves unemployed and requiring additional government welfare funds to support their families. A solution to the oil dispute would have been a move in the right direction, but Mossadegh had rejected all proposals even those on par with the comparable foreign companies in Venezuela, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. While original American assessments had questions on legitimacy of British objections to the nationalization, by 1952 it seemed all too apparent that Mossadegh and the remnants of a democratic Majlis were consistently refusing all proposals in bilateral talks between London and Tehran, International Court decisions, American mediation propositions, and UN programs. The final proposal in February 1953 recommended:
“a) submission of compensation claim to the ICJ; b) framing a twenty-year payment scheme to liquidate the compensation item for AIOC properties; c) establishment of an international consortium to purchase and market Iranian oil; d) an advanced loan of $50,000,000 by the United States and offer to purchase $133,000,000 worth of oil.”48
To Iran, the proposal seemed to revive the 1933 agreement which was considered invalid in Tehran. So, the British closed the Abadan refineries in Iran which proved disastrous for Iranian oil workers. The British hoped to make the Iranian people despise Mossadegh through
48 Eﬁmenco, “An Experiment with Civilian Dictatorship in Iran; The Case of Mohammed ! Mossadegh,” 393.
blockading all possible forms of oil revenue from Iran. Having been schooled in Europe, and having been in politics so long, Mossadegh understood the technique and pushed the National Front to try to blame the worsening conditions further on the remnants of British imperialism. By this point, such anti-British propaganda was cliché, however, and by making the conflict between Iran and Britain one of anti-imperialism the United States had to publicly renege on earlier statements in defense of Great Britain.49 Mossadegh had underestimated the congruent approach to Iran of the United States and Great Britain; the United States was not about to undermine its special relationship with the UK just to support a regime that was on unsteady grounds of political ideology.50Unfortunately for Mossadegh, a British clandestine operation had already been created and the American CIA and State Department were onboard as Dwight Eisenhower entered office in January 1953. Oil’s increased strategic importance to the major powers after WWII instigated the oil crisis between the AIOC and Iran. While at the surface the situation may seem limited to the British and Iranians, the very mention of oil concessions and control invited the attention of the Soviet Union and the United States. For the Soviets, Iran was a border state with warm water ports and vast oil supplies that would be an ideal buffer state from Western aggression should a future war breakout. To the United States, however, Iran was important not only because of its geographic location near European countries, but because it’s independence was necessary for national security interests in the Middle Eastern region. Additionally, “loss of Iranian oil production and of the refinery at Abadan” would have been a drastic blow to “Western
50 Telegram, "The Acting Secretary of State to the Embassy in Iran (No. 84)," United States ! Department of State. Glennon, John P., Editor, 7 September 1951, Foreign relations of the United States, 1952-1954. Iran, 1952-1954, Vol. X, (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Ofﬁce, 1989), 160.
economic and military interests,” as it would have undermined Western Europe reconstruction under the Marshall Plan and the weakened the firm stance of American foreign policy against the Soviet Union.51 Essentially Iran became the focal point of the East-West confrontation in the Middle East by 1951. The Soviets were wanting the British concession to be nullified so they could take over the state by way of the Tudeh Party, while the United States wanted an end of the oil crisis almost at any cost just to contain Communism within the Soviet Union’s already established borders. In effect, the oil crisis in the eight years after WWII inadvertently allowed the CIA to enter into the picture because the nationalization of the AIOC signified the end of British influence and presence in the country and Western influence had to be maintained. Even more than the nationalization of oil, however, “It was the inability of the British and the Iranians to resolve the oil dispute on their own that ultimately brought the United States into the conflict.”52 Oil was a determining factor for the entrance of the CIA into Iran. Moreover, the lack of resolutions between London and Tehran allowed the clandestine removal plan to expand. To enter Iran like the allies had in 1941 was out of the question, and the lack of friendly relations with the Soviet Union restricted large military maneuvers anyway. Clandestine warfare was the future, and Iran would be the location of the first, large scale experiment of such tactics.
51 “Memorandum of a Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the United States and the United ! Kingdom at the Department of State,” United States Department of State. Glennon, John P., Editor, 9 January 1952, Foreign relations of the United States, 1952-1954. Iran, 1952-1954, Vol. X, (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Ofﬁce, 1989), 311-320. 52 Mary Ann Heiss, "Real Men Don't Wear Pajamas: Anglo-American Cultural Perceptions of ! Mohammad Mossadeq and the Iranian Oil Nationalization Dispute," in Peter L. Hahn and Mary Ann Heiss, eds., Empire and Revolution: The United States and the Third World since 1945 (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 2001), 180.
Chapter II: Clandestine Preparations
Because of the inability of Tehran and London to reach a settlement, clandestine operation solutions were being explored. While the CIA would not be approached until late 1952, the older British SIS agency moved forward with planning for the removal of Mossadegh. Iran was a logical location to test the abilities of a covert regime change. Kermit Roosevelt would also notice this when presenting his case to his superiors in 1953. While the oil dispute was a definitive reason to carryout covert actions, oil alone could not justify a coup at the time. Many requirements had to be met. Primarily, since the British had no diplomatic presence in Tehran, the CIA would have to carryout any operation. However, because the CIA acted on behalf of Washington and the National Security Council, many key figures would have to be persuaded to remove Mossadegh. Even though advances towards Cold War warfare had been made under Truman’s administration, no operation of this magnitude had been attempted yet. Iran would be the first trial of clandestine warfare. The oil crisis between Iran and Britain had escalated to a point of no return for Mossadegh by 1952. Behind the scenes of negotiations, the British SIS was plotting the overthrow of the Mossadegh regime in the spring of 1952. However, the sudden expulsion of British personnel in 1952 marked the end of British supremacy in Iran. With their diplomatic foreign offices swept out of the country, the SIS was incapable of fulfilling the clandestine operation that would remove Mossadegh. Thus, the SIS looked to the United States to execute the coup. Once the CIA was given control of the planning, the agency was able to demonstrate its capacity to carry out such a risky clandestine operation. The planning stages for the coup
revealed the strength of the relatively young American intelligence agency. Notwithstanding the CIA’s age, steps taken in late 1952 through summer 1953 added to the predominant stature the CIA exhibited over the British SIS.
Drawing in American Support To bring the Americans on board the British movement against Mossadegh and his intransigence with the oil dispute, the SIS had to convince multiple parties in Washington. First and foremost, the CIA was originally seen as equals to the SIS, even as such a young agency. This was because of the relationship formed while many CIA operatives were part of the OSS during WWII which worked with the British SIS on many occasions. Furthermore, the U.S. State Department was needed in order to give the operation a diplomatic foundation. Finally, to carry out the coup, both the SIS and CIA would have to convince the U.S. President that the regime change was necessary. In order to achieve these three preliminary goals, the SIS had to convince Washington that mediation and neutrality in the oil crisis was not working for the benefit of the free world. Rather, inaction was allowing Soviet forces to expand within Iran mostly in the form of the Tudeh Party. Moreover, by allowing nationalization of the oil in Iran, other countries where Western oil refineries were located would be in danger. American foreign policy had been paved by the Truman Doctrine and extended with the Marshall Plan for European recovery. The success of the European Recovery Plan was linked the outcome of the oil crisis in Iran as it was the greatest source of oil for the European continent located in the Middle East. However pertinent the national security measures were to the decision to become engaged in the conflict
between Britain and Iran, oil’s presence could be found in every point of the proposal, even if oil’s role was denied.1 Nevertheless, political instability had to be portrayed as the leading reason for intervention because of the evolving anti-Communist movement in the United States. It would not be a stretch to suggest the antipathy towards the Soviets and fear of Communism was exploited by British agents when presenting the case against Mossadegh to Washington officials in the CIA and State Department. Outlawed in 1949, the Communist Tudeh Party had been politically active especially since the nationalization of oil in 1951. 2 Soviet agents were allegedly spotted by British contacts throughout Iran reportedly aiming to stir up riots and “mastermind the revolution when Iran is judged ripe to be taken over.” Tudeh agitation later caused the Tehran University to shut down in November 1951 along with other campuses and would not reopen its doors completely until Mossadegh was removed in August 1953.3 Iran was imploding because of the failed oil negotiations and their backlash. Because of the inner conflict between factions within the country, the CIA agreed with the former SIS assertion that a coup was possible through inciting additional popular uprisings.4 MI6, the foreign branch of the British SIS, had begun operations as early as March 1952 through the sympathetic Rashidian brothers who had been British informants throughout the 1940s. Two of the three Rashidian brothers, Assadollah and Seifollah, had been British contacts for a withheld period of time. They worked to create friction among National Front leaders.
1 Hakimeh Saghaye-Biria, "United States Propaganda in Iran: 1951-1953," (Master's Thesis, ! Louisiana State University, May 2009), 33-35
! ! !
2 3 4
“Left-Wing Party Outlawed in Iran,” New York Times, 5 February 1949. “Worse than Mossadegh,” Time Magazine, 12 November 1951. Gasiorowski and Byrne, eds. Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, 13-18 45
Hostilities arose when Mossadegh criticized Ayatollah Kashani, the Shia religious leader who shared incredible political power with the Prime Minister within Iran, for attempting to rig the seventeenth Majlis elections--like the Shah had tried with the sixteenth. Other leaders within the National Front also found themselves at odds with each other because of rumors that had been started by the Rashidian brothers. Mossadegh recognized the activities and tried to counter their effects by resigning from office 16 July 1952. In giving up power, Mossadegh hoped to silence the opposition to him and let the country’s political arena calm down. The Shah moved quickly and appointed Qavam al-Saltaneh (former Prime Minister from 1946-1948) as the new Prime Minister. Demonstrations broke out across Tehran and other urban centers ending with the death of sixty-nine Iranians and another 750 wounded. Mossadegh’s supporters then swept him back into office just five days after his resignation by constant demonstrations throughout Tehran. 5 The five day episode had several implications and revealed serious problems within Tehran. First, Mossadegh was forced to purge the officer corps of the army because they had proven to be more loyal to the Shah than the Majlis during the five days of demonstrations. This action caused Mossadegh to lose any support or credibility he had created therein. Second, the National Front coalition was not resolving any issues between its leaders and members, and the next upcoming power within Tehran was the Tudeh Party. This signified a dire moment for the West as communist forces within the Tudeh Party were indeed taking advantage of the weakened state and moving into positions of influence within the Majlis. General Fazlollah Zahedi, who had once worked as a cabinet member for Mossadegh, now began to turn against the Prime Minister as well. But, he also expressed concern with growing U.S. influence within Iran and
Gasiorowski, “The 1953 Coup Dʼetat in Iran,” 263-265 46
thus began to work with the Rashidians who were only suspected of favoring British influence, not necessarily American. MI6 supplied Zahedi arms for his uprising, but Mossadegh learned of the plot and he signed arrest warrants for the Rashidians and one of Zahedi’s generals, Abdul Hejazi. Zahedi avoided arrest because of his parliamentary immunity. Three days after the failed coup, Mossadegh cut all diplomatic relations with Great Britain effectively booting them out of the country.6 From this point onward the British had to depend on the Americans to see the coup through. While Tehran continued to sink into chaos throughout 1952, the British had already advanced their plans to remove Mossadegh through a clandestine operation. However, as they were removed from Iran, there was no solid base of operations for British agents; the embassy and station home were vacated. Rather than work more broadly and oversee any coup attempts from outside the country, they took their plans to the CIA in late 1952. On a return trip from Tehran, Kermit Roosevelt, CIA Near East and Africa division chair, stopped in London November 1952. There a representative for the SIS, John Cochran, approached Roosevelt and orally introduced him to the first coup proposal.7 The Americans still had diplomatic ties with Iran, and most importantly they had an embassy in Tehran. The operation was entitled TPAJAX and it set out “to cause the fall of the Mossadegh government; to reestablish the prestige and power of the Shah; and to replace the Mossadegh government with one which would govern Iran according to constructive policies.”8 Essentially, the British had lost a large percentage of their
Ibid, 266 Kermit Roosevelt, Counter Coup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran, 107
8 Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952! August 1953,” iii
oil supply from Iran with the Iran blockade and they now wanted a concession. The mindset of the British AIOC and London was that anything at that time was better than bowing to nationalization. The 1952 winter introduction of TPAJAX to America is crucial in understanding the escalating power of the CIA and its role in the new Cold War. The British had approached Truman with the operation and were rejected because Truman did not believe the United States nor its CIA had the right to overthrow governments, especially in peacetime. Truman had set up the CIA as a collective source of intelligence gathering abroad. The National Security Act of 1947 had not abolished intelligence services from different military branches and domestic bureaus, but had centralized the intelligence compilations of all other intelligence services. The aspect of clandestine activities was but a remnant of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) from WWII. Such activities were not blocked in the original charter within the National Security Act, but neither were they condoned specifically. Within a year of the CIA’s establishment, the agency was charged with “the conduct of covert psychological, political, paramilitary, and economic activities.” The new clandestine operations helped with Turkey and Greece by guiding the paramilitary anti-communist groups before climaxing with the proposed coup in Iran. Truman had never intended the agency to go much further than media-related propaganda or money handling for anti-communist groups. There was, however, a caveat in the foreign policy directives of the Truman Doctrine that the British could exploit in order to bring America on its side: communist containment. The Truman Doctrine’s broad statements allowed the agency to
investigate the British proposal for Mossadegh’s forced removal without the consent of President Truman. 9 In November and December of 1952, British SIS representatives met with the CIA’s Near East and Africa Division (NEA). The anticipated discussion points of the meeting, however, were not to explore a proposal for joint actions against Prime Minister Mossadegh. As Dr. Donald Wilber of the CIA stated in his operation report, “the NEA Division had not intended to discuss the question at all and was unprepared to do so.” Nevertheless, the SIS left their proposals with the NEA members who agreed to look into it. 10 It was at this meeting that the British SIS capitulated to the arising CIA capabilities. While one can argue that the operation was carried out jointly between the CIA and SIS, the outlook of such an amiable alliance simply did not exist. The SIS was incapable of removing Mossadegh independently, and it was not just because of their forced withdrawal from Iran. Rather, it was because of the decades of subversion working against Iranian independence that culminated in their expulsion from Iran. Because the British had established themselves as a colonial overlord to Iran, they had lost all credence with Iranians. To try and save face, the British aimed for an oil negotiation four years after the disputes arose in vigor. To this end, it would be up to the Americans to carry out any attempted coup. Dwight Eisenhower entered the picture with the elections of 1952. Once sworn into office in January 1953, he was introduced to the coup by his NSC and trusted Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles aimed to create a more fervent stance
9 William M. Leary, ed., The Central Intelligence Agency: History and Documents, (Tuscaloosa, ! AL: University of Alabama Press, 1984), 16-39 10 Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952! August 1953,”, i-x
against Soviet expansion than Truman had with his containment policy. They called their foreign policy objectives the “New Look” whereby simple containment philosophies from Truman were not sufficient. The United States, Eisenhower believed, was destined to roll back the USSR and establish a path of proactive defense. The major ideological difference between Truman and Eisenhower with regards to the CIA was the Iranian coup. While Truman had flatly rejected the proposal in its early stages because he did not think such covert action was allotted to the agency, Eisenhower had seen the effectiveness of the OSS during WWII first hand. Therefore, he encouraged further planning and would eventually sign onto the engagement summer 1953.11 While it may seem as though Truman and Eisenhower held opposing views of what the CIA should do and how foreign policy should be dictated, the two approaches were quite similar in the end. What made the difference in granting permission for the coup was the Communist threat that the British and CIA hoped to exploit to carryout the operation. After the election of Dwight Eisenhower in the United States, the Director of Central Intelligence, Allen Dulles (Secretary of State John Foster Dulles’s brother), asked Kermit Roosevelt to go to Iran and assess the situation independently from any British estimations. Dulles had brought the British proposal to the attention of Truman who dismissed it all together in disgust because he did not believe overthrowing governments was something the CIA should be doing. With Eisenhower in office, however, there was time for Roosevelt to establish a more solid case with Soviet ambitions involving the Tudeh Party and Mossadegh. Ideally, the CIA wanted to prove that the Soviets were involved with the Tudeh Party and at least indirectly influencing the decisions of Premier Mossadegh. Roosevelt also was comfortable with
11 Robert R. Bowie and Richard H. Immerman, Waging Peace: How Eisenhower Shaped an ! Enduring Cold War Strategy, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 1-8
contradicting what the State Department had mentioned months earlier during the five day absence of Mossadegh. 12 Roosevelt believed that average Iranians questioned Mossadegh’s determination to continue his work after he so willingly resigned at the first outset of problems. In addition, it seemed likely that if given the choice between a Shah and Prime Minister, the Iranian people would side with the Shah. Mossadegh’s actions, though proudly nationalistic in origin, had ruined Iran’s economy. The new oil company was understaffed and uneducated, and former employees were living off government stipends. The situation was appalling by any stretch of measuring a country’s morale. With this in mind, Roosevelt felt confident in saying “the Iranian Army and the Iranian people will back the Shah” in the event of a showdown between Mossadegh and Mohammad Reza Shah.13 To an extent, Roosevelt was proved to be right in the actual coup, but at the time he was figuratively putting his political career on the line with his assertions.14 He undoubtedly could do this because there was an accepted Soviet threat. The Tudeh Party had always been proSoviet, and unwittingly the party transformed into the communist faction in the Majlis under Mossadegh’s watch because of Soviet propaganda’s influence. The Iranian people may have despised the British, but they had identical antipathy towards Soviet Russia. 15 Therefore, when the coup went into action the Iranian people showed up to support their “King of Kings,” the Shah.
Roosevelt, Counter Coup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran, 9-11 Ibid, 12
14 The initial hours in the ﬁrst coup attempt in August 1953 failed because public support was not ! behind the Shah due to the Shahʼs sudden ﬂight from the country. However, over the next remaining days, the public began to side with the Shah once they learned he had removed Mossadegh by legal decree.
“The Tudeh Party: Vehicle of Communism in Iran,” Central Intelligence Agency, 18 July 1949 51
Roosevelt took care to emphasize the necessity of having Iranian public support for the proposed operation. He outlined three objectives for Secretary Dulles: 1) the operation needed the Shah’s support which would also ally the Iranian Army with the CIA, 2) the operation needed to instate General Zahedi as the new Prime Minister, and 3) create a popular uprising to make the coup look like it was a legitimate grassroots revolution. Secretary Dulles, however, wanted to know the expected cost of such an operation and Roosevelt quoted a “one, or perhaps two, hundred thousand dollars.”16 Though this was the first regime change instigated by the CIA, Roosevelt was approaching the operation as if he had been planning it for years. The plan was acceptable, the required funds were reasonable, and Roosevelt had a team of experienced agents from the OSS years. Yet despite the quoted price given in early 1953 to John Dulles, Allen Dulles on 4 April allotted $1,000,000 to be used at the CIA’s Tehran Station in any way necessary.17 A determining factor in the CIA’s quick rise to power was the close relationship between the State Department and the CIA; the Dulles brothers held the commanding offices of each department. These brothers were able to get things done that seemed unimaginable, such as the coups of Iran in 1953, and Guatemala in 1954.18 In the case of Iran they exerted heavy influence on President Eisenhower. Eisenhower, however, was also using the Dulles brothers to carryout his plans to pursue a proactive foreign policy that would engage Soviet expansion preemptively rather than merely containing it to allotted borders. This is not to dissuade from oil’s role in the
Roosevelt, Counter Coup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran, 14
17 Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952! August 1953,”1-4 18 For additional information about the Dulles brothersʼ inﬂuence on policies see Stephen E. ! Ambrose, Ikeʼs Spies: Eisenhower and the Espionage Establishment, (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1999)
decision to remove Mossadegh. Rather, one must remember the coup was a culmination of events and situations. Enter Dr. Donald N. Wilber, the covert consultant to NEA, who was selected to draw up the actual plan of operations for the Iran coup. He met with the SIS chief of the former Iran station and together they organized the strategy that would be initiated in the summer of 1953. The two gentlemen spent just over two weeks in May discussing the situation and writing the draft, but it is clear that Wilber and the CIA had the last say in everything. Wilber even noted in his report that the SIS representative, Norman Darbyshire, had “quite similar views of Iranian personalities and had made very similar estimates of the factors involved in the Iranian political scene.”19 It was becoming increasingly more apparent that the CIA had an incredible amount of influence over the British SIS. The CIA had better equipment, a more dedicated staff, larger funding, and superior general facilities than the SIS did. The quality of field agents under Roosevelt would be a large determining factor later. The vast amounts of resources and staff was due to the overwhelming anti-communist movements within the early Cold War era. Under Eisenhower, the buildup of military weapons increased alongside the CIA’s resources. While such realizations undoubtedly made the British envious of the newer American agency, no party involved with the British attaché to the CIA could do much; the British did not want to see Iran continue on its present course and the CIA was their last resort and hope.
The CIA’s Proposal
19 Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952! August 1953,” 6
Official discussions for the final draft of TPAJAX began 13 May 1953 in Nicosia where the SIS was then stationed in exile from Tehran. Wilber and SIS representatives had to review the proposals thus far and come to a final consensus. First, they agreed that General Zahedi was the most prominent politician that could oppose Mossadegh. Additionally, they set up the communications network for the operation whereby a three-way channel between Tehran, Nicosia, and Washington would be kept up to date. When the discussions revealed the asset sharing, however, the CIA’s Tehran station estimated that even the SIS knew their sources had been “overstated and oversold.” Essentially, the British had themselves concluded that without the CIA, Mossadegh would remain in power as they had no way of carrying out their plans. In light of the lack of assets within the British camp, the CIA did not disclose its principal agents in Tehran. This was another example of how the American agency was becoming more confident in its supremacy. 20 The Nicosia meeting in May 1953 concluded that the operational draft must include the assumptions that Zahedi was the sole candidate worthy of U.S. support, that the Shah would act after some coercion, that the army would support the Shah’s decrees, and that the operation’s success depended heavily on the appearance of at least a quasi-legal base rather than an outright coup. To achieve this end, both sides agreed public opinion would have to be turned against Mossadegh and the new regime would have to receive immediate aid from the West to avoid a strong reaction from the Tudeh Party.21 Within the plan that was submitted to Washington and London 1 June 1953, stages were outlined for the operation. The involvement of the British by this point was mostly ceremonial,
Ibid, 1-12 Ibid 54
however as they were powerless to carry out the coup themselves. The primary stage discussed ways to convince the Shah that Britain and the United States were united behind the plot and in support of the monarchy. Next, the plan outlined ways to arrange for Zahedi to be notified followed by the bribes necessary to get the Majlis support for the Shah’s decrees. In order for a successful mission, however, the architects of the proposal noted that each phase of the operation had to be carried out effectively. Lacking a comprehensive completion of each stage, the mission was doomed from the start.22 The preliminary steps in TPAJAX aimed to get the support of key figures such as the Shah and Zahedi. In the initial plan, the CIA would supply $35,000 to Zahedi while the SIS would also give $25,000. These funds presumably would allow the general to communicate with other loyalists and make steps towards the ground movement of the army. The CIA hoped that by presenting the Shah many high ranking officials that he would give his support for the coup. However, estimating that he would be reluctant, it was suggested within the plan that all presentations insist that the oil controversy was not a reason for the coup.23 The oil controversy was, however, a prominent force perpetuating the eventual clandestine regime change; the idea that oil was not a motivation was merely political deception to gain the Shah’s support. The major issue was to keep the Soviets from gaining additional influence and control over Iran. To this end, the United States and Britain would offer financial assistance to the Shah’s regime and Zahedi if Mossadegh was removed.
22 “Initial Operational Plan for TPAJAX as Cabled from Nicosia to Headquarters on 1 June 1953,” ! Central Intelligence Agency, Near East, located in Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952-August 1953,” Appendix A 23 Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952! August 1953,” 12-15
All along the Shah’s role in the coup had been emphasized within the multiple proposals, but only with the suggested demands within the initial plan had officials attacked the Shah. The CIA wanted the Shah involved to give the coup legitimacy, so they threatened that if he would not take leadership that he would bear the responsibility for the collapse of an independent Iran. Furthermore, U.S.-British aid would be cut if the Shah’s dynasty fell because of inaction on his part. The CIA planned to take the Shah’s support and bring Zahedi into the operation. The plan had contentions for two strategies to replace Mossadegh: quasi-legally whereby the Shah’s decree would name Zahedi as Prime Minister, or through a military coup.24 To rally political support for Zahedi’s imminent rise to power, the CIA convinced the SIS that relations with the Majlis would have to be rectified. Previously, the Rashidians, acting as British assets, had begun spreading rumors aiming to dislodge party loyalty within the National Front coalition. The CIA asserted that deputies, individually, be bribed rather than depend on rumors. They aimed to secure forty one votes against Mossadegh to meet the quorum for removal. The SIS asserted that twenty of those would have to be bribed. The religious establishment within Iran had become a powerful political force by 1953. The CIA sought to stage demonstrations against them posing as Tudeh members while promoting faithful Muslim values with Zahedi and the Shah through radio propaganda.25 The largest forces of oppositions to the initial plan were expected to be the Tudeh Party and its sympathizers. The CIA assumed there would be a violent reaction from the Communists, therefore they planned to have Zahedi’s army seal off South Tehran and arrest Tudeh leaders on the night of the coup’s outbreak. Additionally, false leaflets would be dropped directing Tudeh
Ibid, 1-3 Ibid, 2-6 56
members not to take action against the riots in Tehran.26 Surely the CIA and SIS officials were recounting the Azerbaijan crisis and the military capability of the Tudeh Party with Soviet support. Thus, all action against the Tudeh had to be preemptive. The Iranian society was engrossed in their press and media venues. Especially since the oil crisis broke out in 1951, the public had grown more accustomed to hearing the negotiations debated and propaganda for and against intervention in their country. To exploit this reliance and intrigue on the media, the CIA called for intensified propaganda against Mossadegh through Radio Tehran primarily and an unidentified newspaper that was bought out. 27 The aim was to widely publicize that the Mossadegh government was leading Iran into decay. The religious attacks from impersonated Tudeh members would work to show that Mossadegh was in league with the Tudeh because he was incapable of action against the party. The CIA would release fabricated documents proving secret agreements between Mossadegh and the Tudeh Party to create the illusion of an alliance against Muslim society. Exploiting the failing economy, the CIA planned to portray paper money as illegal issues of a government seeking to inflate the economy. The coup was expected to take place on the 14 August and last less than one day.28 Hasty negotiations ensued through the end of June, but the British still offered little resistance to American revisions to the operation’s draft. On 9 June 1953, representatives met again in Beirut to discuss proposed changes from London and Washington to the initial plan. There, the CIA consolidated changes, but, hardly any of the initial draft was changed. The CIA
27 The paperʼs identity and many other key agents are still redacted in the latest release of the ! clandestine report. 28 Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952! August 1953,” 7-8
had backed that plan, and the British were not about to change the direction TPAJAX was moving. In mid June, Kermit Roosevelt and Wilber arrived in London to present the Beirut revisions and write the final “London Draft” that would guide TPAJAX to its conclusion in August. Wilber noted in his operational history that the SIS had “no major comments of their own.” The British were more concerned with phraseology than additional revisions.29 While this may have been an effort to implicate any failures of the operation on the CIA’s shoulders, the operational plan was well received by both parties.
Obtaining State Authorization Throughout the proposal negotiations, the operation was already known to Secretary of State Dulles and his undersecretaries, General Walter Bedell Smith, Harrison Freeman Matthews, and a few other high ranking officials. The U.S. State Department seemed more concerned about the aftermath of the coup and the plausibility of its success. In particular, Dulles wanted assurance that the British would be flexible in approaching the question of governmental succession and economic structure after Mossadegh and Zahedi were removed from power. In addition to this, Dulles wanted to make it clear that the oil question was not a concern of the coup, because America had become involved solely because of communist maneuvers within Iran, Mossadegh’s failure to combat the Tudeh Party, and the ever increasing Soviet aspirations for expansion into the Middle East.30 However, oil was definitely a driving motivation behind the coup’s planning.
30 These assurances were expressed in a foreign ofﬁce memorandum; Wilber, “Clandestine ! Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952-August 1953,” Appendix C.
The U.S. Ambassador to Iran, Loy W. Henderson, contended that assuming the Shah’s cooperation--despite the proposed demands and solutions of the operational draft--was fallacious. Henderson had been the American ambassador since 1951, and he, more than anyone in the State Department, knew the Shah’s tendencies. He believed the Shah would not issue the decrees to replace Mossadegh with Zahedi unless the Majlis acted first. Thus, CIA officials decided to use Henderson as another ploy in persuading the Shah to act against Mossadegh; they asked him not to return to Tehran until after the coup in hopes of creating another “factor in the war of nerves” against Mossadegh’s imminent retreat.31 By 11 July 1953, President Eisenhower, the Dulles brothers, and the British authority had approved Operation TPAJAX. From the beginning of the discussions, the Shah’s support for the coup was deemed necessary and utterly essential. The Shah was, however, timid, most likely because of the reactions from the five day period when Mossadegh had resigned of his own accord. To get him on board, SIS and CIA agents met with his sister, Princess Ashraf, and convinced her to help persuade the Shah to do his part in dismissing Mossadegh and appointing Zahedi. Her arrival in Tehran angered both Mossadegh and the Shah for neither had given permission for her return to Iran. Because of her outspoken nature, Ashraf was forced to leave the country. Mossadegh did not like her influence over her the Shah, and the Shah was embarrassed by her. Nevertheless, she eventually met with the Shah as did Asadollah Rashidian and many American contacts to discuss plans for the coup.32 Among the American contacts were Kermit Roosevelt and General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. Schwarzkopf had developed a
31 This personal account can be found within Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of ! Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952-August 1953,” 16-18. 32 Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952! August 1953,” 18
relationship with the Shah during the Allied occupation in 1941 and his counsel proved to be invaluable in persuading the Shah. 33 In early August 1953, the CIA was forced to increase the pressure on the Shah because he alone was delaying the military aspect of the coup. To this end, CIA operatives acted as Tudeh Communists and threatened Muslim leaders with “savage punishment if they opposed Mossadegh.” These harassment attempts stirred anti-Communist sentiment among the religious community and further alienated Mossadegh’s base of support. But, even with the new upsurge against Mossadegh, the Shah doubted the army would support the monarchy in the event of a coup. While the Shah’s intransigence was holding back the operation, Mossadegh learned of the plot because of a leak within the army of Shah supporters. The zealous prime minister then consolidated his power by calling for a referendum aimed at dissolving the Majlis. Mossadegh won the vote for the referendum, but was attacked for the obvious fabrication of vote tallies. Because Mossadegh had won 99.9 percent of the vote, the media claimed the referendum voting had been rigged. With the Majlis dissolved, Mossadegh had created his own dictatorship. The Shah, still refusing to sign the papers to replace Mossadegh then requested that President Eisenhower direct him through a statement that was later made on television. Wilber’s clandestine report noted “the president while addressing the governors’ convention in Seattle on 4 August, deviated from his script to state by implication that the United States would not sit by
33Fakhreddin Azimi in Gasiorowski and Byrne, eds, Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in ! Iran, (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2004), 35-38
idly and see Iran fall behind the Iron Curtain.” By 13 August, the Shah had signed the papers replacing Mossadegh with Zahedi.34 The stage was set for the removal of Mossadegh. The military aspect of the coup was scheduled for the evening hours 14 August. The CIA had demonstrated its capability to stir public discontent against the once favored prime minister. The SIS laid dormant through much of the preparations and early execution of the plan once TPAJAX was authorized by London and Washington. In a way the British agency was looking on at one of their last protectorates falling under a radical nationalism that pitted it against the mother country. To see the intelligence agency they had trained during WWII rise to a higher esteem than they had reached before the decline of the empire was a shattering blow to British morale. On 14 August 1953, the CIA’s Tehran station cabled that upon the success of TPAJAX, Zahedi’s new government would need $5 million to cover expenses and stabilize the country after the tumultuous period from the oil nationalization to the coup. Those not in Tehran could only wait for the action to begin. While the British SIS had instigated the first plans to overthrow Premier Mossadegh, the British agency was unable to carryout the eventual coup. Because of the expulsion from the country after a long line of failed oil negotiations, Britain had lost all safe houses for operatives and their national embassy in Tehran. The United States was seen as the only power capable of carrying out the coup and in agreeing to do so, the CIA demonstrated its capabilities even at a young age. The SIS, on the eve of the coup in August 1953 had to grasp that the American agency was the more capable of the two western offices. The evolution of the coup’s plans was dominated by CIA directives because the SIS did not want to lose the relationship that had
34 Kennet Love, “Mossadegh gets 99.9% of the Vote in Iran Plebiscite on Majlis Ouster,” New ! York Times, 3 August 1953 and Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952-August 1953,” 29-38
developed. Therefore, the SIS, in a relatively short period of time, deferred to the leadership of the CIA.
Chapter III: The Coup and its Immediate Aftermath
In carrying out the 1953 coup in Iran, the CIA replaced the SIS as the dominant intelligence agency in the world. The quality of agents in the field as the coup unfolded secured a victory for the United States. However, the coup also illuminated weaknesses and errors in the operational plan. The coup initially failed because of communication problems that hurt coordination between General Zahedi’s troops and the CIA station at the American Embassy in Tehran. The coup was also leaked revealing security breaches that would have to be fixed before another operation commenced. Nevertheless, the coup came to mark a new era in the CIA and the successful rise of the CIA marked a transitional period in U.S. History; clandestine wars and operations were now acceptable extensions of American foreign policy. Operation TPAJAX was carried out in mid August 1953. Although the extensive planning for the coup had already projected the CIA’s new capacity for clandestine operations, the coup itself solidified the American intelligence agency’s prominence. More specifically, the operation’s execution secured the CIA’s reputation. Nevertheless, implementing the plan was more troublesome than the agency had believed would be the case. After the first night of military moves within Tehran, the coup failed to oust Mossadegh. Because of the seemingly faulty execution of the coup the Shah fled the country leaving the CIA station to fend for itself without royal endorsement. One must remember the emphasis throughout the planning about the Shah’s role in the coup; he was needed to validate Zahedi’s appointment and Mossadegh’s removal. Despite the drastic setback from the initial failure of the operation, CIA agents within Tehran worked quickly to regain face and see the undertaking to its conclusion. While mostly
undisclosed, the field agents of the CIA did more in a week’s time to modify TPAJAX and overthrow Mossadegh than ever anticipated by the planners. The ultimate success of the 1953 coup then was because of the Tehran agents’ determination and ability to adapt to changing situations. Since the coup was an eventual success, the CIA’s rise to supremacy over its British counterpart was clinched.1 Agent’s determination was defined by Dr. Wilber in his memorandum. Essentially, “determination” in this sense was illustrated by the like mindedness of the agents with the evolving U.S. foreign policy that was against Soviet expansion and how they used their beliefs to see the operation through to its conclusion.2 In early August, the CIA had advanced their timeline hoping to convince the Shah that the public would support him against Mossadegh. Operatives pretending to be Tudeh Communists harassed Muslim leaders throughout Tehran and even bombed a cleric’s house. Additional propaganda against Mossadegh was published in newspapers throughout Tehran. Mossadegh learned of the British-American plot beforehand because of a leak among Zahedi’s troops and chose to move towards power consolidation. This was a critical error in the coup’s timeline. Because of Mossadegh’s dissolution of the Majlis, the CIA had legitimate reasons to ask the Shah for Mossadegh’s dismissal. The CIA, realizing the Shah’s intransigence, feared it would be the Shah who would undermine his own coup even as events were creating a lucrative
1 Roosevelt, Counter Coup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran, 208-210; Zachary Karabell, ! Architects of Intervention: The United States, the Third World, and the Cold War, 1946-1962, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1999). 88-91; Telegram, “No. 348: The Ambassador in Iran (Henderson) to the Department of State.” U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: The Question of Military and Economic Assistance to Iran; interest of the United States in the settlement of the Anglo-Iranian oil dispute, 1952-1954, vol. X, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Ofﬁce, 1989), 20 August 1953, 752-755. 2 Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952! August 1953,” 92-93
atmosphere for him. The Shah finally capitulated, signing the decrees that named Zahedi as Prime Minister on 13 August.3 With the Shah’s edicts in hand, operation TPAJAX was ready for commencement. The CIA planned to utilize the worsening domestic situation in Iran to jump-start the operation’s pivotal, final stages. Throughout July, operatives were instilling additional fear of the Tudeh Party and linking the communists within Iran to Mossadegh. They did this through dressing as Tudeh members and parading through residential areas and mosques condemning the religious establishment claiming to have Mossadegh’s favor. The military aspect of the coup was planned to exploit the popular discontent and forcibly remove Mossadegh overnight with the Shah’s decrees in support. On the thirteenth of August, Mossadegh’s campaign for the dissolution of the Majlis was successful. However, the disbanding was counterproductive to his strategy to settle the domestic situation in Iran; rather than expediting legislation the CIA capitalized on the situation while the Western media portrayed him as a tyrant.4 Mossadegh’s popularity was faltering abreast and abroad. The CIA was exploiting the feelings of disillusionment of the public with their once favored Prime Minister to rally additional support for the Shah. With public support operatives would then repudiate Mossadegh’s claims to power and halt the Soviet Union’s expansion into the Middle East before it first consumed Iran. The East-West show down was taking place between the Soviet-backed Tudeh Party and their alleged manipulation of Iranian politics against the CIA representing the Western world.
3 Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952! August 1953,” 24-33; “Mossadegh Terms Majlis Dissolved,” New York Times, 15 August 1953.
“Mossadegh Victory Announced,” New York Time, 13 August 1953. 65
15 August 1953 and the Initial Attack The first moves to confront Mossadegh in the streets of Tehran via the army and riots were scheduled to begin on the night of 14 August. An Iranian Army officer leaked the operation’s plans, ruining the element of surprise. This leak, Wilber asserted, was likely because of the protracted delay that pushed the operation back to the night of the fifteenth. The postponement of the operation from the fourteenth to the fifteenth was because General Zahedi’s Chief of Staff was out of contact with the CIA’s station for unknown reasons. Nevertheless, once nightfall came on the fifteenth, the army moved on the western side of Tehran, arresting Mossadegh supporters and offloading truckloads of pro-Shah soldiers to advance inward. Truckloads of pro-Shah supporters and soldiers soon filled the streets of Tehran and arrested key members of Mossadegh’s National Front coalition. By 2:30 a.m. the next day, an unplanned chaos consumed the capital city because there were many differing accounts of the actions taken during the night.5 The lack of reliable communication between the CIA station and the Iranian Army handicapped the operation. TPAJAX architects had called for an army radio-equipped jeep to arrive at the American compound as Zahedi’s troops entered Tehran. Neither the jeep nor any army radio arrived and thus the station’s personnel were out of contact with Zahedi yet again. Communication failures due to faulty equipment and a belief that it was not needed on the part of the royalist army members left the CIA station agents in an anxious mood. Without direct contact, the coup was entirely in the hands of the Royalist forces. Furthermore, there was no definitive account of Mossadegh ever receiving the Shah’s decrees. At best, the royal edicts
5 Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952! August 1953,” 39-43.
were handed to Mossadegh’s door attendant and the messenger arrested. Accounts differ over the events that transpired 15 August late in the evening through the peak hours of the following morning. What is clear is that the unnamed colonel who was to deliver the Shah’s decrees was not able to get them to Mossadegh either because of the pro-Mossadegh security forces of the National Front or because he was arrested in Tehran suspected as a pro-Shah supporter. Because there was no receipt that the Shah’s decrees were ever presented or passed around on the night of the coup, Mossadegh was able to rally troops to his side and slowly drive Zahedi into hiding. The pro-Mossadegh forces were led by Mossadegh’s military commander, General Tahi Riahi, who was quick to get defenses to key areas of Tehran. Since the military action planned by Zahedi had not begun on time mostly due to failing communications, by early morning of the sixteenth, many had left their posts believing the operation’s cause was lost. The CIA field agents were as clueless as the Iranian public. CIA headquarters even wanted to recall the station in Tehran because the situation had become too unpredictable and unstable.6 By six in the morning on the sixteenth, Tehran radio reported that Mossadegh was meeting with his cabinet to figure out a course of action to calm the situation in the streets. The antennas of Tehran radio were supposed to have been disabled by Zahedi’s men, so the broadcast was a shock to the CIA station. Copies of the Shah’s edicts had not been distributed properly and Zahedi was without credence. To counter this lacking, the CIA station relayed messages to the New York Associated Press and around Tehran that “unofficial reports are current to the effect that leaders of the plot are armed with two decrees of the Shah, one dismissing Mossadegh and the other appointing General Zahedi to replace him.” Later that day, Tudeh Party members
began giving speeches throughout Tehran backing Mossadegh. A rumor spread that Mossadegh had staged the coup himself to get more support for his referendum. It is unclear where this rumor initiated, but, it was plausible in the eyes of the public. If Mossadegh had staged a failed coup it would give him the ability to call for even more powers than he already had as his office would be threatened by external forces.7 Despite CIA intentions to dominate media outlets during the coup, Wilber’s report noted that they did not have control over American reporters, but their reporting worked to the advantage of the coup nonetheless. The reporters in Tehran for the American media just happened to be at the right place at the right time as far as the CIA was concerned. They did not have to buy out American sources because American sensationalism was helping the coup without CIA dictation. The New York Times reported on the fifteenth that their prior view of Mossadegh was incorrect. Much of the American media had defended Mossadegh at the outbreak of the oil crisis since 1951, hailing him as an ardent patriot of Iran. This was because he was among the first of Third World Leaders to stand up to a major power. However, the dissolution of the Majlis damaged his reputation. The newspapers then portrayed him as a “power hungry, personally ambitious, ruthless demagogue who was trampling upon the liberties of his own people.” Mossadegh had alienated the social classes that were publicly anticommunist, which gave the appearance that he was supporting Communism within Iran. Mossadegh’s actions were being seen in the precise light that the CIA had worked to portray them as months earlier when the CIA propaganda team briefed President Eisenhower. 8 Now, the
7 Ibid, 45 and Kennett Love, “Shah Flees Iran after Move to Dismiss Mossadegh Fails,” New York ! Times, 17 August 1953.
“Mossadegh Plays with Fire,” New York Times, 15 August 1953. 68
American public was in accord with the decision to label Mossadegh and his regime as Communist sympathizers. Mossadegh tried to renounce the international media coverage of events before the military occupation phase of the coup began by having loyal military and police secure the antenna stations around Tehran; he wanted to set up a quarantine. Nonetheless, his attempts were in vain because of the actions he had taken throughout early August. With each attempt to grab additional power, Mossadegh weakened his position domestically. The dissolution of the Majlis was the final piece in the CIA’s plan to gain support in labeling Mossadegh a Communist. Part of the one million dollars of discretionary funds given the CIA station in Tehran had been handed out to Majlis deputies. Partly because of the bribery, and partly because of the confusion left in the wake of the failed initial coup, the deputies even labelled Mossadegh a tyrant. He had already gone too far trying to consolidate his power, and was then faced with the imminent coup and its aftermath. 9 Radio Tehran announced early on the sixteenth that an attempted coup had failed to unseat Premier Mossadegh. The radio announcement also indicated the the Prime Minister was meeting with his cabinet to decide procedures necessary in strengthening the security forces of government buildings. One of Zahedi’s colonels briefed the CIA’s Tehran station of the failures to deliver the messages to Mossadegh and of the failed attempts to knock out city-wide communications. Zahedi himself had already gone into exile north of Tehran but requested to meet with Roosevelt, claiming there was hope for salvaging TPAJAX. They agreed that the public had to be convinced that the Shah had removed Mossadegh through legal decree and
9 “Mossadegh Charges Distortion on Iran,” New York Times, 15 August 1953 and “Mossadegh ! terms Majlis Dissolved,” New York Times, 15 August 1953.
appointed Zahedi as his successor.10 Even while Mossadegh was using his monopoly of the Iranian media against the coup members, CIA agents were working to salvage the operation. The Associated Press in New York was given a statement that the leaders of the attempted coup had two decrees by the Shah: one dismissing Mossadegh and the other appointing Zahedi to replace him. To distribute the message throughout Iran, however, was impossible because of the strict quarantine of the important government buildings, including the newspapers and radios. Rumors circled in Tehran that Mossadegh had instigated the coup in order to remove the Shah from power which was little more than a suspicion that sensationalist media representatives spread. Yet, even with the release of documents signed by the Shah, pro-Mossadegh forces were able to deny their authenticity because the Shah had fled the country without acknowledging publicly his wishes. The CIA learned that even the Tudeh Party had prior knowledge of the coup and moved quickly to denounce the Americans within the embassy. There were crowds gathering throughout Tehran denouncing the Shah, but Mossadegh let the anti-Shah movement go too far in that he did not keep his cabinet members from speaking out against the Shah. Failing to censor his ministers’ speeches, Mossadegh reopened the nationalist call of the public; support the Shah who was their ruler. In a press conference, the Minister of Foreign Affairs stated his intention to release a personal statement to Bakhtar Emruz, a newspaper in Iran, that was also broadcasted over Radio Tehran later that evening. It was a lengthy attack on the Shah and his father who was still respected by the Iranian public. As Wilber noted in his report, “It may be said that this editorial did a great deal to arouse public resentment against the government of Mossadegh.”11
Ibid, 44-45. ibid, 46-49. 70
Reactions to the Attempted Coup The night of 16 August saw more crowds take to the streets, especially in Majlis Square to hear arguments for and against the Shah and Mossadegh. There it became known to the public that the Shah had fled Tehran for Baghdad earlier.12 Neither Washington nor London could allow their intelligence agencies to seek out the Shah and ask him to make a public statement while in Baghdad because it would implicate their governments in the coup. On the morning of 17 August, the CIA heard that Iranian troops had beaten civilians with their riffle butts while breaking up Tudeh Party groups the night before. The crowds in Tehran then united behind the shouting “Long live the Shah,” and the Tehran station regained their composure.13 To their surprise, the Shah spoke on the Baghdad radio that was heard throughout Iran. This moment was the culmination of efforts to get the Shah to publicly support the coup and his signed edicts. While it may have been a surprise to the CIA station in Tehran, one cannot forget the efforts throughout the summer aimed at getting the Shah’s support. The Shah’s acknowledgement of the edicts was needed for a successful conclusion of the coup, and with the Shah’s long-awaited participation the CIA was nearing the end of their mission. The Shah said: “What has taken place in Iran cannot be considered a coup d’etat in the real sense.” The Shah then admitted he had signed the two documents in question removing Mossadegh and replacing him with Zahedi. Furthermore, the Shah asserted that he had not abdicated the throne. Since the
12 Kennett Love, “Shah Flees Iran after Move to Dismiss Mossadegh Fails,” New York Times, 17 ! August 1953. 13 Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952! August 1953,” 65-77.
Shah’s address was an independent maneuver, the CIA’s Tehran station secured support from Washington to continue the operation.14 Mossadegh and his cabinet rounded up army officials who were suspected of involvement with the coup and rumors circulated that they were scheduled for execution on 20 August. The CIA station in Tehran then went to work in circulating photocopies of the royal decrees, especially among army bases. Sentiments turned slowly against Mossadegh and questions of his legitimacy were brought to the fore. The public knew the Shah signed the decrees and was angry that Mossadegh would try to cover up the facts. The American press continued to label Mossadegh as a Communist puppet who would be replaced sooner rather than later by an official spokesperson for the Tudeh Party. Nonetheless, Mossadegh was still in power days after the attempted coup. Meeting beneath the American Embassy, Roosevelt convened a council of Zahedi and other assets then to determine the best time and method for a second attempt against the Prime Minister.15 Meanwhile, the main question among citizens of Tehran was about the office of the Prime Minister and who the legitimate official was. Zahedi had the edicts dismissing Mossadegh and naming himself the replacement, but Mossadegh had successfully dissolved the Majlis the day before and thus, he was the government essentially. Mossadegh did not recognize Zahedi, naturally, and without the Shah in Tehran neither Zahedi nor the Shah had much credibility. 16
15 “Upheaval in Iran,” New York Times, 17 August 1953 and Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: ! Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952-August 1953,” 56-57.
Kennett Love, “Statues of Shahs Torn Down in Iran,” New York Times, 18 August 1953. 72
Things turned back to the assumptions and contingencies within the plans of TPAJAX. Further Shah support was necessary. Roosevelt’s war council prepared to take action on 19 August. Roosevelt--as the station chief--wanted to try to persuade the supreme cleric, Ayatollah Borujerdi, to issue a fatwa (religious decree) and call for a holy war on Communism. In addition to the religious backing from the Ayatollah, Roosevelt wanted military support from outside of Tehran as the previous attempt had shown that many within the capital’s defenses were still susceptible to Mossadegh’s authority. The British were uninvolved in the coup itself but London would still not let Darbyshire at Nicosia meet with the Shah while he was in Baghdad. Thus, Roosevelt’s decisions with Zahedi were independent of the SIS and CIA headquarters in Washington. Roosevelt was not alone in acting under pressure as the situation changed. Wilber took time to mention a few withheld names, but mostly praised the collective work of the Tehran CIA station personnel for the eventual success of Operation TPAJAX. 17 Roosevelt’s actions were early testaments to the courage and capabilities of the new intelligence agency. Not only had his Operation TPAJAX been a failure thus far, but also the United States was being implicated in the coup by Tudeh propagandists by distributing anti-West pamphlets. The secret police had taken control of every major media outlet in Tehran limiting the spread of pro-Shah sentiments and counter propaganda, yet still the CIA allowed Roosevelt to carry out the mission. The British were monitoring the progress updates sent from Tehran, but could not act on anything; the coup was by this point a product of American efforts in the field.
17 Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952! August 1953,” 58-59, 92-93.
The Tudeh Party was also trying to change events in the wake of the coup further supporting the condemnations thrown at Mossadegh and regime, claiming that he was friendly to Communists. While the CIA was reorganizing Zahedi’s forces, the Tudeh Party had torn down the statue of Reza Khan and removed street signs dedicated to the Pahlavi dynasty throughout the week after the 15 August coup. The party was pushing for a comprehensive reform where a peoples’ democracy would replace even Mossadegh. Mossadegh had hoped to exploit factionalism within the Tudeh Party, but his attempts were negligible as it became increasingly more apparent that Tudeh members were dictating events rather than Mossadegh. The two fronts collided and created a new power vacuum in Iran that Zahedi and those loyal to him and the Shah sought to utilize in overthrowing Mossadegh.18 In light of the Tudeh Party’s actions during the coup, the premise for Operation TPAJAX was confirmed, at least enough to satisfy Western observers. Communist forces were indeed spreading throughout Iran and the coup ended Moscow’s aspirations of expansion into the region. The army rallied behind Zahedi on 20 August and seized control of Tehran while assaulting Mossadegh’s heavily fortified homestead. Zahedi used the momentum to outline his administration's objectives including reestablishment of law, elevation of standard of living, mechanization of agriculture, raise workers’ wages and free medical treatment for all. It was ironic that in 1953 the United States would support social services not available in America in a foreign country. Many of Zahedi’s promises and goals were not achieved, however. Because the Shah was the new supreme leader of the country again, not the Prime Minister. Only the wealthy would receive government benefits like those promised by Zahedi over the course of the
ibid, 61-64 and Kennet Love, “Statues of Shahs Torn Down,” New York Times, 17 August 1953. 74
successive decades. In the immediate aftermath of the coup, Communist stations within Tehran were burned and massive crowds moved against Mossadegh demanding his expulsion from Iran.19 Immediately, the Soviet Union accused the United States of helping overthrow Mossadegh and the Tudeh Party. Soviet media charged that the coup was financed through a subversive works allowance Congress gave the CIA.20 The reactions from the Soviets about the coup’s success signified an even greater victory for the new intelligence agency, and indeed the United States at large. The Soviet Union was threatened because the United States had just created a surrogate power along the Soviet southwestern border. Though the American action in the coup would not be admitted for decades afterwards, Eisenhower was proud that his proactive policy against the Soviet threat had yielded such an elaborate victory. In Roosevelt’s White House after-mission debriefing, he noted that
John Foster Dules was leaning back in his chair. Despite his posture, he was anything by sleepy. His eyes were gleaming; he seemed to be purring like a giant cat. Clearly, he was not only enjoying what he was hearing, but my instincts told me that he was planning as well. What was in his mind I could not guess. Would it be a future employment of the same counterrevolutionary, or revolutionary, approach? So I closed my presentation on a warning note.21
! 1953. ! !
Kennett Love, “Royalists Oust Mossadegh; Army Seizes Helm,” New York Times, 20 August Kennett Love, “Moscow Says U.S. Aided Shahʼs Coup,” New York Times, 20 August, 1953. Roosevelt, Counter Coup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran, 209-210. 75
In retrospect, having Iran join the U.S. sphere of influence as a surrogate power in the Middle East was essential. The coup was nevertheless a test of clandestine capabilities. Had the United States failed to remove Mossadegh it would have changed the climate of the region and its situation with the British very little. The two countries would continue to negotiate and likely would have seen a resolution eventually. However, since the coup was a success in the end, it allowed a point of Western influence to exist in the region in 1953. Roosevelt was cautious to emphasize that the coup was a success because their assessments of the deteriorating situation in Iran was correct. The Iranian public was presented with two sides in the revolution and they had chosen to support their King of Kings, the Shah.22 The CIA had become the silent, strong arm of the United States and would remain so for decades. The succeeding two decades in Iran saw the rise of Mohammad Reza Shah’s regime and an ever growing relationship between America and Iran who had just become the chief Western surrogate power in the Persian Gulf region along with the rise of the CIA.23 Despite the lack of publication of the Shah’s decrees on the eighteenth, 19 August saw type-set copies of the documents in most papers. The CIA’s operation was drawing to a close with a fabricated interview of Zahedi where he was portrayed as the Prime Minister that would lead Iran back into a stable condition. By nine in the morning, pro-Shah groups had assembled in the Tehran bazaar area where speakers stirred tensions against the Tudeh activity that had reeked havoc around the city in the preceding days. The crowd marched toward the parliament building and burned the newspaper offices of the Foreign Affairs Minister that had printed “most
23 Bowie and Immerman, Waging Peace: How Eisenhower Shaped an Enduring Cold War ! Strategy, 217-221.
bitter and scurrilous attacks on the person of the Shah.” They also set fire to the Tudeh papers’ offices. The CIA intervened by attempting to recruit security forces that were still guarding many key buildings within Tehran. As the crowds approached Sepah Square, the guards shot over the heads of the mobs, refusing to hit Shah supporters.24 With the chanting crowds shouting “the Shah is victorious,” the CIA’s role in the overthrow of Mossadegh and the Tudeh Party was masked behind the belief that the coup attempts and ultimate success were grass roots movements. The new mobs filling the streets of Tehran were not the “hoodlums” seen in the previous weeks, but rather a diverse representation of the population including members of each social class because the entire population loved their Shah. At 10:30 in the morning, General Riahi--who had outmaneuvered Zahedi--submitted his resignation letter to Mossadegh, citing that he had lost control of the army. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, buildings fell to the royalist crowds. With the fall of Radio Tehran’s antiShah defenses, the crowds had won back Tehran from Mossadegh’s police and Tudeh fanatics.25
Learned from the Operation The operation revealed a need to develop long-term assets in other countries. In essence the Operation TPAJAX was a test of the CIA’s capabilities. The CIA would, thus, seek out new safe houses and additional personnel especially in countries surrounding the Soviet bloc. The main role of the SIS was to convince the Shah that both the United States and Great Britain supported the removal of Mossadegh. While the CIA had clearly become the leading agency for
24 Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952! August 1953,” 65-68.
Ibid, 69-74. 77
the West, U.S.-British special relations had been supported yet again. This relationship, Wilber asserted would be crucial in the decades after the coup. 26 Additionally, as Roosevelt had concluded also, the operation was ultimately successful because of the caliber of field agents and analysts who rightly predicted the Iranian public’s reactions to the coup. When the military plan had gone afoul, many field agents acted unilaterally to rectify the situation in their areas-even without working forms of communication with the Tehran station.27 That the operation was successfully changed in the field to adapt to the changing situation was a testament to agents’ familiarity with their mission. The popular discontent was exacerbated by the initiatives of the CIA operatives and succeeded with the creation of a battle between the Shah and Prime Minister. These opposing forces created trouble even for the CIA agents, but American agents had proved to be very adaptive to changing circumstances well beyond any planned contingencies. In the attempts to overthrow Mossadegh in August 1953, the CIA supplanted among the intelligence community its resolve to combat Communism on all fronts and to any end, even a regime change. Whether one chooses to cast aside the potent capabilities of the CIA up to 1953, the successful regime change instigated by CIA operatives firmly established the agency’s supremacy in the intelligence community across the world. While the coup would later add to the darker reputation of the CIA, the agency’s irrefutable stature of prominence climaxed along side America’s rise to hegemony. The 20th century was the American Century, and the events that transpired during
Ibid, 93-95. Ibid, 90-93. 78
the 1953 coup solidified the anxiety felt by many new independent third world countries, that a new form clandestine imperialism had come to the fore.28
28 Bowie and Immerman, Waging Peace: How Eisenhower Shaped an Enduring Cold War ! Strategy, 249-259; Telegram, “No. 350: The Ambassador in Iran (Henderson) to the Department of State.” U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: The Question of Military and Economic Assistance to Iran; interest of the United States in the settlement of the Anglo-Iranian oil dispute, 1952-1954, vol. X, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Ofﬁce, 1989), 20 August 1953, 7526-758.
The CIA’s successful rise to power culminated in the removal of Mossadegh. In effect, the friendly position towards the Communist forces within the Tudeh Party lost Mossadegh his office and his country. Additionally, the oil dispute had allowed for a climate favorable to a clandestine regime change. From Truman’s containment policy to Eisenhower’s push back policy, communism was identified as the scourge of the free world and thus required attention on all fronts. Although Eisenhower’s approach seemed to be more proactive, in retrospect it was merely a continuation of the containment philosophy of Truman. The only country that could actively combat Soviet communism was the United States. However, after WWII, no president felt comfortable engaging in a total war. So smaller, more prudent clandestine operations were the only logical replacement, and presidents since Eisenhower used the CIA for the same reasons as he had.29 In retrospect, the United States became the greatest power in the world because of its successful Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine and the National Security Act of 1947 implementations. The CIA’s rise to a powerful and influential intelligence agency was only the last aspect of hegemony needed in claiming American supremacy and it had to wait until the 1953 coup offered a momentous opportunity to feature its capabilities. The coup was possible because Communist expansion was allegedly part of the deteriorating domestic situation in Iran. Had the Tudeh Party never been labeled the vehicle of Communism in Iran, the coup may have
29 Gasiorowski and Byrne, eds. Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, 222-225 and ! Bowie and Immerman, Waging Peace: How Eisenhower Shaped an Enduring Cold War Strategy, 249-259.
never been carried out. Thus, it was because of these reasons--communism and the ultimate success of the 1953 coup--that the CIA became the most cogent, prominent intelligence agency in the world at the onset of the Cold War. In addition to the success of the coup, Washington realized the importance of broadening the capacity of the CIA. While in today’s world we may look back at the decisions that allowed the CIA to expand in contempt, at the time the agency was the anti-Communist foreign arm of the country. Being a relatively new intelligence agency, the CIA arguably needed the coup to prove its worth to the new Eisenhower administration and to the world. As a general, Eisenhower had used the OSS (the mother organization of the CIA during WWII) to carry out clandestine operations so he knew how useful a powerful furtive agency could be. In the case of Iran, by 1953 it had become clear to CIA analysts that Premier Mossadegh was no longer seeking a conclusion to the oil dispute with Britain and because of his stubborn attitude towards Britain, his country’s domestic situation was faltering. The prospect of a Soviet dominated Iran was deemed unacceptable and this allowed the CIA to replace the SIS in the region. While many, including Dr. Wilber in his memorandum, emphasize the partnership of the CIA and the SIS in undertaking Operation TPAJAX, the relationship stopped at sharing sources and fine-tuning the plans. Once the operation began, the British intelligence agency was out of the picture. Wilber alluded to the decreasing activity of the SIS estimating that they were angry at their own inabilities to match the capabilities of the CIA. Yet, later--possibly for political purposes or merely out of professional courtesy--Wilber noted the importance of the special relationship between the SIS and the CIA and its worthwhile benefits mostly being sources. Notwithstanding the contradictory tones in Wilber’s assessment of TPAJAX, one must always
have leverage on the other in the intelligence community. Because of the successful coup of Iran in 1953, the dominant agency at the start of the Cold War was the Central Intelligence Agency.30 Extensions of U.S. Influence had spread throughout the world and now to the border of the Soviet Union. However, 1953 did not mark an end to the expansion of U.S. foreign policy, rather it was the climax of America’s ability to combat Communism everywhere. After WWII and the Korean War, American troops had spread through the Pacific, Asia, Europe, and Africa. A total war, however, would never be seen after 1945. In its place, small confrontations where troops were equipped with modern weapons and incredible amounts of funding would be the arm of U.S. foreign policy. The 1953 coup proved that this was possible; the country did not have to invade, dismantle and rebuild a country in order to replace the regime in power. It was from 1953 onward that the covert operations department became as important as the central intelligence gathering department.31 Arguably, based on the amount of covert activity that we know of throughout the Cold War and beyond, one can assume that clandestine activities was given a higher authority. There may still be interventions that the public does not know of, but what we can surmise of the CIA at the start of the Cold War in the post-WWII era is that the agency reached its paramount level of power and influence in 1953.
30 Wilber, “Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952! August 1953,” 85-95. 31Amy P Zegart, Flawed by Design: The Evolution of the CIA, JCS, and the NSC, (Palo Alto: ! Stanford University Press, 1999), 186-195.
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