The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has for the first time published a document that confirms Washington's role in the 1953 coup d'etat against the democratically-elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosadeq.
The Shah's order (known as a firman) naming Zahedi the new prime minister. Coup operatives made copies of the document and circulated it around Tehran to help regenerate momentum following the collapse of the original plan. (Courtesy of Ted Hotchkiss)
Documents Provide New Details on Mosaddeq Overthrow and Its Aftermath
National Security Archive Calls for Release of Remaining Classified Record
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 435
Washington, D.C., August 19, 2013 - Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the National Security Archive is today posting recently declassified CIA documents on the United States' role in the controversial operation. American and British involvement in Mosaddeq's ouster has long been public knowledge, but today's posting includes what is believed to be the CIA's first formal acknowledgement that the agency helped to plan and execute the coup.
The explicit reference to the CIA's role appears in a copy of an internal history, The Battle for Iran, dating from the mid-1970s. The agency released a heavily excised version of the account in 1981 in response to an ACLU lawsuit, but it blacked out all references to TPAJAX, the code name for the U.S.-led operation. Those references appear in the latest release. Additional CIA materials posted today include working files from Kermit Roosevelt, the senior CIA officer on the ground in Iran during the coup. They provide new specifics as well as insights into the intelligence agency's actions before and after the operation.
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The open acknowledgment by the US intelligence community comes some six decades after the British- and American-backed military overthrow.
"The military coup that overthrew Mosadeq and his National Front Cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy," read a brief segment from an internal report by an in-house CIA historian in the mid-1970s.
The document, published on the National Security Archive website, was initially released in 1981, but most of it was blacked out at the time, including an entire section on the coup.
On August 15, 1953, the British and US intelligence agencies initiated a coup by the Iranian military (known as 28 Mordad coup), setting off a chain of events including riots in the streets of Iran's capital, Tehran, that led to the overthrow and arrest of Mosadeq four days later.
Mosadeq, convicted of treason, served three years in prison and died under house arrest in 1967.
The Iranian premier played a key role in the country's 1951 movement that resulted in the nationalization of Iran's oil industry, which had been mainly controlled by the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), now known as BP.
When worldwide sanctions against Iran's oil industry failed to force Mosadeq to abandon the move, a plan was devised by Britain (codenamed 'Operation Boot') and the US (codenamed TPAJAX Project) to overthrow his government.
The coup saw the formation of an absolute US-backed monarchy under Iran's last Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was overthrown by the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
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