In June 2009, President Barack Obama of the United States, in a speech that was directed at Islamic world and delivered in a visit to Cairo of Egypt, stated that: “In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government”. Vague statements like this by American officials at different occasions along with a document which has been produced by some fishy characters with claims to link it with Central Intelligence Agency of United States, are the roots of all stories that some people continue to make a business of them while adding fuel to the burning fire of political differences among Iranians. Irresponsible behavior of Iranian educated community to conduct a thorough and realistic research by evaluating all available documents that carry acceptable degree of reliability, and presenting a truly impartial analysis of the events without being influenced by predetermined conclusions and unfounded claims, has left the door open for manipulation and abuse of trust of Iranian society by some pseudo intellectuals and commercial writers in the interest of their own pockets and agendas.
In the statements like the one mentioned above from President Obama, the implication is that a “government was democratically elected” in Iran at that time which means Iranian people were able to exercise their right to choose who they wanted to be governing their country. At the top of that government, was Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh who had support of majority of Iranians and was backed by a united front from many friendly Iranian politicians in and out of the parliament and enjoyed full support of the top figure in the system, the Shah himself. All of this leaves no doubt of presence of democracy in Iran which was exercised in full after Reza Shah had abdicated. Different governments came and went like in any other democratic society in the world up to that point. This democratic atmosphere provided new opportunities for rich and fat aristocrats of Qajar era who had lost many of their privileges and much of their influence over majority of Iranian society which was still in the state of peasantry with no real education.
Presence of foreign troops in the beginning of this era had provided British and Soviet Union with great opportunities to establish new relations with elements of weak characters or no sense of patriotism for future meddling in the affairs of the country. These relations developed even further as time passed and eventually drove the nation towards dangerous instability through creation of an atmosphere of terror and physical confrontations that casted fear and uncertainty over society. Constant demonstrations by rival groups with superficial and in most cases fake show of patriotism through displaying of extreme slogan banners and huge flags had made society a playground for mobs of ignorant followers of this or that political group that their strings were mostly pulled by rival members of different families from Qajar political lineage or the elements of religious aristocracy. Among these, an Islamic group that called themselves “Fadaiyan Islam” (devotees of Islam) and considered themselves followers of a mullah from 19th century called Seyyed Jamal-e-din Asadabadi (also known as al-Afghani).
Seyyed Jamal is one of many controversial figures during Qajar era. He is known to have inspired the assassination of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar by Mirza Reza Kermani after Naser al-Din Shah lost interest in him and sent him to exile (to Ottoman Empire). Seyyed Jamal spent some time in Egypt and laid the foundation of a group that later became a model for establishment of a group that is known today as Ekhwan-ol-Moslemin (Islamic brotherhood) and was kicked out of Egypt for that. His work was later completed by Hassan al-Banna and establishment of “Islamic Brotherhood”. After leaving Egypt, he spent some time in Europe. In his trip to Europe, he was a guest of honor to a British lord in London for a few months before going back to Turkey. Seyyed Jamal has an interesting life story but the point here is not to talk about him but to have a brief look at the events related to the organization that is known to be founded based on his teachings; “Fadaiyan Islam” which played a significant role in shaping the political life in Iran since late 1940’s.
Fadaiyan Islam made their presence known by arranging demonstrations against different Iranian political figures that their leaders considered them to be against Islam. This matter had added one more reason for creation of crisis in the society and provided Tudeh Party with yet another unlikely ally in their activities against the establishment. Background of Fadaiyan Islam made it clear that a new ingredient was becoming a normal part of politics in Iran in order to eliminate those who were not acceptable by this fanatic religious group. Writing and shouting slogans against Monarchy was as common and acceptable as noisy demonstrations. Some journalists, who had sensed the political direction that society was moving under pressure from every side, wrote heated and hateful articles against the royal family which incited violence against the system. One of these journalists was Mohammad Masoud who tried to build a reputation as an anti Monarchy activist by writing accusatory articles against Pahlavi’s which were full of vulgarities. Mohammad Masoud was later assassinated and words quickly spread that Royal Court was behind that assassination. There was no way to disprove that accusation and any attempt to deny it would make the matter even worse. Decades after murder of Mohammad Masoud, some information from former members of central committee of Tudeh Party came to light that showed the assassination of Masoud was ordered and carried out by Tudeh party through their “terror committee” which was headed by Kianouri. Dr. Fereydun Keshavarz and Iraj Eskandari have both admitted that this assassination was done to tarnish the support and reputation of Monarch among Iranians by blaming them for the crime. The rumors in this regard originated from Mozaffar Firuz who stayed in France at that time. Nouredin Kianouri later confirmed this information in his book. This event started a new trend in politics of Iran which brought Fadaiyan Islam closer to Tudeh Party that later used one of the members of that group for an attempt on the life of Mohammad Reza Shah in early months of 1949.
Shah was attacked by someone named Nasser Fakhr-Arai who fired a few shots at him at a close range. There are different stories about the number of bullets that hit Shah which varies from 1 to 5 but in all reports it is clear that none of those shots caused a critical injury. Mohammad Reza Shah in his book “Mission for My Country” has written about that event that three bullets hit his military hat. One bullet went through his cheek and came out from under the nose and another bullet hit him in the shoulder. Fakhr-Arai was shot and killed on the spot by security officers and the role of Tudeh party and Kianouri became known to the government through investigation. Investigations also showed that Fakhr-Arai who had been armed with a pistol given to him by Kianouri, belonged to the group of Fadaiyan Islam which had murdered the great Iranian researcher and writer, Ahmad Kasravi just a few years earlier. As a consequence, Tudeh party was banned and some of its leaders were arrested. The Party was forced to continue its activities underground and under the guise of peace supporters and activists. This was around the same time that discussion over oil was continuing without getting anywhere. Other than Fakhr-Arai who was killed at the place of incident, none of Fadaiyan Islam was prosecuted in this case.
The deadlock over oil had concentrated most of the attention of government and the parliament on this issue. Papers were reporting the parliamentary discussions everyday and the National Front members of the parliament and their allies under leadership of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh were at the center of all these reports. Oil, was causing failure of governments one after another. In mid 1950, the government of Ali Mansour whose pro British position was known to all Iranians lost the confidence of parliament after a short period as Prime Minister and a well known high ranking military officer, General Haj Ali Razmara was suggested to replace him. Razmara was a highly intelligent officer with briliant military record from the time that he worked on the side of Reza Khan during suppression of the rebels of the republic that was formed in Northern Province of Gilan by Mirza Koochek Khan. Razmara started his government by introducing some reforms to decentralize the power and reduce the size of government. He fired many of government employees who were mostly useless and were in those positions because of their family ties. Razmara’s reforms created a lot of enemies for him. Fadaiyan Islam and Ayatollah Kashani, who was Speaker of the House at that time, declared him “enemy of Islam” and made threats against him which meant he was in the same kind of danger as Ahmad Kasravi. He was also under constant attack by parliament members during discussions on oil contract with AIOC. A couple of days later Razmara was assassinated and the assassin was captured. According to some stories, Rzamara had the suggestion of AIOC for 50-50 contract in his pocket when he was killed.
It became clear through court hearings that Fadaiyan Islam were behind the assassination and Ayatollah Kashani had provided the gun through a third party but Kashani denied all of that in the court (which was held later) and even denied that the person who was arrested (Khalil Tahmasebi) was killer of Razmara and claimed that the man was just trying to make himself a martyr for Islam and that’s why he had taken the credit for assassination. Hossein Ala became Prime Minister after Razmara but failed to gain the confidence of Parliament and his government did not survive. Next came Mohammad Mossadegh whose popularity inside and outside the parliament for such position was more than any other Iranian politician at that time. Mossadegh was well known for his uncompromising positions against AIOC and his appointment to the position of Prime Minister was not welcomed by British but he had full support of the parliament and Mohammad Reza Shah behind him. Shortly afterward, the oil nationalization bill was passed in Iranian Parliament and British imposed a worldwide embargo on Iranian oil.
It is obvious that the alliance between top figures in Iranian government system and the parliament for the oil issue was not good news to AIOC. Mossadegh received full authority from the parliament to move ahead with oil negotiation without parliamentary consent. As discussions continued with no result the authoritarian privileges of Prime Minister Mossadegh was renewed by parliament for another 6 months. British government was getting concerned about losing all its investments and in Iranian oil industry and enormous profit that they gained from it as a result of nationalization. They tried to divert the process by making different offers after they had failed to stop the parliament from passing the oil nationalization bill. All offers by AIOC were rejected and even the offers from American government (with more friendly attitude towards Iranian government) to settle the differences were dismissed. Dr. Mossadegh once told the American Ambassador, who was puzzled by stubborn behavior of Iranian government, that the matter in his view did not have anything to do with materialistic gains but it was all about the Iranian national pride which has been put down by British for so long. After that, it became clear for American government which favored Mossadegh at that time, that there would be no settlement between AIOC and Iran. This matter raised concerns about shortage of oil in the market because Iran was not able to export even a drop of oil at that time while the dispute with British continued.
During those times, Dr. Mossadegh who had left the Parliament out of negotiation with AIOC, kept it busy with other issues which were part of his reform plans. He reduced the senate period to two years and also cut the budget for royal court and royal family. According to some accounts, tight budget had even forced the young monarch to sell some of his belongings and the pressure grew much worse until Mohammad Reza Shah decided to resign and leave the country. This matter created a strong reaction in the public who became aware of that and gathered around the residence of Shah to show their opposition and then the message came from Shah that he would stay. In the meantime, the parliament which was left in the dark by Mossadegh regarding oil negotiations (Mossadegh kept rejecting offers one after another without discussing with parliament), voted against Mossadegh’s request to extend his authoritarian privileges for another year. This matter infuriated Dr. Mossadegh who labeled the parliament members as “agents of British” and stated that he would dissolve that parliament. This, in fact, was the same parliament which had installed Mohammad Mossadegh as Prime Minister. It was the same parliament that Mossadegh himself was part of it at some point and the same parliament that had granted him all his requests for authoritarian power.
While Mossadegh enjoyed the company of advisors like Dr. Fatemi and Mozaffar Firuz who had the most influence on him, the alliance from different groups and national figures, which was formed around him for a national cause, fell apart. Except for Tudeh Party and a small group of followers, everybody else had retracted their support (including General Zahedi who was minister of internal affairs for a few months in the beginning of Mossadegh’s government and a close ally). Mossadegh went to the public outside the parliament and while pointing to the parliament building, shouted that all those people sitting inside that building are agents of British! Mossadegh told people that he wanted to dissolve that parliament. He later arranged a referendum to get the people’s approval for implementing his decision. This was the exact point where he went against the nation’s constitution that was the basis for his powers and privileges. Referendum was carried out in the limited area of the cities in order to make it fast; while most Iranian people lived in villages and small towns. People who opposed such move would have to go to different ballot box or different room (in some cases even different building) to vote against it. Presence of supporters of Mossadegh around those places made such move very difficult if not fatal.
The result from referendum was in favor of Mossadegh to dissolve the parliament while according to constitution and its amendments, dissolving the parliament was only possible by royal decree. Mossadegh, despite opposition of many of his own allies (even some high members of National Front like Karim Sanjabi and Kashani), declared the parliament dissolved and sent all MPs home. This matter made Mossadegh the sole ruler of the country. Tudeh mobs were spread throughout the cities chanting slogans in favor of Mossadegh. Dissolving of the parliament was an unconstitutional action committed by the Prime Minister who had taken oath to guard it. This issue paved way for the Monarch to step in according to constitution, and order dismissal of the Prime Minister who was appointed by that parliament which was no longer in place. At this point Dr. Mossadegh committed another unconstitutional action by dismissing the order of Monarch with the excuse that it was fake and ordered arrest of messenger who was an army officer. Mossadegh also ordered arrest of some others including his former allies like Dr. Baghaee who was very close to him before. Country continued swirling down into deeper chaos. Tudeh Party took advantage of this situation and their red banners with “hammer and sickle” had covered everywhere especially in Tehran and Khuzestan. Tudeh demonstrators were constantly on the streets chanting pro Mossadegh slogans and bullying anyone who dared to challenge them.
Pro Mossadegh demonstrations and physical confrontations on the streets became much worse after Mossadegh arrested many of politicians and military officers. The next day, in a meeting with some of ministers he ordered toppling the statues of Shah and his father. Apparently this matter had been suggested and pursued by Dr. Fatemi. Karim Sanjabi who was present in the meeting reminded Mossadegh of possible undesired effect that this action might have had on the society and suspicion about intentions of government. Mossadegh advised him not to question his orders and just follow them. Sanjabi conveyed the message to Mr. Forouhar who ordered his followers to bring the statues down. At this point, Mossadegh had even left out some of his ministers in the dark regarding what he had in mind. The day after, Mossadegh had a meeting with American Ambassador who had just returned to Iran in the middle of chaos. Mossadegh told the Ambassador that United States was responsible for all of those troubles. Ambassador did not make any statement in that regard but reminded Mossadegh of dangerous and chaotic conditions on the streets and told him that if Iranian government is unable to guarantee security of American citizens then he had to order all Americans whose presence was not needed to leave the country. Mossadegh did not like the idea and ordered his police to stop the mobs. According to US Ambassador, relative calm returned to the streets after that and was noticeable when he was on his way to Embassy from Prime Minister’s office.
On August 18, 1953, Abolghasem Kashani (Speaker of the House of dissolved parliament) sent a letter to Mossadegh from his hiding place (he escaped the arrest) and advised him about an upcoming coup. He accused Mossadegh that himself had intentionally contributed to the chaotic situation for self aggrandizement and then leaving the scene like a hero without considering damages to the nation for his actions. He also accused Mossadegh of being an accomplice with United States to bring them into Iranian oil business. Mossadegh responded with a short one liner stating that he noticed his letter.
The next day was August 19, 1953. Appointment of Fazlollah Zahedi as new Prime Minister of Iran was declared in the radio which earlier was in control of Mossadegh’s supporters. Residents of Capital and other cities that were fed up with miserable conditions that was imposed on them and instability of the country, poured into streets in support of this announcement. Dr. Mossadegh refused to issue any order for confrontation by his followers as suggested by Dr. Fatemi and Mozaffar Firuz. Dr. Fatemi’s driver later recalled him to be very mad over this issue and also over refusal of Mossadegh to declare a republic system at that time. Zahedi moved into Prime Minister Office with support of army after arrest of about 200 officers of Tudeh Party military organization who had been stationed in military officers club for orders that never came from their party leaders. The army units which were assigned by Mossadegh’s government to keep the order on the street joined with the forces of newly appointed Prime Minister of the country which arrived in Capital city with armored vehicles. Mossadegh had left his residence where he conducted his day to day office work, and was arrested later.
This historical event became subject of many rumors and stories about meddling of Americans, which was first spread in the society with the help of Tudeh Party and Persian program of radio Moscow. Later on contributions from every side made the rumors grow to indicate that United States government was responsible in removal of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh from power and bringing back the Shah of Iran. These rumors showed that some CIA agents with some money were able to topple the democratically elected government of Mossadegh in Iran. This exaggerated view about CIA and its power in those years was welcomed by Americans themselves. They were more than happy to take credit for what they did not do because it would show them to have more power than they really had. Soon this unofficial story became the accepted version by many while American government never released an official document to show the extent of their “role” in those events until recent years. Here is the story of CIA.
According to a document which was published by NY Times and the GWU in 1997, Dr. Donald N. Wilber, in the year 1954, had written a summary of an operation that was conducted by CIA a year earlier in order to remove Dr. Mossadegh from power in Iran and bring Shah back. This in fact is the sole document that all stories about CIA covert operation have been flying around without any confirmation from CIA or presence of any other real document from CIA itself about involvement in such operation. Dr. Wilber who according to the preface of same document, had “played active role” in the operation, prepared that document to have “desired record” of such event which despite its importance, CIA apparently had forgotten to do it before! The word “secret” is written on the bottom of every page to make it look very real and even though apparently it was released by CIA but there is nowhere in their achieves that you can find such document. One of the specifications of documents released under FOIA is that you can see different signatures, names and stamps and dates on almost every page of a released document while the word “secret” is crossed over to indicate that the document has been declassified. Neither is true in this document. There is nothing to show that this is a true CIA document.
New York Times states:
“The New York Times has “obtained” a copy of the CIA’s secret history of the 1953 Iranian coup. The history was written in March 1954 by Dr. Donald N. Wilber, “the C.I.A.’s chief coup planner,” and “was provided … by a former official who kept a copy.” The still-classified document “discloses the pivotal role British intelligence officials played in initiating and planning the coup and it shows that Washington and London shared an interest in maintaining the West’s control over Iranian oil….”
Which gives the impression that Mr. Wilber had been in possession of a copy of a secret CIA document since 1954 that himself wrote about history of CIA operation in Iran but he kept that a secret for himself until he died and NY Times magazine which was a well known enemy of Pahlavi’s of Iran in late 1970’s, somehow, got their hands on that copy. Whether this whole story is true or not and whether Mr. Wilber has been part of any operation and his writings can be truly considered “history of CIA operation in Iran” according to his own claim, is something that cannot be verified from any of available documents. Despite the questionable reliability and source of the information in this document, many Iranian and non-Iranian researchers have referenced its materials as real historical facts merely based on the claims of the author and the New York Times magazine!
Before discussing this document in details, I would like to mention a few things regarding “real CIA documents” which one can easily find from their archives and they are all marked with different emblems, stamps, names and dates as I mentioned above. There is nowhere in any of CIA communication documents in 1953 before, during or even after the events of August 1953 that one can read anything about an operation called “tpajax” or a person called Kim Roosevelt who apparently was the boss of Donald N. WIlber. Considering existence and availability of over 1400 pages of CIA documents about the operation In Guatemala which was conducted in 1954, one cannot accept this claim that CIA did not keep a record of their operation in Iran as some of US officials claimed at some point. In another occasion, CIA officials claimed that their documents regarding operations in Iran was destroyed as per routine process, only 9 years after 1953 which makes one wonder why many other older documents related to Iran and other places survived such routine while a document about an event of such high importance for US interests did not? Finally, in 1990’s, CIA admitted the existence of a document called “zendebad shah” in their archive but claimed that this document was still classified as “top secret” by US authorities and could not be released to public due to considerations for US national security and interests.
In later developments, GWU succeeded in obtaining some of the documents related to 1953 events including the above mentioned document (“zendebad shah”) which apparently was prepared for declassification after Islamic revolution by Scott A. Koch and much of it is still blanked out to indicate the amount of classified information in that document. In the meantime NS Archives in GWU preferred to include the document which was prepared by Mr. Wilber and was in possession of NY Time, in their archives as the only source of information about the events of year 1953 in Iran. Considering that Mr. Wilber’s report, according to his claim, has been prepared in March 1954 and released to public in the year 2000, and there is no document in CIA declassified archives to confirm the information which has been discussed in that, one may wonder about the authenticity of that document and the information in it which has been prepared with fictional writing style.
In order to examine the authenticity of Mr. Wilber’s report or, as he claims, the “CIA history of TPAJAX operation in Iran” which has over a hundred pages, we also need to look at the real declassified document that has been obtained from CIA by GWU and is available in their archives but before that, let’s have a glance at credentials of both Mr. Donald Wilber and Mr. Scott Koch to see how their credentials and qualifications relate to the matter.
Mr. Wilber, according to Wikipedia, had a PhD in architectural history from Princeton since 1947 and authored multiple books, most of them related to Iran and Iranian Islamic history. From what we read of himself and his friends, he has been an Indiana Jones kind of figure in his younger age who maintained a great interest in oriental rugs and archeological artifacts. He has been a member of oriental rugs society in Princeton where he associated with friends till last days of his life. According to one of his friends in a tribute to Mr. Wilber, he was recruited by CIA after WW II and worked with them till 1969 that he retired. In a note by one of his friends who has done proof reading of his articles for 15 years, the report about TPAJAX operation had some typos and errors in it which was uncharacteristic of Mr. Wilber even though Mr. Wilber himself had hinted about existence of such document.
According to a court’s documents from district of Columbia Scott Koch has been working for CIA since 1990 and was assigned to the position of Chief Information Officer (CIO) of CIA in year 2004. In his position, Mr. Koch has been also responsible as Information Privacy Coordinator and in charge of reviewing and deciding about classification and declassification of CIA documents. The documents about CIA involvement in 1953 operations in Iran have been signed and released by him in year 2006. These documents include “zendebad shah” document.
On the cover page of Don Wilber’s report we read: “Clandestine Service History” and in second line: “Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran” and then: “November 1952-August 1953” and at the bottom same page: “Date written: March 1954”, “Date published: October 1969”, “Written by: Donald N. Wilber”.
The document discusses a lot of issues and provides many details about the plans and events which gives the impression that, not only the author should have been present in many places simultaneously but also, he should have had a superhuman memory in order to remember so much details with timing and wordings of conversations while himself was not even present at the place where event was taking place. The only other way is that he should have had a lot of notes about details of the events. From the first page in the notes of Dean L. Dodge (historian officer) we read that the report was prepared “because it seemed desirable to have a record of a major operation while documents were readily at hand and memories of the personnel involved were still fresh”. Apparently there were enough documents available for Mr. Wilber to extract the required information and mix it with “memories” of the personnel involved to prepare such report. Strangely enough, all the documents apparently have vanished from CIA archives and memories of some of very important elements involved in such major operation seem not only to contradict Mr. Wilber’s account but also make it like a totally made up story and pure imagination which was made in the minds of people like Kermit Roosevelt and Don Wilber and was sold for a good price!
Before going further, it is worthy to note that these two people were both in the business to make a living while both shared adventurist tendencies and mentality and both were very imaginative characters. Mr. Wilber, according to some of his friends, would love to be viewed like “Lawrence of Arabia” and most of the times especially when in Egypt and Lebanon, would dress himself like Lawrence while other times he showed off with his cowboy hat and jeans. Apparently at some point later, Mr. Wilber who considered himself the engineer of the TPAJAX operation became upset with Mr. K. Roosevelt because Roosevelt had reduced the importance of his role when he wrote his book about this “story” and magnified the importance of his own role!
Going back to Mr. Wilber’s report which was presented and publicized by NY Times as a genuine CIA document, in the summary we read:
“In March 1953 a telegram was received from the Tehran Station which stated that General [ ] had contacted the assistant military attaché and had requested Ambassador (Loy) Henderson’s views as to whether or not the US Government was interested in covertly supporting an Iranian military effort to oust Premier Mossadeq. A meeting was held in the Embassy at which Headquarters personnel, then in the field, and station personnel were in attendance.
A cautiously worded reply was drafted at Headquarters and its substance delivered to General [ ]. The reply did not commit the United States in any way but was mildly encouraging and revealed some US interest in the idea.
On the basis of the [ ] overture and other clear signs that determined opposition to Mossadeq was taking shape, and in view of the totally destructive and reckless attitude of the government of Prime Minister Mossadeq, General Walter Bedell Smith, Undersecretary of State, determined that the US Government could no longer approve of the Mossadeq government and would prefer a successor government in which there would be no National Frontists. The change in policy was communicated to CIA, and the NEA Division was informed that it was authorized to consider operations which would contribute to the fall of the Mossadeq government. The Department of State and CIA jointly informed Ambassador Henderson and the Chief of Station, Roger Goiran, of the new policy and of the operational authorization. The Director, on 4 April 1953, approved a budget of $1,000,000 which could be used by the Tehran Station in any way that would bring about the fall of Mossadeq. Full authority was given to Ambassador Henderson and the Chief of Station enabling any part or all of the $1,000,000 to be used without further authority, as long as the Ambassador and the station concurred.”
Also a bit further in the report:
“Ashraf reached Tehran as a passenger on a commercial flight on 25 July. As expected, her unauthorized return did create a real storm. Neither the Shah, himself, nor the government of Mossadeq had been asked to permit her to return. Both were furious. The Shah refused to see her but did accept a letter passed on through the medium of [ ], ** head of the Shah’s [ ], loyal and devoted in an effective way throughout this period. This letter contained news that US General Schwarzkopf was coming to see the Shah on an errand similar to that of Ashraf, herself. The Shah welcomed this news and received his sister on the evening of 29 July. The session opened stormily but ended on a note of reconciliation. On the next day she took a plane back to Europe. This was as had been planned, but it came as a relief to know that she was out of the country in view of the pro-Mossadeq press reaction.”
“The second emissary arrived on the scene in the person of [ ], the principal SIS agent. According to the plan, [ ] initial task with the Shah was to convince the ruler that, [ ] was the official spokesman of the UK Government. The advance plan, that of having the Shah select a key phrase which would then be broadcast on the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) Persian language program on certain dates, was followed. In London the necessary arrangements had been made by Darbyshire to send the phrase over the BBC. On 30 July and again on the 31st the Shah saw, [ ]. He had heard the broadcast, but he requested time to assess the situation. , [ ] was, however, able to prepare the Shah for the visit of the American emissary, General Schwarzkopf, and to stress the point that this emissary would repeat the message and, hence, give an additional guarantee of the close collaboration between the United Kingdom and the United States in this undertaking.
Schwarzkopf had been chosen by the drafters of the operational plan because of the fact that he had enjoyed the friendship and respect of the Shah in the period from 1942 until 1948 when he headed the US Military Mission to the Iranian Gendarmerie. Approached on 26 June 1953 by John Waller, Chief, NEA, briefed at Headquarters on 19 July, Schwarzkopf took to his mission with relish. He said that he had a reputation with the Shah for telling him unpleasant truths that others withheld from him, and he stated that he was sure he could get the required cooperation from the Shah. Schwarzkopf was given a cover mission consisting of a short tour to Lebanon, Pakistan, and Egypt so that his visit to Tehran would appear as a brief stop en route to a principal destination. Schwarzkopf left by air for Beirut on 21 July.
Schwarzkopf’s mission was to obtain from the Shah the three papers which are described more fully in the operational plan. They were: (1) a firman naming [ ] as Chief of Staff, (2) a letter indicating his faith in [ ] which the latter could employ to recruit army officers for the plan in the name of the Shah, and (3) a firman calling on all ranks of the army to support his legal Chief of Staff. It was felt that it would be easier to get the Shah to sign such statements than to issue a firman dismissing Mossadeq. It was also believed that the action of replacing Mossadeq would be initiated through the Majlis.”
There are also some parts in the report that mentions the name of Sec. State J. F. Dulles which gives the impression of his involvement and now let’s take a look at part of another document from Truman library which is part of United States Oral History. This document is an interview given by Loy Henderson who was American Ambassador to Iran in those days and had a meeting with late Dr. Mossadegh a couple of night after he refused to step aside and in the night before his arrest:
“HENDERSON: In June 1953 I was ordered back to the United States for consultation, and since I had had no leave, the Department suggested that I take some on the way back. The situation in Iran had become so complicated that the Department felt it might be better that I delay my return. Iran was in a desperate financial situation. Mossadegh had even spent the funds that had been set aside to pay pensions to the retiring civil servants and army personnel. Dissatisfaction with his administration had increased and there was tension. The Department apparently felt that if I should appear in Tehran, Mossadegh would ask me to see him, would have photographs taken of our chatting together, and would try to convince the public that the United States was supporting him. I spent a couple of weeks as a guest of our High Commissioner to Austria in the Austrian Alps, then I went to Beirut for some sea bathing. On the evening of Saturday, August 15, I heard from the radio in my hotel room that the Shah, who had been resting in his palace on the Caspian Sea north of Iran, had sent a messenger to Mossadegh, informing him that he had accepted the latter’s resignation and had appointed General Zahedi as Prime Minister; that Mossadegh had refused to resign and had arrested the army officer who had served as a messenger; and that the Shah had flown to Baghdad.
I was so upset by this news that I could not sleep during the night, and I reproached myself for not having been on my job in Tehran. The next morning I called the Embassy by telephone and asked that it send our Naval Attaché’s plane for me. I arrived in Tehran in the afternoon of Monday, August 17, and was met at the airport by Mossadegh’s son, members of the Embassy, and a detachment of soldiers to accompany me to the Embassy. On my way to the Embassy, I found the city in confusion. Mobs with red flags were tearing down statues, destroying street signs which bore the name of the Shah or his father, pillaging shops, and beating up some of the shopkeepers.
I asked Mossadegh’s son to arrange an interview for me with his father, and that evening I had a meeting with the Embassy staff, at which learned that during the last two days many attacks had been made upon Europeans in the city and the suburbs; that the -chauffeur of our Naval Attaché had been stabbed while trying to defend the automobile; and that many Americans were being threatened.
On Tuesday morning I received a telegram from our consulate in Isfahan stating that several thousand persons bearing Communist flags and shouting in Persian “Yankees, go home” had been parading in front of the consulate.
I met with Mossadegh late Tuesday evening. I found him fully dressed and neatly groomed sitting in his reception room, an indication that he was planning a formal conversation. He began at once to upbraid me for the Shah’s attempt to dismiss him. He said that there could be no doubt that the United States was responsible for the Shah’s action, and it would now be held responsible for the aftermath. I said that I had not come to argue about who was responsible for what had taken place but to discuss the danger in which American citizens in Iran now found themselves. I said, “Communist mobs seem to be in control of the streets; and the police, apparently under orders, are not attempting to control them; foreigners are being attacked; one of our Embassy chauffeurs has been stabbed. In Isfahan thousands of demonstrators, carrying Communist flags and using threatening language, are demonstrating in front of our consulate. Unless you can give me assurance that this violence and threats of violence will be stopped and American citizens and property will be given protection, I shall immediately order all American women and children and all the official American citizens whose presence here is not urgently needed to leave the country.”
“If you pull out all the Americans, it will look to the whole world,” said Mossadegh, “that the United States is entirely deserting Iran.”
I answered, “We would not be deserting Iran; I would be here and all the Americans who are needed would still be here, but as long as the police do not give them proper protection I do not want those who are not really needed to remain. If they do, incidents can take place which could seriously injure the relations between our countries.”
Mossadegh picked up his telephone and talked for a few minutes with the chief of the police. It was apparent to me that he had previously given orders that they were not to interfere with the demonstrators unless they should get completely out of hand, and since he rarely left his residence he had not been fully aware of what was going on. Over the phone in my presence he gave orders that a stop should be put immediately to rowdyism and violence. When I left Mossadegh about an hour later the police, apparently with pleasure, were busy dispersing the gangs in the streets and trying to restore order. I understood later that the Communists were furious at the interference of the police and returned to their homes feeling that Mossadegh was double-crossing them.
Early on the following morning, Wednesday, August 19, 1953, an important date, I received word while I was having breakfast that an uprising was taking place in the lower part of the city. I hurried across the Embassy garden to the chancery where I learned that a group of members of a well-known athletic club had suddenly emerged from the club with various kinds of arms calling upon the people to help them overthrow the Mossadegh regime and restore the Shah. In this club its members were accustomed to work hard developing their torsos in accordance with certain Iranian traditional exercises, which included the swinging of heavy clubs. The leaders of the demonstration, therefore, were men with almost frightening physiques, and they were rapidly joined by people on the street. Members of my staff whom I had sent out to find what was going on kept us informed by telephone. Within an hour the demonstrators reached the building which houses one of the leading pro-Mossadegh newspapers and destroyed the plant. I was confident that when the crowd would come into contact with the military, it would disperse, but to my surprise the military joined it. By noon the demonstrators had taken over the Foreign Office and a little later the area surrounding our Embassy compound was full of cheering people. General Zahedi, whom the Shah had appointed to succeed Mossadegh, and who had been in hiding, came out and seated on a tank moved through the applauding, waving crowds.
Late in the evening Ardeshir Zahedi, the son of the new Prime Minister, came to see me. He said that the leading cities of the country and most of the countryside were now under the control of the army, which had come out for the Shah and his father. He added that his father had asked him to inquire if I had any suggestions to offer. After a minute’s thought I said, “Yes, I have three suggestions. In the first place, I think every effort should be made to prevent Mossadegh from being harmed or killed. If he is taken prisoner, care should be exercised to make sure he is not physically abused. The question of his punishment, if any, should be left to the courts. In the second place, a circular telegram might be sent out at once to all the Iranian diplomatic missions and consular offices informing them that the new Prime Minister appointed by the Shah has taken over and they should continue to transact their business as usual. No revolution has taken place, merely a change in government. My third suggestion is that a similar announcement might be made for the benefit of the civil servants. They should be told by radio that they should report to work tomorrow as usual.”
During the next twenty-four hours, Mossadegh was captured and imprisoned pending a trial. Most of the Iranian diplomatic and consular offices carried on as usual. On the following day the governmental machinery was for the most part functioning. Zahedi proceeded to set up a new cabinet for the Shah’s approval. The Shah, who was in Rome on the day that Zahedi took office, returned to Tehran on August 22. I have never seen Tehran so happy as it was when it greeted him back.
MCKINZIE: Okay. Shortly after that there was an article in the American press, that you may know about, contending that Allen Dulles and Norman Schwarzkopf and a sister of the Shah . . .
HENDERSON: To my knowledge Allen Dulles was not in Tehran at all during that period. I am quite sure that Schwarzkopf had nothing to do with the affair. I am not prepared, however, to say that the CIA had nothing to do with some of these developments. It has been charged that the CIA inspired the uprising that started with the march of the members of the athletic club in Tehran. Whether it did or did not, I honestly don’t know. When I returned to Tehran, I was under the impression that Mossadegh, at least for a time, had won his long conflict with the Shah. When I talked with Mossadegh on the evening of August 18, I had no idea that an attempt would be made to overthrow him by force. I was surprised by the events that took place the next day, and I think that if they are ever published, my telegrams to the Department will support what I am saying. I am sure of one thing, however. No matter how skilled the CIA might be, it could not have engineered the overthrow of Mossadegh if the people of Iran had not overwhelmingly been in favor of the return of the Shah.”
Interesting part of the whole story is that CIA never accepted existence of such document that NY Times has published as true story of Mossadegh’s fall from power and claimed that all documents have been destroyed in process of routine clean up to make space in archives. And this is while there is absolutely not a single reference to any operation with the name of “tpajax” in any communication documents (cables, telegraphs, letters and reports) of US government at any time. There are thousands of pages of US government documents about Iran since much earlier than 1953 which have been released according to FOIA and not a single one provides such impression that US government had been conducting any operation of that magnitude and with that name against Iranian government. If we consider the operation which was carried out by US secret service in Guatemala during 1954 regarding which hundreds of pages of documents have been released by the government with CIA emblem on the cover and the name of operation in the subject line of many pages, then we should think twice before trusting authenticity of so called “tpajax” operation story made by a couple of business men and adventurists.
It is naive if we accept the explanation of US government regarding absence of document (routine clean up to make space?) while thousands of pages of documents from the time much earlier than that and related to much more insignificant issues are still available in the archives. You can find the official communication documents about Guatemala from 1951 and even earlier in there. The only acceptable explanation is that such document never existed because such kind of operation never happened except in the minds of its creators. Why do American officials resort to such vague statements regarding such event when they try to address Iranians? Obviously manipulation of people’s opinion in the region and also inside United States by emphasizing magnificent powers of US intelligence services while presenting an honest impression can’t be ruled out as one reason.
* Parts of this article have been published in previous years in other forums and also in my blog. Next: post 1953 era, relations with USA and white revolution.