All the Shah's Men (part 4)

Mosadegh was definitely a patriotic but his abilities were in doubt


All the Shah's Men (part 4)
by Sohrab_Ferdows

The story of CIA coup against Prime Minister Mosadegh, other than imaginative skills of Kermit Roosevelt and Don Wilber, apparently had some roots in realities of some events that probably were organized by these characters to take advantage of them in future and possibly making some fortune from the oil companies that would benefit from the change of direction regarding oil in Iranian government policies. Kermit Roosevelt's background in OSS (Office of Strategic Services) where he worked as an officer in Middle East during WW II had provided him with an opportunity to become familiar with the history and politics of the region. According to one story, he was later recruited by Frank Gardner Wisner in 1950 to work in espionage operations and participate in overthrow of Prime Minister Mosadegh in 1953, but there is absolutely no real official record of such plans and operations anywhere. According to same story, Frank Wisner arranged a meeting between Kim Roosevelt and President Eisenhower upon his return to United States and Roosevelt briefed the President about the Operation Ajax. As per Daniel Yergin (who is quoting from so called planners of the coup) in his book "The Prize", after that meeting, President Eisenhower noted in his diary "with admiration", the Operation Ajax seemed more like a dime-novel than a historical fact. In fact, not only the "Operation Ajax" but also the meeting with President has been nothing other than a dime-novel! The meeting records of President Eisenhower for the whole month of August (and the months after that) in 1953 which has been declassified without any blanked space; has no indication of such event and there is no sign of the diary where Eisenhower made such remark while a whole lot of President's diaries on different issues are available.

According to same stories, Frank Wisner was also responsible for planning the operation in Guatemala in year 1954. As mentioned in earlier parts, while one can find plenty of documents regarding the covert operations in Guatemala with all kinds of information including signatures, names, emblems, dates and name of the operation (Operation PBSUCCESS) in the subject line, there is absolutely not a single page of that sort regarding so called operation Ajax! Daniel Yergin, quoting from "one of the operation's planners", provides a less wacky version of the Ajax story: "Operation Ajax created 'a situation and an atmosphere in Tehran that forced the people to choose between an established institution, the monarchy, and the unknown future offered by Mossadeq' Even so, success had been by no means certain.” As we can see from Mr. Yergin's version of "Operation Ajax", it seems like Kim Roosevelt and co considered a little discount in their heroic James Bond story and settled for "giving Iranian people a choice between Shah and Mosadegh" rather than story of "removing Mosadegh and installing Shah".

Some honest remarks that have been made by Shah and Princess Ashraf Pahlavi in their books also seem to have contributed to such stories to some degrees. In the book "Answer to History" Shah, with doubts, mentions the "Operation Ajax" after admitting that he had a meeting with Kermit Roosevelt on August 16/1953 to hear about the views of US government about Mosadegh after he had dissolved the Parliament against the constitution to see if US government still supports Mosadegh's policies. After Shah received assurances of US government that they were not supporting Mosadegh then he decided to use his constitutional privileges and power to remove Mosadegh for moving against constitution. Shah also states in his book that documents show that CIA had spent $60000 in those days while expressing doubts that such amount of money could have created such effects in a country like Iran.

According to Princess Ashraf Pahlavi who had been expelled from Iran by Mosadegh as a precondition to work as a Prime Minister, Mosadegh was encouraged by Henry Grady (American Ambassador) in his policies regarding oil nationalization hoping to push British out of the region but later, their views changed and they realized that Mosadegh was not able to resolve the oil dispute. Comments made by Loy Henderson (next US Ambassador) in American oral history regarding his meeting with Mosadegh on August 18/1953 that implied Mosadegh might have tried to use his meeting with American Ambassador as a means of propaganda if they met publically, to show that US government was supporting him, confirms such views. Princess Ashraf states that, in the summer of 1953, she met an American and a British men in France, who told her that they were representing John F. Dulles and Winston Churchill and intended to help Shah in resolving the oil issue. The meeting had been arranged by an Iranian whose name is identified only as Mr. B. The two representatives asked her to go to Iran and deliver a sealed envelope to the Shah without anyone else knowing about the mission.

Princess Ashraf accepts to do that and goes to Iran and delivers the envelope without having any information about the content. She later hears from a radio (after she was ordered back to France by the government) that Shah and his wife have left the country after a failed coup and she wonders if the failed "coup" that the radio was talking about, was the same plan that Mr. B's friends had spoken about with such certainty. A couple of days later, when she was on her way to go and see the Shah in Italy, she hears about demonstration against Mosadegh and in support of Shah and concludes that, this was probably the plan that she had been told about by the American and British agents. Ashraf states in her memoirs that apparently some money had been spent to print Shah's pictures and distribute them among Iranian people in this operation. It is unclear why CIA and MI6 insisted to involve Ashraf Pahlavi in such operation while they knew that she was under strict order by Mosadegh not to go back to Iran and was closely watched by Mosadegh's government agencies. Ashraf was confronted by governor of Tehran the same day that she arrived in Tehran and was asked to leave the country which she refused but was finally forced to leave about a week later.

After all, it seems the only substance to the whole "dime-novel" of Operation Ajax, was informing the young Iranian monarch about US position which did not support Mosadegh's policies (after losing faith in Mosdegh's ability to properly resolve the oil issue) through informal channels (US Ambassador was not present in Iran at that time and was not happy to be used by any side in the conflict between Mosadegh and Shah) and also printing some pictures of Shah for distribution (IF that is not another made up story by Roosevelt and co to make a bill for unverifiable business transaction to scam US government for some money) among residents of Tehran who were ready to support their monarch in those critical days. Daniel Yergin confirms in his book that fall of Mosadegh was inevitable and Shah also states that, it took about 30 months for Iranian people to clearly see what Mosadegh was capable of and when the time came to choose, they decided to reject him. It is inconceivable to accept that a popular government leader in a country of 20 million people (at that time) can be removed with such petty amount of money and such cheap tricks and it is disrespect to the intelligence of Iranian people to accept and promote such unfounded views.

Late Dr. Mohammad Mosadegh was definitely a patriotic Iranian but his abilities as a Prime Minister were in doubt and not of the best quality. He could probably serve the best as an opposition leader but running the affairs of a nation with such magnitude of political, economic, and social problems was too much for him and his mistakes under manipulative influence of some of his associates put the nation on the path of constant crisis towards final disaster. Mosadegh in his memoirs wrote that, on August 27th, he ordered to arrest anyone who spoke a word about Iranian republic system as Iran was a constitutional monarchy and should have remained that way. He also mentioned that he intended to write a letter to the Shah and plead for his return. This was the same day that Dr. Fatemi had become disappointed in him and the next day was seen cursing Dr. Mosadegh for refusing to declare a republic.

Mr. A.H. Meftah who worked as an assistant to Dr. Hussein Fatemi and had met Dr. Mosadegh in Hague to render some advice, in his book "Truth Has No Color", provides a lot of valuable information about the policies of Mosadegh's government and the last days events in August 1953. Mr. Meftah states that when he told Dr. Mosadegh about a rumor regarding his (Mosadegh) meeting in which he told some members of parliament in his house that British would surrender to his demands after 2-3 months the most. Mosadegh confirmed such statement and said that was the truth and Mr. Meftah expressed his surprise and disappointment that his Excellency, the Prime Minister Mosadegh had started such important campaign without preparing a proper plan. After listening to Mr. Meftah for a while, Mosadegh who was clearly disturbed of the information which was presented to him told him that not even two members of his cabinet can agree with each other and then asked what could he do?

Late Shah in his book "Answer to History" states that after fall of Mosadegh, it became clear that Tudeh Party had prepared to take over the country by removing Mosadegh and declaring a republic in two weeks. Shah also wrote that he had personally seen the information and the stamps that had been prepared for republic of Iran by them in advance. Nevertheless, some people continue to take advantage of the confusion created through made up stories to invent untouchable heroes and hide behind them for self agenda promotion or making some business through selling books while Iranians continue to suffer because of these unfounded stories.

Some people argue that Dr. Mosadegh did not break any law during his work as Prime Minister of the country. This argument is not correct. Mosadegh committed several constitutional mistakes and disregarded articles of the constitution in different instances from which the most important one was dissolving the parliament (article 48) and conducting a referendum with open/non-secret ballots which was against democratic rights of people to express their views freely in such event. He also disregarded the order of Monarch to yield office to a successor (article 46) after the parliament was dissolved. Mosadegh certainly gained his power through a democratic process which was at work at that time but he did not leave his position based on same democratic process and laws which allowed his dismissal by monarch in the absence of a parliament that was dissolved by him illegally.

After Mosadegh's government was replaced with a new government in Iran, it took a few months until the oil started to flow again. A new era in Iranian oil industry began and a consortium of different oil companies that included some American and French companies joined the operations in Iran. After decades of following the informal agreement of "as is" between American and British oil companies to stay away from each-other's region of influence, Americans succeeded to force themselves in Iranian oil business. US financial aid which was in negotiation between Iranian government and Americans since the time of Prime Minister Mosadegh to cover for the loss of oil revenue and dealing with economical consequences of that, was delivered to new Iranian government. Relations between Iran and US grew rapidly to replace the relations with British as an element of balance against the powerful northern neighbor, the Soviet Union.

The events of 1951-1953 and long period of instability and chaos which had shown its negative effects in the world affairs by destabilizing oil market and world economy, made US and British governments doubtful about future of Iran. During the same years, many among Iranian elite had started to turn their attention to United States as a new center of power politics in Iran. A few years after 1953, Iranian government initiated its security intelligence organization to counter the anti establishment activities which were mostly influenced by communist world and ideology. According to different sources, this matter was done with the help of CIA of United States and Israeli intelligent service which provided guidance to Iranian government and training to the personnel. General Teymour Bakhtiar (a relative of Shah's wife, Soraya Esfandiari Bakhtiari, at that time) was the first director of this organization until 1961. General Bakhtiar had a shiny military record in his bag as a veteran in the battles to free Azarbaijan from communist occupation. He had been promoted to the rank of General by Fazlollah Zahedi when he became Prime Minister after Mosadegh. He was then appointed as governor of Tehran until 1957 which he was assigned as head of SAVAK (the short form for sazemane etela-at va amniyate keshvar). Teymour Bakhtiar has been credited with discovery and destroying of Tudeh Party's military organization in the beginning of his work as director of intelligence service. His dismissal by Shah in 1961 was allegedly based on Dr. Amini's recommendation who had warned Shah about General Bakhtiar's contacts with President Kennedy of United States. General Bakhtiar was later assassinated in Iraq after he fled from Iran to avoid arrest for attempting a coup against Shah.

A few years earlier, during late 1950's, another coup which was apparently planned with the help of CIA had been discovered. General Valiollah Gharani who was head of army's counter intelligence organization since early 1950's along with some civilian friends from whom, some were CIA elements were implicated and arrested. Apparently, General Gharani who became disappointed after losing competition to Bakhtiar for leading newly established SAVAK, and was very aware of the Americans interest in reforming Iranian system (probably through his friends in CIA), decided to get closer to Americans in order to implement his plans for changing Iranian system when he was sent to United States for training. He met Dr. Amini who was Iran's Ambassador to US at that time. According to Abbas Milani in his book "Eminent Persians", a CIA intelligence estimate report during those years had indicated the possibility of a military man getting into action against Shah along with some civilians in order to impose limits on the monarch's power in the country. As per his account the appointment of Gharani had been done in that context. Milani also states that around the same time, Americans used their influence to form a group from parliamentarians and politicians who favored premiership of Ali Amini while they covertly published articles in media and demanded for reforms.

General Hussein Fardust, in his book “Rise and Fall of Pahlavi Dynasty", states that Americans had built a trust in Gharani; for his role in removal of Dr. Mosadegh from power in August of 1953. After his return to Iran, General Gharani made contacts with American Embassy and CIA operatives in Iran to organize his plans for coup. Among these civilians the names of Manouchehr and Esfandiar Bozorgmehr ( who is possibly the same person whose name is mentioned as Mr. B by Ashraf Pahlavi?) can be found. Esfandiar Bozorgmehr (his son, Yousef has been recently defending Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his victory in Islamic Republic presidential election of 2009) worked as a journalist in those days and his older brother Manouchehr was a lawyer. Iranian history professor, Abdullah Shahbazi (in Iran), believes that Bozorgmehr brothers were the same people whom Kermit Roosevelt had contact with in Iran without mentioning their real names. General Fardust states in his book that Esfandiar Bozorgmehr was in contact with CIA station in Athens Greece where he travelled frequently.

According to Mr. Milani the contacts between Gharani and American Embassy started in 1956 after Gharani received the news that J. F. Dulles was going to Iran for a visit and the final meeting between him and three officers of American Embassy was in the house of Esfandiar Bozorgmehr in January of 1958. General Fardust claims that this information was provided to Iranian government by MI6, the British Intelligence Service along with some other documents. About a month later, Bozorgmehr was arrested in the airport when he was returning from Greece in February of 1958. General Gharani and some other accomplices were arrested later. This incident indicates the ambiguity of politics and uncertainty of both British and Americans towards the situation in Iran and their rivalry against each other which have taken a lot of twists and turns. No doubt, all of those activities had something to do with Iranian oil.

In May 1961, Shah appointed Dr. Ali Amini as Prime Minister after Mr. Sharif Emami had some argue and confrontations with parliament members and the Speaker Of The House. It is believed that this action was supported by US government which was putting pressure on Shah for reforms and considered Amini as the person who could bring such reforms. Dr. Amini asked Shah to dissolve the parliament promising that he would start a new and fair election soon. Election never happened and media started calling Amini a dictator who talked too much. Cartoonists would draw him with microphone in the bed! During his premiership, Shah visited United States and met President Kennedy in April of 1962 and became familiar with the expectations and the points of US administration regarding reforms in Iran. This matter became foundation for the arguments by those who opposed Shah on any issue, to claim that US government has been the mastermind of White Revolution in Iran.

A couple of months after Shah's return, he removed Dr. Amini and replaced him with Asadollah Alam, an aristocrat from North-Eastern province of Khorasan. Alam kept some of cabinet members of Amini in his government which included Minister of Agriculture; Arsnjani who had conducted some land reforms during Amini's government. Later, in 1963, Shah introduced his 6 point reform plan called White Revolution which included: Land Reform; Nationalization of Forests; Privatization of the Government Owned Enterprises; Profit Sharing for industrial workers; Extending the Right to Vote to Women; Formation of the Literacy Corps. The reform was opposed by majority of landlords and clergymen. Most serious opposition came from Ayatollah Khomeini who attacked Shah in a speech that resulted in anti government riots and the arrest of Khomeini himself. Khomeini was later sent to exile but he was a person of interest to CIA and US government as a man who opposed the expansion of Shah's authorities and was compared with religious leaders of Constitutional Revolution (based on declassified documents of US government), and his situation was monitored from that time.

Dr. Lajvardi of Harvard Oral History Project, in an interview with Stuart Rockwell, the American Ambassador at that time, has asked some questions in regards with influence of American administration on Shah's reforms and received some interesting answers which are worthy of mentioning here. Regarding President Kennedy Mr. Rockwell states: “…I think the Shah considered Kennedy to be an uninformed meddler in Iranian affairs…” and also regarding White Revolution:

Dr. Lajvardi: “Q. .... was the U.S. influence into the content of the white revolution. Someone I once interviewed told me that the whole White Revolution, especially the land reform part of it, was cooked up in the basement of the White House by Robert Komer, but I was never able to substantiate this."

Mr. Rockwell: "A. I don't think there's any truth whatsoever to that. Obviously the U.S. had been aware that the land tenure situation in Iran was a medieval anachronism but didn't take it much .... to see that. The United States did not have any program for Iran other than the general and gradual bringing of a greater segment of the population into the day to day political operations of the government and we certainly did not have any blueprint for the White Revolution. But the problems addressed by the revolution were ones that were crying for solution; the lack of education, the need for greater medical services, the need for the distribution of land. I don't know where the idea of profit sharing in the factories came from. It was certainly not something that we thought sounded very logical. However, I can assure you to the best of my knowledge we had nothing to do with the proposing of the six points of the White Revolution.....”

Shah later added some other reforms in different social, economic and health related areas to the initial 6 point reform which became 19 in total. Next: rising price of oil and start of armed rebellion against government by radical leftist and religious groups.

* In order to address some of concerns which were expressed by some readers, I decided to dedicate a few lines to the sources of the materials which are presented in different parts of this article. The sources which I have used in my research include a variety of documents, books, papers and interviews which come from different governments, people, organizations and institutions. Names of many of the sources of these materials have been mentioned throughout the article when a direct (or indirect) citation has been made but there are times that multiple sources have been used in combination in order to express an interpretation and a drawn conclusion regarding some events and issues. It is impossible to mention all the sources for each and every phrase which reflect researcher's interpretations on such materials but (as much as possible) a list of some of the sources which have been used to prepare all parts of this essay will be provided here so that anyone who has interest in the subject could try on their own.

Story of the coup by Dr. Wilber about the events of August 1953 in Iran
CIA declassified reports about Iran in 1953
Historical CIA communication documents and NIE reports
Communication documents of US State Dept.
The Prize: Daniel Yergin
An Anglo-Iranian Oil Dispute: Alan Ford
The life and times of Shah: Gholamreza Afkhami
Pedar va Pesar : Mahmoud Toluee
The Truth Has No Color: A.H. Meftah
Blood and Oil : Manuchehr Farmanfarmaian
Bazigarane Siyasat dar Iran : Mahmoud Toluee
tarikhe siyasi 25 saleh Iran: Gholamreza Nejati
Tarikhe 30 saleh Iran : Bijan Jazani
Tarikh 500 saleh Khuzestan: Ahmad Kasravi
Tarikh Mashruteh Iran: Ahmad Kasravi
Khaterate man az zendehyad Hussein Fatemi: Mokri
Framasonry in Iran : Esmail Raeen
Rise and Fall of Pahlavi Dynasty: Hussein Fardust
Answer to History: Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi
Man va Baradaram (Farsi translation of "Faces in The Mirror" by MR. Toluee; published inside Iran) : Princess Ashraf Pahlavi
Eminent Persians: Abbas Milani
Man Motaham Mikonam : Fereydune Keshavarz
Harvard Oral History Project of Iran
American Oral History: Truman Library
Mission for MY country: MRP
Memoirs of: Mohammad Mosadegh, Karim Sanjabi, Iraj Eskanadri, Fereydun Keshavarz, Maryam Firuz, Loy Henderson (American Ambassador)...
and many others


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good article

by Simorgh555 on

My views of Mossadeq were the same. He may have been a patriot and well intentioned but he was paralysed by his own ideology. He grabbed the refineries, he expelled the Brtish, what then? How are you going to drill the oil out of the ground and which market are you going to sell it to?

Mossadeq was also a temperamental man. His mood changed from euphoria to depression. Also he was not in good health and would often carry out affairs of the state walking in his pyjamas. His support was volatile and those that supported him were Kashani to begin with and the the Tudehs. I am not saying Mossadeq was a communist but he would not have been able to sustain power long and any power vacume would have been filled by the Islamists or Marxists who could not care less about democracyin the least bit. The consequences of the 1979 revolution testifies to this. 

Whether Operation Ajax happened or not is irrelevant. Mossadeq had to be deposed otherwise the catastrophe of 1979 would have come much sooner than later. 

Mossadeq achieved virtually nothing - mostly because he was unable at the end to put into action his plans - and yet, there is a myth which surrounds him that has elevated one man, who was never really democratically elected into a demigod.