Operation Oops!

Operation Ajax: A case study in misperception


Operation Oops!
by Mitchell Freddura

In 1953 the United States overthrew the government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh; a duplicitous act which has left an indelible stain on U.S.-Iranian relations. Although much has been written about this episode, conspicuously absent is a detailed analysis of the Eisenhower administration’s decision to pursue aggressive action. Accordingly, by applying the framework constructed by Robert Jervis, the administration’s decision is revealed to be the byproduct of a series of misperceptions about the nature and actions of the Iranian regime. Moreover, Guy Ziv’s work on cognitive structure suggests that these misperceptions were exacerbated by the relatively closed and less complex cognitive structures from which key administration officials were operating. These parochial cognitive structures, augmented by the administration’s reductive perceptual threshold, led many principle decision-makers to misperceive the events of the Iranian crisis, conflate Iranian nationalism with Soviet communism, and conclude that force was the only appropriate solution. Thus, analyzing the 1953 coup d’état through the lens of these two mutually reinforcing paradigms, misperception and cognitive structure, confers an additional layer of nuance necessary to understand this impactful event.

Operation Ajax

The covert American operation in Iran, codenamed Ajax, was a critical event in the history of U.S. foreign policy. Although lauded at the time, the decision to overthrow Mossadegh has proven to be both shortsighted and myopic, as the United States chose to pursue immediate interests at the expense of long term stability. American actions ensured that in the short term Iran remained an unwavering ally in the region, but it also engendered feelings of resentment and distrust throughout the Iranian population. These sentiments precipitated the 1979 Islamic revolution and continue to strain U.S.-Iranian relations today. Moreover, operation Ajax became the blueprint for subsequent American interventions throughout the Third World, most immediately in Guatemala in 1954.

The American action was the culmination the so-called Iranian crisis which began in 1951 during the Truman administration when the Iranian regime nationalized the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Industry (AIOC). In April 1951 Mohammad Mossadegh, a western educated aristocrat, was named Prime Minister of Iran by a reluctant Mohammad Reza Shah; who as Mark Gasiorowski observes, begrudgingly “yielded to a rising tide of popular pressure” to appoint Mossadegh.1 A fierce nationalist and early advocate of the nascent non-aligned movement, Mossadegh was as part of the National Front, a disparate amalgam of intellectuals, laymen, and clerics tenuously united by an ardent distaste for British imperialism.2 Accordingly, on April 30, 1951 the Iranian parliament voted to nationalize the AIOC and regain control of Iran’s most precious natural resource.3

This decision sent reverberations throughout the British Empire. Adopting a decidedly intransigent posture and refusing to acquiesce to Iranian demands, the British pursued a dual-track policy wherein they attempted to resolve the crisis diplomatically, while simultaneously working to undermine the Mossadegh government and imposing a blockade on all Iranian oil exports.4 As the British stated, “…the Iranian Government is causing a great enterprise…to grind to a stop. Unless this is promptly checked, the whole of the free world will be poorer and weaker, including the deluded Iranian people themselves.”5

In response the Truman Administration intervened in an attempt to allay tensions between the two sides and broker a peaceful and equitable resolution to the crisis. The administration believed that a deal would not only help Great Britain, a declining imperial power, maintain its reputation but also keep Mohammad Mossadegh in power, whom the Truman administration believed could act as a bulwark against communism. The negotiations however proved vexing for the Truman administration, as the British remained obstinate and refused to surrender their colonial possession. Deriding the haughty manner of the British, Secretary of State Dean Acheson remarked, “Never had so few lost so much so stupidly so fast.”6

The presidential election of 1952 nullified the efforts of the Truman administration, as president-elect Dwight Eisenhower proved much more receptive to an expedient and forceful resolution to the crisis. As David Robarge observes, the Eisenhower administration was staunchly “dedicated to rolling back communism and defending democratic governments threatened by Moscow's machinations.”7 This dedication was augmented by an acute fear permeating throughout the administration that the Tudeh party, the Iranian communist party, was powerful enough to subvert the Mossadegh government and impose a pro-Soviet agenda on Iran.

Accordingly, administration officials concluded that a nationalist, non-aligned regime in Iran- a southern neighbor of the Soviet Union- was intolerable, and that a pro-western leader like the Shah was more desirable. Toward this end, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother Allen Dulles, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, enlisted the help of CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt to devise a plan to remove Mossadegh from power. Executed in early August 1953, operation Ajax called for the CIA to obtain royal decrees from the Shah removing Mossadegh from power and replacing him with the much more malleable General Zahedi.8 The Iranian military would then seize key government buildings and arrest Mossadegh.9

The Iranian Prime Minister however, became aware of the impending coup against him and quickly declared the royal decrees illegal and ordered the conspirators arrested, causing the skittish Shah to flee the country.10 Nevertheless, the indomitable Roosevelt paid throngs of protestors to pose as members of the Tudeh party and demonstrate in Tehran, hoping to create the illusion that the situation was becoming increasingly precarious as the Premier lost his grip on power.11 In the ensuing chaos the pro-Shah Iranian military took to the streets to quell the unrest, eventually storming the house of Mohammad Mossadegh and apprehending the embattled statesman. Thus what began in 1951 as an Iranian attempt to establish a foreign policy independent of imperialist machinations, ended two years later with a western superpower intervening in Iranian affairs in the pursuit of myopic and self-interested goals.

Misperception and the Iranian Coup

While a great deal of literature has been produced about the covert operation, conspicuously absent is any detailed analysis of the decision made by the Eisenhower administration to resolve the crisis through force rather than diplomacy. Although the most commonly accepted explanation seems to rationalize the decision to intervene in Iran as the result of the Eisenhower administration’s acute fear of communism and desire to contain Soviet expansion, this is insufficient. There were other instances where the administration could have intervened to counter Soviet influence but did not; such as in Eastern Germany in 1953 or Hungary in 1956.12 Such an explanation also suggests that Harry Truman was not as ardent an anti-communist as Dwight Eisenhower; which is a faulty assumption. It was during the Truman presidency that NSC 68 was adopted, an aggressive and expansionist policy which sought to contain, and indeed roll back, the Soviet Union, and led to the militarization of U.S. foreign policy.

Other explanations for why the U.S. intervened are also inadequate. A popular reason is that the United States intervened to protect American oil interests in Iran. However, Mark Gasiorowski convincingly explains that American oil companies were not interested in Iranian oil. As he states, “The U.S. majors had increased their production in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in 1951 in order to make up for the loss of Iranian production; operating in Iran would force them to cut back production in these countries which would create tensions with Saudi and Kuwaiti leaders.”13 Thus, Gasiorowski concludes, “the major U.S. oil companies were not interested in Iran at this time.”14

Accordingly, by applying the framework constructed by Robert Jervis in his Hypothesis on Misperception, the decision is revealed to be the byproduct of a series of misperceptions by the Eisenhower administration. As Jervis explains, in the realm of international relations decision-makers calibrate their actions based on an assumption of how another actor will react to those actions, and how that reaction will affect the values and ideology of the decision-maker.15 Consequently, Jervis states, “The actor must therefore develop an image of others and of their intentions. This image may, however, turn out to be an inaccurate one; the actor may, for a number of reasons, misperceive both the others’ actions and their intentions.”16 Thus, the ensuing analysis will attempt to establish the “perceptual threshold” of the Eisenhower administration, determine how that threshold was created, and identify how it skewed the administration’s perception of the Iranian crisis.

The Perceptual Threshold of the Eisenhower Administration

Robert Jervis founds his framework in the fundamental assumption, what he labels Hypothesis 1, that “…decision-makers tend to fit incoming information into their existing theories and images. Indeed, their theories and images play a large part in determining what they notice.”17 Jervis further elucidates this assumption by observing, “The question of the relations among particular beliefs and cognitions can often be seen as part of the general topic of the relation of incoming bits of information to the receivers’ already established images.”18 Consequently, Jervis asserts, “actors tend to perceive what they expect.”19 Thus, there seems to be a reciprocal relationship between a decision-maker’s established images and his perception of an event; wherein the images influence how an event is perceived and in return that perception reinforces those established images.

Before contending that the Eisenhower administration misperceived the nature and actions of Mohammad Mossadegh, it is necessary to establish what the perceptual threshold of Dwight Eisenhower was and how it was constructed. In his article, Jervis maintains that there are three main sources that “contribute to decision-makers’ concepts of international relations and of other states and influence their perceptual thresholds for various phenomena.”20 The first sources is “an actor’s beliefs about his own domestic political system…”21 On this point, there is no doubt that Eisenhower was influenced by, and subsequently reflected, the American political system of the 1950s; an era in which the American ethos was roiled by an acute paranoia of Soviet aggression and communist subversion of the American system.

Robert Jervis contends that “in some cases…the decision-maker’s concepts are tied to an ideology that explicitly provides a frame of reference for viewing foreign affairs.”22 During the Cold War, American foreign policy was informed by the conviction that a monolithic, rapacious, and aggressive Soviet Union was seeking to extend its influence throughout the world; and that the United States, as the vanguard for liberty and democracy, must contain this expansion. Dwight Eisenhower was an avid proponent of this ideology. According to Moyara de Moraes Reuhsen, both Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles “harbored strong fears about the spread of Communism, which the climate of the early 1950s (the era of McCarthy’s witch-hunts) only exacerbated.”23 Consequently, as Stephen Ambrose observes, during the presidential election Eisenhower excoriated the Democrats for “spreading American resources too thin” and “accepting the status quo too willingly”; arguing instead “that the United States must wrest the initiative from the Soviet Union, and if possible ‘liberate’ areas from Communist control.”24

Thus, during the election Eisenhower posited himself as the dynamic and assertive alternative to the passive, perhaps even lethargic, Democrats. Nevertheless, as Barry Rubin contends, the anxious political climate of the Cold War predisposed the Eisenhower administration “toward a greater suspicion of Third World nationalism.”25 In the bipolar international system of the Cold War, neutral and nationalist regimes were almost reflexively viewed with suspicion; as such movements were seen as susceptible to communist infiltration. Consequently, this inclination undoubtedly influenced the administration’s perception of Mossadegh’s nationalist platform, as well as the perceived strength and intentions of the Tudeh party.

Mark Gasiorowski concludes that, “Viewed in this context…the decision to overthrow Mosaddeq appears merely as one more step in the global effort…to block Soviet expansionism.”26 Moreover, commenting on the impact that domestic constituencies had on the formation of foreign policy during the Cold War, George Kennan mused, “There would not be a president who would not stand in certain terror of the anti-communist right wing…and would not temper his actions with a view to placating it and adverting its possible hostility.”27 It is Stephen Ambrose however, who most succinctly and insightfully sums up the impact of the domestic system on Eisenhower’s perceptual threshold. As he states, “the Republicans had just won an election, in part, by demanding to know ‘Who Lost China?’ they were not going to expose themselves to the question ‘Who Lost Iran?”28

The second source of a decision-maker’s perceptual threshold, as detailed by Jervis, is the impact of past experiences.29 Robert Bowie and Richard Immerman contend that while Dwight Eisenhower did not have extensive experience in the Third World, his short time spent in the Philippines during the 1930s had a significant impact on him.30 While in the Philippines Eisenhower engaged in “nation-state building” and “defense planning” programs which “taught him about the importance of winning the heartfelt allegiance of the indigenous populations…”31As the authors assert, “this conviction drove his prescription for meeting the communist challenge.”32

Eisenhower’s past experience as the Supreme Allied Commander during World War II also imbued him with a proclivity for “covert and psychological” warfare.33 As Stephen Ambrose describes, during World War II “the success of the British Secret Service had impressed Dwight Eisenhower… simultaneously he commanded a series of covert operations that played a crucial role in the final victory. So, when Eisenhower became President, he encouraged the growth of the CIA…”34 Thus, in the context of the Iranian crisis, Mohammad Mossadegh and his avocation of an independent and neutral foreign policy seemed to preclude the U.S. from truly winning the hearts and minds of the Iranian people and ensuring that Iran remained a staunch American ally. Moreover, if the Tudeh party were allowed to come to power Iran would ostensibly be completely lost to the Western bloc. It is no surprise then that considering his past history Eisenhower employed subversive and covert means to resolve the crisis.

Jervis’ third and final source of a decision-maker’s perceptual threshold, and perhaps the most salient for the Eisenhower administration, is an actor’s perception of international history.35 As Jervis states, “...historical traumas can heavily influence future perceptions. They can either establish a state’s image of the other state involved or can be used as analogies.”36 For many members of the Eisenhower administration, including the president himself, the fall of China to Mao Zedong’s communist forces appears to have been a particularly impactful episode. The Eisenhower administration viewed Iran as potentially a “second China” 37 and thus was driven by “a desire to prevent Iran from going the way of China.”38

The loss of China was so eminent in the mind of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, that he suggested two months after taking office that “the situation was so dangerous and unpredictable [in Iran] that it might be necessary to act promptly and that the United States would have to have a considerable measure of discretion as to what it did.”39 Moreover, in a personal letter written by Eisenhower in June of 1951, he laments the loss of China and fears a similar fate for Iran. He writes, “As to Iran, I think the whole thing is tragic…The situation there has not yet gotten into as bad a position as China, but sometimes I think it stands at the same place that China did only a very few years ago. Now we have completely lost the latter nation…I most certainly hope that this calamity is not repeated in the case of Iran.”40 Eisenhower also confided to a friend that he regretted the “bungling” of the Iranian situation by Truman and Acheson and believed it would be tragic if Iran were to be lost to the Western world as China had been.41

Thus, the perceptual threshold of Dwight Eisenhower seems to have been distilled from the hysteric domestic political climate of the 1950s, his prior experience in the Third World, his proclivity for covert operations, and the potent historical analogy of losing China to communism. This perceptual threshold however, was not unique to the president, as many key officials, including Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, were operating from a perceptual threshold that was as equally reductive and constructed from the similar components.

This perceptual threshold was a;sp reinforced by the media, whose accounts of the Iranian crisis undoubtedly influenced the “evoked-set” of administration officials. As Robert Jervis argues, “The way people perceive data is influenced…by what they are concerned with at the time they receive information. Information is evaluated in light of the small part of the person’s memory that is presently active- the ‘evoked-set.’”42 Jervis expounds on this argument by stating, “My perceptions of the dark streets I pass walking home from the movies will be different if the film I saw had dealt with spies than if it had been a comedy.”43

In 1952 Time Magazine named Mohammad Mossadegh its Man of the Year. The magazine’s portrait of the Iranian leader however, characterized him as “an appalling caricature of a statesman” who had a “fanatical state of mind” and represented a movement that “would rather see their own nations fall apart than continue their present relations with the West…”44 The article went on to state that “He [Mossadegh] is not in any sense pro-Russian, but he intends to stick to his policies even though he knows full they might lead to control of Iran by the Kremlin.”45

Moreover, commenting on Mossadegh’s attempt to expand his powers as Prime Minister, the New York Times luridly wrote, “Having brought his country to the verge of bankruptcy Premier Mossadegh is now trying to take it further along the road to ruin…what he proposed is in effect a legalized coup d’état that smacks of Hitler’s tactics.”46 Finally, hailing the election of Dwight Eisenhower, the New York Times proclaimed, “The day of sleep-walking is over. It passed with the exodus of Truman and Acheson, and the policy of vigilance replacing Pollyanna diplomacy is evident.”47

These and other media accounts undoubtedly influenced the evoked-set of the Eisenhower administration. Their portrayals of the Iranian crisis cast Mohammad Mossadegh as an irrational leader whose daft policies were increasing the likelihood of a Soviet intervention, and who must be dealt with from a position of force. Consequently, the notes from a National Security Council meeting held on March 11, 1953 indicate that “The President said that he had very real doubts whether, even if we tried unilaterally, we could make a successful deal with Mossadegh…he felt that it might not be worth the paper it was written on…”48

The Misperceptions of the Eisenhower Administration

Thus, operating from a perceptual threshold that was decidedly reductive and thus fatally superficial, which reflected the hysteria of the Cold War and substituted circumspect analysis with historical generalities, the Eisenhower administration repeatedly misperceived the events of the Iranian crisis. In many ways however, the Iranian crisis was an innately unique historical phenomenon, as it was one of the first instances that a satellite challenged a colonial power. As such, Robert Jervis contends in Hypothesis 4 that “misperception is most difficult to correct in the case of a missing concept and least difficult to correct in the case of a recognized but presumably unfilled concept.”49

Indeed, because the Iranian crisis seems to have represented a new paradigm, the perceptual threshold of the Eisenhower administration may have been intrinsically ill-equipped to deal with the crisis. As Eisenhower’s Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson observed, the United States did not have an adequate response to “the obvious collapse of colonialism” nor to “Communism’s new tactic [of] exploiting nationalism and colonialism for its own purposes.”50 Hence it seems as though broader question of how to interact with a Third World that was becoming increasingly restive and insurgent was a perplexing one for the Eisenhower administration. Consequently, the administration seems to have attributed Iran’s actions to be the result of a communist agenda, rather than its own nationalist aspirations. Rather than alter its perceptual threshold to satisfy the novel nature of the Iranian crisis, the Eisenhower administration awkwardly fit it into its already established perceptual threshold; which as will become apparent, yielded a myriad of misperceptions.

Robert Jervis’ Hypotheses 8 and 9 are particularly salient sources of misperception for the Iranian crisis. Hypothesis 8 states that “…there is an overall tendency for decision-makers to see other states as more hostile than they are.”51 Hypothesis 9 states “…that actors tend to see the behavior of others are more centralized, disciplined, and coordinated than it is…This is the case partly because actors tend to be unfamiliar with the details of another state’s policy-making process.”52

Throughout the Iranian crisis, Mohammad Mossadegh frequently invoked the specter of Soviet intervention in Iran as a negotiation tactic, hopping to use it as leverage to secure a better deal with the West. In a conversation with a British official Mossadegh mentioned that by striking a deal with Iran the diplomat could tell the public “…you were saving Iran from Communism.”53 However the Eisenhower administration misconstrued this negotiating tacit, which reinforced all of its established images. After speaking with the President, British Prime Minister Anthony Eden wrote, “He [Eisenhower] was extremely worried about the position in Persia…the consequences of an extension of Russian control of Persia, which he regarded as a distinct possibility…Musaddiq has evidently again scared the Americans.”54

Eisenhower’s apparent fear was again exacerbated by an Iranian national referendum in 1953, during which Mossadegh won 99% of the votes.55 While this astounding percentage does suggest a degree of foul play or manipulation, as Stephen Ambrose muses, “To Ike, the rigged election looked for sure like Communist tactics. He concluded that if old Mossy was not a Communist himself, then he was either a fool or a stooge for the Communists.”56 Mary Ann Heis echoes this sentiment, observing that for Eisenhower the Iranian leader’ policies were “…further proof of Mossadeq’s simple mind and unfitness for office…”57

Thus, as Jervis’ hypotheses indicate, because of the bipolar and reductive perceptual threshold from which it was operating, the Eisenhower administration remained ignorant of the subtext implicit in Mossadegh’s actions. Consequently, the administration conflated Mossadegh’s negotiating tactics as proof of his communist bent, and believed that the internal workings of Iran were indicative of a deliberate and systematic shift toward the Soviets. Interestingly however, Mossadegh himself is also responsible for the Eisenhower administration’s misperception. As Jervis contends in Hypothesis 6, “…when people spend a great deal of time drawing up a plan…they tend to think that the message about it they wish to convey will be clear to the receiver.”58 As such, Mossadegh may have believed that his American counterpart understood that his allusions to a communist takeover were rhetorical ploys. However, the Eisenhower administration did not receive Mossadegh’s intended message. This confusion further substantiated Eisenhower’s belief in Mossadegh’s Soviet inclinations

Another source of misperception which is pertinent to the Iranian crisis can be found in Jervis’ Hypothesis 11. This premise suggests that “…actors tend to overestimate the degree to which others are acting in response to what they themselves do when the others behave in accordance with the actor’s desires; but when the behavior of the other is undesired, it is usually seen as derived from internal forces.”59 Thus, when Mossadegh initiated negotiations with the Soviet Union about securing much needed economic aid, the Eisenhower administration perceived this as further evidence of the Iranian Premier’s communist inclinations. Although the Truman administration increased economic aid to Iran from $1.6 million to $23.4 million for the fiscal year 1953, the Iranian economy was still in disarray due to the British blockade on the sale of Iranian oil.60 An analysis of a personal correspondence between Mossadegh and Eisenhower reveals Iran’s decision to turn to the Soviets to be the result of the United States’ refusal to furnish Iran with any aid as long as the oil crisis was unresolved.

In a letter sent to President Eisenhower, the transcript of which was reprinted by the New York Times in July of 1953, Mohammad Mossadegh wrote emotively about the obstacles besetting his people. As he wrote, “…the Iranian people have been suffering financial hardships and struggling with political intrigues carried on by the former oil company and the British Government.”61 The Prime Minister continued by lamenting that “Although it was hoped that during Your Excellency’s Administration attention of a more sympathetic character would be devoted to the Iranian situation, unfortunately no change seems thus far to have taken place…”62 Nevertheless, Mossadegh beseeched Eisenhower for more economic aid and diplomatic support to alleviate the economic turmoil beleaguering Iran.“The Iranian nation,” Mossadegh wrote, “hopes that with the help and assistance of the American Government the obstacles placed in the way of sale of Iranian oil can be removed, and that if the American Government is not able to effect a removal…it can render effective economic assistance…”63

In his response to Mossadegh, President Eisenhower wrote that “the Government and people of the United States have cherished and still have deep feelings of friendliness for Iran and the Iranian people.”64 However he continued, “The failure of Iran and of the United Kingdom to reach an agreement with regard to compensation has handicapped the Government of the United States.”65 Thus the President concluded “…in the circumstances, the Government of the United States is not presently in a position to extend more aid to Iran or to purchase Iranian oil.”66 Consequently, having been rebuffed by the United States, Mossadegh turned to the Soviet Union for economic aid and on August 8, 1953 the Soviets announced that they had begun negotiations with Iran about providing aid and purchasing Iranian oil.67

With little appreciation for the impact of its own actions on the Iranian decision, the Eisenhower administration decried Iran’s engagement with the Soviet Union as confirmation of its preconceived suspicions. Eisenhower wrote that he feared “Mossadegh would become to Iran what the ill-fated Dr. Benes had been in Czechoslovakia- a leader whom the Communists, having gained power, would eventually destroy.”68 Thus, as Jervis’ Hypothesis 11 predicts, because the government of Mossadegh acted in a way that was contrary to the desires of the Eisenhower administration, the President believed it was due to Iran’s own machinations, rather than as a response to America’s refusal to provide economic aid.

Robert Jervis also contends that misperception can result if a decision-maker does not consider the available evidence from every angle.69 Simply put, without a devil’s advocate to challenge the assumptions of a decision-maker, misperceptions are apt to occur.70 On this point the account of Kermit Roosevelt, the lead architect of Ajax and its primary executor, provides a revealing account of the decision-making process; a process that seemed to be hampered by the absence of a devil’s advocate.

As Roosevelt writes, the decision t overthrow Mossadegh “…deserved thorough examination, the closest consideration, somewhere at the very highest level.”71 However, Roosevelt states that “It had not received such thought…”72 Moreover, during the meeting in which it was decided to execute operation Ajax, Roosevelt contends that “I was morally certain that almost half of those present, if they had felt free or had the courage to speak, would have opposed the undertaking.”73 Thus, the decision-making process seems to have been beleaguered by the phenomenon explicated by Irving Janis known as “groupthink”. Additionally, as Robert Jervis predicts, the absence of a dissenting voice to challenge the accepted perceptions of the Eisenhower administration and examine the available evidence from all possible angles, yielded a decision that in many respects was founded upon misguided assumptions. Indeed, as Kermit Roosevelt poignantly muses, “…perhaps this is the way government works and from time to time it fails.”74

The Impact of Cognitive Structure

Perhaps the ultimate source of the Eisenhower administration’s misperception of the Iranian crisis is summed up in Jervis’ Hypothesis 14; which states, “actors tend to overlook the fact that evidence consistent with their theories may also be consistent with other views.”75 He continues by cautioning that, “…a piece of information seems in many cases to confirm a certain hypothesis only because we already believe that hypothesis to be correct…”76 In many ways this assertion relates back to Jervis’ second Hypothesis in which he contends, “…decision-makers are apt to err by being too wedded to their established view and too closed to new information,” and that “decision-makers who reject information that contradicts their views- or who develop complex interpretations of it- often do so consciously and explicitly.”77

These two hypotheses suggest that the cognitive structure of a decision-maker is a crucial determinant of misperception. Guy Zv, in his Cognitive Structure and Foreign Policy Change: Israel’s Decision to Talk to the PLO, expounds upon this phenomenon; arguing that the relative complexity and openness of a decision-maker’s cognitive structure may govern how events are perceived and decisions are made. Thus, having constructed the perceptual threshold of the Eisenhower administration and establishing how it begot a series of misperceptions about the Iranian crisis, it is finally necessary to determine how malleable and open to new information the perceptual threshold of the Eisenhower administration was. These factors not only influenced how the Eisenhower perceived, an indeed misperceived, the events of the Iranian crisis, but they also explain the contradictory approaches adopted by the Truman and Eisenhower administrations.

In his article Ziv analyzes a decision-maker’s “cognitive structure” and “belief system”, two terms that seem to differ from Jervis’ “perceptual threshold” only in semantics and nomenclature. As Ziv asserts “…cognitive psychologists would expect policymakers to systematically dismiss information that challenges their fundamental beliefs.”78 Ziv continues, “The more central an individual’s beliefs…the more stable and resistant those beliefs are to change, because the revision of one’s central beliefs would entail altering many other associated beliefs and convictions.”79 Thus, with these two statements there seems to be a considerable degree of concord between Jervis and Ziv. In order to explain foreign policy change Ziv asserts that two interrelated factors must be examined: the relative openness and complexity of a decision-maker’s cognitive structure.

A decision-maker with a relatively closed cognitive structure will be less likely to believe that new or additional information is required to make a decision; and hence less likely to pursue new information and more likely to tamper with it.80 Consequently, there is an increased likelihood that a decision-maker will not change his or her belief system. Conversely, a decision-maker with an open cognitive structure will be more likely to assimilate new information, “resulting in genuine changes in the belief/disbelief system.”81

Cognitive complexity “is discerned by the degree of differentiation one shows in describing his/her environment.”82 Individuals with a relatively simplistic cognitive structure will tend to describe the world in bipolar, black and white terms; whereas cognitively complex individuals will be more apt to include shades of grey.83 Accordingly, decision-makers with more complex cognitive structures will be more inclined to change or evolve their belief system as compared to decision-makers with more simplistic structures. Importantly, as Ziv states, these two concepts are mutually reinforcing, as “one must be sufficiently open to assimilate information from the environment in order to differentiate and integrate this information.”84

A comparative analysis of the public and private statements made during the Truman and Eisenhower administrations about the Iranian crisis reveals that officials in the Truman administration were comparatively more cognitively open and complex than their counterparts in the Eisenhower administration. Throughout the Iranian crisis, Truman administration officials were generally distinguished by their ability to differentiate between Mossadegh’s strain of virulent nationalism and Soviet communism. Indeed, as Barry Rubin observes, “Many Truman administration policymakers, including Secretary of State Acheson and his Middle East advisors, thought that the region’s nationalists would provide a strong bulwark against Communism.”85

Paul Nitze, head of the Policy Planning Staff at the State Department, described Mossadegh as a “well-educated elitist…He had no inclination whatsoever toward Communists.”86 Moreover, in 1952 while testifying before the Senate, Dean Acheson observed that, “someone is going to move out and be more nationalist than he [Mossadegh] is, and he has to be the most nationalistic…if he were doing things which were sensible I think he would run great dangers.”87 With these and other statements, Truman officials not only displayed a stark degree of cognitive complexity, but also a nuanced understanding of the domestic political situation from which the Iranian leader was operating.

Generally, the Truman administration also displayed a great degree of cognitive openness. Commenting on Mossadegh, Acheson remarked, “We were, perhaps, slow in realizing that he was essentially a rich, reactionary, feudal-minded Persian inspired by a fanatical hatred of the British and a desire to expel them and all their works from the country regardless of the cost. He was a great actor and a great gambler.”88 This statement reveals that Acheson and others were able to evolve their perception of Mossadegh as they interacted with him; albeit this transition occurred slowly. Furthermore, as Zachary Karabell observes, officials in the Truman administration were able to overcome media stereotypes of Mossadegh as insane and depraved, to develop a “certain grudging admiration” for the Iranian Premier.89

Secretary of State Acheson admitted in his memoirs that he “found compensation, indeed joy, in the qualities of friendly colleagues, of hostile combatants, and sometimes of neutral freebooters like Mosadeq.”90 Not only does this statement indicate a personal affinity for Mossadegh, but Acheson’s casual use of the word “neutral” suggest that he was not threatened by the Iranian leader’s foreign policy vision. George McGhee, an American diplomat, observed that Mossadegh “was…an intelligent man and essentially a sincere Iranian patriot.”91 Finally, the American ambassador to Tehran in 1951, Henry Grady, remarked that Mossadegh “is not to be discounted. He’s a man of unusual ability, well educated at European universities, and of great culture. He is a Persian gentleman.”92

Accordingly, because of the relatively open and complex cognitive structure of key officials in the Truman administration- their ability to differentiate between nationalism and communism and develop a perception of Mossadegh independent of media accounts- the collective administration adopted a decidedly measured and pacific approach to the crisis; attempting to broker a deal between the British and Iranians. As Secretary Acheson stated, “our appraisal of the internal situation in Iran indicates nationalism is a real and potent factor in present situation. Hence we do not believe objectives in Iran can be achieved merely by setting ourselves up in opposition to it.”93 President Truman wrote, “[We] held Cabinet meetings on it, we held Security Council meetings on it…We tried…to get the block headed British to have their oil company make a fair deal with Iran.”94 Indeed, as the official CIA account of the crisis indicates, the Truman Administration “…feared that a British failure to compromise with Mossadeq would enable him to whip up Iran’s virulent nationalism further, with potentially disastrous results.”95

Secretary Acheson does acknowledge the temptation to employ force, stating that “In simpler times and places armed intervention, known as ‘gunboat diplomacy’, would have resolved this problem in favor of the stronger power…” but ultimately agreed with the President that “our approach to the problem…was that the sovereign power of a state to take such property could not be denied…”96 Zachary Karabell further asserts that the Truman administration never supported a resolution of the crisis by force; however, this “did not signify support for Mosaddeq in Washington, but rather a sense that his removal would not solve the problem…”97 Indeed, as Secretary of Defense Robert Lovett warned, Mossadegh’s removal would “most probably result in…the ultimate absorption of Iran in the Soviet system.”98

Conversely however, the statements made by officials in the Eisenhower administration reveal a comparatively greater degree of cognitive simplicity, and an inability or unwillingness to distinguish between Iranian nationalism and Soviet communism. Referring to Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, Richard Immerman observes, “Moscow’s involvement in Iran was negligible, but [John Foster] Dulles could not distinguish between indigenous nationalism and imported communism.”99 Moreover, Immerman continues by asserting that “…in the President’s estimate, no less than in Dulles’s, Mossadegh was either a Communist or a stooge of Communists.”100

Indeed, in stark contrast to his predecessor, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles proclaimed that, “neutrality has increasingly become an obsolete and except under very exceptional circumstances, it is an immoral and shortsighted conception.”101 Furthermore, in an interesting juxtaposition, during a Senate hearing similar to the one Dean Acheson appeared before less than a year earlier, Dulles remarked, “I recognize full well that there are plenty of social problems and unrest which would exist if there were no such thing as Soviet Communism in the world, but what makes it a very dangerous problem for us is the fact that wherever those things exist, whether it is in Indo-China …or Iran…the forces of unrest are captured by Soviet Communists…”102

Key decision-makers in the Eisenhower administration also proved to be especially cognitively closed in their assessment of the strength and influence of the Iranian communist party, the Tudeh party. National Security Report 136/1, issued during the Truman administration on November 20, 1952, states that “it is now estimated that communist forces will probably not gain control of the Iranian government during 1953.”103 Moreover, the State Department issued a memorandum on August 10, 1953, only five days before the execution of operation Ajax, stating that “It is unlikely that a coup d’état by Mosadeq’s opponents….or by the Tudeh party would be attempted because neither is sufficiently strong or well organized to attempt a coup.”104 Finally on January 25, 1953 the New York Times published an article entitled “Red Threat in Iran Held Exaggerated” in which one Iranian states, “I think the strength of the Communists has been greatly exaggerated by your countryman”, and another unnamed source contests, “The Communists are not ready. They admit they are not ready and they are not optimistic.”105

Nevertheless, administration officials used the threat of communist subversion as a justification to overthrow Mosaddegh. Indeed, one advisor wrote to the president that “there is increasing danger that relations between Iran and the West will deteriorate to such an extent that Iran will fall into Soviet orbit through the acquisition of power by the Tudeh party.”106 However, as Stephen Ambrose shrewdly observes, no one in the Eisenhower administration, “seemed to notice that throughout the crisis, in which the stakes were nothing less than one of the world’s greatest oil pools, the Russians were content to stand aside. Nor did anyone in the West ever point out that Mossadegh had not appealed to his northern neighbor for help.”107 Moreover, one State Department official even commented that the Tudeh party was “well-organized but not very powerful” and that the threat was greater “in the minds of certain U.S. officials than in reality.”108

Thus, by ignoring the intelligence reports and anecdotal evidence that contradicted its belief about the strength of the Tudeh party and refusing to alter its established images, the collective Eisenhower administration displayed a considerably low degree of cognitive openness. According to Guy Ziv, “at the closed extreme…a person tampers with new information from the environment in a way that leaves the belief/disbelief system intact.”109 Furthermore, Robert Jervis’ contends that an actor “can know about a concept but not believe that it reflects an actual phenomenon.”110 In this sense, due to the comparatively closed and simple nature of its cognitive structure, officials in the Eisenhower administration may have known about the weakness of the Tudeh party but simply refused to accept it as true; choosing instead a perception that substantiated their established beliefs.

Consequently, Eisenhower and Dulles decided to remove the Iranian Prime Minister from power, lest his country fall victim to Soviet aggression. As Richard Immerman states, the CIA Chief Allen Dulles “preferred operations to analysis” and “knew that his brother identified Iran as a cold war battlefield, and thus would find the plan to oust Mossadegh intriguing.”111 Interestingly, the only reservation President Eisenhower seemed to have about executing operation Ajax was not whether the U.S. should intervene, but whether U.S. involvement would be revealed.112 As Barry Rubin concludes, “…little further consideration seems to have been given by the Eisenhower administration to the alternative of providing full United States support for Mossadegh and his non-Communist allies to reestablish order.”113


History has exposed Operation Ajax to be a particularly important episode in U. S. foreign policy, the reverberations of which are still felt today. Not only did the operation become the model for subsequent American interventions in the Third World, but the duplicitous American act and subsequent support for the Shah engendered feelings of resentment and mistrust throughout Iranian society. These sentiments fueled the Iranian revolution and continue to taint U.S.-Iranian relations. Thus, the magnitude of this episode necessitates an analysis of the Eisenhower administration’s decision to intervene in Iran beyond the perfunctory explanation that President Eisenhower was acting merely to contain communism or at the behest of American oil companies.

It is interesting that the operation was named “Ajax.” The famous Greek warrior was lauded in Homer’s Iliad for his unrivaled strength and supreme courage. In this sense, perhaps the choice of name was a vain allusion to America’s own self-perception. However, in Sophocles’ play about the Greek hero, Ajax is an arrogant actor driven by a blind hatred for his enemies. Tricked by Athena, Ajax slaughters a herd of sheep, when in fact he believed he was fighting his enemies. It is this misperception, begotten in part out of his single-minded drive to destroy his enemies, which leads to Ajax’s subsequent downfall. Thus, in an ironic episode of literature portending history, by adopting the name “Ajax” the Eisenhower administration seems to have assumed the same fate of Sophocles’ misguided hero.

Thus, an application of the frameworks constructed by Robert Jervis and Guy Ziv reveals the Eisenhower administration’s decision to overthrow Mohammad Mossadegh to be the misguided derivative of a series of misperceptions. These misperceptions were largely begotten out of the Eisenhower administration’s reductive and parochial perceptual threshold and exacerbated by the relatively closed and simple cognitive structure of many key officials. Consequently, with little or no appreciation for the domestic politics of Iran, and absent an attempt to distinguish between nationalism and communism, the Eisenhower administration determined that covert and subversive measures were the only appropriate means to resolve the Iranian crisis. It is the mutually reinforcing paradigms of misperception and cognitive structure which provide a more complete and nuanced explanation of the Eisenhower administration’s decision to execute operation Ajax in 1953.

Mitchell Freddura- M.A. Candidate, U.S. Foreign Policy, American University School of International Service, Washington, DC.

Works Cited

Acheson, Dean. Present at the Creation. New York City: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1987.

Ambrose, Stephen. Ike's Spies. Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1981.

Behrooz, Maziar. "The 1953 Coup in iran and the Legacy of the Tudeh." In Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, by Mark Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, 102-126. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2004.

Bowie, Robert, and Richard Immerman. Waging Peace: How Eisenhower Shaped an Enduring Cold War Strategy. New York City: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Byrne, Malcolm. "The Road to Intervention." In Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, by Mark Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, 201-227. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2004.

Daniel, Clifton. "Red Threat in Iran Held Exaggerated." ProQuest. January 25, 1953. //search.proquest.com/hnpnewyorktimes/docview... (accessed November 2011).

Gasiorowski, Mark. "The 1953 Coup d'Etat Against Mosaddeq." In Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, by Mark Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, 227-260. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2004.

Gasiorowski, Mark. "The 1953 Coup D'etat in Iran." International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 19, no. 3 (1987): 261-286.

Heiss, Mary Ann. "Culture CLash: Gender, Oil, and Iranian Nationalism." In Major Problems in American Foreign Relations, by Dennis Merrill and Thomas Paterson, 339-346. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006.

Immerman, Richard. John Foster Dulles: Piety, Pragmatism, and Power in U.S. Foreign Policy. Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, Inc., 1999.

Jervis, Robert. "Hypotheses on Misperception." World Politics 20, no. 3 (1968): 454-479.

Karabell, Zachary. Architects of Intervention. Baton Rouge: Lousiana State University Press, 1999.

Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah's Men. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2008.

Koch, Scott A. "Zendebad, Shah": The Central Intelligence Agency and the Fall of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossaddeq, August 1953. June 1998. //www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB126/iran... (accessed November 2011).

Pollack, Kenneth. The Persian Puzzle. New York City: The Random House Publishing Group, 2004.

Reuhsen, Moyara. "Operation 'Ajax' Revisited: Iran, 1953." Middle Eastern Studies 29, no. 3 (1993): 467-486.

Robarge, David S. "All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror." Central Intelligence Agency. April 17, 2007. https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-o... (accessed November 2011).

Roosevelt, Kermit. Countercoup the Struggle for the Control of Iran. New Yory Ckity: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1979.

Rubin, Barry. Paved with Good Intentions. New York City: Oxford University Press, 1980.

The Executive Secretary. A Report to the National Security Council. November 20, 1952. //www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB126/iran... (accessed November 2011).

The New York Times. "A Bid for Dictatorship." ProQuest. July 15, 1952. //search.proquest.com.proxyau.wrlc.org/hnpnew... (accessed November 2011).

The New York Times. "Dulles Formulated and Conducted U.S. Foreign Policy for More Than Six Years." On this Day. May 25, 1959. //www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/... (accessed November 2011).

The New York Times. "Text of the Letters by Mossadegh and Eisenhower." ProQuest. July 10, 1953. //search.proquest.com/hnpnewyorktimes/docview... (accessed November 2011).

Time Magazine. "Man of the Year: Challenge of the East." Time Magazine. January 7, 1952. //www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,8... (accessed November 2011).

U.S. Department of State. Proposed Course of Action with Respect to Iran. August 10, 1953. //www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB126/iran... (accessed November 2011).

Ziv, Guy. "Cognitive Structure and Foreign Policy Change." International Relations, 2011: 1-29.



Psychology of mosaddeq supporters

by Siavash300 on

"My father was Dr. Mossadegh's personal lawyer after he was exiled and do you know why?" Fariba Amini

No doubt that trail of Jehbeh Melli brought wealth to some families. Those families are the ones who fabricate Iran's history. They are trying to create false image of Mossadeq.

Quiet psychodynamic. Behavior shapes based on the law of cause and effective. No bahavior can take place out of blue. There always be a cause behind any action. There is a psychology behind all these people who keep talking of Mosaddeq in reminisce. Some like Farib Amini directly benefited from Mosaddeq's trail  and his predicament. Mossadeq generated business for these people. Some indirectly benefited from him. I am sure if Mr. Amini (the father)  was working for H.I.M court, Ms. Fariba Amini's idea of Iran histoy would have been drastically different from now.

Trail of Shamshiri and other people of Jebhe Melli brought a lot of wealth to Amini's family. It may saved their family house which was in the process of foreclosure or that money may paid Fariba's college tuition. who know? but we do know Fariba benefited from that trail since her father was representing these people. Big money, no doubt about it. That is the reason she can't be impartial, Unbias, and objective. Conflict of interest.

   Further consideration should be addressed in private psychotherapy sessions if the fixation on Mosaddeq's false character persist and continued.





Read history indeed Ms Amini!

by anglophile on

Dear VPK, There are may more questions that Aminis of this site fear to answer. I used Aminis (in plural) a she is not the only one who blindly worships Mosaddegh. Among the Mosaddeghollahis of this site there are : Masoud Kazemzadeh, Arj and Aynak (plus a few more). These fanatics are no better than the Basijis of the Islamic regime: harbouring a morbid grudge against the Pahalvis (as their idol Mosaddegh did) and always avoiding a direct answer to a direct question. Among the fact based questions that they fear to answer are:
  • Before he bacame a prime minister and for a year into his premiership, Mosaddegh colluded with Kashani and Fedaaeiyan of Islam as he needed them to get rid of Razm Ara and the Toodehis by keeping a deafining silence on the assassination of Ahmad Kasravi (liberal and patriotic anti-Shiite scholar and lawyer) Abdol Hossein Hajir (court minister) and Razm Ara (Mosaddegh's predcessor). Show us one piece of evidence that Mosaddegh, the so called secular democratic member of parliament at that time, had condemned these killings (not to forget his silence on the murder of some prominent Bahai's by the Islamic Fadaeen).
  • Khomeini was the arch supporter of Navab Safavi (leader of he Fedaeen) and even  believed that Kashani was not radical enough. Then why did the "honest" followers of Mosaddegh, including Ms Aminis' father, collaborated with him to toppled the Shah and Bakhtiar. They partnered with the very people who, after Mosaddegh failed to completely fulfill his end of the deal, had attempted to kill both him and Fatemi! What is so honest about betraying their former leader's memory and stabbing Bakhtiar in the back by siding with their avowed enemies, the radical Islamists?
  • If Mosaddegh believed in the rule of law and the constitution of the country why did he do nothing about Fatemi's unconstitutional speech against the shah on radio on 16 August  1953 and his forfieture of the royal assets? The Shah was still the legal monarch who had issued a decree to remove Mosaddegh. Mosaddegh was actively going against the monarch's constitutional privilege, by hiding the decree from his own cabinet and and had staged his own coup.
There are many more questions to ask which show the package deal between Mosaddegh and the Islamists (e.g. closure of mixed schools and prohibition of alcoholic drinks - both laws were presented by and passed and under the Mosaddegh's tenure as PM. Any direct answers? 

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Ms. Amini

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I asked some question many times and you and others refuse to respond. Why should I waste my precious time reading propaganda. Written by ideologues worshiping Mossadegh. 

  • Honest men do not pardon murderer of their predecessor
  • Honest men do not dissolve the parliament.
  • Honest men admit their mistake and incompetence.

Fariba Amini

Read history damn it !

by Fariba Amini on

But we do know Faria Amini benefited from that trail since her father was presenting Mosaddeq in the court of law.  -Siavush


My father was not PM Mossadegh's lawyer at the criminal court (bidadgah).  Jalil Bozorgmehr was.

My father was Dr. Mossadegh's personal lawyer after he was exiled and do you know why?  Because they were two honest men!

Read some history! 


Some opportunist some benefited from Mosaddeq

by Siavash300 on

"These people are not gullible they are plain out opportunists." VPK.  

Fariba Amini's family benefited from Mosaddeq's trail. May be the trail paid her college tuition, or may be the money from Mosaddeq trail saved their family's house from foreclosure. Who know?

But we do know Faria Amini benefited from that trail since her father was presenting Mosaddeq in the court of law. As a result, she can't be impartial, UNbias and objecive because of conflict of interest.



Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


These people are not gullible they are plain out opportunists. Give them an inch and they demand a mile. That is why any kind of negotiation with them is hard at best. You got to stand up to them and not give in to BS.

Don't let them get way with hypocrisy. For example dissing Reza Pahlavi because they "oppose Monarchy". Then turning around and telling us Mossadegh was "Royalty". They talk from both sides of their mouths and are dishonest.

For 25 years post 1953 they did nothing to help Iran. Just worked to create dissatisfaction and anger among people. If Shah did something right it was dismissed but if anyone bad Shah got the blame. They are hopeless.


Madam Alberight and guillable people on this site

by Siavash300 on

"60 years after the coup, which secretary of state Madeleine Albright apologized for (almost unheard of in U.S foreign policy)" Aynak

The lady was trying to get close to stinky ruling mullahs in Iran to get their supports for dealing with Taliban in Afghanistan. Now simple minded people here are thinking .... look the lady even apologized. That shows really mosaddeq was right. What a funny way of looking at political turmoils.  

   U.S boombed 2 cities of Nakazaki and Hiroshima in Japan during WWII and U.S never apologized from Japanesse for the crime they committed, now U.S is apologizing from a bunch of the rag heads for their intervention in Iran in 1953. U.S army didn't kill any Iranian in 1953. Eisenhower administration supported their sympathizers inside Iran, but U.S army boombed Japan in WWII. it was atomic boomb.  

I am just shocked how much our people are guillable. oh....wait a minute these are the same people who saw khomanie's picture on the surface of the moon. Now I see why they carried away with simple political game.


Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Maybe you need to read a bit more because you don't pay attention. Many people including me have said Ajax was real. I personally know of people involved in it. More detail than most people will ever know or want to.

How many times do "Monarchists" have to admit it? First you seem to define anyone willing to work with Reza Pahlavi as a Monarchist. Second if some "Monarchists" reject Ajax it does not mean all do. In any situation there are some who will not agree.

Madeleine Albright wanted to make peace with Iran. She tried and failed. I applaud her for it but hey you don't win them all. When she was in power we did not yet know how intransigent IRI is. So she was generous and made an apology. Unfortunately it is being misused by many sides:

  • IRI mistook it as a sign of weakness.
  • Mossadeg supporters took it as vindication of their position.
  • Anti-Americans took it as proof of "Great Satan".

It makes me wonder if this is the thanks people get for apology; why do it! You folks are proving it is a mistake to apologize.

I teach kids how to behave as a community service. One of the main lessons is how to respond when someone apologizes.

You people are doing the exact wrong thing by digging in. No wonder the political maturity of 1979 "revolutionaries" led to hostages.


Dear Mitchell, look at the monsters this "oops" created

by aynak on

60 years after the coup, which secretary of state Madeleine Albright apologized for (almost unheard of in U.S foreign policy) although to the wrong folks (nationalists are not running Iran, but the remains of one of key coup figures Kashani are),  monarchists Einstein's on this site remain convinced that it was a national uprising, that U.S took credit for :)   If this sounds too absurd, welcome to the world according to your own creation :|?!





عینکی حواست پرته چرا؟



آریو برزن اینجا نیست که براش کامنت نوشتی‌ - برو تو سایت خانم بقراط. نگفتم شما مصدق الهی‌ها همیشه عوضی‌ میبیند. اون شماره عینکو عوض کن زودتر. 




On Monarchy

by aynak on


Dear Areyo:

Thanks for the civil exchange, I think we have fundamentally different views on the path to democracy and by extension role of monarchy (which I believe is also currently ruling Iran, and has been doing that for our entire history).   There is not much I can do, to convince you otherwise, as in my view the problem is systemic to one man rule.  If we  need a Monarch/human with super power/Faar etc, we are already deviating from a model I have in mind.   In principle I don't think a person under whatever pretext calling himself with an unearned title can help promote the socieity I am seeking.  Doesn't matter we call it Khamaneh-ee/Reza Shah/NaserDeen shah etc.   You obviously believe otherwise, or think can work your way through it.

Let's just leave with one agreement, namely that this article by Boghrat fails in many way, as it fulfills easily in several of the basic fallacy/incorrect reasoning.






Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

The more they say more they harm Mossadegh

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


There was a time when I respected Mossadegh. Now as I read writings of his followers I get to wonder. If these are kinds of people who admire him I want none of it. 

Please if you really value Mossadegh and his legacy think before you post. 

Things like "Reza shah had no royal blood" do not help. They turn people off and expose your anger. 

Dear Fariba it is pretty obvious to me that you view this as an inter-clan war. In other words a personal grudge between Mossadegh and Shah. In that case Shah is my definite choice. The Ghajars were vile and incompetent.

Why don't you people respond to the points I made. You want them again?

Pardon of a murderer; biting more than he could chew; inability to anticipate British reaction. What use is a leader who does not see the obvious. 


Royal blood Ms Amini?!!!!

by anglophile on

That's very interesting. So you believe in something called royal blood! Would you please for the benefit of all and sundry define what you mean by royal blood? For instance can a eunuch from a tent dwelling tribe of non-Iranian, uncivilised and savage hordsmen and women, declare himself a king and thereafter his descendants (a conflict in terms or a eunuch) call themselves, royalty? Or is it that you have no problem with royalty per se except that of the Pahlavis? By the way, I am still shocked by your amazing generosity.  After your friend (Arj) coming up with a incredible quote, the other day, I must nominate your words for the runner up to the quote of the year: " I am a fair person, I think both the Shah and his father made conrtibutions to Iran"! LOL 

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

My response

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I was not around when the fight between Mossadegh and Shah happened. But I have read history and posed questions which never got a response. I am sure I will not get a response this time but will pose them:

  • Did Mossadegh led parliament pardon Tahmasbi. He goes murders your predecessor; you get the job; repay by pardon.  Is this not the height of deprivation?
  • Did Mossadegh not illegally dissolve the parliament.
  • When he picked the fight with Britain didn't he get outmaneuvered. If he was so competent and popular why did he lose power.

Dear Fariba you are again bringing "nobility" in. Who gives a *** if Reza Shah was from a village. Does that make him less of a person. He did wonders for Iran while that Ghajar king was in Europe with no interest in "his" nation.

Anyway the damage is done and it is all part of history and done. I doubt the next generation will be so obsessed as the 50s. The real hero or heroes will be those who will rescue Iran from this mess.


Simple Perceptual Threshold vs. complex cognitive perception

by Siavash300 on

Mossadegh had no argument with the Pahlavis except that the Shah should reign and not rule" Fariba Amini

Is that the reason his followers voted "yes" to khomaini. Furthermore, they called Islamic republic democracy? I personally never saw any statements from these "khaens" to suggest to shah to remain in power and reign, not rule. They all chased stinky mullahs.   

 "Let's see what percentage of the population think of Dr. Mossadegh as the most admired politician of Iran and what they think of the Shah. " Fariba Amini

  There was no SAVAK in existence in those days and besides the Shah's army was not as powerful as it was in 1979, yet we have no evidence of massive demonstrations in favor of Mosaddeq after his fall or against the Shah. Mosaddeq's sharp declined in popularity due to the mismanaged and finacially banckrupt state of the country after the oil nationalization.


Fariba Amini

here we go again!

by Fariba Amini on

Mr. Anglophile,

Personal accusations do not stick!

had no argument with the Pahlavis except that the Shah should reign and
not rule, in accordance with Iran's Constitution.

The Shah and his twin sister wanted to meddle in the affairs of government and Dr. M. stood up against them.

Pahlavis were corrupt to the bone.  The fiasco of Ashraf being held in
differnet airports with bags of money and heroin!  and the ludicrious
2500 year celebration where a few deposed Monarchs were dined and wined
(not even Persian food!)are just a few examples.

Reza Shah, if I am correct with my
history, came from a small village  in Mazandaran and changed his name to Pahlavi, crowned
himself and his son.  No royal blood in any of them!

As for me, I
am proud to be the daugher of a man who was LOVED by many in Iran and
in America for being a honorobale lawyer, the youngest judge and the
only mayor of Tehran who fought corruption.

Let's see what percentage of the population think of Dr. Mossadegh as the most admired politician of Iran and what they think of the Shah. Though, I am a fair person, I think both the Shah and his father made conrtibutions to Iran.

What remains is a good name as Dr. M. told the Shah.

I am afraid you just don't get it.


Re: just for record

by Siavash300 on

" Some people think admitting anything bad is a sign of weakness. Therefore refuse to admit the most obvious things." VPK

The issue is in the broader picture. The members of Jebhe Meli cutting ties with national front and were affliating with tudeh party back by USSR. Before nationalization of our oil in Feb,1952 the ball was in the court of Jebhe Meli, but after March 1952 drastic change happened. 

According to one observer:

although diverse elements participated in the July uprising, the impartial observer must confess that the Tudeh played an important part - perhaps even the most important part. ... If in the rallies before March 1952 one-third of the demonstrators had been Tudeh and two-thirds had been National Front, after March 1952, the proportions were reversed.[29]

The above document is from central committee of Tudeh party.  Operation Ajax blocked the effort of Soviet Union and her sympathizers inside Iran.


Dear VPK

by anglophile on

You have discovered a very interesting point. I know that by writing what I am about to write I will invite the abusive comments by the left overs of the Qajari tribe but,well, who cares. Mosaddegh's saga was continuation of the Qajaris vandetta against the Pahlavis. Ms Amini who is neither a royalty nor a nobility, thinks, very immaturely, that by calling Mosaddegh a nobleman, she is belittling the Pahlavis. Little does she know that the Pahlavis were of true Iranian nobility origin wheras the Qajars descended of a Turkaman tribe of non Iranian origin and I'd better say no more of their ignoble background. But Amini is determined to darg what little is left of Mosaddegh's memory into dirt and ridicule. I wish her all the best and may even give her a helping hand from time to time.LOL

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Dear Anglo

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


He is respected by a portion of the population whether we agree or not. It is their right but what bothers me is when they demand to impose it on rest of us. Heck Khomeini is also respected by some portion of Iranians.

I just learned a few more things. For example there are some who say they oppose Royalty. But then call Mossadegh Nobility. Well if "Nobility" is valid then Reza Phalavi is a Prince. If not then Mossadegh was a regular person. See there is no logic in it.

My observation shows that his supporters have abandoned logic. He is a demigod in their mind and did no wrong. Arguing with them is like arguing with a fervent believer about his or her religion. At total waste of time. 

I try to be nice and impartial but all I get it "talking points". These people nursed a grudge for 25 years. They did anything humanly possible to undermine the Shah. Never worked with the system to improve it. Then complained about things not being good.

t the first opportunity joined with the most radical forces in Iran. People such as MEK and Khomeini. But refused to work with moderates such as Bakhtiyar. After they got revenge they packed up and migrated to West to write books.

Note: I do not blame Mossadegh for his followers. He is gone unfortunately his legacy remained and poisoned Iran. It was not really his fault his followers behaved this way. But rivers of time will wash that generation away opening room for hope.


Why is this man still respected?!!

by anglophile on

For the same reasons that Khomeini is still respected:



  • Khomeini was incorruptible 
  • Khomeini had integrity
  • Khomeini stood for (the Islamic) law
  • Khomeini did not (personally) loot the treasury
  • Khomeini went into exile in Najaf (and not in his own private estate)
  • Khomeini lived a frugal life to the very end
  • Khomeini was from the only true aristocracy with traditions kept for more than a thousand years, the mllahs
  • Khomeini indeed mix religion with the state - religion replaced the state.
There was however one major difference between Mosaddegh and Khomeini. Mosaddegh went out of his way to appease the religion (Kashani and Islamic Fedaees) by keeping silent on the murder of Baha'i community and Ahamd Kasravi, creating an act of parliamnet to pardon the murderer of Razm-Ara, closing down the mixed girls and boys schools, banning the sale of alcoholic drinks, using, for the first time, the expression, mofsed-e fel Arz, in parliament in describing Ghavam and ordering the confiscation of his assets and properties - all these some 25 years before the Islamic regime came to power (assisted by Mosaddeghist, as Ms Amini knows personally). Khomeini, on the other hand, never appeased anyone.  


Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Bakhtiya was PM in a very difficult time. I don't want to get in a contest over who is more patriotic. But my points are still valid. PM was the highest rank other than Shah. Both had the same rank; both risked and both lost.

My issue with people is on canonization of people. From Cyrus to Mossadegh people get turned into "demigods". This also goes for "Imam Ali" and so on. We got to accept people are human. Some are much better than others. But all are human. That means all make mistakes and have flaws including big ones.

Regarding the coup: I know a great deal about it. From people who were involved in it. How much more should I study? What good will it do me. I know it was a British instigated; American orchestrated act. My point is: are we to talk about this forever? Or should we deal with problems of now? If I get my way the 1953 "Ajax" coup will be taught in schools. But not take 100% of student time! What I see here is a group whose time is totally devoted to rehashing this. It is your right but I rather not.


Same old stories

by Sohrab_Ferdows on

If even the Gospel of Jesus and Qoran of Mohammad and many other materials attributed to divine have different versions then why in the view of some people the story of so called coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh can have only one version and that is the one which comes out of the same source over and over again? To me it seems like for some people, this story is nothing less than a religious script and knowing it comes from western intelligence community and intelligensia, makes one wonder how easy it is to manipulate some impressionable crowds by making impressive stories. United States government is a complex entity in which even highest elected officials can be assasinaed or eliminated in some other ways and wars could be initiated through political machinations without any outsider daring to challenge them unless expecting grave consequences of such actions. It would be naive if we simply accept a fishy version of a story coming from such a deceitful and complicated system, which has lied to its people and the people of the world many times, merely based on something which has never been substantiated with reliable documents in the way that it has been presented to the public. A president of United States was broguht down with disgrace form his position for illegal activities against other party, another was killed in the middle of the day in front of thousands of people (and still people know nothing about why it happenned) and another one sat in front of TV camera and lied to the world about his own sexial affair.

There are tons of issues which have come to light about real secret activities of US government and its officials which they never admited while probably many tons more still unknown. How can one believe that anything coming out of this system, and they openly and repeatedly admit it, is that simple? I know that Secretary of State in President Clinton's administration, Madeleine K. Albrigh even apologized to Islamic Government and more recently, President Obama in Egypt (two years ago) mentioned that US had a "significant" role in the coup against Mossadegh in 1953 but the significance of such role becomes clear when we look at the real government documents and the statements given by head of diplomatic mission to Iran (and others) at that time. People can believe whatever they like to believe. History will never be written form bogus stories sold to a magazine by greedy charlatans but one may wonder why is it that once in a while, some US officials or some "former member of US government" comes up with some comment about such issue to keep it alive? Why they do not mention anything about their real operation in Guatemala in 1954 which there are hundreds of pages of real documents available on it?


Ms. Hojjati,

It is a habit of mine to direct others with respect and I have never intended to intimidate you or anyone else as you falsely seem to believe. Some people from anywhere in the world might be idiots but you cannot call any people idiot because they do not comply with your point of view (which you may think is right) because the other way around may apply too. This is not the way that people with intelligence communicate or debate over anything because name calling and cursing does not have any value in proving a point as it is just an indication of deficiency in logic. I do not know you and have no idea how you could know me but I have to make it clear for you that whatever I write here or anywhere else is not directed at a particular person even if a name or an alias of some other members of this forum might appear in the beginning. What I write is for those impartial readers who are interested to know about other points of views on the subject of a discussion, an article or a book and might visit this site today or any other time in future.That's all.





Fariba Amini


by Fariba Amini on

Bakhtiar was a patriot too in fact many around mossadegh were including my own father but I am talking about a person at the highest level of govt 

Dr mossadegh had to fight many fronts the clergy the shah British and American agents. Three great powers all wanting a piece of Iran some of the people around him who left his side, internal and external factors and much more.  By the way a great book coming out soon I highly recommend it : patriot of Persia and a very British coup by Christopher de bellaigue 

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Just for record

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


There is absolutely no doubt about operation Ajax. Both American and British have admitted it. I watched a British agent talk about it 20 years ago on TV. I have a very good American friend who knows people directly involved in it. 

My objections are not to historical facts but the obsession with them. Denying that operation is like denying the Moon landing. I know some people think it was all staged in Holly Wood :-)  Some people think admitting anything bad is a sign of weakness. Therefore refuse to admit the most obvious things. This ruins their credibility and value of their other points. Honesty is very important even if it means admitting fault. By the way this goes both for pro and anti Mossadegh as well as neutral parties.

Ajax did happen. Mossadegh did pardon Tahmasbi; dissolve parliament and fail to hold on to power. Shah did become a dictator and turn elections into a joke. America is neither a monster nor angel. Nor are Iranians either idiots or genius.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Why is this man still revered ?

He revered by some people not all. Many people respect him but are not obsessed with him. Among the group who do revere him a smaller group views him as the "second coming". They are very vocal and never moved from 1953. 

Their actions has done more damage than good for Iran. From Bazargan to those who refuse to focus on present problems. They rather be historians than help Iran recover now. 

Because in the last hundred years or so,  we have never had a politician or pm who was incorruptible, who had integrity,

How about Bakhtiyar?

who stood for the rule of law,

You mean dissolving the parliament! Or release of the murderer Tahmasbi.

though he was from the nobility. 

What "Nobility" you mean the Ghajars. The same who lost over 1/3 of Iran? No  recent "Nobility" or regime including the Mullahs has managed that. Besides why do his supporters reject the concept when it comes to RP. But wave it around when it comes to their man. It is called hypocrisy or applying different standards. 

who went to prison instead of the palace

Bakhtiyar gave up his life when he could have opted out and not taken any disk.

Iranians owe him everything that they are fighting for today :  democracy and the separation of state and religion.

No: you don't tell me what I owe please!  It was his unwise decision to take on Britain and overrun the constitution.They set the stage for his downfall. I said it many times that he takes on the British. A bad idea. But then is not prepared for their response. Which showed a total lack of political savvy. You don't take on the mob without setting up powerful defenses. He did nothing to anticipate and prevent a coupe. A novice would have known this and our PM did not; unbelievable.

Then his supporters did everything to bring about the IRI. There is plenty of blame for IRI which is shared by many. Shah gets some but Mossadegh and specially his supporters get plenty of it.

Plus he hammered the idea of "oil wealth" into peoples head. Getting a nation to think oil is their salvation. No: hard work beats oil any day. It was the promise of oil wealth that let Khomeini make promise of free "things". 

Fariba Amini


by Fariba Amini on

I have a simple answer .  Why is this man still revered ?  Because in the last hundred years or so,  we have never had a politician or pm who was incorruptible, who had integrity, who stood for the rule of law, who did not loot the treasury, who went to prison instead of the palace and who led a simple life even though he was from the nobility.  Iranians owe him everything that they are fighting for today :  democracy and the separation of state and religion.

Fariba Amini


by Fariba Amini on

I have a simple answer .  Why is this man still revered ?  Because in the last hundred years or so,  we have never had a politician or pm who was incorruptible, who had integrity, who stood for the rule of law, who did not loot the treasury, who went to prison instead of the palace and who led a simple life even though he was from the nobility.  Iranians owe him everything that they are fighting for today :  democracy and the separation of state and religion.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on

I just read a blog by Houshang Radkhou:


The admin put a post requesting not to have blogs repeating the same point. I posted that how about applying it to Mossadegh and 1953. We have massive amounts of information about this. Why is it that there is at least one blog on this a week. How many times do we have to harp on this?

Anyone interested already knows it. People have made up their minds. There is far better research on this than blogs on IC. British; US and independents have researched and documented it. What do people want and are we going to talk about this for 1000 years? Is this the new Imam Houssain? Are people going to go Sineh Zani for Mossadegh. Are his opponents going to bash him forever.There is a world out there and people are still fighting over Mossadegh. Give it up!

Anahid Hojjati

thanks Mehrdad Jaan

by Anahid Hojjati on

for your comment. Yes, many of us Iranians are stubborn.


Anahid Jaan: I use a different adjectives…

by Bavafa on

Though not disputing your choice of adjective, but I will note the stubbornness of some folks in re-writing history.  Sadly this phenomena is not limited to this particular topic, especially on IC.


Thanks for providing the link and information. 

'Hambastegi' is the main key to victory