As the world watches the horror unfold in Israel and waits to see if Iran will formally enter the fray, the CIA is commenting on yet another conspiracy theory that was proven to be true — the 1953 coup the agency backed in Iran which resulted in the overthrowing of the nation’s prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, and the installation of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
After 70 years, the CIA “now officially describes the 1953 coup it backed in Iran that overthrew its prime minister and cemented the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as undemocratic,” writes Jon Gambrell for the Associated Press.
“Other American officials have made similar remarks in the past, but the CIA’s acknowledgment in a podcast about the agency’s history comes as much of its official history of the coup remains classified 70 years after the putsch,” Gambrell explains. “That complicates the public’s understanding of an event that still resonates, as tensions remain high between Tehran and Washington over the Islamic Republic’s rapidly advancing nuclear program, its aiding of militia groups across the Mideast and as it cracks down on dissent.”
In 2013, CNN reported that the CIA’s involvement in the coup had been an “open secret for decades.”
The network was reporting on the release of documents from the CIA that officially showed its role in the regime change.
Mossadegh was attempting to nationalize Iran’s oil production, sparking concern in the U.S. that it would result in a victory for the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Working with Great Britain’s famed MI6, the CIA began plotting the overthrow of Mossadegh shortly after he was elected.
In an episode of the CIA’s podcast — “The Langley Files” — CIA spokesman and podcast host Walter Trosin discussed the coup with CIA historian Brent Geary.
“President Eisenhower made the decision to stage a covert action in Iran in 1953 to remove the Prime Minister, Mohammed Mosaddegh. And the reason he did that was because Mosaddegh had nationalized Iran’s oil. And in doing so basically cut out what today we know as British Petroleum,” Geary explained. “And so you’re talking about a massive hit to an already crippled British economy. So President Eisenhower is under a lot of pressure to do something and he decides to stage a covert action and the CIA launches an operation called TPAJAX.”
“So in our fourth episode, a fellow CIA Historian, Dr. David Robarge, said that most CIA covert actions, many of which have been declassified so folks can look these up and read about them for themselves, actually not only didn’t counter democratically elected or popularly elected governments, but in many cases actually bolstered them,” Trosin replied. “We should acknowledge, though, that this is, therefore, a really significant exception to that rule.”
“Yep,” said Geary. “This is one of the exceptions to that, it is, and in the macro sense, the argument, it wasn’t about democracy in Iran from Eisenhower’s perspective, it was about defending democracy worldwide in that case because the Soviet Union bordered Iran. And Iran set on top of Persian Gulf oil, and this was a very real concern in both in Washington and London and in Allied nations that if the Soviet Union became more influential in Iran, and in fact, if a Communist government took over in Iran, then the control of a huge amount of the world’s oil would have fallen essentially behind the Iron Curtain.”
The episode aired roughly one month before the Hamas attack on Israel.
Responding to questions from the Associated Press, the CIA said in a statement that the “CIA’s leadership is committed to being as open with the public as possible.”
“The agency’s podcast is part of that effort — and we knew that if we wanted to tell this incredible story, it was important to be transparent about the historical context surrounding these events, and CIA’s role in it,” the agency said.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations, meanwhile, “described the 1953 coup as marking ‘the inception of relentless American meddling in Iran’s internal affairs’ and dismissed the U.S. acknowledgments,'” AP reports.
“The U.S. admission never translated into compensatory action or a genuine commitment to refrain from future interference,” the mission said in a statement, “nor did it change its subversive policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran.”