After the Coup


Sources are listed in abbreviations inside brackets at the end of each paragraph. See web/bibliography.

[The leaked CIA report] places the coup in the context of the Cold War rather than that of the Anglo-Iranian oil crisis – a classic case of nationalism clashing with imperialism in the “Third World.” [EA1 p182]

The coup inaugurated the denationalization of the oil industry. The new government gave a concession to a consortium of major companies. In theory, the National Iranian Oil Company remained in charge, but in reality this consortium gained full control over management, refining, production, and distribution of oil. [EA1 p211]

The consortium included: BP, 40%; Royal Dutch Shell, 14%; Compagnie Francaise des Petroles, 6%; 8% each to Standard Oil of New Jersey, Standard Oil of California, Gulf Oil Corporation, Texas Oil Company, and Socony-Mobil. [NK pp136-37]

The consortium was to give 50% of profits to Iran. In the words of the new British Charge D’Affaires, “a formula” was found that “gave the consortium the control they considered essential.” To make the deal more palatable, the United States sent Iran $40 million in aid – on top of $28 million rushed in September, and $5 million secretly delivered the day after the coup. [EA1 p211]

The coup also inaugurated an era of political repression. Immediately after the coup, the military arrested Mossadeq, his closest ministers, and some 1200 Tudeh activists. [EA1 p211]

fatemiexecutedThe new regime, on the whole, dealt leniently with the National Front but harshly with the Tudeh. Mossadeq as well as most of his ministers and trusted military officers were given three-year sentences. Mossadeq’s much publicized trial proved a major embarrassment; instead of the military court putting him on trial, he managed to put the court on trial. Of his ministers, only Fatemi was executed; after the failed coup attempt, he had called for the establishment of a republic, and after August 19, he had taken shelter in the Tudeh underground and had pushed for a Tudeh-National Front alliance. [EA1 p212]

[In September 1953] a U.S. Army colonel working for the CIA was sent to [Iran] … to work with General Teymur Bakhtiar, who was appointed military governor of Tehran in December 1953 and immediately began to assemble the nucleus of a new intelligence organization. The U.S. Army colonel worked closely with Bakhtiar and his subordinates, commanding the new intelligence organization and training its members in basic intelligence techniques, such as surveillance and interrogation methods, the use of intelligence networks, and organizational security. This organization was the first modern, effective intelligence service to operate in [Iran]. [MG1]

Brute force, together with the breaking of the cryptographic code – probably with CIA know-how – unearthed the whole Tudeh underground. Between 1953 and 1957, the security forced tracked down 4,121 party members – 477 of them in the armed forces. This constituted more than half the [party’s remaining] membership and almost the entire military network. [EA3 pp89]

This impressive- looking figure led some to wonder why the Tudeh had not forestalled the coup. In fact, the total was small relative to the military’s overall figure of over 15,000 commissioned and 51,000 non-commissioned officers. What is more, the vast majority of the 520 were cadets, doctors, engineers, instructors, and officers in the police, gendarmerie, and infantry, mostly in the provinces. Only 26 were in the cavalry, and only two had tank commands in Teheran (one helped defend Mossadeq’s residence and the other fought outside the radio station). [EA1 p212]

The occupations of 2,419 [of the arrested Tudeh members] are known. Of these, 1,276 were from the intelligentsia, including 386 civil servants, 201 college students, and 165 teachers; and 860 were from the working class, including 125 skilled workers, 80 textile workers, and 60 cobblers. Most of the remaining 11 percent were shopkeepers, with a sprinkling of peasants and housewives… [EA3 pp89-90]

executionofcommunists[T]he regime tortured to death 11 [Tudeh] members; executed 31; condemned to death another 52 (their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment); condemned another 92 to life with hard la- bor; and gave hundreds of terms varying from one to 15 years. According to British and American embassy reports, the first executions were given much “gory publicity,” but the later ones were kept secret because of “public revulsion,” because of the “bravado” and “uncompromising defiance” of those facing death, because of the reluctance of firing squads to shoot straight, and, most important of all, because of “widespread suspicion” that the United States had pressured the shah into such “un-Persian” behavior. [EA1 p212]

British and American authorities felt the crackdown had not gone far enough. The British Foreign Office complained that “family influence and graft were playing a large part in securing the release of people arrested.” The American Embassy insisted that only massive “suppression” could destroy the Tudeh… [EA3 pp89-90]

nixonintehranOn November 15, 1953, the coup government announced that Richard Nixon, then [US] Vice President, would pay a visit to Iran on December 9…, presumably to celebrate with the Shah the demise of the Mosaddeq government and restoration of the monarchy. Nixon’s visit was also supposed to demonstrate the Shah’s full support for the United States. At that time however, anti-American feelings were running very high in Iran. Despite the extreme repression, the Shah had not been able to completely crush the opposition. The news of Nixon’s trip angered the frustrated population, especially the opposition. [MS]

On December 5…, the coup government officially re-established diplomatic relations with Britain. … The resumption of diplomatic relations further angered the people, and in particular the political dissidents and the university students. [MS]

On December 6, 1953, students of the Tehran University schools of medicine, pharmacy, law and political science, engineering, and dentistry demonstrated against Nixon’s visit. They were chanting, “[Iran’s] oil is ours,” and “death to the Shah.” The Shah’s [special guard] stormed the campus and brutally attacked the students. The demonstrations spilled onto the streets, and the guards injured and arrested many students. Simultaneous demonstrations had taken place even in some notable Tehran high schools… [MS]

On the morning of December 7, 1953, the guards entered the Faculty of Engineering, the heart of the protests, to prevent any repeat demonstrations. Though there had not been any demonstrations yet that day, the excuse given was that some students had mocked the police, and the police wanted to arrest them. Two soldiers and an officer went to a class to make the arrests. But the professor, Shams Malak Ara, asked them to leave. As they arrested two students, one student jumped on a desk and began shouting for help. [MS]

The soldiers and the officer then went to the office of Dean of the FOE, Mohandes Khalili … He also protested the intrusion, and his deputy, Dr. Rahim Abedi, was ordered to ring the bells to notify the students. Students gathered in the hall on the first floor of the school. The guards who had been on alert invaded the FOE building… 68 bullets were fired. Three young students — Mostafa Bozorgnia, Ahmad Ghandchi, Mehdi Shariatrazavi — were killed. [Of the three, two were active in the Tudeh Youth organization and one was a National Front activist.] [MS]

Since 1953, 16 Azar (7 December) has been commemorated every year as Student Day, as a symbol of the struggle of Iranian students against dictatorship. For years the bloodstain of the three students on the pillars of the main hall of the FOE [as well as the bullet holes] were preserved. For 24 years, the Shah’s regime followed the bloody event on 16 Azar with other confrontations with university students all over Iran [who observed the anniversary year after year]. [MS]

In March 1955, the [US] Army colonel [who had trained the secret police] was “replaced with a more permanent team of five career CIA officers, including specialists in covert operations, intelligence analysis, and counterintelligence, including Major General Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf who “trained virtually all of the first generation of SAVAK personnel.” … After the five-man team left [Iran] the CIA continued to provide specialized training to SAVAK officers on a routine though limited basis, both in [Iran] and in the United States, covering topics such as forgery detection, Russian language instruction, and the use of computers and special equipment for surveillance, interrogation, and communications. A team of instructors from the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad replaced the five-man CIA team when it left [Iran] and remained until 1965, after which SAVAK’s own instructors provided basic training to all new … recruits. [MG1]

SAVAK had the power to censor the media, screen applicants for government jobs, “and according to reliable Western source, use all means necessary, including torture, to hunt down dissidents”. The CIA provided SAVAK with lists of Communists to torture and murder. These lists originated with KGB defectors working for the CIA. [MG1]

One part of SAVAK was involved in the jailings, beatings, and tortures that became notorious in the years before the [1979] revolution, but there were also suave, educated operatives in coats and ties who persuaded people of the dangers of speaking or acting out of turn. In addition, the shah maintained other intelligence services, partly to check on each other. [NK p134]

After 1963, the Shah expanded his security organizations, including SAVAK, which grew to over 5300 full-time agents and a large but unknown number of part-time informers. [MG1]

Numerous intelligence agents infiltrated opposition groups, and many informants, as in American and other intelligence services, worked part time for SAVAK. With jail, torture, or even death as the possible stakes, … even underground or exile oppositional groups were decimated and suspicious … and within Iran people were increasingly hesitant to discuss politics at all. [NK p134]

The Shah launched the new era by changing the name of the defense ministry back to ministry of war to make it clear that civilians had no business meddling in military matters… In the period between 1954 and 1977, the military budget grew twelvefold and its share of the annual budget went from 24 to 35 percent… By 1975, the Shah had the largest navy in the Persian Gulf, the largest air force in Western Asia, and the fifth largest army in the whole world. [EA1 p124]

Quadrupling of arms sales agreement came in the wake of President Richard Nixon’s visit to Tehran in 1972. During that visit the President and the Assistant to the President, Henry Kissinger, committed the U.S. to a general guideline leaving decisions on the acquisition of military equipment primarily to the Government of Iran … Consequently, Iran became the largest arms importer in the world. Of $8.3 billion in revenues from foreign military sales which the United States received during the fiscal year of 1974, $3 billion were placed by Iran. [MJS]

Western governments and corporations, with the United States in the lead, were happy to sell… the British and American governments were happy to see Iran become the gendarme of the area, fighting leftist-led rebels in Oman… and threatening other potential disturbances of the status quo. The British provided Iran with more Chieftain tanks than they had in their own armed forces, and the United States let the Shah be the first to buy a series of sophisticated fighter planes, often before they were in production or their reliability had been proved. Iran also began to construct a sophisticated American-designed electronic intelligence network called IBEX for American surveillance of the Soviet Union. Along with all the equipment, as well as numerous less sophisticated items like Bell helicopters, went a large number of expensive foreign technical advisers and instructors and their families, who contributed to inflation and whose behavior often caused justified indignation among Iranians… American military suppliers like Grumman, Lockheed, and Westinghouse took over key positions in the economy… New housing starts, and particularly the use of cement, were at times outlawed or rendered impossible because of the heavy demands on cement and other building materials for sheltering military equipment. [NK p163-644]

Several American banks received and helped invest huge amounts of Iranian money, both from the Iranian government and from funds sent abroad by the shah, the royal family, other rich Iranians, as well as the Pahlavi Foundation, which was an effective charitable front for many profitable royal investments. American banks also owned percentages of Iran’s banks and held shares in Iranian businesses. [NK p165]

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