CIA, the Father of SAVAK

The infamous SAVAK, the Iranian secret intelligence organization operating 1957-1980 and known for widespread spying on Iranians, arrests, disappearances, horrific torture chambers and prisons, was a direct product of the coup. Quotes below from Gasiorowsky, M, “Central Intelligence Agency in Persia”[sic] Encyclopaedia Iranica.

In the months after the coup the CIA took a number of steps to strengthen the new Zāhedī government. CIA officers in Tehran provided it with intelligence on the Tudeh Party and used the BEDAMN propaganda organization to try to generate popular support for Zāhedī. They also provided a lim­ited amount of financial support to pro-Zāhedī candi­dates in the February 1954 elections for the Majles (parliament) and carried out certain other small-scale covert political activities on behalf of Zāhedī. In addition, the CIA began a program to reorganize and train Persia’s intelligence forces in this period. A U.S. Army colonel working for the CIA was sent to Persia in September 1953 to work with General Teymūr Baḵ­tīār (q.v.), who was appointed military governor of Tehran in Āḏar 1332 Š./December 1953 and immedi­ately began to assemble the nucleus of a new intelligence organization. The U.S. Army colonel worked closely with Baḵtīār 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 Persia. Its main achievement occurred in Šahrīvar 1333 Š./September 1954, when it discovered and destroyed a large Tudeh Party network that had been established in the Persian armed forces….

The U.S. Army colonel who had helped General Baḵtīār establish a new intelligence organization after the 1332 Š./1953 coup remained in Persia in this capacity until Esfand 1334 Š./March 1955, when he was replaced with a more permanent team of five career CIA officers, including specialists in covert operations, in­telligence analysis, and counterintelligence. It remained in Persia until 1339 Š./1960 or 1340 Š./1961, with occasional changes in personnel, providing Baḵtīār’s organization with additional training in these three basic areas of “spy craft” and overseeing its evolution into a modern, effective intelligence agency. In 1335 Š./1956 this agency was reorganized and given the name Sāzmān-e Eṭṭelāʿāt wa Amnīyat-e Kešvar (National intelligence and security organization), com­monly known as SAVAK. By the time the CIA team was withdrawn, it had trained virtually all of the first generation of SAVAK personnel. After the five-man team left Persia the CIA continued to provide spe­cialized training to SAVAK officers on a routine though limited basis, both in Persia 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 Persia and remained until 1344 Š./1965, after which SAVAK’s own instructors provided basic training to all new SAVAK recruits (Gasiorowski, 1990, pp. 154-55; personal interviews).

The CIA and SAVAK cooperated in other ways in this period, though on a selective and rather limited basis. The two intelligence agencies maintained a close, working-level liaison relationship, both in Tehran and in the United States, under which they gave each other advice and exchanged intelligence. The CIA provided SAVAK with intelligence on the Soviet Union, the Arab states, Afghanistan, and other countries. SAVAK pro­vided the CIA with intelligence on regional matters and on the Tudeh Party, the guerrillas, and other Persian political organizations. The CIA and SAVAK also carried out a limited number of joint covert operations in this period, though only against non-Persian targets. These included joint cross-border intelligence-gathering operations in the Soviet Union and the joint interro­gation of Soviet agents captured in Persia. The CIA did not give SAVAK intelligence on Persian political organizations other than the Tudeh Party and did not carry out covert operations with SAVAK against Persian targets because CIA officials believed that such activities might compromise the CIA’s own operations in Persia and that SAVAK, in any case, was capable of operating fairly effectively on its own.

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  1. […] Thatcher gushed that Suharto was “one of our very best and most valuable friends.) The CIA trained the security forces of the Shah of Iran – the notorious Savak, who engaged in vicious torture techniques against their own people. […]

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