The Coup

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

Three weeks after his election and five weeks before his inauguration, Eisenhower met with Anthony Eden, Churchill’s Foreign Secretary, to discuss the “Persian Question.” A week later, MI6 pursued the same question in London with Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA chief for the Middle East. Soon after his inauguration, Eisenhower invited Eden to the White House to “find more imaginative ways” of solving the problem… [T]his gave the CIA and MI6 a green light to wage “just war.” The British came with a blueprint named Operation Boot; the Americans came with a project started in 1948 against the Tudeh named Bedamn; the two plans were consolidated and expanded into TRAJAX. They set up headquarters first in London, then in Cyprus with its good communication links to England and Iran. [Dubbed the “London Draft,”] the final plans were signed by Churchill on July 1, and by Eisenhower on July 11. Roosevelt, with no knowledge of Persian and little of Iran, was appointed “field commander”; he could travel in Iran without being recognized; as an American he had easy access to the U. S. embassy; and as grandson of Theodore Roosevelt and nephew of Franklin Roosevelt he would be listened to by the shah as the voice of the American president. [EA1 p197]

In April 2000, The New York Times … leaked a CIA report on the 1953 American-British overthrow of Mossadeq. It billed the report as a secret history of the secret coup, and treated it as an invaluable substitute for the U. S. files that remain inaccessible. But a reconstruction of the coup from other sources, especially from the archives of the British Foreign Office, indicates that this report is highly sanitized. [EA1 p182]

“London” Draft of the TPAJAX Operational Plan

The policy of both the US and UK governments requires replacement of Mossadeq as the alternative to certain economic collapse in Iran and the eventual loss of the area to the Soviet orbit. Only through a planned and controlled replacement can the integrity and indepencence of the country be ensured.

The plan which follows is comprised of three successive stages. The first two stages precede action of a military nature. They include the present preliminary support period and the mass propaganda campaign. These stages will be of real value to the mutual interests of US and UK even if final military action is not carried out in that they will make the position of Mossadeq increasingly vulnerable and unsteady.

The total estimated expenditure required to implement this plan will be the equivalent of $285,000 of which $147,500 will be provided by the US Service and $137,500 by the UK Service. [DW appendix B, p1]

British funds will continue to be paid through present channels for purposes as directed by the UK or by the US field station on UK behalf.

US funds are to be distributed through direct US field station contacts for the specific purose of extending and strengthening military and political contacts.

Appropriate steps will be taken to ensure that overt US policy will conform as closely as possible with the purpose of this plan. [DW appendix B, p2]

1. Organization to Mount Coup

a. Military secretariat. This secretariat, headed by an officer named by Zahedi but acceptable to the United States and United Kingdom will be composed of a very limited number of capable senior officers…

b. Duties of the secretariat. Its most urgent duty will be the selection of key officers in Tehran who can be counted upon or won over for action against the Mossadeq government. This secretariat will make a detailed examination of the US and the UK staff plan with special attention to every action to be carried out on coup day. Some of these action swill be immediate seizure of general staff headquarters, army radio station, Radio Tehran, the houses of Mossadeq and his entourage, police and gendarmerie headquarters, post and telegraph offices, telephone exchange, the Majlis and its printing press, and the National Bank and its printing press. Arrests will include the key figures of the Mossadeq government, key army officers cooperating with Mossadeq, and selected newspaper editors.

Special attention will also be given to reparing measures to be taken against the Tudeh (communist) Party… At the time of the coup at least 100 party and front group leaders and journalists must be arrested: these names will come from a list of approxiamately 80 such leaders recently prepared by the United Kingdom, plus US station additions, plus Zahedi’s own additions. Control of the Tehran streets will prevent the massing of Tudeh or other mob elements. Mass distribution of black pamphlets, notionally issued by the Central Committee of the Party, will be made with the purpose of confusing Tudeh members and of preventing them from assembling in an effective manner. It may be possible for the United States to supply by air in advance stocks of tear gas, indelible ink, or other material suitable for the control of mobs. Local air force planes may drop warnings to the public to stay off the streets or take the consequences… [DW appendix B, pp11-13]

2. Organization to Create a Maximum Public Opposition to Mossadeq Prior to Coup.

a. General Program. The purpose will be to create, extend, and enhance public hostility and distrust and fear of Mossadeq and his government. A sum equivalent to $150,000 will be budgeted for this program.
Phase 1. This is the current preliminary support stage wherein the receipt of US and UK funds permits Zahedi to win additional friends and to influence key people.
Phase 2. A massive propaganda campaign against Mossadeq and his government but with Mossadeq himself as the principal target.
b. Duties of Specific Elements
(1) Press and publicity. In the preliminary support period the British group will continue to use its numerous smaller papers to push an anti-Mossadeq line. At Headquarters and at the field station US personnel will draft and put into Persian the texts for articles, broadsheets and pamphlets, some pro-Shah and some anti-Mossadeq. The material designed to discredit Mossadeq will hammer the following themes:
(a) Mossadeq favors the Tudeh Party and the USSR. (This will be supported by black documents.)
(b) Mossadeq is an enemy of Islam since he associates with the Tudeh and advances their aims.
(c) Mossadeq is deliberately destroying the morale of the Army and its ability to maintain order.
(d) Mossadeq is deliberately fostering the growth of regional separatist elements…
(e) Mossadeq is deliberately leading the country into economic collapse.
(f) Mossadeq has been corrupted by power…
(g) Consistent with these themes will be the persistent slant that Mossadeq has been the unwitting victim of his unscrupulous, personally ambitious advisers…

Immediately after the change of government, Zahedi’s director of press and propaganda must be prepared to:
(a) Make maximum use of Radio Tehran.
(b) Through Radio Tehran, posters, special news sheets, etc. spread the program of the new government, including elements of broadcast appeal presented in simplest terms, such as immediate slashes in living costs, increased pay for government officials and Army personnel, etc.
(c) Give maximum local publicity to US and UK statements which will have been prepared in advance.
(d) Brief all foreign correspondents.

(4) Religious leaders. It is our belief that nearly all the important religious leaders with large followings are firmly opposed to Mossadeq. Both the US field station and the British group have firm contacts with such leaders.
These leaders include such assorted and sometimes inimical elements as the non-political leaders _______ and _______ , as well as ________ and ______ and his terrorist gang, ________ . During the period of intensive anti-Mossadeq publicity before coup day the leaders and their henchmen will:

(a) Spread word of their disapproval of Mossadeq.
(b) Give open support to the symbol of the throne and give moral backing to the Shah through direct contact with him at the shrine.
(c) As required, stage small pro-religious anti-Mossadeq demonstrations in widely scattered sections of Tehran.
(d) The terrorist group to threaten that they are ready to take direct action against pro-Mossadeq deputies and members of Mossadeq’s entourage and government.
(e) Ensure full participation of themselves and followers…
(f) After the change of government, give the strongest assurances over Radio Tehran and in the mosques that the new government is faithful to religious principles… [DW appendix B, pp15-23]

c. Final Action Immediately Preceding the Coup…

(1) On the appointed day, stages attacks will be made against respected religious leaders in Tehran.
(2) Other religious leaders will at once say that these attacks were ordered by Mossadeq…
(3) A number of the more important leaders will at once take sanctuary in the Majlis grounds
(4) … [T]hese religious leaders will release statements through their followers denouncing in the strongest terms the anti-religious attitude and behavior of Mossadeq.
(5) At the same time… the fullest publicity will be given to the US station fabricated documents which prove and record in detail a secret agreement between Mossadeq and the Tudeh, with the latter promising to use all their force in support of Mossadeq and against the religious leaders, the Army, and the police.
(6) Simultaneously, these leaders will call on their followers to take sanctuary all over Tehran in mosques, telegraph and post offices, banks, etc. The British group and the US station will supply all the demonstrators they can to swell their ranks, and at the same time the merchants will attempt to close the bazaar.
(7) In the presence of this increasingly hostile and abnormal atmosphere, Zahedi will take over as chief of staff and make those arrests which are an essential part of the military phase of the coup.
(8) Just after Zahedi moves, the Majlis will be called into session to formalize the change of government and complete the coup. [DW appendix B, pp23-25]

[The leaked CIA report] glosses over such sensitive issues as the crucial participation of the US ambassador in the actual overthrow; the role of US military advisers; the harnessing of local Nazis and Muslim terrorists; and the use of assassinations to destabilize the government. [EA1 p182]

It is one thing to focus on the role of the CIA in the coup – after all, the agency is supposed to carry out such actions. It is another thing to describe ambassadors and military advisers actively participating in the overthrow of their host governments. Similarly, it is one thing to admit that the CIA distributed “grey propaganda,” funded demonstrations, played “dirty tricks,” and urged officers to carry out the coup. It is another thing to admit that the CIA worked through local Nazis, and had a direct role in kidnappings, assassinations, torture, and mass street killings. This may explain why the CIA archives on Iran – unlike those on Guatemala – remain unavailable. [EA1 p184]

Iranian fascists and Nazis played prominent roles in the coup regime. General Zahedi, who had been arrested and imprisoned by the British during World War II for his attempt to establish a pro-Nazi government, was made Prime Minister on August 19, 1953. The CIA gave Zahedi about $100,000 before the coup and an additional $5 million the day after the coup to help consolidate support for the coup. Bahram Shahrokh, a trainee of Joseph Goebbels and Berlin Radio’s Farsi program announcer during the Nazi rule, became director of propaganda. [MK]

To give the coup a veneer of popular support, [on the day of the coup the CIA and SIS agents gathered] in the bazaar members of SUMKA [National Socialist Workers Party of Iran, a small Nazi party], Arya [small far right group] and Fadayan-e Islam [an Islamist terrorist group, responsible for attempted assassination of Mossadeq’s Foreign Minister Fatemi], athletes from the Taj Club [led by the famous Brainless Sha’ban], as well as lutis, thugs, and hanger-ons from the red light district. This motley crew [proceeded] to the radio station, and, on the way, looted the homes of cabinet ministers as well as the offices of pro-Mossadeq organizations. At the radio station [were] joined by truckloads of farmhands brought in by the army from … estates outside Tehran. [EA1 p206]

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