What Is It and Who Are They

Darker text if from Wilber narrative. Lighter is from Abrahamian, “The 1953 Coup in Iran,” Science & Society, Vol. 65, No. 2 (Summer, 2001), pp. 182-215

This paper, entitled Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, was written in March 1954 by Dr. Donald N. Wilber who had played an active role in the operation.

The CIA’s main Iran expert was Wilber. Often described as a “gentleman spy,” he was, in fact, a professional secret service officer who had traveled in and out of the Middle East since the 1930s under various disguises – archaeologist, art historian, and expert on forged manuscripts. His previous success had been the near elimination of the famous Persian poet Lahuti living in Moscow. Wilber had forged his “memoirs: and published them, claiming they had been smuggled out of Russia. Lahuti had been lucky to survive Stalin’s paranoia.

The CIA also had a young operative in Tehran named Richard Cottam. A Fullbright fellow and later professor of political science at the University of Pittsburgh, Cottam collected information not only on the Tudeh – which he generously shared with the British Embassy – but also on Baqai’s Toilers Party and the far right Arya (Aryan) Party and SUMKA (Nationalist Socialist Workers Party of Iran)… Cottam also wrote articles that were planted in the subsidized newspapers. One such article claimed Fatemi [the foreign minister] was a convicted embezzler, a well-known homosexual, and a convert to Christianity as well as Bahaism. This would have earned him at least three death sentences in the eyes of fundamentalists. Not surprisingly, the Fedayyan-e Islam tried to assassinate him. The CIA was also interested in finding in Mossadeq some form of Jewish ancestry.

The study was written because it seemed desirable to have a record of a major operation prepared while documents were readily at hand and while the memories of the personnel involved in the acitivity were still fresh. In addition, it was felt advisable to stress certain conclusions reach after the operation had been completed and to embody some of these in the form of recommendations applicable to future, parallel operations.

It was commissioned by the CIA’s Historical Division and was designed as a handbook for future coups. Its intended audience was senior officials not only in the CIA, but also in the State Department, White House, Pentagon, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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  1. […] pressure to write the words slowly one by one I know that the bureaucratic language of the “gentleman spy” is a facade for the violence that the US-UK intervention unleashed in Iran as it aborted a […]

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