Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright and CIA Operation Ajax in Iran

US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton

The US secretary of state acknowledged on Tuesday that Washington had not been consistent in its dealings with Islamabad. Talking to reporters at the Foreign Press Centre and the White House, Hillary Clinton said “it is fair to say that our policy towards Pakistan over the last 30 years has been incoherent. I don’t know any other word”. US wronged Pakistan for 30 years, admits Hillary By Anwar Iqbal Wednesday, 20 May, 2009 06:53 AM PST

Madeleine Korbel Albright, Former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Korbel Albright was nominated by President Clinton on December 5, 1996 as Secretary of State. After being unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she was sworn in as the 64th Secretary of State on January 23, 1997. Secretary Albright is the first female secretary of state and the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government.

In 1996 then-UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright was asked by 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl, in reference to years of U.S.-led economic sanctions against Iraq, “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” To which Ambassador Albright responded, “I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it.”


Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, Former Prime Minister of Iran [28 April 1951 – 19 August 1953]Mosaddeq was removed from power in a 19 August 1953 coup supported and funded by the British and U.S. governments and led by General Fazlollah Zahedi.[Secrets of History: The C.I.A in Iran By JAMES RISEN

Secrets of History: The C.I.A in Iran By JAMES RISEN

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, [26 October 1919, Tehran – 27 July 1980, Cairo] with his wife.

The Central Intelligence Agency's secret history of its covert operation to overthrow Iran's government in 1953 offers an inside look at how the agency stumbled into success, despite a series of mishaps that derailed its original plans.

Written in 1954 by one of the coup's chief planners, the history details how United States and British officials plotted the military coup that returned the shah of Iran to power and toppled Iran's elected prime minister, an ardent nationalist.

The document shows that:

Britain, fearful of Iran's plans to nationalize its oil industry, came up with the idea for the coup in 1952 and pressed the United States to mount a joint operation to remove the prime minister.

The C.I.A. and S.I.S., the British intelligence service, handpicked Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi to succeed Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and covertly funneled $5 million to General Zahedi's regime two days after the coup prevailed.

Iranians working for the C.I.A. and posing as Communists harassed religious leaders and staged the bombing of one cleric's home in a campaign to turn the country's Islamic religious community against Mossadegh's government.

The shah's cowardice nearly killed the C.I.A. operation. Fearful of risking his throne, the Shah repeatedly refused to sign C.I.A.-written royal decrees to change the government. The agency arranged for the shah's twin sister, Princess Ashraf Pahlevi, and Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the father of the Desert Storm commander, to act as intermediaries to try to keep him from wilting under pressure. He still fled the country just before the coup succeeded.

“What’s New on the Iran 1953 Coup in the New York Times Article (April 16, 2000, front page) and the Documents Posted on the Web” By Professor Mark Gasiorowski
19 April 2000

There is not much in the NYT article itself that is not covered in my article on the coup (“The 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran” published in 1987 in the International Journal of Middle East Studies, and available in the Gulf2000 archives) or other sources on the coup. The most interesting new tidbit here is that the CIA’s agents harassed religious leaders and bombed one’s home in order to turn them against Mossadeq. The article does not say, but this was probably done by Iranians working in the BEDAMN network, which is described in my article. There are also some new details on how that US persuaded the shah to agree to the coup, including a statement that Assadollah Rashidian was involved in this effort and that General Schwartzkopf, Sr. played a larger role in this than was previously known. There are also a few details reported in the article that I knew about but chose not to reveal, including that Donald Wilber and Norman Derbyshire developed the original coup plan and that the plan was known as TPAJAX, rather than simply AJAX. (The TP prefix indicated that the operation was to be carried out in Iran.) The NYT article does not say anything about a couple of matters that remain controversial about the coup, including whether Ayatollah Kashani played a role in organizing the crowds and whether the CIA team organized “fake” Tudeh Party crowds as part of the effort. There may be something on these issues in the 200-page history itself.

Much more important than the NYT article are the two documents appended to the summary document giving operational plans for the coup. These contain a wealth of interesting information. They indicate that the British played a larger—though still subordinate—role in the coup than was previously known, providing part of the financing for it and using their intelligence network (led by the Rashidian brothers) to influence members of the parliament and do other things. The CIA described the coup plan as “quasi-legal,” referring to the fact that the shah legally dismissed Mossadeq but presumably acknowledging that he did not do so on his own initiative. These documents make clear that the CIA was prepared to go forward with the coup even if the shah opposed it. There is a suggestion that the CIA use counterfeit Iranian currency to somehow show that Mossadeq was ruining the economy, though I’m not sure this was ever done. The documents indicate that Fazlollah Zahedi and his military colleagues were given large sums of money (at least $50,000) before the coup, perhaps to buy their support. Most interestingly, they indicate that various clerical leaders and organizations—whose names are blanked out—were to play a major role in the coup. Finally, the author(s) of the London plan—presumably Wilber and Derbyshire—say some rather nasty things about the Iranians, including that there is a “recognized incapacity of Iranians to plan or act in a thoroughly logical manner.”

Perhaps the most general conclusion that can be drawn from these documents is that the CIA extensively stage-managed the entire coup, not only carrying it out but also preparing the groundwork for it by subordinating various important Iranian political actors and using propaganda and other instruments to influence public opinion against Mossadeq. This is a point that was made in my article and other published accounts, but it is strongly confirmed in these documents. In my view, this thoroughly refutes the argument that is commonly made in Iranian monarchist exile circles that the coup was a legitimate “popular uprising” on behalf of the shah.

In reply to Nikki Keddie’s (UCLA) questions about whether the NYT article got the story right, I would say it is impossible to tell until the 200-page document comes out. Nikki’s additional comment that these documents may not be entirely factual but may instead reveal certain biases held by their authors is an important one. Wilber was not in Iran while the coup was occurring, and his account of it can only have been based on his debriefing of Kermit Roosevelt and other participants. Some facts were inevitably lost or misinterpreted in this process, especially since this was a rapidly changing series of events. This being said, I doubt that there will be any major errors in the 200-page history. While Wilber had his biases, he certainly was a competent historian. I can think of no reason he might have wanted to distort this account.

Here are a few other notes. It is my understanding that these documents were given to the NYT well before Secretary Albright’s recent speech, implying that they were not an attempt to upstage or add to the speech by the unnamed “former official” who provided them to the NYT. I think there is still some reason to hope that the 200-page document will be released with excisions by the NYT. I certainly hope they do so.

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Persia and Mike Wallace

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