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CIA admits role in 1953 Iran coup: report

August 19, 2013
Former Iranian premier Mohammed Mossadegh after he was sentenced to three years solitary confinement by a military court in Tehran, December 21, 1953. — Photo AP/File
Former Iranian premier Mohammed Mossadegh after he was sentenced to three years solitary confinement by a military court in Tehran, December 21, 1953. — Photo AP/File

Today, on the 60th anniversary of the coup against Iran’s Mohammed Mossadegh, Foreign Policy Magazine (FPM) reported that the National Security Archive website — an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington DC — has published a document in which the CIA openly acknowledges its involvement in the overthrow of the man who was elected as Iran’s prime minister.

Mossadegh, who was the prime minister of Iran, was overthrown on August 19, 1953 in what was for years believed to be a plot backed by the US and the UK. The event changed the course of history in Iran, the effects of which continue to echo to this day.

According to the report in FPM, the National Security Archive obtained the document through the Freedom of Information Act request. The document is a brief excerpt from a report titled “The Battle for Iran,” an internal report prepared in the mid-1970s by an in-house CIA historian.

While the document was first released in 1981, most of it had been redacted, including Section III titled "Covert Action,” which describes the events relating to the coup.

Even though most of the document remains redacted even now, the new version formally and implicitly admits the involvement of the CIA in the overthrow for the first time: "[T]he military coup that overthrew Mossadegh and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy," the history reads.

The risk of leaving Iran "open to Soviet aggression…compelled the United States...in planning and executing TPAJAX," it said.

FPM reported that TPAJAX was the CIA's codename for the overthrow plot, which heavily employed the used of local collaborators in its execution.

The document, "The Battle for Iran," available here and here provides two separate releases of the same document, declassified 30 years apart in 1981 and 2011 respectively.

According to the National Security Archive, each version contains portions that have been redacted in the other. While the document itself is undated, hand written edits and footnotes imply that the document was written in or after 1974.

The author is said to have been a member of the CIA's History Staff who acknowledges "the enthusiastic cooperation" of the agency's Directorate of Operations, but also concedes that most of the relevant files were destroyed in 1962. The account, therefore, relies on the relatively few remaining records as well as on sources available to the public.