British and U.S. Overthrow of Iranian Secular Government:
Start of Middle East Unrest

In 1951, nationalist supporters in the Iranian parliament nationalized Iran's petroleum industry that had been under British control since 1913: the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (and later renamed the British Petroleum or BP). The Iranian parliament, led by Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh, unanimously voted to seize and nationalize the oil industry. British Petroleum, the British government-controlled company, represented the UK's single largest overseas investment.  The nationalization angered the British government, and it plotted with the United States, under President Dwight Eisenhower, to overthrow the democratically-elected Prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. 

 

Britain accused Mosaddegh of violating the legal rights of the AIOC and mobilized a worldwide boycott of Iran's oil. That boycott plunged Iran into a financial crisis.

At that time, the King of Iran was Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi  (referred to as the Shah of Iran). He ruled over Iran from 1941 until he was overthrown in February 1979 during the Iranian Revolution. During his reign, Mossadegh was elected Prime Minister. in 1951.

In 1951, during Mohammad Reza Shah's reign, the Iranian Parliament, and urged by the democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, voted to nationalize Iran's oil industry that was owned by the British-controlled Angle-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC).

Iran ejected the British staff of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company from the nationalized refineries in Iran. That was the world's largest refinery at that time and that resulted in  what came to be called the Abadan Crisis.

At the urging of the British, the CIA and the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) funded and led a covert operation intended to remove Iran's Prime Minister, Mosaddegh. This was done with the help of military forces disloyal to Mossadegh. The scheme required orders signed by Mohammad Reza to dismiss Mosaddegh as prime minister and replace him with General Fazlollah Zahedi – a choice agreed on by the British and Americans.

General Fazlollah Zahedi was installed to succeed Mosaddegh – a choice agreed on by the British and Americans.

On 16 August 1953, the right wing of the Army attacked. Armed with an order by the Shah, it appointed General Fazlollah Zahedi as prime minister. A coalition of mobs and retired officers close to the Palace executed this coup d'état. They failed dismally and the Shah fled the country in humiliating haste. Even Ettelaat, the nation's largest daily newspaper, and its pro-Shah publisher, Abbas Masudi, were against him.[12]

During the following two days, the Communists turned against Mosaddegh. Opposition against him grew tremendously. They roamed Tehran, raising red flags and pulling down statues of Reza Shah. This was rejected by conservative clerics like Kashani and National Front leaders like Hossein Makki, who sided with the king. On 18 August 1953, Mosaddegh defended the government against this new attack. Tudeh partisans were clubbed and dispersed.[13]

The Tudeh party had no choice but to accept defeat. In the meantime, according to the CIA plot, Zahedi appealed to the military, and claimed to be the legitimate prime minister and charged Mosaddegh with staging a coup by ignoring the Shah's decree. Zahedi's son Ardeshir acted as the contact between the CIA and his father. On 19 August 1953, pro-Shah partisans – bribed with $100,000 in CIA funds – finally appeared and marched out of south Tehran into the city center, where others joined in. Gangs with clubs, knives, and rocks controlled the streets, overturning Tudeh trucks and beating up anti-Shah activists. As Roosevelt was congratulating Zahedi in the basement of his hiding place, the new Prime Minister's mobs burst in and carried him upstairs on their shoulders. That evening, Henderson suggested to Ardashir that Mosaddegh not be harmed. Roosevelt gave Zahedi US$900,000 left from Operation Ajax funds.[citation needed]
Pahlavi leads the Islamic prayers known as Salat

U.S. actions further solidified sentiments that the West was a meddlesome influence in Iranian politics. In the year 2000, reflecting on this notion, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright stated:

The Tudeh party had no choice but to accept defeat. In the meantime, according to the CIA plot, Zahedi appealed to the military, and claimed to be the legitimate prime minister and charged Mosaddegh with staging a coup by ignoring the Shah's decree. Zahedi's son Ardeshir acted as the contact between the CIA and his father. On 19 August 1953, pro-Shah partisans – bribed with $100,000 in CIA funds – finally appeared and marched out of south Tehran into the city center, where others joined in. Gangs with clubs, knives, and rocks controlled the streets, overturning Tudeh trucks and beating up anti-Shah activists. As Roosevelt was congratulating Zahedi in the basement of his hiding place, the new Prime Minister's mobs burst in and carried him upstairs on their shoulders. That evening, Henderson suggested to Ardashir that Mosaddegh not be harmed. Roosevelt gave Zahedi US$900,000 left from Operation Ajax funds.[citation needed]
Pahlavi leads the Islamic prayers known as Salat

U.S. actions further solidified sentiments that the West was a meddlesome influence in Iranian politics. In the year 2000, reflecting on this notion, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright stated:

In 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran's popular Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh. The Eisenhower Administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons; but the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs."[14]

The Tudeh party had no choice but to accept defeat. In the meantime, according to the CIA plot, Zahedi appealed to the military, and claimed to be the legitimate prime minister and charged Mosaddegh with staging a coup by ignoring the Shah's decree. Zahedi's son Ardeshir acted as the contact between the CIA and his father. On  , pro-Shah partisans – bribed with $100,000 in CIA funds – finally appeared and marched out of south Tehran into the city center, where others joined in. Gangs with clubs, knives, and rocks controlled the streets, overturning Tudeh trucks and beating up anti-Shah activists. As Roosevelt was congratulating Zahedi in the basement of his hiding place, the new Prime Minister's mobs burst in and carried him upstairs on their shoulders. That evening, Henderson suggested to Ardashir that Mosaddegh not be harmed. Roosevelt gave Zahedi US$900,000 left from Operation Ajax funds.[citation needed]

 

Administration came to office fears that communists were poised to overthrow the government became an all consuming concern (these concerns were later dismissed as "paranoid" in retrospective commentary

emocratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh before a U.S.-backed coup d'état deposed Mosaddegh and brought back foreign oil firms,[3] and Iran marked the anniversary of 2,500 years of continuous monarchy since the founding of the Persian Empire by Cyrus the Great. As ruler, he introduced the White Revolution, a series of economic, social and political reforms with the proclaimed intention of transforming Iran into a global power and modernizing the nation by nationalizing certain industries and granting women suffrage.

A secular Muslim, Mohammad Reza gradually lost support from the Shi'a clergy of Iran as well as the working class, particularly due to his strong policy of modernization, secularization, conflict with the traditional class of merchants known as bazaari, recognition of Israel, and corruption issues surrounding himself, his family, and the ruling elite. Various additional controversial policies were enacted, including the banning of the communist Tudeh Party, and a general suppression of political dissent by Iran's intelligence agency, SAVAK. According to official statistics, Iran had as many as 2,200 political prisoners in 1978, a number which multiplied rapidly as a result of the revolution.[4]

Several other factors contributed to strong opposition to the Shah among certain groups within Iran, the most notable of which were United States and UK support for his regime, clashes with Islamists and increased communist activity. By 1979, political unrest had transformed into a revolution which, on 17 January, forced him to leave Iran. Soon thereafter, the Iranian monarchy was formally abolished, and Iran was declared an Islamic republic led by Ayatollah Khomeini. Facing likely execution should he return to Iran, he died in exile in Egypt, whose President, Anwar Sadat, had granted him asylum. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi is often called "the last Shah of Iran" or more commonly and simply "the Shah".

 

Initially, after Iran nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company on May 2, 1951, Britain planned to send Navy, Air Force and army to seize the island of Abadan where the oil refinery was located. That plan was replaced with an economic boycott against Iran.

 

The economic and political crisis in Iran that began in early 1952 with the British-organized worldwide boycott of Iranian oil, ended with the signing of the Consortium Agreement of 1954. Pahlavi signed the agreement with the result that, for the first time, United States oil companies shared in the control of Iranian oil, with the U.S. and UK evenly splitting 80% and the remainder divided between French and Dutch interests.

Iran was allocated 50% of the revenues, which was an increase from 16% in the original agreement. However, from Iran's perspective, the Consortium Agreement of 1954 was far less favorable than conditions set forth several months earlier in the joint 'Churchill-Eisenhower' proposal to Mosaddeq.

 After the coup, the Consortium Agreement of 1954 ended the crisis, and stayed in effect until it was modified in 1957 and 1973 and then ended in 1979 when the Iranian Revolution deposed the monarch.

 

That nationalization of the oil industry caused Britain to plot the overthrow of the Iranian government, ending with a coup against Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mosadegh in 1953.

The British government tried to obtain the cooperation  of the United States in bring about a coup in Iran, but that plan was rejected by President Harry S. Truman.  However, when Truman's successor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, became president, Eisenhower authorized the CIA to engage in a covert operation to overthrow the Iranian government  and install a government that the U.S. and British could control.

The coup was facilitated by Islamic dissatisfaction with Mossadegh's secular rule, and by the propaganda and payments to thugs by CIA personnel.

The revolution started on xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, while Captain Rodney Stich was in Abadan, staying at a hotel in Abadan, Iran.

The CIA-engineered coup toppled the secular government in Iran and removed Mossadegh. They then arranged for Mohammad Reza Pahlavi become an authoritarian monarch that ruled Iran, often violently, and carrying  out the interests of the United States and Britain. Mossadegh was replaced with Iranian General Fazlollah Zahedi to succeed Mosaddegh.

The CIA called that operation, Operation Ajax, and sometimes TPAJAX.

U.S. Training  Iran's Secret Police, SAVAK

After the coup succeeded, the CIA trained the Shah's secret police, SAVAK.

 

 Originally, the Eisenhower Administration considered Operation Ajax a "successful secret war." that assessment is no longer generally held, because of the coup's "haunting and terrible legacy"Originally, the Eisenhower Administration considered Operation Ajax a "successful secret war", but, given its blowback, that assessment is no longer generally held, because of the coup's "haunting and terrible legacy".

Converting Iran's Democracy with Authoritarian Monarchy

 The coup d’état was "a critical event in post-war world history" that replaced Iran’s native, and secular parliamentary democracy with an authoritarian and brutal monarchy. That coup is widely believed to have significantly contributed to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which deposed the Shah and replaced the pro-Western monarchy with the anti-Western Islamic Republic of Iran.

In 1979, the CIA-installed monarch, the Shah of Iran, was overthrown.

Mosaddegh was first imprisoned, for three years, and then put under house arrest until his death.

Political Prisoners Under CIA Control

Amnesty International reported that Iran had as many as 2,200 political prisoners in 1978. By 1979, political unrest had transformed into a revolution which, on 16 January forced the Shah to leave Iran after 37 years of rule. Soon thereafter, the revolutionary forces transformed the government into an Islamic republic.

1979: Shah Flees Iran

Shah flees Iran, stopping first in Baghdad. On hearing this news, the "National Front sets up a committee to decide the fate of the monarchy, and the Tudeh crowds pour into the streets, destroying royalist statues. In some provincial towns ... the Tudeh take over the municipal buildings." In Tehran, mob attacks are started by "black" mobs, i.e. paid for by the CIA to "loot shops, destroy pictures of the Shah, ransack offices of royalist groups", but include sincere supporters of Mosaddeq that have joined in the rioting.

Islamic Republic in 1979

S support and funding continued after the coup, with the CIA training the Shah's secret police, SAVAK.

U.S. Politicians Replacing Iran's Parliamentary Democracy With
Authoritarian Monarchy—Ending with an Islamic Government

The coup d’état was "a critical event in post-war world history" that replaced Iran’s native, and secular parliamentary democracy with an authoritarian monarchy.[17] The coup is widely believed to have significantly contributed to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which deposed the Shah and replaced the pro-Western monarchy with the anti-Western Islamic Republic of Iran.[18]

The 1953 coup d'état was the first time the US had openly overthrown an elected, civil government.[58] In the US, Operation Ajax was a success, with "immediate and far-reaching effect. Overnight, the CIA became a central part of the American foreign policy apparatus, and covert action came to be regarded as a cheap and effective way to shape the course of world events"—a coup engineered by the CIA called Operation PBSUCCESS toppling the duly elected Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, which had nationalised farm land owned by the United Fruit Company, followed the next year.[59]

In 2000 US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, acknowledged the coup's pivotal role in the troubled relationship and "came closer to apologizing than any American official ever has before".

The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons. ... But the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.

The Shah

The Shah came to power during World War II after an Anglo-Soviet invasion forced the abdication of his father, Reza Shah. Mohammad Reza Shah's rule oversaw the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry under Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq.

During the Shah's reign, Iran marked the anniversary of 2,500 years of continuous monarchy since the founding of the Persian Empire by Cyrus the Great. His White Revolution, a series of economic and social reforms intended to transform Iran into a global power, succeeded in modernizing the nation, nationalizing many natural resources and extending suffrage to women, among other things. However, the decline of the traditional power of the Shi'a clergy due to parts of the reforms increased opposition.

While a Muslim himself, the Shah gradually lost support from the Shi'a clergy of Iran, particularly due to his strong policy of modernization, secularization and conflict with the traditional class of merchants known as bazaari, and recognition of Israel.

Clashes with the Islamists, increased communist activity and a 1953 period of political disagreements with Mohammad Mosaddeq, eventually leading to Mosaddeq's ousting, caused an increasingly autocratic rule. In 2000, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright stated:

"In 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran's popular Prime Minister, Mohammed Massadegh. The Eisenhower Administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons; but the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs."

Various controversial policies were enacted, including the banning of the Tudeh Party and a general suppression of political dissent by Iran's intelligence agency, SAVAK.

 

Shortly before the 1952 presidential election in the US, the British government invited Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., of the CIA to London and proposed they cooperate under the code name "Operation Ajax" to bring down Mosaddeq from office. Roosevelt, Jr., was a senior Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer and grandson of former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.

The American CIA and British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) funded and led a covert operation to depose Mosaddeq, aided by military forces loyal to the Shah. This plan was known as Operation Ajax.[6] The plot hinged on orders signed by the Shah to dismiss Mosaddeq as prime minister and replace him with General Fazlollah Zahedi, a choice agreed on by the British and Americans.

Despite the high-level coordination and planning, the coup initially failed, causing the Shah to flee to Baghdad, then Rome. After a brief exile in Italy, the Shah returned to Iran, this time through a successful second attempt at the coup and through the funding of Morad Aryeh, an eminent Jewish Iranian entrepreneur from Kashan.[7]

The deposed Mosaddeq was arrested, given a show trial, and sentenced to solitary confinement for three years in a military prison, followed by house arrest for life. Zahedi was installed to succeed Prime Minister Mosaddeq.[8]

The American Embassy in Tehran reported that Mosaddeq had near total support from the nation and was unlikely to fall. The Prime Minister asked the Majlis to give him direct control of the army. Given the situation, alongside the strong personal support of Eden and Churchill for covert action, the American government gave the go ahead to a committee, attended by the Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles, Kermit Roosevelt, Ambassador Henderson, and Secretary of Defense Charles Erwin Wilson.

Kermit Roosevelt returned to Iran on 13 July 1953, and again on 1 August 1953, in his first meeting with the Shah. A car picked him up at midnight and drove him to the palace. He lay down on the seat and covered himself with a blanket as guards waved his driver through the gates. The Shah got into the car and Roosevelt explained the mission. The CIA provided $1 million in Iranian currency, which Roosevelt had stored in a large safe, a bulky cache given the exchange rate at the time of 1000 rial to 15 dollars.[9]

 

In 1974, the Shah abolished the multi-party system of government so that he could rule through a one-party state under the Rastakhiz (Resurrection) Party in autocratic fashion.