CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

The 1950s

Iran (1953)

Operation TPAJAX

A - K

For period photos, excerpts in PDF format of the CIA history written by Donald Wilber, and links to contemporaneous New York Times stories, see: http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/mideast/041600iran-cia-index.html. See also http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB28/index.html. A heavily redacted and formerly classified history originally written in 1998 -- Scott A. Koch, "Zendebad, Shah!" The Central Intelligence Agency and the Fall of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq, August 1953 (Washington, DC: History Staff, Central Intelligence Agency, Jun. 1998) -- is available at: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB126/iran980600.pdf]

Abrahamian, Ervand.

1. "The 1953 Coup in Iran." State & Society 66, no. 2 (Summer 2001): 182-215.

Hoffmann, FA 80.6 (Nov.-Dec. 2001), says that "[a]nyone seeking to understand ... the role of clandestine actions in world politics [] should consult this painstakingly researched and forcefully presented article."

2. The Coup: 1953, the CIA and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations. New York: New Press, 2013.

For Peake, Studies 57.4 (Dec. 2013), the author "leaves the impression that dealing with Mossadeq at the time would have avoided the problematic Islamic state of today."

Bamberg, J.H. The History of the British Petroleum Company, Vol. 2: The Anglo-Iranian Years, 1928-54. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

According to Ashton, I&NS 11.1, this "account throws up very little evidence concerning contacts between the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and SIS." The absence of linkage between the oil company and the coupists is rejected somewhat petulantly by the reviewer, who essentially argues that some complicity must have been involved.

Bayandor, Darioush. Iran and the CIA: The Fall of Mosaddeq Revisited. London: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2010.

For Goulden, Washington Times, 16 Aug. 2010, and Intelligencer 18.1 (Fall-Winter 2010), "there is a very thin element of truth" in the author's revisionist theory that the overthrow of Mossaddeq resulted primarily from internal Iranian dynamics, not the actions of the CIA and MI6. However, Bayandor "glides over the fact that the [Iranian] military did not stir until the CIA/SIS action."

Peake, Studies 54.4 (Dec. 2010), notes the author's acknowledgement that "the failure of the CIA plan codenamed TPAJAX [scheduled for 15-16 August 1953] 'set off a chain reaction which led to the ... Mosaddeq downfall,' but its role, he argues, was indirect." He implies that the coup would eventually have occurred without the CIA/MI6 intervention.

Esquire. Editors. "How Our Man in Tehran Brought Down a Demagogue: The CIA vs. Mohammed Mossedegh." 91 (Jun. 1975): 90 ff. [Petersen]

Etges, Andreas. "All That Glitters Is Not Gold: The 1953 Coup against Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran." Intelligence and National Security 26, no. 4 (Aug. 2011): 495-508.

The author argues less than successfully that "while the coup was successful in getting rid of Mossadegh, its negative short-term and long-term consequences in Iran but also for the United States weigh heavily."

Gasiorowski, Mark J.

1. "The 1953 Coup D'Etat in Iran." International Journal of Middle East Studies 19, no. 3 (1987): 261-286.

2. and Malcolm Byrne, eds. Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004.

Brown, FA 83.6 (Nov.-Dec. 2004), finds that this work contains "seven polished studies that speak to each other." Although "[t]here are no surprises here," the book is "richly detailed and tightly reasoned." See Gasiorowski's chapter, "Why Did Mosaddeq Fall?" in this volume, pp. 262-280.

Gavin, Francis J. "Politics, Power, and U.S. Policy in Iran, 1950-1953." Journal of Cold War Studies 1, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 56-89. [http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~hpcws/journal.htm]

"What appeared to be a more aggressive stance [toward Iran] by the Eisenhower administration was in actuality a continuation of a policy initiated by the late Truman administration.... [T]he August 1953 coup was ... an outgrowth of decisions and policies made by the Truman administration largely as a result of a truly remarkable U.S. military buildup that really began to come on line in mid-1952."

[Following from http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~hpcws/journalforum.htm]

Lawson comments that this "essay succeeds in demonstrating that there was no 'sharp break between the Truman and Eisenhower administrations' with regard to Iran [footnote omitted]. But it fails to make a convincing case that the structural explanation accounts for the constancy of US policy better than some sort of domestic politics explanation does."

For Kuniholm, "Gavin is right to stress continuities. But he does not adequately address the mindsets of key figures in the new administration who were more predisposed than Truman to act and who may well have been as much influenced by issues other than the balance of power."

In a follow-on comment, Gavin reiterates that "the shifting global military balance" was a key variable in the Truman administration's more aggressive attitude from 1952.

Heiss, Mary Ann. Empire and Nationhood: The United States, Great Britain, and Iranian Oil, 1950-1954. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

Karabell, Zachary. Architects of Intervention: The United States, the Third World, and the Cold War, 1946-1962. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1999.

Cohen, FA 78.6 (Nov.-Dec. 1999), believes that the author "writes well and does a service by combining case studies on American intervention in Greece, Italy, Iran, Guatemala, Lebanon, Cuba, and Laos. He is strongest on Iran and Lebanon, weakest on Cuba and Laos, and includes no studies of intervention by the Soviets, Chinese, British, or French." To Sullivan, I&NS 16.2, this is "a readable engaging work," the basic thesis of which is that "local elites essentially manipulated the United States into intervening in their countries to shore up reactionary forces there."

Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah's Men: The Hidden Story of the CIA's Coup in Iran. New York: Wiley, 2003. All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. With new Preface. New York: Wiley, 2008. [pb]

Clark comment: In his new Preface, "The Folly of Attacking Iran," the author pushes his argument and his research to the breaking point. To assume that absent the 1953 coup, "Iran would probably have continued along its path toward full democracy," is little more than seeing what you want to see when you look into a crystal ball. It is also too much to argue direct cause and effect between the events of 1953 and 1978 and beyond, given the 25-year gap between the two. That said, the generally positive reaction of reviewers to the original work remains valid.

Goedeken, Library Journal, 15 Jun. 2003, says that the author "tells his captivating tale with style and verve." The reviewer for Publishers Weekly, 12 May 2003, refers to Kinzer's "breezy storytelling and diligent research.... At its best this work reads like a spy novel." Although Brown, FA 82.6 (Nov.-Dec. 2003), notes that the main story has been known for some time, he adds that this retelling presents "a crisp, readable narrative." Robarge, Studies 48.2 (2004), sees All the Shah's Men as a "breezily written, well-researched popular history."

Kisatsky, Deborah. "Voice of America and Iran, 1949-1953: US Liberal Developmentalism, Propaganda and the Cold War." Intelligence and National Security 14, no. 3 (Autumn 1999): 160-185.

This article traces the use by the Truman administration of the VOA's Farsi service in pursuit of the President's policy of "liberal developmentalism" with regard to Iran.

Koch, Scott A. "Zendebad, Shah!" The Central Intelligence Adency and the Fall of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq, August 1953. Washington, DC: History Staff, Central Intelligence Agency, Jun. 1998. [Available at: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB126/iran980600.pdf]

The heavily redacted nature of this work makes it difficult to read and impossible to maintain continuity. Nonetheless, it is necessary reading for anyone interested in the events in Iran in 1953.

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