60 years later, US acknowledge role in 1953 Iran coup
Documents posted on Monday on the National Security Archive website outline the CIA’s involvement in the overthrow of democratically elected prime minister Mohammed Mosaddeq. Posted on the 60th anniversary of the coup, the documents put up by the independent body were obtained via a freedom of information request after being declassified.
One of the documents, written by a CIA historian in the 1970s entitled The Battle for Iran, reads: “The military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government.”
The release of the documents comes after a decade-long legal battle between the CIA and the National Security Archive, who filed a lawsuit in 1999 to request a document regarding the coup, with the CIA responding by releasing a single sentence of the 200-page report.
The documents also appear to confirm the British security services involvement in the coup and, embarrassingly for MI6, show that MI6 had previously tried to cover up their role by preventing the leak of documents by Washington.
Mossadeq sought to renationalise Iran’s oil supply on election, which was owned by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company – the name formerly given to BP. This was deemed a threat to national interests by MI6, who were then able to convince the US that a coup was needed, given the Cold War context. The documents reveal that the tactics employed to instigate the coup included propaganda attacking Mossadeq, the organising of anti-Mossadeq protests, and the bribing of officials and military figures.
These revelations paint the Iran coup as a shameful chapter in the history of the US and UK, both of whom have always publicly voiced their support for democratically elected governments. It also raises serious questions about the transparency and accountability of the security services of both nations. The CIA claims most records relating to the coup were lost or destroyed because the record holders’ “safes were too full”.
The National Security Archive’s deputy director, Malcolm Byrne, called for greater openness to be shown where national security is not at risk, saying: “There is no longer good reason to keep secrets about such a critical episode in our recent past… Suppressing the details only distorts the history, and feeds into myth-making on all sides.”