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Cryptonym: TPAJAX

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British and United States coup against the democratic regime of Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, in 1953.


03/00/54: Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran: November 1952 - August 1953: Historian's Note: "This paper, entitled Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, was written in March 1954 by Dr. Donald N. Wilber who had played an active role in the operation. The study was written because it seemed desirable to have a record of a major operation prepared while documents were readily at hand and while the memories of the personnel involved in the activity were still fresh. In addition, it was felt advisable to stress certain conclusions reached after the operation had bene completed and to embody some of these in the form of recommendations applicable to future, parallel operations. Documents pertaining to the operation described in this paper are in the Project TPAJAX files which are held by the Iran Branch of the Near East and South Asia Division. All proper names mentioned in this paper have been checked for accuracy and completeness. A serious effort has been made to supply the first name and middle initial of each individual. The omission of any first names and middle initials indicates that such information could not be located. Dean L. Dodge, NE Division, Historical Officer, March 1969." - - - Page 3: 06/18/2000: Editor's Note: "The C.I.A.'s history of the 1953 coup in Iran is made up of the following documents: a historian's note, a summary introduction, a lengthy narrative account written by Dr. Donald N. Wilber, and, as appendices, five planning documents he attached. On April 6, 2000, The New York Times on the Web published the introduction and several of the appendices. The Times has now decided to publish the main body of the text after removing certain names and identifying descriptions. The editing was done after consultations with historians who believed there might be serious risk that the families of some of those named as foreign agents would face retribution in Iran..."


03/00/54: CIA Clandestine Service History, "Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952-August 1953," by Dr. Donald Wilber. "I. PRELIMINARY STEPS: Representatives of British Intelligence met with Near East and Africa (NEA) Division representatives in Washington during November and December 1952 for the purpose of discussing joint war and staybehind plans in Iran. In attendance for British Intelligence were Christopher Montague Woodhouse, recently COS for British Intell in Tehran; Samuel Falle of the British Intell station in Tehran; and John Bruce Lockhart, SIS Washington representative. In attendance for NEA Division were Kermit Roosevelt, Chief of Division, John H. Leavitt, Chief of Iran Branch; John W. Pendleton, Deputy Chief of Division; James A. Darling, Chief of NEA Paramilitary Staff...British intell representatives brought up the proposition of a joint political action to remove Prime Minister Mossadeq. The NEA Division had not intended to discuss this question at all...The meeting concluded without any decision being made...In March 1953 a telegram was received from the Tehran Station which stated that General (REDACTION) had contacted the assistant military attaché and had requested Ambassador Henderson's views as to whether or not the US Government was intended in covertly supporting an Iranian military effort to oust Premier Mossadeq...The reply did not commit the United States in any way but was mildly encouraging and revealed some US interest in the idea....General Walter Bedell Smith, Under Secretary of State, determined that the US Govt could no longer approve of the Mossadeq government and would prefer a successor government in which there would be no National Frontists. The change in policy was communicated to CIA...The Director, on 4 April 1953, approved a budget of $1,000,000 which could be used by the Tehran Station in any way that would bring about the fall of Mossadeq..."


04/16/2000: Article in the New York Times by James Risen: Headlined: Secrets Of History: The C.I.A. in Iran: "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."


04/19/2000: Article in the New York Times by Professor Mark Gasiorowski: Headlined: What's New on the Iran 1953 Coup in the New York Times Article and the Documents Posted on the Web: "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." (CONTIUNED BELOW)

Church Committee: Book IV - Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Foreign and Military Intelligence Current Section: I. The Clandestine Service

1976: "The Agency...benefitted from what was widely regarded as its operational 'successes' of this period. In 1953 and 1954 two of the Agency's boldest, most spectacular covert actions took place - the overthrow of Premier Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran and the coup against President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman of Guatemala. Both were quick and virtually bloodless operations that removed from power two allegedly communist-associated leaders and replaced them with pro-Western officials. Out of these early acclaimed achievements both the Agency and Washington policymakers acquired a sense of confidence in the CIA's capacity for operational success."


"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..."

157-10008-10157: ACQUISITION LIST

CIA notes on TPAJAX refer to "Battle Carpenter of Iran".

Mark Gasiorowski • James Risen • National Security Archive • MFF

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