The 1950s

Iran (1953)

Operation TPAJAX

L - Z

McMurdo, Torey L. "The United States, Britain, and the Hidden Justification of Operation TPAJAX." Studies in Intelligence 56, no 2 (Jun. 2012): 15-26. [https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol.-56-no.-2/pdfs/McMurdo-The%20Economics%20of%20Overthrow.pdf]

"At its core, Mossadeq's overthrow was inspired not by a communist threat, but by an economic one. World War II had left postwar Britain grasping for fresh economic policies that would help them rebuild into a global economic power."

Mokhtari, Fariborz. "Iran's 1953 Coup Revisited, Internal Dynamics versus External Intrigue." Middle East Journal 62, no. 3 (Summer 2008): 457-486.

The author argues that the dynamics of Iran's internal political situation played a larger role in Mosaddeq's overthrow than CIA/MI6 efforts.

New York Times Special Report on the Iranian Coup of 1953, 16 Apr. 2000.

For period photos, excerpts of the CIA history in PDF format, and timelines with links to contemporaneous New York Times stories, see: http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/mideast/041600iran-cia-index.html.

Risen, James. "Secrets of History: The CIA in Iran." New York Times, 16 Apr. 2000.

This is author's brief lead-in to his main story.

Risen, James. "How a Plot Convulsed Iran in '53 (and in '79)." New York Times, 16 Apr. 2000.

The New York Times has "obtained" a copy of the CIA's secret history of the 1953 Iranian coup. The history was written in March 1954 by Dr. Donald N. Wilber, "the C.I.A.'s chief coup planner," and "was provided ... by a former official who kept a copy." The still-classified document "discloses the pivotal role British intelligence officials played in initiating and planning the coup, and it shows that Washington and London shared an interest in maintaining the West's control over Iranian oil....

"The history says agency officers orchestrating the Iran coup worked directly with royalist Iranian military officers, handpicked the prime minister's replacement, sent a stream of envoys to bolster the shah's courage, directed a campaign of bombings by Iranians posing as members of the Communist Party, and planted articles and editorial cartoons in newspapers."

Risen, James. "C.I.A. Tried, With Little Success, to Use U.S. Press in Coup." New York Times, 16 Apr. 2000.

"The C.I.A.'s history of the coup shows that its operatives had only limited success in manipulating American reporters and that none of the Americans covering the coup worked for the agency."

Sciolino, Elaine. "Mohammed Mossadegh: Eccentric Nationalist Begets Strange History." New York Times, 16 Apr. 2000.

Lead sentences like the following make me nervous as to the author's understanding of the material being presented: "Except for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, father of its revolution, no leader has left a deeper mark on Iran's 20th century landscape than Mohammed Mossadegh."

New York Times. "Donald Wilber: 'Gentleman Spy' at Helm." 16 Apr. 2000.

"Donald Wilber ... was old-school C.I.A., a Princetonian and a Middle East architecture expert who fit neatly into the mold of the 'gentleman spy.'" Wilber died in 1997 at the age of 89.

Powers, Thomas. "Saving the Shah." The Nation, 12 Apr. 1980. Chapter 9 in Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda, 159-168. Rev. & exp. ed. New York: New York Review of Books, 2004.

Using Kermit Roosevelt's Coutercoup (1979), the author looks at the nature and meaning of the 1953 Iranian coup.

Roosevelt, Kermit. Countercoup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979. 1981. [pb]

Kermit Roosevelt died on 8 June 2000 at the age of 84. Bart Barnes, "Kermit Roosevelt, CIA Mideast Agent, Dies," Washington Post, 10 Jun. 2000, B6.

Clark comment: The book details the planning and execution of Operation Ajax, the American-British operation which overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953 and restored the Shah to his throne. Roosevelt was the American case officer for the operation and was on the scene in Teheran to oversee its successful implementation.

Powers, The Nation (12 Apr. 1980) and Intelligence Wars (2004), 159-168, notes the unusual history of this book. The first printing was pulped because of British concerns about mentions of the SIS role in the 1953 coup. The second printing was held for the release of the American hostages in Iran. According to the reviewer, Roosevelt's account has little to say about the politics of the coup, either in Washington or Teheran. "This version of events is not so much untrue as it is incomplete, offhand, and unreflective.... It is a book about clandestine technique, a kind of guide for covert political manipulation."

For Constantinides, Countercoup "is necessary for an understanding of the covert ... history of Ajax.... But its shortcomings lessen its usefulness as a fully reliable reference." See also, Kenneth L. Adelman, "A Clandestine Clan," International Security 5 (Summer 1980): 152-171. This is a review essay on Countercoup and Powers' The Man Who. Adelman was Director of ACDA, 1984-1987.

Ruehsen, Moyara De Moraes. "Operation 'Ajax' Revisited: Iran, 1953." Middle Eastern Studies 29, no. 3 (Jul. 1993): 467-486.

ProQuest: "Several aspects of Operation 'Ajax' ... are examined. New light is shed on the degree to which Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower and [Iranian Prime Minister Muhammed] Musaddiq influenced the outcome of the crisis."

Takeyh, Ray. "What Really Happened in Iran: The CIA, the Ouster of Mosaddeq, and the Restoration of the Shah." Foreign Affairs 93, no. 4 (Jul.-Aug. 2014): 2-12.

"[T]he CIA's impact on the events of 1953 was ultimately insignificant. Regradless of anything the United States did or did not do, Mosaddeq was bound to fall and the shah was bound to retain his throne and expand his power." After the initial coup effort failed to get off the ground, "the attempt to salvage the coup became very much an Iranian initiative.... Contrary to [Kermit] Roosevelt's account, the documentary record reveals that the Eisenhower administration was hardly in control and was in fact surprised by the way events played out."

Christopher de Bellaigue, "Uncle Sam's Hidden Hand," Foreign Affairs 93.5 (Sep.-Oct. 2014): 163-165. takes issue with Takeyh's interpretation of events in Iran in 1953. Takeyh replies at 165-167.

Wilber, Donald N. Adventures in the Middle East: Excursions and Incursions. Princeton, NJ: Darwin, 1986.

Haglund, I&NS 4.3, notes Wilber's claim to have both developed the concept for Operation Ajax and played a major role in making that plan operational. Nevertheless, there is "not ... much new information about US intelligence operations in the Middle East, either during the 1950s or during the war, when Wilber was an OSS agent in Iran."

Wilber, Donald. Clandestine Service History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran, November 1952-August 1953. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, Mar. 1954. [Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/mideast/041600iran-cia-index.html and http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB28/index.html]

Acoording to a "Historian's Note," dated March 1969, this paper was written by Dr. Donald N. Wilber in March 1954. Wilber "played an active role in the operation." The document as it appears on both sites identified above is the text as published by the New York Times, "after removing certain names and identifying descriptions" to protect "the families of some of those named as foreign agents." "Editor' Note," dated 18 June 2000.

Return to CIA 1950s Table of Contents

Return to UK Post-WWII Table of Contents

Return to Covert Action - Iran