Recently the State Department released a large amount of documents, 1000 pages, which once more are supposed to disclose the US CIA / British MI6 role in the 1953 coup against the only democratic and popular Prime minster of Pahlavi Dynasty, Dr Muhammad Mossadegh. The 1000-page-document is to be studied by Iranian scholars of recent history.
Although the role of US /UK in the coup was already acknowledged by the US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, in an address to Iranian people. The new documents are expected to further reveal the details of this inner intervention of US / UK in Iran because both of them shared an interest in maintaining and empowering the Shah in power who was ultimately playing the role of gendarme of their interests in the region.
The coup was plotted and organised under the name of AJAX. After the coup on Aug. 19, 1953, a dictatorial regime of the Shah surfaced, what created the conditions which partly went in 1979 from bad to worse, namely from the monarchist despotism to the totalitarian Islamic regime.
The plot was planned by in 1952 by the British MI6, but the Truman administration refused it. In 1953 President Eisenhower finally gave approval to it and was immediately realised because of fear from the pro-Soviet Tudeh party that at the time was the strongest party in Iran. Also since Mossadegh nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, England hoped after Mossadegh’s dismissal can restore its jeopardised interests in Iran.
The plotted coup by US / UK was committed by military royalists to the Shah, the demonstrations of payed mob financed by UK / US and help of the Shiite clergy led by the influential Ayatollah Kashani. The coup was launched by a prearranged secret message broadcasted by the Persian BBC in 19, August 53 to an involved agent of the UK in the coup, Assadollah Rashidian —the BBC agency ultimately played another notorious role in favour of Khomeini and the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The coup reinstalled and consolidated the Shah’s dictatorial regime brutally reinforced by a secret police, the notoriously horrific SAVAK, and finally a one-party-system in Iran. Like the actual one-party-system in North Korea, the Shah’s party ruled with an iron fist and supressed all opposition while tolerating the clergy and even empowering their institutions as a bastion against communism. The position of the Shah as king and chief of the executive was only guaranteed by institutionalised ban of any opposition.
The fact that Shah’s dictatorship banned and suffocated any voice of democracy and secularism, it turns out to be in favour of the Shiite clergy who was permitted to have the voice of the suppressed people under the Shah. The situation finally became different from what the Shah expected. It propped up a sentiment of anti-Western and pro-Islamism in Iran. In fact, the coup was a tremendous turning point in recent history of Iran and also the world, what initiated many US coups around the world and finally paved the path to the unexpected 1979 revolution and rebirth of political Islam in the world.
As we struggle to come to terms with the inception of the Islamic regime, we cannot ignore the role of the Shah’s regime in preconditioning of that. While there are many factors involved, undoubtedly one of the primary causes was the entanglement of the Shiite sect in the institution of Iranian monarchy since the Safavid dynasty. In order to understand the rise of the Islamic State we must first briefly review the history of monarchy in Iran which is on par with the Shiite sect. They formed both together a symbiosis since the sect was brutally imposed by Shah Isma’il Safavid, founder of the dynasty, on the then Sunnite majority in the early 16th century. The symbiosis lost under the Shah the 5-century-old tradition of coexistence by rendering in favour of Shiite clergy.
The 1953 coup stopped the process of the young democracy in Iran which was flourishing right after the Allies in 1941 replaced pro-Hitler Reza Shah with his young son, Muhammad Reza Shah. The new dictatorship was arisen gradually after the 1953 coup and caused firstly to spontaneously sporadic outbursts of antimonarchy and anti-Western revolts and finally to the organised 1979 Islamic revolution.
The 1953 coup prevented a democratisation and secularisation of Iran under Mossadegh while playing in long-term a consequent role in the inception of the plague of the Islamic regime which is 100 times worse than the Shah’s dictatorship. Furthermore, Islamic extremism was before the 1979 revolution in Iran unknown, but today is known as the cause of any evil both in Iran and the world. Not to forget that the terrorist jihadist groups around the world emerged out of the political Islam rebounded in Iran.
If the coup plotted by US / UK in Iran caused an anti-Western presentiment throughout the whole population that blindly supported the Shiite clergy and their rise of political Islam. The process was reinforced by the Shah who was himself a megalomaniac and fanatic Shiite and underestimated the possible breakaway of Shiite Mullahs to the traditional symbiosis to monarchy by lurking to monopolise the “God’s” power for themselves alone.
Today, the coup is rather considered as a lesson to Iranians not to trust any dictatorial regime under any form or any name. The 1953 coup had not only sown despotism of the Shah and consequently paved the way to totalitarianism of Khomeini, but opened up a series of coups and inner interventions of the USA in South America, Africa and Asia inhibiting the growth of democracy. The coup was also a turning point in the Third World because the USA stirred up the growing education of political conscience among the peoples that were supposed to be inoculated against dictatorship and obscurantism after and due to World War II.
By Jahanshah Rashidian
A look into the 1953 coup in Iran