he 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
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
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.