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CIA was recognizing it had little potential to crush the Communist party and Mosaddegh shortly before the 1953 coup in Iran

On June 15th, the State Department released a long-awaited “retrospective” volume of declassified U.S. government documents on the 1953 coup in Iran. The volume includes fascinating details on Iranian, American and British planning and implementation of the covert operation, as well as information about U.S. contacts with key figures such as Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani, and insights into U.S. concerns about the growing influence of communist Tudeh Party. This Foreign Relations volume focuses on the use of covert operations by the Truman and Eisenhower administrations as an adjunct to their respective policies toward Iran, culminating in the overthrow of the Mosadeq government in August 1953. Moreover, the volume documents the involvement of the U.S. intelligence community in the policy formulation process and places it within the broader Cold War context. [nsarchive.gwu.edu]


Image result for 1953 coupWe continue to monitor closely the sequence of preparations by the CIA shortly before the 1953 coup. Another memorandum prepared in the Directorate of Plans, Central Intelligence Agency, two days after the memorandum from the then Director of Central Intelligence, Allen Dulles, to President Eisenhower, identifies that CIA had very little potential to crush the momentum of the Tudeh Communist party, as well as, that of the Iranian PM Mohammad Mosaddegh.

The memorandum begins with the acknowledge that “CIA clandestine assets in Iran are far from sufficient in themselves to prevent a Tudeh assumption of power.

Also, CIA's propaganda network in Iran is briefly described: “CIA controls a network with numerous press, political, and clerical contacts which has proven itself capable of disseminating large-scale anti-Tudeh propaganda. The network can also give effective propaganda support to Prime Minister Mossadegh. It could not, however, engage in anti-Mossadegh propaganda nor could it support a prime minister not acceptable to Mossadegh.”, concluding that “CIA presently has no group which would be effective in spreading anti-Mossadegh mass propaganda.

Potential provocative operations are also examined, but expected also to have little effect: “CIA has proven an ability to produce anti-Tudeh demonstrations. It can do so, however, only under favorable conditions, and provided that the Central Government does not strongly object. In the event the power of the Tudeh Party increases in Iran, demonstrations such as could be produced by this group would be easily dealt with by Tudeh counter-riots or Government suppression. [...] CIA has no group in Iran which could effectively promote riots demonstrating against Mossadegh.

Assisting internal security forces against Tudeh appeared to be more achievable: “It is the view of our Teheran station that the Iranian Security Services, with our help and encouragement, could take positive action against the Tudeh Party such as would render it incapable of launching a coup d’état under present conditions.

Finally, some potential actions were examined in case that "a Tudeh government take over all or a part of Iran".

Key points:

To Prevent Assumption of Power by Tudeh: CIA clandestine assets in Iran are far from sufficient in themselves to prevent a Tudeh assumption of power. Moreover, what CIA assets in Iran are depends upon the use to which they will be put. For example, there are propaganda groups which could operate effectively to support Mossadegh but which would refuse to work against him. The same applies to other groups as regards the Shah. Specifically, CIA capabilities in the clandestine field are as follows:

  • Mass propaganda means (press, etc.): CIA controls a network with numerous press, political, and clerical contacts which has proven itself capable of disseminating large-scale anti-Tudeh propaganda. The network can also give effective propaganda support to Prime Minister Mossadegh. It could not, however, engage in anti-Mossadegh propaganda nor could it support a prime minister not acceptable to Mossadegh. There is another group serving CIA which is capable of providing reasonably effective pro-Shah propaganda. It would not, however, support a pro-Shah candidate for the Prime Ministry unless the views of that individual were acceptable to this group. CIA presently has no group which would be effective in spreading anti-Mossadegh mass propaganda.

  • Poison pen, personal denunciations, rumor spreading, etc.: CIA has means of making fairly effective personal attacks against any political figure in Iran, including Mossadegh. It should be pointed out, however, that this sort of activity, unless it is in support of a general propaganda program, will be so ineffective as to make it not worth considering under any plan seeking immediate results.

  • Street riots, demonstrations, mobs, etc.: CIA [less than 1 line not declassified] has proven an ability to produce anti-Tudeh demonstrations. It can do so, however, only under favorable conditions, and provided that the Central Government does not strongly object. In the event the power of the Tudeh Party increases in Iran, demonstrations such as could be produced by this group would be easily dealt with by Tudeh counter-riots or Government suppression. [less than 1 line not declassified] could also provide effective pro-Mossadegh demonstrations and it could provide fairly effective pro-Shah demonstrations on the condition that these demonstrations not be in effect anti-Mossadegh demonstrations. CIA has no group in Iran which could effectively promote riots demonstrating against Mossadegh.

  • Tribal support: The only tribal leaders now cooperating with CIA are pro-Mossadegh and rather anti-Shah. These leaders are extremely powerful, however, and have the capability of gaining for an anti-Tudeh pro-Mossadegh government the support of the most important tribes in Iran.

  • Assisting Iranians at internal security: CIA has no official liaison with Iranian security authorities and has contact with them only by virtue of the fact that several leading members of these security services are paid agents of this organization. Should this government adopt a policy in support of Mossadegh, however, it would be possible for us to establish an official relationship with the Iranian police and security forces through which we could greatly strengthen their ability to deal with Tudeh agitators, Soviet agents, etc. It is the view of our Teheran station that the Iranian Security Services, with our help and encouragement, could take positive action against the Tudeh Party such as would render it incapable of launching a coup d’état under present conditions.

[1 paragraph (8 lines) not declassified]

Another interesting reference points that “CIA has one group in Iran which, it is believed, may be fairly effective in carrying on morale sabotage within the country and stimulating various types of small scale resistance.

Notice also that CIA was probably looking for a way to break the Tudeh-Mosaddegh alliance, as can be seen from the potential exploitation of powerful tribals: “The only tribal leaders now cooperating with CIA are pro-Mossadegh and rather anti-Shah. These leaders are extremely powerful, however, and have the capability of gaining for an anti-Tudeh pro-Mossadegh government the support of the most important tribes in Iran.

Recall that the Tudeh party “had considerable influence in its early years and played an important role during Mohammad Mosaddegh's campaign to nationalize the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and his term as prime minister.

Previously:

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