[Originally published on Leak of Nations, an anti-imperialist website devoted to undermining imperial narratives and bourgeois propaganda, this article is being made available here for the purposes of study and struggle.]
By Rory Wood
As the incessant drums of the US military-industrial complex begin to beat louder and louder towards the internally-colliding nation of Iran, it’s worth taking a crash course in recently declassified history of the last US-enforced regime change: the 1953 coup d’état that ousted the progressive, democratically elected Mohammad Mosaddegh and reinstated the anachronistic Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
The British Empire was larger, the American one younger; the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) is now called British Petroleum (BP), but still remains a gigantic tumour on the testicle of human civilisation, albeit nowadays more concerned in vast economic destruction and pay-to-play political dynasties in the US, Egypt and Azerbaijan than the Islamic Republic of Iran, where oilfields are now nationalised and anti-western sentiment understandably runs high. Aside from this, depressingly little has changed in regards to the Western imperial dynamic towards the Middle-East. The 1953 Iranian coup, the modern day War on Terror, the ousting of Gaddafi in Libya, and the Syrian Civil War all involve a leader who threatened the profits of Western corporations by nationalising oil fields, removing their mouths from the toxic breast of US empire and striding forward as confident, self-sufficient nations. They were all obliterated.
It all started in 1952, with an idea from the enthusiastic UK to the initially-reticent US.
However, by 1953 the US were on board with the UK’s insistence that Mosaddegh must be removed and replaced with absolute rule by the Shah. They set about implementing Operation Ajax which succeeded in removing Mossadeq from office in August – he would spend the rest of his life under house arrest.
CIA notes of Operation Ajax were declassified in 2013. You can view all of the documents here, in the National Security Archives.
A CIA summary of Operation Ajax dispelled any pretence that it was concocted for any reason other than to ‘bring to power a government which would reach an equitable oil settlement’ – i.e, a government who would not contest America’s divine right to whatever resources lay beneath the feet of Iranians.
The US-friendly Shah continued to rule as monarch for 26 years before Ayatollah Khomeini led the nation through an Islamic Revolution that directly leveraged resentment of the West which lingered after the coup. The UK severed diplomatic ties with Tehran for the first time in its history, and would not reestablish an Iranian embassy until 1988.
The US embassy in Tehran was famously seized six months later in an unprecedented violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. President Jimmy Carter referred to Iranian revolutionaries as peddlers of ‘terrorism and anarchy’, and American media took immense, sanctimonious pleasure in denouncing Iranian conspiracies about the Great Satan of America. CIA documents, classified at the time, held the truth – it wasn’t paranoia that compelled Iranians to climb the gates of the US Consulate in Tehran; a coup which ripped the heart from their fledging democracy was planned within those walls, and it was naive to assume that it wouldn’t happen again.
Iranian politics should probably be left to Iranians.