Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


TP-AJAX
August 19, 2013 8:24 AM   Subscribe

In 2011, the CIA declassified documents admitting its involvement in the 1953 coup that overthrew Iran's elected government and installed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, details of which were first first disclosed by the New York Times in 2000. Timeline. However, they refused to release them to the public. Today, the National Security Archive research institute has (after a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit) obtained and made the 21 documents public. "Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the National Security Archive is today posting recently declassified CIA documents on the United States' role in the controversial operation. American and British involvement in Mosaddeq's ouster has long been public knowledge, but today's posting includes what is believed to be the CIA's first formal acknowledgement that the agency helped to plan and execute the coup.

Iran Chamber Society: A short account of 1953 Coup. Operation code-name: TP-AJAX.

Documentary: The Last Shah (youtube)

Previously on Metafilter
* A brief history of modern Iran
* Iran endorses Bush
* U.S. suffocating reform in Iran?
* another riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma
* Everything you know about U.S. involvement in Iran is wrong
posted by zarq (33 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
If you have Windows and Steam, also check out The Cat and the Coup. It's free.
posted by Dr-Baa at 8:41 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is a great example of how real life conspiracies work: through denial, rather than secrecy. There's no real surprise in the idea that the CIA was involved (led) the coup, but as long as its involvement only became widely known after the fact and once it did, it was never confirmed officially, there's nothing to be held accountable for.

Sixty years on of course, it's far too late, as the principal players have long since died.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:49 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sixty years on of course, it's far too late, as the principal players have long since died.

Well, you could open things up and get some public scrutiny....sorry, I can't keep a straight face.
posted by DU at 8:51 AM on August 19, 2013


My favorite bit of historical trivia about Operation Ajax is that part of it was planned by Stewart Copeland's dad.

Truth Hits Everybody, indeed.
posted by Rangeboy at 8:54 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thank you, Ben Affleck.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:14 AM on August 19, 2013


JFK files later this year ?
posted by Substrata at 9:15 AM on August 19, 2013


See kids, BP is the great Satan and the US is only Satan's lackey. There's a story out there about how Kermit Roosevelt wined and dined during the revolution in the outside yard of a consulate as bullets fired in the background. I was just talking to my wife about how England was "behind" us during the "reclaim the territory we made after WWI" Iraq war. Not as in "they had our back" but rather, we are their pit bull. They are not our lap dog. We. Are. The dog. We being murkinz
posted by lordaych at 9:16 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The history of Persia becoming Iran, and US involvement after WWII is a fertile garden of WTFUSA intrigue. It's got everything. Organized crime, false flagging, imperialism, embassies used for world domination, democratically elected nationalists toppled by rich white corporatists, "we were always at war with..." and "why they should hate us except they actually don't which is kind of amazing"
posted by lordaych at 9:21 AM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is a great example of how real life conspiracies work: through denial, rather than secrecy.

It also happened thousands of miles away from the United States, and in a place most Americans didn't know much about--and still don't, really, no matter how much it's been in the news since the late 1970s. So it's not as if all manner of voting Americans/Congressional constituents were clamoring for answers about what happened in Iran in 1953.
posted by raysmj at 9:22 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do Chile next!
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 9:46 AM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


The CIA's Chile docs were released back in 2000.
posted by zarq at 9:50 AM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


> So it's not as if all manner of voting Americans/Congressional constituents were clamoring for answers about what happened in Iran in 1953.

And yet if you talk to your average American, they believe that Iran is a horrible country that has set out to be hostile to the United States just because they are evil - i.e. Muslim - and a sizable minority of Americans would use nuclear weapons on Tehran.

And it may yet come to that.

Oh, and this month's Harper's has a long and saddening article about how the US's embargoes have deeply wounded many countries - including Iran. It's really worth a read, as all the standard features are there - paranoia, causeless hostility, secret accusations that you consequently cannot defend against, "guilty until proven innocent", disdain for due process.

How much willful ignorance, coupled with military threats and economic warfare, does it take before it becomes a war crime?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:54 AM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


lupus: How are you addressing me? I was talking about how Americans felt in 1953, when we had no history with Iran whatsoever and it was just another Cold War thing, as far as most Americans knew, or had any awareness of. I'm not going to disagree with you about hostility to Iran now.
posted by raysmj at 10:08 AM on August 19, 2013


Between this latest confirmation and the recent reports that the CIA very likely assassinated Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, can there be anybody left who really thinks it's a good thing to allow all this secret intelligence activity to keep expanding in scope and operating in near total darkness?

The United States of America goes around toppling Democratically-elected governments left and right while casually murdering major literary figures and we marginalize and prosecute people who criticize it or bring its behaviors to light for public scrutiny.

What a sad sham of a Democracy we're starting to look like underneath all the makeup. Guess that's why we keep applying more and more of it in the form of official secrecy.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:17 AM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


What a sad sham of a Democracy we're starting to look like

1953 was 60 years ago. I'm not sure how the CIA's involvement in the toppling of Mossadeq (sad, stupid and shameful as that was) gets wrapped up into the current "we used to be a shining beacon and now we're falling into an Orwellian nightmare" narrative. Unless we were meant to be a shining beacon in the first half of the C20th (spoiler alert: we weren't).

Actually, nothing in any of the recent revelations about the CIA or the NSA (Snowden, wikileaks, Manning et al.) seems anything like as actively nefarious as the heyday of Cold War shenanigans. The CIA actually seems--at least on recent form--to have learned something of a lesson from its disastrous meddling in Iran, Chile, Honduras et al.
posted by yoink at 10:42 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Your sense of how quickly the passage of time renders events irrelevant runs at a different pace than mine, apparently. It's all of a continuous piece with contemporary events, considering we haven't done anything whatsoever to address those historically recent crimes nor take any other significant steps to fix whatever underlying systemic/cultural problems have allowed our intelligence services to heap so much shame on America's reputation and standing in the world in recent history.

The current tensions in Iran are still very much a direct consequence of what happened 60 years ago. There are still many, many people living in this world today whose lives have been personally effected in ways that make them hostile to US interests directly as a result of the out of control and publicly unaccountable behaviors of our intelligence apparatus. So don't try to wave this off as ancient history. It's history that's still very much alive and having consequences for America and the world today.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:19 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


the recent reports that the CIA very likely assassinated Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda

That article literally uses the words "highly unlikely" when talking about the CIA's involvement.
posted by inigo2 at 11:19 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


That article literally uses the words "highly unlikely" when talking about the CIA's involvement.

And yet, the headline and the rest of the piece also literally reports that accounts that Neruda's assassin was a CIA double operative acting on behalf of the Chilean administration the US supported at the time are very credible.

He was a CIA agent, whether he acted on US orders or on Pinochet's (with the US's tacit approval). Those are the kinds of people who represent America's interests around the world in our intelligence services.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:23 AM on August 19, 2013


And yet, the headline and the rest of the piece also literally reports that accounts that Neruda's assassin was a CIA double operative acting on behalf of the Chilean administration the US supported at the time are very credible.

No the article doesn't "literally report" that. It says there were three primary suspects, and then all but rules out the guy who may or may not have worked with the CIA (a "fact" it also calls into question via John Dinges "a Columbia journalism professor who covered the region during those years and wrote several books about Chile" saying basically DINA accuse everyone of being CIA to avoid blame for their own actions) -- the article states that there were multiple pieces of evidence that he was in Florida when the possible assassination happened: "Moreover, according to Dinges and other experts, several documents show that Townley was in the U.S. when Neruda died, so it is highly unlikely that he is the mysterious Dr. Price."

The headline says what it says (that's what headline writers do), but the article is very clear that that scenario is "highly unlikely".

We're down in the weeds here, but there's enough bullshit out there, no need to misrepresent what this article says.
posted by inigo2 at 11:39 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah. Now I see. When this was originally reported, the case was presented as much more credible and clear cut, but I see several of the other articles on the subject have been updated and this one is more circumspect. Nice self-discrediting way to report on these events the press has got there.

Either way, the US's support of the Chilean administration that murdered Neruda is indisputable, and the fact that many intelligence agents operate in a murky, impossibly unaccountable world remains.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:52 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


yoink: "1953 was 60 years ago."

Out of curiosity... when was the last time the CIA toppled a democracy? At least, that we know of?
posted by zarq at 12:12 PM on August 19, 2013


Out of curiosity... when was the last time the CIA toppled a democracy? At least, that we know of?

The most recent example is Syria and that's happening right now. No news from Egypt yet. "That we know of" is the key phrase. As others have noted, they operate in secrecy for good reason. Their supporters deny everything until several years after the evidence is overwhelming, as Iran 1953 shows.

Also, does the CIA have to work alone? Does it count if the nation was already unstable and the CIA gave it a push? What if the CIA helped make it unstable in the first place? Anyway, here's a list:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covert_United_States_foreign_regime_change_actions
posted by EnterTheStory at 12:38 PM on August 19, 2013


The frustrating thing is that even with this release and that of the Chilean documents, there are die-hard "patriots" who will still swear up and down that the good ol' US of A never, ever did or does evil in the world. We see this playing out today, with the reluctance to believe we are harming other countries with our "war on terror."
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:48 PM on August 19, 2013


The most recent example is Syria and that's happening right now.

Syria may be many things, but I don't think anyone has ever accused it of being a democracy.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:56 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


You're right, my bad. He did say democracy.
posted by EnterTheStory at 12:57 PM on August 19, 2013


Syria may be many things, but I don't think anyone has ever accused it of being a democracy.

It also isn't being "toppled" by the CIA. Other than that, it's a perfect example.
posted by yoink at 2:30 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It also isn't being "toppled" by the CIA.

Obama's order "broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust Assad"

Depends on your definition of "topple" I suppose.
posted by EnterTheStory at 2:39 PM on August 19, 2013


Depends on your definition of "topple" I suppose.

I would like to see the definition of "topple" that includes "provide limited support to an ongoing internal insurrection." Citing Syria as somehow meaningfully comparable to the USA's involvement in the coup against Mossadeq is absurd and is frankly an insult to the memory of that shameful chapter. Is the suggestion really that Mossadeq was essentially the equivalent of Assad and that the USA would have been equally open to criticism for failing to do enough to oust him as for supporting his ouster?

Both Syria and Egypt are making the "America is the Great Satan" crowd kinda loopy at the moment: whenever Assad seems to be getting the upper hand it's all "OMG, America, why can't you intervene in this awful humanitarian disaster??" as soon as the rebels look potentially viable it's "see! see! it's going to be Iraq all over again. You'll reap the whirlwind, mark our words!" And on the Egypt question I have friends who went in one freaking day from darkly muttering to me about how the US had made secret pacts with Morsi to keep the Egyptian people oppressed to telling me how the US is "obviously" behind the army's ouster of him. There are things that happen in the world that are genuinely beyond America's control and the things that are happening in Egypt and Syria mostly fall into that basket at the moment.
posted by yoink at 2:47 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was talking about how Americans felt in 1953, when we had no history with Iran whatsoever

Is this true? I know my grandfather spent a lot of time in Iran during WWII when he was in the US Army. A lot of the American aid to Russia came through Iran to the Caucasus.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 5:25 PM on August 19, 2013


Meddling in the affairs of other countries, military force as a foreign policy tool. Clandestine operations that violate policy, violate even our laws? Can we parse this out into a policy statement that makes sense? National Defense is the usual term. Other words apply, too.

Water under the bridge is stale news. I know. If it weren't for such creatures as Jinjaweed I could squint a bit, polish the old 007-mobile, and call it okay. (I mean, we get Hussein, but let Jinjaweed slide--WTF?) Okay, so anyhow Bond is out and Sniper is in. Fine. Times change. Or not. Maybe just the clothes change.

Who's running this goddam machine? It's not just the Jinjaweed (and such ilk) that pisses me off, there's Cheney and the plethora of remora that feed off his leavings, so I recognize that it's not just them, it's also us. Hell, it's not hard to make a case that it's mostly us. Start the war and get the damned bandwagon moving. All that is a cynical read, I know. Sure, B43 is gone, so none of that goes into the talking points anymore. Reagan is dead, so none of that matters. For fuck's sake.

Don't forget Panama and Nicaragua and Chile and Argentina and Ecuador and Colombia, too. The OAS held out for a long time, but hell, the weight of all that money is hard to bear. I know they didn't count on the gargantuan pushback from the cartels...I mean, hoodathunk they'd make submarines?--still, I believe they weren't surprised; home-grown armies are not a new thing, down there. You want to call the roll, and see how many teams we have working down there right now? Not all that many, I guess, so never mind. It's old news.

I remember when we and the Soviets used to play musical chairs with Iran and Iraq. Our pilots flew for Iraq and the Soviet pilots flew for the Iranians. Maybe it was the other way around. Maybe we did it both ways. Anyway we didn't like to advertise that it was us shooting down those MiGs, and they didn't want to advertise that Russian pilots were getting killed out there. Neither of us wanted them little fuckers flying our frontline aircraft. All those families living near the airbases, losing their husband and fathers and brothers in training accidents. This was in the 1960's, mind you. They were so relieved when their loved ones got Europe, instead of having to go to Vietnam and get shot down in a war. Go figure. Back in the 60's and 70's I knew guys who graduated into the Middle East. Back in the 80's, one of them burned in on a HALO jump in some goddam place, Lybia, I think. Training accident.

I look at it too narrowly to be a useful critic. We don't count bodies anymore, and we're getting England to make the Guardian burn all those documents and beat their computers into rubble with big hammers, just to show Snowden what we think of him. All the reporters are going to go work for Aljazeera, and that way they can be marginalized. Wait, that's a derail. We aren't talking about government excesses and overstepping...um. Wait. Yeah, we were.

But I guess I could drone on forever.

Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran....
posted by mule98J at 7:39 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The CIA actually seems--at least on recent form--to have learned something of a lesson from its disastrous meddling in Iran, Chile, Honduras et al.

Yeah, not so much. We liked Honduras so much we overthrew them twice, most recently in 2009 (it didn't stick). And don't forget Venezuela, 2002 (also didn't stick). You were saying something about learning lessons?
posted by scalefree at 9:17 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran: The U.S. knew Hussein was launching some of the worst chemical attacks in history -- and still gave him a hand.
posted by homunculus at 1:36 PM on August 27, 2013


CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran: The U.S. knew Hussein was launching some of the worst chemical attacks in history -- and still gave him a hand.

Oh, say it isn't so! St. Ronny did this? Or, rather, his minions did this while he wandered around in his Alzheimer fog?
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:47 AM on August 28, 2013


« Older Teslapunk is a new game for mobile where Nikola Te...  |  "We’ve suspected for some time... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments