America’s relationship with Iran has been extremely hostile over the past several decades. From the perspective of most Americans, the seminal event of US-Iranian relations was the siege of the US embassy in Tehran and the subsequent holding of its staff as hostages back in the 1970s.
Many Americans lack a more global perspective of the history of American interactions with Persia. One of the most critical events in that relationship occurred over 50 years ago during the Eisenhower Administration. While Americans may know little about Operation Ajax, its memory still evokes intense anger from nearly every Iranian.
The 1953 Iranian coup d’état (known in Iran as the 28 Mordad coup) was the intentional overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq on 19 August 1953, orchestrated by the intelligence agencies of Great Britain and the United States under the name TPAJAX Project.The coup saw the transition of Mohammad-Rezā Shāh Pahlavi from a constitutional monarch to an authoritarian one who relied heavily on United States support to hold on to power until his own overthrow in February 1979.
Sandra Mackey’s book The Iranians addresses the overthrow of Muhammad Mossadeq’s short-lived, democratic government by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1953 and the reinstallation of the Shah to the throne. In 1951, control of Iran’s oil fields by British company – The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, or AIOC, now British Petroleum (BP) became a political topic. The Iranian people believed, justifiably so, that the arrangement between the Iranian government and AIOC unfairly benefited the company. Muhammad Mossadeq, then a member of the Iranian parliament, took the lead in demanding a renegotiation of the pact. The masses of the Iranian people rallied to his standard and quickly made him the most revered leader in the land. The Shah, who then ruled as an authoritarian monarch, lost control of events as his previously powerless parliament (the Majlis) took on a life of its own.
With Mossadeq leading the charge against Iran’s economic master, the Majlis, on March 15, boldly nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company…On April 29, the same Majlis elected Muhammad Mossadeq prime minister. While the shah sat on the throne as a mere shadow, Muhammad Mossadeq basked in the acclaim of the vast majority of Iranians, who for the first time in decades gave their genuine respect, devotion, and loyalty to their recognized leader.
For the first time in its long history, Iran had a democratically elected leader.
Mossadeq demanded a share in the oil profits, a 25% share. The Brits however were not about to allow him to grab any of what they considered their property and contacted the American government to help. Eventually, the decision was made in Washington that Mossadeq had to go. Brigadier General Norman Schwarzkopf (father of the Gulf War commander) and CIA guru Kermit Roosevelt (grandson of Teddy) were ordered to begin a covert operation designed to remove Mossadeq and restore the Shah to absolute authority. A complex plot, codenamed Operation Ajax, was conceived and executed from the US Embassy in Tehran.
Using CIA assets in the Iranian military, various minor political parties, and the Shiite clerics and their followers, an uprising was staged. The Americans double crossed the Shiite populace and had the Shah return to the throne. Mackey describes the climax:
For nine hours, the pro-shah army, utilizing American-style military strategy and logistics, battled pro-Mossadeq demonstrators. At least 300 people died. By nightfall, the Mossadeq partisans had drawn into a tight cordon around the premier’s palace. Inside, the aged and always ailing prime minister threw a coat over his pajamas, leaped over the garden wall, and went into hiding. Forty-eight hours later he was arrested. The brief euphoric moment when the followers of Mossadeq believed that he held Iran’s destiny in his hands evaporated.
The Shah, who had fled to Rome, rode back to power on the tip of American bayonets, a move which infuriated the Shiite Muslim populace. In essence, the United States had engaged in a massive covert operation designed to remove a democratically elected leader from power and reinstall an authoritarian monarch (a mockery of our currently stated desire to “spread democracy” in the Middle East).
This affair had several disastrous ramifications for the future of American-Iranian relations. First, the Shah, from that point forward, was viewed as a puppet of America. Consequently, America became complicit to his every oppressive act during the subsequent 26 years of his harsh rule. Second, the American embassy in Tehran was permanently marked as a “nest of spies” in the eyes of the Iranian populace. And third, Iranian democracy was strangled in its crib.
The next time the populace rose to overthrow the Shah (in the 1970s), they viewed America as their enemy and were cheering a leader who was significantly less democratic than Mossadeq. When rumors began circulating that the Americans were going to bring the Shah back via yet another covert operation, the Iranian mobs responded by seizing the US embassy in Tehran and holding its workers hostage.
Today our WAR ON TERROR is a direct result of our intrusion into the affairs of another counties political landscape. If Mossadeq’s regime had been permitted to continue, it is entirely possible that Iran could have evolved into an authentic democracy, and a friend to the United States.
This horrid abuse of power by the US Government has also worsened the relationship between Israel and it’s neighbors, who view the secular Israeli government as a tool of the US. American interventionism destroyed that opportunity and set the stage for many of the tragedies currently haunting the Middle East. If America is ever to have even remotely cordial relations with Iran, we must accept responsibility for the terrible effects of Operation Ajax and admit that we had no right to intervene in a controversy that was wholly the business of the Iranian people. That exploit was unworthy of the memory of our founding fathers and the numerous war dead that America has suffered to prop up the Empire of Amerika.
See InfoWars YouTube video “Do Americans want to Attack Iran?”