In a rare declassification of controversial information, the CIA has effectively acknowledged in public its involvement in the 1953 deposing of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq. The release of private information earlier this morning marks the 60th anniversary of the coup.
Such disclosure is infrequent not simply because of the CIA’s trademark secrecy, but because the CIA had reported that most documents pertaining to the Iranian Coup were lost or destroyed in the 1960’s because their “safes were too full.”
Operation AJAX involved the bribery of Iranian politicians, security and other officials as well as a massive anti-Mossadeq propaganda campaign. These efforts helped foment a coup in 1953. Ironically, part of the defamation of the Iranian Prime Minister included the fostering of accusations that Mossadeq had a vast spying network.
Mossadeq was democratically elected in April 1951. He immediately nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company leading to international boycott and discontent. Britain, unable to assuage the Iranian government, appealed to the United States, emphasizing Mossadeq’s communist sentiments. The Shah seized this opportunity to depose the Prime Minister and, after a second attempted coup, instituted the General Fazlollah Zahedi. Mossadeq was sentenced to death but the Shah commuted his sentence to only a few years in prison and house arrest.
The information was released under the Freedom of Information Act.