Well, we finally made it. I thought I’d blow from the ancient Persian Empire straight through to the plot of Persepolis in one episode, but just like with Guatemala, things got away from me. This time, though, we’re getting to the coup in August 1953 and looking forward to its consequences as they echo down through Iranian history to the present.
Alright, let’s take a look at some faces. Here we’ve got the Eisenhower crew dead-set on destroying Iranian democracy:
John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under Eisenhower.
Allen Dulles, JF’s younger brother and head of the CIA.
And Walter Bedell “Beetle” Smith, who’d been head of the CIA under Truman and became Undersecretary of State under Eisenhower. He used his later role in the coup against Arbenz in Guatemala to get a well-paid spot on the board of directors of the United Fruit Company.
And here’s Kermit Roosevelt, the American spy in Tehran who put the whole thing together, and without whom the whole thing would have fallen apart after the first failed attempt.
“Beetle” Smith was a slimeball and the Dulles brothers, however much they might have been ostensibly protecting “democracy” against “communism,” seem to have slipped pretty quickly into the ‘power corrupts’ camp.
Roosevelt, though, I don’t know. He was definitely the lynchpin of the coup, but he wasn’t an ideologue, and the excitement he recorded as he passed into Iran was understandable. He wasn’t the cynical CIA man here to put down a fledgling democracy, but the newest patriot of the Roosevelt family, convinced that he was fighting the good fight. Obviously that wasn’t the case, but whereas in the aftermath of AJAX the Dulles brothers were already looking hungrily towards Guatemala, Kermit turned down the opportunity to run that operation and later went on record condemning pretty much every attempt the CIA made to replicate its ‘success’ in Iran.
And here’s some impartial British coverage of events:
And last but never least, references.
Abrahamian, Ervand. The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations. New Press, 2013.
Abrahamian, Ervand. A History of Modern Iran. Cambridge, GB: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Abrahamian, Ervand. Iran: Between Two Revolutions. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.
Axworthy, Michael. Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic. Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press, 2014.
Byrne, Malcolm. “The Secret CIA History of the Iran Coup.” The National Security Archive, last modified 29 November 2000, http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB28/.
The Cambridge History of Iran: From Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic. Edited by Peter Avery, Gavin Hambly and Charles Melville. Vol. VII. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Fatemi, N. S. 1985. “The Anglo Persian Agreement of 1919.” Encyclopaedia Iranica Vol II: 59.
Katouzian, Homa. The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-Modernism, 1926-1979. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1981.
Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. Wiley, 2003.
Roosevelt, Kermit. Countercoup: The Struggle for Control of Iran. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1979.
Carol Burnett. “I Made a Fool of Myself over John Foster Dulles.” YouTube.
Doctor Turtle. “Lullaby for Democracy.”
“John Foster Dulles Interview“, Longines Chronoscope, 1951. thefilmarchive.org. (YouTube).
“Persian Folk Music.” Traditional Music Channel. (YouTube).
“Truman and Mossadeq.” 1951. British Pathé. (YouTube)