Thursday, November 26, 2015

More 1953 Coup Cables (part 1)

Recently I went to the National Archives to go through some of the State Department documents relating to the 1953 Iran coup. There are still quite a few classified documents (Which is illegal as they should have been declassified in 2003, but were last reviewed in the 1990s), but there were also many interesting documents not contained in the FRUS account of the coup. Additionally personal correspondences, letters, and photographs were included. I have collected some here and have annotated them (italics). This is part 1 of 2 (part 2).

With a few exceptions, format is Cable #, Month, Day, Time sent (Tehran time unless it is noted as rcvd which means DC time)

Dulles (week before July 17 1953)
“Any Iranian government, other than a Communist one, would be better for us than the present government. We have found it impossible to deal with Mossadegh” 

In the March 1953 National Security Council meeting (NSC 135) Dulles expressed a fear that removing Mossadeq would make a communist takeover probable. It is unclear what changed in these 4 months. 

109 July 16 3 pm
Newspaper editors tell Embassy that under title “State Department Preparing Coup d’etat in Iran” Soviet Embassy July 15 issued as special news release pinned to its daily bulletin a Tass Agency dispatch quoting purported NEW YORK POST story effect Mosadeq Government to fall this year in army coup and this army equipped trained by US advisers.

I have been unable to locate this article. The NY Post's online archives do not go back this far. The author of this article is a very interesting individual who spied for the Soviets in 1933, but turned very conservative and was a syndicated columnist for decades. An earlier article of his claimed that Mossadeq was controlled by Kashani and Kashani was planning to use Mossadeq to kick out the Shah.

Air Pouch Aug 15 Desp No 107
Evidence continued during the past week to pile up in support of the theory that slowly the Mosadeq Government was making headway in controlling information media. Radio is already Government-owned now newspapers are being told to get into step.

The police, acting under Article Five of the Martial Law Act— instigation of public disturbance— in a raid a week ago confiscated the equipment of ATESH, a strongly anti-Mosadeq daily. More recently agents of the Prime Minister have made threats toward unfriendly editors and given orders to the friendly.

The narrative is that Mossadeq was a liberal populist, yet he did have some autocratic tendencies, especially in times of great pressure. This shows how he was willing to act in a repressive manner when he felt threatened.

325 Aug 15 (rcvd 828 am)
With two distractions Baluchistan unreported official figures referendum vote give 2043389 for dissolution; against 1207.

Mossadeq had called an illegal referendum to dissolve the parliament just weeks before the coup. He had previously tampered with the Majles when in 1952 he stopped voting after enough MPs were selected to form a quorum. The referendum on dissolution passed in a landslide. It is unclear if there was tampering with the results as they were so one sided, but it is feasible.

339 Aug 16 (rcvd 641 am)
Radio Tehran made following announcement Noon today: “According to will of Iranian people, expressed by the referendum, dissolution of 17th Majlis declared. Elections for 18th Majlis will be announced after amendments to electoral law effected and after reallocation electoral districts. Dr. Mohammad Mosadeq” 

It is unclear what changes were to be made, or if Mossadeq was planning on tampering with the election as he had done 2 years prior.

348 Aug 16 8 pm
Flight by Shah and uncertainty Zahedi actions presumably leave Mosadeq victor in protracted and Persian-mannered campaign eliminate Shah as political force in country. Embassy considered quite possible Mosadeq may establish regency to provide needed interim before eventual proclamation Iranian republic. 

I think this is probably the most interesting short cable that is not in the FRUS collection. The regency followed by a republic sounds fantastic in hindsight, though this is probably an optimistic view. 

355 Aug 17 8 am
Government clearly in control situation this morning. Suggest you proceed immediately. Would appreciate quickest possible advice ETA as Prime Minister on several occasions has specifically requested earliest possible notification time your arrival.

Ambassador Henderson had been out of country.

367 Aug 17 (rcvd 1143 am)
14 army officers arrested in plot

One part of the narrative that has never made sense is the claim that the second coup was conducted by army officers. It is known that many officers of all different ranks from lowest lieutenant to generals were arrested. If there was only one plot, how is it that these officers did not break under interrogation and reveal the identities of the other officers? In my estimation it seems most likely that there were two (possibly completely separate from each other) factions that wished to overthrow Mossadeq and the second took advantage of the civil unrest to create a second coup. 

387 Aug 17 11 am
Reported religious societies planning petition Mosadeq for Shah’s return.

More evidence of Kashani and his followers being involved in the two coup attempts. It is important to remember that the State Department was NOT intimately involved with the coup and they would be unaware of potential collaboration between Kashani, the Shah and the CIA/MI6 etc. Also important to remember that Kashani was an inspiration if not much more than this for Khomeini and those who followed. Iranian clergy was almost exclusively quietist with Kashani as an exception. Khomeini followed in Kashani's footsteps. 

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