Sunday, June 18, 2017

New CIA/State Department Docs on the 1953 Iran Coup (Part 3)

This is part 3 of my series on the new CIA and State Department docs on the 1953 Iran Coup. 

One of the most interesting and substantial documents newly released is an analysis of the nature of a potential Ayatollah Kashani run Iranian government by the Office of Intelligence and Research.

Kashani had been an ally of Mossadeq, before breaking with him and his National Front in early 1953. Kashani's role in Mossadeq's ouster has been downplayed in the traditional narrative of the events (which places most of the blame on the Americans), yet revisionists have noticed the extent of Kashani's influence, and how important he was in fomenting unrest against Mossadeq in the months leading up to the coup.

What is most striking about the document is how Kashani is described. If you took out his name, and other identifying information one might think that the authors are describing Ayatollah Khomeini or Khamenei. Kashani's sees "contemporary problems from a narrowly Moslem outlook, severely warped by many years of bitter conflict with British authority".

Mossadeq at the time had significant support and the authors deemed it unlikely that he would be replaced by Kashani, but they also note Kashani's influence, as the second largest bloc in the Majles (Iranian parliament). 
The authors point to a handful of negative characteristics of Kashani, ranging from conceit and ambition, to unscrupulousness and support of bigoted practices, and a lack of business and executive experience. 

Kashani was vehemently anti-British based upon his past experiences, he had experienced foreign meddling. This he shared with Mossadeq, though their motivations and approaches to addressing foreign interference was very different. 

The authors blame Kashani (like Mossadeq) for taking credit of others work to forward his own ambitions. He is likened to a "ward boss" and "gangster". His supporters are considered to be from a similar social class as Mossadeq (most appropriately described as middle-class), though with a distinct religious inclination.

Kashani, had disagreements with the Shah, the army, and starting in early 1953 Mossadeq as well. Shia clergy in Iran had historically been quietist, subservient to the monarchy. Kashani was outspoken, a break from tradition. He disapproved of the late Shah's work to sideline the clergy, and to uphold the mantle of Shiism, when the Shah wasn't even a theologian. This is virtually identical to Khomeini's approach years later. 

The authors noted that Kashani's relatively lower popularity and all of the enemies he had limited the prospects for a theocratic state. That they were considering it as a possibility is still quite telling.

Again the parallels to Khomeini, and even Khamenei here are striking. They believe that the West is engaging in plots to control weaker nations. He also is credited with having a disparaging attitude towards oil, and wanted to diversify the economy to create self-sufficiency and limit dependence.

The last section is also eerily reminiscent of Khomeini. It is acknowledged that Kashani wouldn't want to accept foreign funds because it would undermine him. The authors note that this makes cooperation with Kashani difficult, but they didn't rule it out. The last paragraph is also interesting as it directly points to a policy of neutrality from the Iranian government. The Dulles brothers in particular speak repetitively about the dangers of communism taking over, yet this memo, just months ahead of the coup explicitly notes neutrality as the Iranian government policy.

This analysis of Kashani is fascinating and apt and as I mentioned throughout, the similarities to Khomeini are significant.

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