Thursday, June 22, 2017
New CIA/State Department Docs on the 1953 Iran Coup (Part 6)
This is part 6 of my series on the new CIA and State Department docs on the 1953 Iran Coup.
One of the problems I noticed when I was writing a term paper on Mossadeq and relations with the United States during my MA was how incomplete the record was. There were massive gaps at key moments, leaving so many questions unanswered. There were times when the FRUS collection skipped hundreds of cables, for example 3898 (April 4, 1953), to 4027 (April 15, 1953). It would be inconceivable for there to have been zero communications for 11 days, and the gap of 127 in the cable order seems to indicate that there were in fact a ton missing.
When I visited the National Archives I was able to find a few important ones, yet still many gaps were left. The release fills more of the gaps, yet most of the relevant documents I found at the Archives are not included in the new release. There is one exception, cable #348, dated August 16. I wrote about it at the time, identifying it as the most interesting cable of those that I had found at Archives that weren't in FRUS.
The number of documents withheld makes it nearly impossible to determine the precise nature of the events leading up to the coup. While we have a rough estimate, we do not know why the decision was made, how they did it, what else happened between the 16th and 19th of August, which third parties were involved and how involved they were.
The decision to overthrow Mossadeq appears to have been made April 2, 1953. Unfortunately there is no record of the meeting between Roosevelt and Dulles of this, yet an April 4th memo references the meeting.
Moving forward, there are documents "released" yet entirely classified, namely those detailing the coup plans. The June 1st "Summary of Operational Plan" for example is completely classified, and no details are provided other than the date, location, classification, and where the copy of the file is located.
Other documents like monthly reports are also mostly redacted, 64 years after the fact.
Important files from the CIA have been published, yet we know there are also important pieces missing. The best example is as follows. Document 285, and 286, both dated 19 August, 1953. The file number for 285 is TEHE 737.1 and 286 is TEHE 742.1. The order again is sequential so TEHE 738-741 are not public. What is striking here is that the first one is almost despondent and scrambling to salvage the situation. The second is short and victorious. What happened between the two telegrams?
Even the rundown of what happened after the coup is littered with classified material that hasn't been released.
These details are vitally important, and yet still the full truth is withheld. The likelihood that the relevant parties are alive today is slim, why do they still wish to keep this information secret?
(I also highlighted the line about Communism. The Foreign Policy piece tried to make a big deal about the oil angle, yet as this document clearly shows, the Americans WERE interested in ideology. Whether what Roosevelt said is true or not, it is clear that Dulles/Roosevelt/etc wanted to hear about how this saved Iran from Communism.)