Operation Ajax

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Operation Ajax|
The 1953 Coup in Iran|


In 1953 the Central Intelligence Agency working in tandem with British intelligence overthrew the democratically elected leader of Iran Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, who was educated in the West and pro-America. Shortly after being elected in 1951 he nationalized the British run oil fields, denying Britain control of Iran’s hugely lucrative oil infrastructure. The operation included the use of techniques such as; propaganda, bribery, engineered demonstrations using agents of influence, and false flag operations. “The CIA’s agents harassed religious leaders and bombed one’s home in order to turn them against Mossadeqh.” They also attacked mosques, and distributed phony anti-Mossadegh handbills. Mossadegh was arrested and spent the rest of his days under house arrest. The Shah was reinstated, the West regained control of the oil fields, and the CIA created the Iranian secret police, SAVAK, and a twenty-five year reign of terror and torture commenced. The operation was seen as a huge success towards western intelligence agencies, but it was just one small operation of continued foreign influence in Iran. Most importantly, the decision to overthrow Mossadegh was to preserve Western control of Iran’s oil by reinstating the Shah who was friendly towards the West. The excuse for American involvement was a perceived communist threat. Further justifications for the overthrow include; the failure of diplomacy, the approval by the Shah, Mossadegh’s alienation, and Eisenhower and Churchill coming to power.

Originally Operation Ajax was considered a great success, but is now considered a failure given its blowback. Operation Ajax was an antecedent for many future problems between Iran and the West including; the hostage crisis of 1979 and the Islamic fundamentalist movement of Ayatollah Khomeini. The success also depends on if the communist threat and the popularity of Mossadegh were real or imagined.

The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), a company owned mainly by the British government, “enjoyed a fantastically lucrative monopoly on the production and sale of Iranian oil. … while most Iranians lived in poverty.” Mossadegh pledged to free Iran from subjection to foreign powers and nationalized the AIOC to the pleasure of many Iranians. The British went crazy, accusing Mossadegh of stealing their property, and they attempted and failed at various times to regain control before deciding on staging a coup. “British agents began conspiring to overthrow Mossadegh soon after he nationalized the oil company.”

Mossadegh had many legitimate reasons to nationalize the oil Industry. The British were completely unfair with the Iranians in dealing with Iranian resources. “More than half of Anglo-Iranian’s profits went directly to the British government.” The British took over the Abadan oil refinery in southern Iran in 1906. Before long, Abadan was a bustling city with more than one hundred thousand residents, most of them Iranian laborers. From its private Persian Club, where uniformed waiters served British executives, to the packed tight Iranian workers’ quarters and the water fountains marked ‘Not for Iranians,’ it was a classic colonial enclave. Almost all of the technicians and administrators were British, and many enjoyed handsome homes with terraces and manicured lawns. … Life was much different for the tens of thousands of Iranian laborers. They lived in slums and long dormitories with only primitive sanitations. Shops, cinemas, buses, and other amenities were off limits to them. Nationalization was favorable to the Iranian citizens, according to the Washington Post “most Iranians saw the oil company as a ‘thriving state within a stricken state-as a symbol of their poverty” On October 15, 1951 Mossadegh gave a speech to the U.N Security Council stating his reasons for nationalizing the oil industry, Their (Iranians) standard of living is probably one of the lowest in the...
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