History between the United States and Iran has been fraught with violence going all the way back to the early 1950s when the CIA “assisted” in the removal of Iran’s popular Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. From recent remarks made by the current Trump Administration’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Rex Tillerson, we can see that little has changed in the intervening six decade period.
Mohammad Mossadegh became the Prime Minister of Iran in 1951 and took a stand against the British-owned oil company, Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now part of British Petroleum), that had made huge profits from Iran’s oil while paying Iran only 16 percent of profits, a problem that led to Mossadegh partially nationalizing its own oil reserves and splitting the profits on a 50/50 basis. In October 1952, Mossadegh declared that Britain was an enemy state after the British government planned to remove him from power in response to the nationalization and cut all diplomatic ties. After Dwight Eisenhower was elected U.S. President in 1952, the U.S. and Britain agreed to work together to remove Mossadegh from power. The two nations jointly created Operation Ajax, a coup d’état which saw the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi better known in the West as the Shah of Iran, dismiss Mossadegh from office and strengthen the monarchy which he headed.
Here is a quote about the incident from Lewis Hoffacker, the Third Secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran from 1951 to 1953:
So our goal was to support the Shah and to try to contain Mossadegh, who had certain crazy qualities, or what some people would call crazy qualities. He was unbalanced, to say the least. [Ambassador] Loy Henderson, who succeeded Grady, was the greatest ambassador. So I was lucky working under him.
It came to the point where the CIA became very prominent in the process of supporting the Shah and of containing Mossadegh. Mossadegh exiled the Shah and the Shah had to come back. And the Shah was a gentle man, very gentle. We called him a “weak reed” because he needed a lot of guidance.
He was my age, which would have been — maybe 30? thereabouts. And he needed a lot of help, and we helped him, gladly. Of course, he changed to something different later on, and that was a problem, in a way. He was talking about creating a “white revolution,” trying to bring Iran into the 20th century with heavy foreign aid. And we were heavy in foreign aid and heavy in military aid.
There was no problem with the CIA trying to bring down a government or bringing in a government. We did that more or less routinely; this was the pattern in Iran. And it was easy to justify, because you couldn’t give Iran to the Commies, who were there already. The British were kicked out, and we were filling that gap.
I was there when the British were kicked out. It was during that great petroleum crisis.…He [Mossadegh] nationalized oil, and we were caught in the middle of that. [Special Envoy] Averell Harriman came out, and everybody was trying to set up the consortium and so forth.”
In 2013, the sixtieth anniversary of the coup, the CIA released a treasure trove of declassified CIA documents that outlined the role that the United States played in the planning and execution of Mossadegh’s ouster. Here is one of the key formerly top secret documents that outlines the campaign in its entirety. The document, still heavily redacted, which was written shortly after the coup took place (note that there is a date of 11 July 1953 on the top of the document, a date that predates the coup by over a month):
Note the handwritten addition:
“These actions resulted in literal revolt of the population…..military and security forces joined the populace, Radio Tehran was taken over and Mosasadeq was force to flee on 17 (sic) Aug 53.”
“I would like to know what the policy is in the U.S. toward Iran. Do we support the current regime? Do we support a philosophy of a peaceful regime change? There are Iranians in exile all over the world, some are here and then there are Iranians in Iran who do now support the totalitarian state. It is U.S. position to leave things as they are or support a peaceful long-term regime change?”
Here’s the Secretary’s response at the 1 hour, 30 minute and 53 second mark:
“Our Iranian policy is under development, it has not yet been presented to the President. But I will tell you that we certainly recognize Iran’s continued destabilizing presence in the region, their payment of foreign fighters, their export of militia forces in Syria and Iraq. In Yemen, their support for Hezbollah. We are taking action to respond to Iran’s hegemony. Additional sanctions have been put in place against individuals and others. We continually review the merits, both from the standpoint of diplomatic and international consequences of designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in its entirety as a terrorist organization, as you know, we have designated the Quds (Revolutionary Guard special forces unit responsible for operations outside of Iran). Our policy towards Iran is to push back on this hegemony, contain their ability to develop obviously nuclear weapons and to work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government. These elements are there certainly as we know.” (my bold)
If you are interested, here is the link to the entire testimony question and answer period by Rex Tillerson and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Obviously, Iran is not taking this threat without response. This is what Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, had to say:
4|4 For their own sake, US officials should worry more about saving their own regime than changing Iran’s, where 75% of people just voted.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) June 15, 2017
1|4 Before reverting to unlawful & delusional regime-change policy towards #Iran, US Administration should study and learn from history.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) June 15, 2017
Apparently, not only Donald Trump can use Twitter to send a message to another nation!
As well, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qassemi, stated that:
This has been proven by huge turnout of the great nation of Iran in many elections in which they exercised democracy at the ballot box.
During the consolidation years of the Iranian revolution and at the time of the imposed war [in the 1980s] and illegal sanctions against the country, the Iranian government and nation proved that they stand out to protect their country, the Establishment and its ideals with rationality, wisdom and unity.
“These baseless and fanciful remarks are despised and rejected by Iranians from all walks of life who are educated and resisting.”
“The only option for them [US officials] is to have a clear understanding of the realities in Iran and the region, and not to make idle threats.”
“They should know that like security and sustainable stability, the historical, geographical, and cultural realities are far beyond doing business with and milking the regional countries. Wisdom, understanding and thinking is needed.”
Apparently, the newly minted Trump Administration is reluctant to learn from America’s long involvement in Iran and the geopolitical instability that the United States actions have created in the region. Then again, there’s nothing like floating a trial balloon so that you can judge the public’s response to waging yet another war.
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