There was a time when Fulton Lewis, Jr. (1903-1966), a right-wing radio broadcaster and columnist, was a household name in America. The Rush Limbaugh of his day, Lewis was a staunch anti-Communist, friend of the powerful, and subject of the 1954 book Praised and Damned: The Story of Fulton Lewis, Jr. The man even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In October 1953, Lewis offered a fascinating conspiracy theory on the recent coup in Iran for his King Features column Washington Report. There were just too many coincidences, he believed, pointing to a hidden U.S. role in the affair. Well, we now know that he was correct on that score — but how did he know?
Coming only weeks after the event, and with no precedent of CIA coups, this was quite an unusual thing to proclaim. Yet Fulton Lewis, Jr. was not the first to notice the string of coincidences. The day before, columnist Bruce Biossat, a well connected Washington correspondent whom The Washington Post later called “dean of America’s political writers” wrote the comparable Cloak and Dagger Tale Told in Recent Iranian Revolt. Lewis and Biossat’s back-to-back columns not only purport the same exact theory, but are remarkably similar in structure and content. Ironically, this also seems too much of a coincidence to overlook.
Both men appear to have been working from the same basic set of information — from the suspiciously timed rendezvous in Switzerland and Tehran, to Ike’s stalling tactic following Mossadegh’s request for U.S. aid, to the fingering of these same four figures:
• General H. Norman Schwarzkopf
• CIA Director Allen Dulles
• Ambassador Loy Henderson
• Princess Ashraf Pahlavi
There is little difference, informationally or rhetorically, between the two columns. Both men cheered the coup as a positive development for U.S. interests (while seeming oblivious to any British hand in it). The biggest distinction is that Biossat appeared to be partially going by an article in The Washington Star by correspondent Crosby Noyes. Otherwise, they’re largely interchangeable.
What’s curious is that by exposing the CIA operation, they were running the risk — as Eisenhower feared — of spoiling the success of future missions. This begs the question of whether information was leaked to them, and if so, why and by whom. They seemed unphased by the potential consequences to U.S. intelligence agencies by ‘pulling a Snowden’ (my term). Unbeknownst to Lewis, on the very day his column ran in the nation’s newspapers, Eisenhower told his diary that if word got out about their “covert” doings, it would not only be “embarrassing”, but would foil their efforts to repeat such actions elsewhere.
Operation Ajax, of course, would be officially kept secret for decades to come. Yet as this column demonstrates, the foreign nature of the coup was murmured about ever since 1953. Funnily enough, even though CIA records have since been released and Presidents have admitted the crime, some prominent revisionists have begun campaigning to rewrite the CIA role as negligible, thereby putting the likes of Fulton Lewis, Jr., the diehard conservative, Commie-hating McCarthyite, to the left of some commentators — of Iranian extraction, no less — perceived to be mild academics.
Much has been revealed since the era of Fulton Lewis Jr., who died in 1966, and Bruce Biossat, who died in 1974. Neither lived to see the 1979 revolution in Iran, along with countless other regional calamities. If only they could have known that the secrets they dug up were just the tip of an iceberg — one which still has yet to be fully unearthed.
By FULTON LEWIS JR.
Uncle Sam Had Finger in
Successful Iranian Revolt
WASHINGTON, Oct. 8— There now appears to be no doubt that representatives of the United States were directly involved in the recent Iranian revolution which brought the Shah of Iran back to his hereditary throne.
The full and true story of events leading up to the overthrow of Premier Mohammed Mossadegh and of the actual revolt, still are known only to a comparatively few persons. But fragmentary reports seeping back from the oil-rich but money-poor Middle Eastern empire make it clear that it involved all the cloak-and-dagger elements of the best of E. Phillips Oppenheim.
The key public figure, of course, was the Shah himself. But grapevine tales make it evident that behind the scenes, equally important roles were played by a small group of Americans and by the Shah’s twin sister, the colorful, competent and strong-willed Princess Ashraf.
AMONG THE AMERICANS who appear to have been involved to a greater or lesser degree are Loy Henderson, our ambassador to Tehran; Allen W. Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence agency; and Brig. Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, whose name means nothing to most persons today but 21 years ago was an accepted dinner-table conversation piece.
All of this is not to be deemed in any way critical of our diplomatic or intelligence operations. On the contrary, the stories about the revolt would make it appear that we have learned a lot, that we have gone far toward eradicating the do-nothing wishy-washiness of the Truman-Acheson regime. Iran today, under the Shah, is much more friendly to us and our cause in the world struggle against Communism than it was under the extreme nationalist Mossadegh.
Briefly, the story leading up to the revolution might begin back in late May, when Mossadegh wrote President Eisenhower asking financial help for his country and hinting broadly that if it was not forthcoming immediately, he would be forced into closer cooperation with the Communists.
MR. EISENHOWER let that one cool for a month-before he replied with a flat “no, thanks.” From the hindsight vantage point of the Monday morning quarterback, it now appears that when the President said no, he knew that it was most unlikely Mossadegh would ever be able to carry out his threat of moving in with the Commies [The Premier made no mention of Communism].
In July, Henderson bade a temporary adieu to Tehran and flew to Switzerland for a vacation. In early August, Allen Dulles packed up his bags and left Washington—also for a vacation in Switzerland. Not to be outdone, Princess Ashraf turned up in the same country following a visit to her homeland where she had spent some time with her brother. And Gen. Schwarzkopf, winding up a leisurely summer vacation trip through Syria, Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries, blandly turned up in Tehran.
TOO MUCH OF A COINCIDENCE?
This is an intriguing character. In 1932, as the hard headed superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, he was in charge of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case. Rightly or wrongly, he was widely accused of mishandling the case, of being stubborn, inept and publicity-seeking. Friends say that after the furor over that episode, the ensuing years brought a change in him—a mellowing, a realization that some of the criticism might have been justified, a greater willingness to work with others. In any event, back on active Army duty, Schwarzkopf was lent to the Iranian government in 1942 to reorganize the national police, and stayed there for six years, so he knows the country and many of its leaders intimately.
ALL OF THESE comings and goings, as well as those of several other persons who over the years have become versed in Iranian lore, along with the concentration in Switzerland, may have been sheer coincidence.
It seems fair to note, however, that the revolution that finally occurred on August 13 appears to have been well planned. Military operations went off with no hitches. Arms, men and supplies happened to be where they were needed. There was no lack of finances. Somebody had a good idea of what troops would be loyal to the Shah, which ones would stick to Mossadegh.
Conceivably it could all have been sheer coincidence. That seems highly unlikely.