Don’t Look At US!
Henderson Scorns Iranian Conspiracy Theorists

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project
| June 9, 2020                                                          


U.S. Ambassador Loy W. Henderson with Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh

Two days after the violent overthrow of Premier Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran, Ambassador Loy W. Henderson sent a fascinating memo back to Washington from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

It seems he was quite concerned that Mossadegh’s recent fall (which the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Council, White House and the State Department itself had worked for months to achieve) was “unfortunately” being attributed to actions of the United States government!

Most unfortunate indeed. And this conspiratorial line of thinking, he added, evinced a predictable old Iranian trait — blame the foreigner.

According to the U.S. government’s own declassified records and even an Aug. 31, 1953 article in TIME magazine, Loy Henderson was an important player in the Anglo-American plot to make the Shah absolute dictator of Iran.

In hindsight, we can see that Henderson was far ahead of his time, because the 1953 coup denialism he was fomenting has since become quite trendy with right-wing revisionists, who peddle many of the same talking points as the late diplomat.

Henderson wanted Iranians to believe that “[the] victory of [the] Shah was [the] result [of the] will [of the] Iranian people”. Yet President Eisenhower and the Central Intelligence Agency determined U.S. efforts a resounding success.

A major component of Operation Ajax was information warfare, and that propaganda wasn’t just fed to others, they consumed it themselves.

The State Department’s willingness to declassify this document way back in 1989, while sanitizing all incriminating content about U.S. involvement in the coup, speaks volumes.

At the time, the release of the comically censored FRUS edition led one historian on its advisory committee, Prof. Warren I. Cohen, to accuse the State Dept. of “playing games with history”.

In a New York Times Op-Ed, he denounced the release as “a fraud, a gross distortion of American activity there. It says nothing about the CIA’s role in overthrowing Mossadegh and restoring the Shah. Do we think we’re hiding this from the Iranians?”

Henderson must have thought so. He carried on the charade for the remainder of his life, denying any knowledge of the successful covert operation that he chose to participate in.




788.00/8–2153: Telegram

No. 351

The Ambassador in Iran (Henderson) to the Department of State [Loy Henderson to State Dept.]

SECRET
NIACT [night action, requiring immediate attention no matter the time of day]


Tehran, August 21, 1953—2 p.m.

Ambassador Loy W. Henderson 1. Unfortunately [the] impression [is] becoming rather widespread that in some way or other this Embassy or at least [the] US Government has contributed with funds and technical assistance to overthrow Mosadeq and establish [the] Zahedi Government. [Fazlollah Zahedi] Iranians [are] unable [to] believe [that] any important political development can take place in [their] country without foreigners being involved. Intensive propaganda in Tudeh newspapers prior to their disappearance and over Soviet Radio that [the] US Embassy [was] working for Shah and Zahedi against Mosadeq has helped create this impression. [The] Public, therefore, in general, [is] inclined [to] interpret various incidents or remarks as evidence [of] American intervention. For instance, [the] fact [that a] member [of the] American Embassy staff happened to be living in [the] same compound in which Zahedi [was] understood to have taken refuge has been interpreted to mean that this American was harboring Zahedi even though [the] Iranian landlord who also resides in this compound is also being given the credit for protecting Zahedi. Remarks by associates of Zahedi to [the] effect [that] Iran [is] deeply indebted to [the] Americans for [the] success [of] their efforts [is] also being given deeper meaning than intended. Undoubtedly during [the] struggle between [the] forces [of the] Shah and Mosadeq considerable sums were expended by both sides. Iranians living up to their old traditions have [a] tendency [to] credit foreigners with financing [the] side which they [were] supposed to be favoring.

2. For [the] moment at least more praise than criticism [is] heard from those who believe [the] US [was] involved in [the] shift of government. Nevertheless we [are] doing [the] utmost discreetly to remove this impression because (a) it [is] not in [the] US interest over [the] long run to be given credit for internal political developments in Iran even if those developments might be to Iran’s advantage; (b) Zahedi’s Government will be somewhat handicapped if [the] impression continues that it [is the] creature [of] foreigners; (c) Zahedi’s Government like all governments of Iran eventually will become unpopular and at that time [the] US might be blamed for its existence. We do not believe, however, that it would serve any good purpose for [the] Embassy to make formal denials.

3. We do not believe it would serve any useful purpose as far as Iran is concerned for [the] Department to deny US intervention unless it receives inquiries of [a] character which would render such denial desirable. It might be useful, however, if [a] spokesman for [the] Department could find [a] suitable occasion [to] stress in [a] factual way [the] spontaneity of [the] movement in Iran in favor of [the] new Government, touching upon some factors which according to reports received from various sources [were] responsible for what has happened. In making these suggestions I realize perhaps [that] charges already made over Soviet Radio are of [a] character which cannot be ignored. Denial [of] these charges would of course give [the] Department one such occasion. We sincerely hope [that] means can be found either through US Government channels or through private American news dissemination channels for [the] American and world publics to understand that [the] victory of [the] Shah was [the] result [of the] will [of the] Iranian people. Such comments in this respect as are made by [the] Department or private news agencies could be immediately useful here if disseminated by means [of a] USIA [United States Information Agency] news bulletin and over [the] VOA. [Voice of America]

HENDERSON


• Note: Bracketed text added for better readability. For raw version without added text, see below.
[Annotations by Arash Norouzi]

• Source: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952–1954, Iran, 1951–1954, Volume X (1989)

“Repeated to London.” — U.S. State Department Office of the Historian



788.00/8–2153: Telegram

No. 377

No. 351 The Ambassador in Iran (Henderson) to the Department of State [Loy Henderson to State Dept.]

SECRET
NIACT [night action, requiring immediate attention no matter the time of day]


Tehran, August 21, 1953—2 p.m.

Ambassador Loy W. Henderson 436. 1. Unfortunately impression becoming rather widespread that in some way or other this Embassy or at least US Government has contributed with funds and technical assistance to overthrow Mosadeq and establish Zahedi Government. [Fazlollah Zahedi] Iranians unable believe any important political development can take place in country without foreigners being involved. Intensive propaganda in Tudeh newspapers prior to their disappearance and over Soviet Radio that US Embassy working for Shah and Zahedi against Mosadeq has helped create this impression. Public, therefore, in general, inclined interpret various incidents or remarks as evidence American intervention. For instance, fact member American Embassy staff happened to be living in same compound in which Zahedi understood to have taken refuge has been interpreted to mean that this American was harboring Zahedi even though Iranian landlord who also resides in this compound is also being given the credit for protecting Zahedi. Remarks by associates of Zahedi to effect Iran deeply indebted to Americans for success their efforts also being given deeper meaning than intended. Undoubtedly during struggle between forces Shah and Mosadeq considerable sums were expended by both sides. Iranians living up to their old traditions have tendency credit foreigners with financing side which they supposed to be favoring.

2. For moment at least more praise than criticism heard from those who believe US involved in shift of government. Nevertheless we doing utmost discreetly to remove this impression because (a) it not in US interest over long run to be given credit for internal political developments in Iran even if those developments might be to Iran’s advantage; (b) Zahedi’s Government will be somewhat handicapped if impression continues that it creature foreigners; (c) Zahedi’s Government like all governments of Iran eventually will become unpopular and at that time US might be blamed for its existence. We do not believe, however, that it would serve any good purpose for Embassy to make formal denials.

3. We do not believe it would serve any useful purpose as far as Iran is concerned for Department to deny US intervention unless it receives inquiries of character which would render such denial desirable. It might be useful, however, if spokesman for Department could find suitable occasion stress in factual way spontaneity of movement in Iran in favor of new Government, touching upon some factors which according to reports received from various sources responsible for what has happened. In making these suggestions I realize perhaps charges already made over Soviet Radio are of character which cannot be ignored. Denial these charges would of course give Department one such occasion. We sincerely hope means can be found either through US Government channels or through private American news dissemination channels for American and world publics to understand that victory of Shah was result will Iranian people. Such comments in this by means USIA [United States Information Agency] news bulletin and over VOA. [Voice of America]

HENDERSON


[Annotations by Arash Norouzi]

• Source: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952–1954, Iran, 1951–1954, Volume X (1989)

“Repeated to London.” — U.S. State Department Office of the Historian


The U.S.-Britain Alliance To Erase Mossadegh Was Not Inevitable
The U.S.-Britain Alliance To Erase Mossadegh Was Not Inevitable


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Related links:

“What the U.S. Has Always Wished For Iran” | CIA Drafts Statement For After 1953 Coup

COUP 53: Timely and Powerful Documentary Delivers (Film Review)

The Communist Danger in Persia | Britain’s 1952 Report to U.S.



MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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