Negating History For Political Expediency

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | July 23, 2014                    

coup denial : the refusal to accept the critical Anglo-American role in the 1953 coup in Iran

Coup-denial—the concept that the seismic August 1953 overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh was purely a domestic affair—isn’t a new phenomenon.

In its immediate aftermath, the occasion was characterized in the media with terms like “pro-Shah uprising”, “counter-revolution”, “royalist coup”, or “army revolt”. Numerous reports credited incoming Premier Fazlollah Zahedi with masterminding the feat, and courageous, freedom-loving Tehran urbanites for carrying it through — precisely the impression the conspiring governments of Britain and America wanted conveyed.

From the White House to the State Department, this deceitful narrative was the official U.S. line. President Dwight D. Eisenhower told Americans in subsequent speeches that Mossadegh, a neo-Communist dictator, was undone by exasperated Iranians, a claim he reasserted with more detail in his presidential memoirs a decade later. Questioned directly on a 1965 NBC TV program, CIA Director Allen Dulles insisted that Mossadegh was “overthrown by the action of the Shah”, conceding only that the U.S. merely “encouraged” him.

Both men might have taken their secrets to the grave. Yet fortunately, we have irrefutable proof of their duplicity — authentic declassified documents which, in contradicting their public pronouncements, are tantamount to confessionals.

In a private diary entry penned weeks after the coup, the President absolutely gushed with praise for the covert CIA operation he authorized to unseat Mossadegh, adding that the United States would be “embarrassed” if news of their chicanery ever leaked in that part of the world.

Soon after, in a top-secret commendation of a key CIA figure, Allen Dulles called the joint Anglo-American plot, with its efficient psychological warfare techniques, a “great success” and a “major victory” for the agency.

The Shah himself, who had been coerced into dismissing the beloved Premier, maintained to the very end that it was a home-grown affair — solid proof of his overwhelming popularity and the citizenry’s genuine repudiation of Communism. “I know that 99% of the people are behind me”, he stated hours after the coup succeeded, foreshadowing an eerily similar proclamation made just months before his banishment in 1979.

While the Shah steadfastly refused to disclose that foreigners had stage-managed his ascent, he did, during his exile, directly implicate the CIA in his downfall.1 His twin sister, Ashraf Pahlavi, however, would betray his unwavering silence by boasting in her 1980 memoir that she had decided to reveal, at long last, her “instrumental” role in the CIA plot to oust Mossadegh.

So the original Coup-deniers, naturally, were the perpetrators themselves.

Now We Know

The general understanding of the 1953 coup (by that minority of the population who were conscious of it in the first place) has advanced tremendously over the past six decades.

With a surplus of previously unavailable memos, cables, and other declassified documents, and the open admission by numerous key U.S. and British players, notably from the Central Intelligence Agency, the foreign role is beyond undeniable. Five U.S. Presidents and five Secretaries of State have, at some point in their careers, publicly acknowledged the U.S. intervention.1 Leaders from every corner of the globe, and renowned figures from all walks of life and political persuasions, concur.

Public cognizance of America’s numerous other covert foreign operations, fraternization with brutal dictators, controversial domestic surveillance programs, and perpetual entanglement in often illegal, dubiously justified global military adventures only insures the plausibility of its mid-century imposition in Iran.

Yet in nearly every sphere of life there will always emerge a coterie of naysayers. Given the bitter history and enduring cross-continental rivalry with America, Iran remains among the most highly politicized topics on Earth. In this high-stakes standoff, rational intellectual discourse frequently succumbs to the contagion of motivated reasoning.

Hence, some dissenters have begun promoting the view that the Anglo-American sponsored 1953 coup in Iran, chronicled in thousands of books in numerous languages, taught in schools and universities worldwide, openly divulged by a wide array of its conspirants, and documented in reams of original source material, is a “MYTH”.

Willful Ignorance

This newer strain of Coup-denial is much like the old in its basic tenets—but rooted in shame and spite rather than secrecy.

Rather than taking an academic approach, the history is filtered through the prism of present day tensions with the ruling Iranian regime. The Deniers demand we examine the past not with an historian’s eye, but in light of how it might influence nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, or other fears that have nothing to do with the Cold War era from which it originates. Their ‘findings’, therefore, are designed to conform to the conclusions which unnaturally preceded them.

One of the special ironies of the freakish Coup-denial cult, made up predominantly of monarchists, neocons, and vindictive members of the Iranian diaspora (as opposed to Iranian citizens), is the anti-CIA dogma it espouses. The CIA, they contend, that vain and egocentric cabal, has presented a self-serving account enhancing their own image. Yet some of the central themes of CIA agents like Kermit Roosevelt—that Iranians ‘chose’ the Shah over Mossadegh, and that it was he who broke the law, not the monarch—actually align perfectly with the Deniers’ narrative. Many of them even favor the loaded CIA term “countercoup”.

In the grand tradition of the Flat Earth Society, the Obama “Birther” movement, the Persian Gulf renamers, and the ‘9/11 Truth’ campaign, these trailblazing proselytizers strive to convince us that ultimately, 1953 Was an Inside Job.

Regardless of ideology, a chief common denominator among Coup-deniers has traditionally been an open disdain for Dr. Mossadegh, and in turn, a firm belief that his demise was a warranted outcome.

...So Coup-deniers, like Holocaust deniers, share the peculiar counter-intuitive trait of negating the very thing they approve of.

Revisionism Can Be Good

History, due to its often nebulous nature, has always been highly prone to subjective interpretations. Even reality itself is all a matter of perspective. Hence, there’s always latitude for a wide variety of views on the same topic, even based upon identical data.

Though it’s possible to make a case for just about anything, even this has its limits. One could earnestly challenge a multitude of aspects of ‘accepted’ truths about the 1953 coup, but, given the mountains of evidence, it’s not possible to deny that there was a concerted effort by Britain and America to bring down Mossadegh. This fact has not even remotely been open to debate for at least 35 years.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with modifying the annals of history. Historical revisionism is what gave us the “CIA coup” version in the first place. The phony narrative of 1953 offered at the time was revised later, and with the benefit of newly available data, gradually sculpted into the shape it is today. The story will continue to be revised, and should be revised, as additional evidence is discovered. Yet there’s a difference between scrupulously challenging a prevailing narrative and agenda-driven, factually negligent propagandizing.

An Inconvenient Truth

Whatever their agenda, the Coup-deniers clearly find the 1953 coup inconvenient and aim to neutralize this irritant by reinterpreting it.

Their freshly sanitized version, they hope, will leave America looking more honorable, humiliate the hypocritical mullahs, and basically ‘free up’ the West, now less burdened with guilt, to be more resolute in its dealings with Iran.

These individuals see history not from an educational standpoint, but something to be discriminately weaponized for unfolding foreign policy purposes. The result, as John F. Kennedy once phrased it, is “the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought”.

In most instances, the Deniers assign the vast majority of the blame for Mossadegh’s collapse on a contingent of Islamic clerics whose descendants now rule Iran. Rather than simply highlighting this lesser-known aspect of the history, they go way overboard and depict it as the only factor of consequence.

Indeed, some members of the clergy—notably Kashani and Behbehani—did oppose Mossadegh and colluded with the foreign plot. Young Navab Safavi (whom the Islamic regime honors on postage stamps) and his extremist Feda’ian Islam followers made assassination threats, while Ayatollah Kashani wound up openly calling for Mossadegh’s execution. More pertinently, the godfather of the so-called Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spoke most venomously of the late Premier and either alienated or purged all remnants of his party from the government.3 Naturally, they have never made the slightest gesture to honor Mossadegh personally.

The Ghost of Mossadegh

Which leads us to the folly of the anti-Mossadegh meme. As long as people are given to recasting historical episodes into blunt tools of rebellion, those that seek to denigrate the regime and expose its excesses would be better off utilizing Mossadegh as an antitoxin.

Like a cross to a vampire, Mossadegh has always had a repelling effect on the Islamic Republic of Iran. In fact, the IRI’s most dedicated organized opposition—the Mujahadeen-e-Khalk (MEK) cult, which a flock of anti-Iran U.S. statesman have endorsed despite its history of terrorist activities, constantly upholds his name and image, with God-like reverence, for just this purpose.

Mossadegh’s ghost needn’t only haunt his foreign detractors. If his legacy didn’t threaten the fanatical regime in Iran, they would have honored—and far more importantly—emulated him, long, long ago. While enraged anti-IRI activists obsess over finding new ways of thwarting the mullah stranglehold on Iran, another perfectly good shaming instrument, sitting right before their eyes, is squandered for the sake of sheer stupidity.

Ergo, another strikingly pointless characteristic of Coup-denial: that putrid old game of attempting to discredit an opponent via guilt by association—even if that association must be fabricated. The revisionists intend to link two disparate entities in people’s minds—the secular, progressive, democratically minded Mossadegh with the fundamentalist, anti-American theocratic regime in Iran.

The mullahs, you see, periodically conjure the memory of the 1953 coup, among other grievances, for their propaganda purposes (and conveniently omit the clerical role in the tragedy). Hence, it is fallaciously suggested, the West has somehow been mystically hoodwinked into believing a “myth” insolently advanced by the very turbaned, bearded Shiite holy men whom they despise. The supposed remedy: everyone must be conditioned to recoil from mentioning it, lest they appear to be reciting IRI talking points.

As if taking a cue from their sworn nemesis, who infamously vandalize the Holocaust as a means of delegitimizing Zionism, the Coup-denial sect insists we spurn Iran’s means of rehashing the 1953 event by literally denying its existence.

This method, they fantasize, will magically help drive the contused regime to its knees, and quite possibly lead to its long-awaited implosion.

And so, since the despotic Iranian regime abuses both past and present reality routinely, we are meant to counter their hypocrisy by behaving, thinking and reacting just like them. This soulless ‘ends-justify-the-means’ mindset, funnily enough, will not only fail to deliver the desired ends but is more likely to impede it.

For the greatest asset of those pursuing regime change, now that it is legitimately needed and desired and not the contrived scheme of outsiders and shameless opportunists, are the Iranian people themselves—the majority of whom long for a true representative government. Impugning the authenticity of their long struggles toward this goal is a supreme insult to the intelligence of a proud people whose aspirations America claims to support. This will only serve to validate the deep mistrust which has divided these two nations for generations, who tragically, ought to have been natural allies all this time.

[Annotations by Arash Norouzi]


1 “I cannot help but believe that the oil companies and an organization like the CIA were somehow involved in fomenting and financing this campaign against me.” – Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in Answer to History (1980)

2 The five U.S. Presidents are: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. (Eisenhower’s private admission was released posthumously).

The five U.S. Secretaries of State are: Henry Kissinger, Edmund Muskie, Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry. John Foster Dulles, naturally, never fessed up.

• Pres. Harry Truman and Sec. of State Dean Acheson turned down the CIA’s plans for Iran and Guatemala, as they acknowledged in their posthumously released correspondence.

3 MOSSADEGH, Islam and Ayatollahs — Ebrahim Norouzi and Arash Norouzi, November 24, 2009

The 1953 Coup in Iran Was An Act of War | by Arash Norouzi
The 1953 Coup in Iran Was An Act of War | by Arash Norouzi


Related links:

White House Responds to Question of Apology For 1953 Coup in Iran (May 2015)

Installing Dictatorship: Inside the Top Secret State Dept. Guide to Replacing Mossadegh

National Review Offers Smug “History Lesson”, Concedes Error After We Correct Them

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

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