Red Letter Day

August 18, 1953 — The Buffalo Evening News

The Mossadegh Project | October 18, 2022                   

The 1953 coup in Iran

An editorial on the first (failed) coup attempt in a Buffalo, New York newspaper.

Turmoil in Iran—Again

Premier Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran must be exulting today. Shah Reza Pahlevi and his queen have fled the country and Parliament has been dissolved by a farcical plebiscite he himself engineered. That makes him — for the moment — undisputed top dog in the country. [Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Queen Soraya Esfandiari Bakhtiari]

Whether he will transform Iran into a republic and make himself the president or establish a board of regents to rule for the shah, who has taken refuge in Baghdad, Iraq, remains to be seen. He now has the power to do either.

Mossadegh has been stumbling along a perilous political road ever since he took the first step to destroy the country’s oil industry by booting out the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. He has had some narrow escapes from disaster but he survived minor missteps along the way. His accession to power over the weekend came about amid scenes of the greatest confusion.

The shah, before leaving the country, signed a decree deposing Mossadegh and making Gen. Fazollah Zahedi premier. [sic—Fazlollah Zahedi. The Shah’s farmans were the result of U.S pressure] The aging Mossadegh took care of that contingency by ample device. He arrested the messenger who was supposed to deliver the decree to him at his home. The general, who is a bitter political foe of the premier, maintains he is the legal prime minister but his challenge is made ineffectual because he is in hiding somewhere outside Teheran. [In a CIA safe house] To submit it personally in the capital would mean immediate imprisonment if not worse.

Premier Mossadegh’s troubles are not over by lesson of his countercoup which defeated the shah’s attempt to remove him from office. There is an active opposition which will rally around Zahedi—outraged members of the dissolved Parliament, some army officers, adherents of the monarchy and followers of Kashani, the Moslem leader who opposed Mossadegh. [Ayatollah Kashani] That is one danger. The other is the character of support which enabled him to push through his “plebiscite” for the dissolution of Parliament.

Members of the Iranian Communist Party (the Tudeh) were 100% behind Mossadegh’s moves toward one-man rule. The party was nominally outlawed years ago but the premier has again allowed it to flex its muscles in public without fear of government action. Its leaders, or their Moscow mentors, must believe that Mossadegh’s aspiration to be an absolute despot will play eventually into their hands or they wouldn’t have given him such generous support. There is always a catch to it when the Reds lend assistance to any movement. There is a report that Mossadegh is already preparing to give them their reward by once more legalizing the party by decree.

So, it is not the Iranian people who will benefit from Mossadegh’s intrigues and machinations. It is the Communist conspiracy. Events in Iran are adhering closely to the pattern of Red aggression by proxy. It is still in the early stages but the shortsighted premier has given it impetus by embracing the Tudeh for assistance in furthering his personal ambitions.

70th Anniversary of TIME’s Man of the Year Article


Related links:

Red Moves Watched In Revolt-Torn Iran | Daily Sentinel, Aug. 21, 1953

Mossadegh Planned A Republic | The Times Record, Aug. 27, 1953

Oil Or Tears For Iran | The Morning Herald (New York), July 17, 1953

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

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