The Taming of the Shrewd
CIA Propaganda Assaults Mossadegh’s Leadership

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | July 19, 2016                       

Along the Road Toward Dictatorship | CIA Propaganda (1953)

Among the many strategies devised to destabilize the democratic government of Iran were good old-fashioned smear tactics. In the run-up to the 1953 coup, the CIA crafted venomous anti-Mossadegh propaganda pieces and had them translated into Persian and placed in Iranian newspapers as editorials.

The following document, Along the Road Toward Dictatorship, shortly preceded the fall of the government. Though undated, it’s clearly from early to mid August 1953 based on certain events cited.

The author, who may have been CIA agent Donald Newton Wilber, leveled an array of charges against the Prime Minister. Many of them, such as “denial of freedom of speech and of assembly; and illegal arrests, torture and detention” were baseless. Others, like Mossadegh’s decision to dissolve the Majles, and his statement about democracy being the “will of the people”, are either misrepresented or portrayed through an ultra-cynical lens.

Near its conclusion, the piece insinuates a Nazi-like tenor to Mossadegh’s messy rule. Nothing a little AJAX can’t clean up...

CIA Documents on Iran, Mossadegh, 1953 Coup

Along the Road Toward Dictatorship

The ultimate test of a popular leader comes when — placed in a position of power — he must choose between the legitimate use or the deliberate abuse of this power.

As a member of the Majlis in Iran in the years which followed our two world wars, Mossadeq consistently defended democratic principles and spoke against rigged elections, against illegal arrests and against all acts by governments in power which violated the spirit or letter of the country’s constitution.

Primarily reputed as a doggedly determined, long-winded orator, he was swept into office of Prime Minister as the most persistent spokesman of the ultra nationalistic sentiments of his countrymen. Once in office a new character unfolded to reveal Mossadeq as a shrewd, persuasive demagogue, capable of taking any and all measures required to maintain his position. His decision was to abuse his power. All those measures which he had so ardently condemned were now imposed upon the people; continuous martial law; a stringent law controlling the press; interference with and cancellation of elections; denial of freedom of speech and of assembly; and illegal arrests, torture and detention. By threat, persuasion and manoever he took over command of the armed forces from the Shah, their constitutionally appointed leader, and by similar tactics he got the Majlis to grant, and then to renew, full powers over the affairs of the state. With these powers he could take over the legislative function of the government.

Criticism of such actions was forthcoming and as the months passed, Mossadeq became increasing [sic] intolerant of criticism. Although his supporters could muster a majority in the Majlis, he resented the fact that a strong minority in that body attacked the unconstitutionality of his deeds. This 17th Majlis, which he had earlier described as being the first term of the body to truly represent the people of the country, he now resolved to destroy. The first move was to force his supporters to resign so that no quorum could be obtained. Charged with the illegality of this move, he determined that the Majlis must be dissolved. Since the constitution of Iran states that only the Shah may dissolve the Majlis, some illegal manoever had to be found. This Mossadeq found in his scheme to hold a “popular referendum” on the question of whether the Majlis should be dissolved, and in support of this move he came up with the alarming statement that “in democratic and constitutional countries no law is greater than the will of the people.” (speech of Mossadeq over Radio, Tehran, on 27 July 1953).

Mass meetings were arranged to express the “will of the people” and groups assembled by the government were led in the chant “Mossadeq is victorious” in a manner only too reminiscent of meetings held in Europe in the 1930’s. Even larger groups of communists, members of the Tudeh party of Iran, massed to throw their weight behind Mossadeq. They chanted no such slogan but, following the orders of their Soviet masters, eagerly helped to stir up public confusion and uncertainty.

Along the Road Toward Dictatorship was declassified by the Central Intelligence Agency on June 21, 2011.

Elections In Iran: Rigging, Bribery, Ballot Stuffing and Foreign Meddling
A Study of Electoral Methods in Iran | CIA Report, Nov. 1953


Related links:

Dictatorship Replaces Monarchy in Little Iran | U.S. editorial, August 18, 1953

Mossy and the Pistol | The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 2, 1952

Acting the Dictator | The Knickerbocker News, August 20, 1952

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

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