Highlights of the Mossadeq Trial
CIA's 9-Point Memo on Court Proceedings, Day 4

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | May 3, 2017                      

Highlights of the Mossadeq Trial | CIA Memo (Nov. 1953)

Having accomplished its task of overthrowing Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in August 1953, the CIA turned its attention to securing the Shah’s hold on power. Part of this included monitoring Mossadegh’s military tribunal trial for treason.

The agency did not date this overtly biased, cheat-sheet style document summarizing the first four days of former Premier Mossadegh’s trial, but its time frame indicates that it would have been shortly after November 11th.

Even though their error-prone secret memo was intended for internal use only, it still reads like propaganda — it’s almost like the agency was attempting to brainwash itself.

The memo is peculiar for its opinionated tone and even a touch of plagiarism. Much of the language in lines 6 and 7 is blatantly lifted from a Nov. 11th United Press article. For example, the CIA states bizarrely, “He faints and weeps until water flows off his large beak-like nose”. UPI wrote, “...Mossadegh wept so hard that tears flowed off his large, beak-like nose.” (There is no proof that this happened, and UPI was apparently alone in reporting it).1

On the other hand, if this were not plagiarism, then one must contemplate the possibility that these descriptions actually originated with the U.S. government. This isn’t the slightest bit implausible. Less than a week earlier, Loy Henderson of the State Department, himself a key player in the 1953 coup, issued a communiqué proposing that the U.S. have their pro-Shah/Zahedi propaganda sent to several major publications “having most influence in Iran”.2 The attached draft paper, "Dilemma In Iran", was to be used potentially as a template for commentaries in TIME, Newsweek and The New York Times.

Strangely, the document neglected to mention the protests happening outside the courtroom by Mossadegh supporters, something which should have been of concern to them. This fact was even featured prominently in the UPI wire report they seem to have cribbed from.

Line 8 reveals that the Shah’s regime, fearful of “popular reaction”, forced Iranian newspapers to censor Mossadegh’s remarks in court. Perhaps the defendant was too persuasive for comfort.

CIA Documents on Iran, Mossadegh, 1953 Coup


Highlights of the Mossadeq trial

1. Trial opened Sunday November 8 in Hall of Mirrors of small palace at Saltanatabad 10 miles from Tehran. Troops from nearby barracks form heavy guard. [Saltanatabad Palace]

2. Hall seats approximately 150 spectators. Attendance by pass. Mostly newsmen and photographers in seats. American Embassy officers also present.

3. Military court consists of five judges, all generals in the Iranian army. Prosecutor and court-appointed Defense Counsel are also army officers.

4. Seventy-three year old Mossadeq arrived in usual gray pajamas and gray bathrobe. [He was 71, and wore a long overcoat, not a bathrobe.] Appeared feeble and sick.

5. In four days of inconclusive rambling competency of the court is still being challenged. Court will pass on its own competency after hearing Mossadeq’s arguments.

6. Mossadeq is using his usual oratorical devices, including sarcasm, mock humility, fainting, weeping and, on occasion, now adds profanity. He threatens to boycott the trial, to commit suicide. He calls for heart stimulants which he gulps and demands a special heater to warm his back. He faints and weeps until water flows off his large beak-like nose. But he also delivers hour-long tirades against the court and the British and expounds history in a strange manner.

7. Mossadeq appears on occasion more violent than ever before. He has cursingly dismissed his court-appointed defense counsel [Col. Jalil Bozorgmehr] whom he called a “shyster” and “traitor.” The prosecutor, [Brigadier-General Hossein Azemoudeh] whose presentation has been labeled “brilliant” by some spectators has also hit back and denounced the ex-premier as an “old hag who shammed illness.” [These various quotes derive from U.S. media.]

8. Government is permitting uncensored reporting by foreign correspondents. At home, possibly afraid of popular reaction, it is releasing only short summaries on the radio and has clamped sharp censorship on local press to extent of forcing two of largest dailies to delete full pages of texts of Mossadeq’s remarks at trial.

9. No indication how long this will go on.

[Annotations by Arash Norouzi]

• Document was declassified by the Central Intelligence Agency on August 30, 2000.

1 Pro-Mossadegh Supporters Urge Strike in Iran | United Press syndicated wire report, November 11, 1953.

2 Use of Material in American Publications Concerning Iranian Situation — American Embassy in Tehran to the Department of State, Washington, DC. November 7, 1953. Cover letter by Ambassador Loy W. Henderson with attached enclosure "Dilemma In Iran".

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Related links:

CIA Finds “Little To Show” 4 Months After 1953 Coup in Iran

Jail for Mossadegh | The San Mateo Times, December 30, 1953

Iran Indicts Mossadegh As Traitor | AP, October 4, 1953

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

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