Documents on CIA role in 1953 Iran coup declassified

June 16, 2017 - 20:1

TEHRAN – The U.S. State Department has declassified a long-awaited “retrospective” volume of U.S. government documents on the 1953 coup in Iran, documenting the role of the CIA in the coup against the democratically-elected government of Mohammad Mosadeq.

“This retrospective volume focuses on the evolution of U.S. thinking on Iran as well as the U.S. Government covert operation that resulted in Mosadeq’s overthrow on August 19, 1953,” the Preface read.

“This volume includes National Security Council and Presidential materials that document the U.S. decision to proceed with the operation against Mosadeq, and the operational files within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that document the implementation of the operation, codenamed TPAJAX.”

The release of the documents could be a decisive point in U.S.-Iran relations of the coup era, after decades of controversy over the possibility of CIA’s role in Mosaddeq’s overthrow. 

Back in 1989, the U.S. government published a FRUS volume on U.S.-Iran relations between 1951 and 1954 that failed to mention any covert operation against the Iran government. The earlier volume was widely denounced by historians and commentators as a fraud. 

“The omissions combine to make the Iran volume in the period of 1952–54 a fraud,” wrote historian Bruce R. Kuniholm in 1990.

“This is ‘Hamlet’ without the Prince of Denmark — or the ghost,” the New York Times editorialized back then.

After the end of the Cold War, the CIA committed to open agency files on the Iran and other covert operations, and the State Department vowed to produce a “retrospective” volume righting the earlier decision.

In 2016, “the Department of State did not permit publication of the long-delayed Iran Retrospective volume because it judged the political environment too sensitive,” the Department’s Historical Advisory Committee (HAC) wrote in its latest annual report.

However, the newly released publication was posted online with minimal notice.

“There is no question that receiving approval to publish the volume was much less difficult with the change of administrations. Indeed, it encountered remarkably little resistance,” an official said.


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