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Pro-Shah crowds on streets of Tehran, August 1953.

Iran 1953: State Department Finally Releases Updated Official History of Mosaddeq Coup

Formerly Secret Documents from State, CIA Provide New Information about Covert Operations Planning and Implementation Plus Contemporaneous Analyses

New Insights into U.S. Fears of Tudeh Party, Questions about Influence of Ayatollah Kashani, Qualms about Character of Shah

Long-Awaited Volume Supplements Earlier Publication that Whitewashed U.S., British Roles


Posted June 15, 2017
National Security Archive Briefing Book No. 598
Edited by Malcolm Byrne
For further information, contact: Malcolm Byrne, 202/994–7000 or



64 Years Later, CIA Finally Releases Details of Iranian Coup
Foreign Policy
June 20, 2017
By Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

US Publishes Official History, New Documents on the 1953 Coup in Iran
Monday, 19 June 2017
By Arash Azizi

US releases documents of Iran’s 1953 Coup
AMN News
July 17, 2017
by News Desk

Zarif: U.S. better save own regime
The Tehran Times
June 16, 2017

It’s Time to Release the Real History of the 1953 Iran Coup
October 12, 2016
By Malcolm Byrne

Open the Files on the Iran Coup
The New York Times
July 9, 2014
By Roham Alvandi



Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran

The Battle for Iran, 1953: Re-Release of CIA Internal History Spotlights New Details about anti-Mosaddeq Coup

Iran 1953: The Strange Odyssey of Kermit Roosevelt's Countercoup

CIA Confirms Role in 1953 Iran Coup 

The Secret CIA History of the Iran Coup, 1953 

CIA Secrecy Claims Are “Facially Incredible,” Says Lawsuit

Washington, D.C., June 15, 2017 – The State Department today released a long-awaited “retrospective” volume of declassified U.S. government documents on the 1953 coup in Iran. The volume includes fascinating details on Iranian, American and British planning and implementation of the covert operation, as well as information about U.S. contacts with key figures such as Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani, and insights into U.S. concerns about the growing influence of the communist Tudeh Party.

The publication is the culmination of decades of internal debates and public controversy after a previous official collection omitted all references to the role of American and British intelligence in the ouster of Iran’s then-prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddeq. The volume is part of the Department’s venerable Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series.

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, (undated photo).

 For decades, neither the U.S. nor the British governments would acknowledge their part in Mosaddeq’s overthrow, even though a detailed account appeared as early as 1954 in The Saturday Evening Post, and since then CIA and MI6 veterans of the coup have published memoirs detailing their activities.  Kermit Roosevelt’s Countercoup is the best known and most detailed such account, although highly controversial because of its selective rendering of events.  In 2000, The New York Times posted a 200-page classified internal CIA history of the operation.

 In 1989, the State Department released what purported to be the official record of the coup period but it made not a single reference to American and British actions in connection with the event.  The omission led to the resignation of the chief outside adviser on the series, and prompted Congress to pass legislation requiring “a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record” of U.S. foreign policy.  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. 

 But it took until 2011 for the CIA to – partially – fulfill its commitment, and even then it was only in the form of a previously classified segment of an internal account of the coup that for the first time included an officially released explicit reference to the agency’s role in “TPAJAX,” the U.S. acronym for the operation.  Roughly two years later, after years of research by historian James C. Van Hook, as well as internal negotiations between State and CIA over access to the latter’s records, the Office of the Historian at the Department produced a draft of the retrospective volume, which then had to await top-level clearance.

 What explains the refusal by two governments to acknowledge their actions, and the inordinate delays in publishing this volume?  Justifications given in the past include protecting intelligence sources and methods, bowing to British government requests and, more recently, avoiding stirring up Iranian hardline elements who might seek to undercut the nuclear deal Iran signed with the United States and other P5+1 members in 2015.

 While the volume’s contents still are being sifted through, here’s a description from the Preface:

 This Foreign Relations retrospective volume focuses on the use of covert operations by the Truman and Eisenhower administrations as an adjunct to their respective policies toward Iran, culminating in the overthrow of the Mosadeq government in August 1953. Moreover, the volume documents the involvement of the U.S. intelligence community in the policy formulation process and places it within the broader Cold War context. For a full appreciation of U.S. relations with Iran between 1951 and 1954, this volume should be read in conjunction with the volume published in 1989.

 “This is going to be an important source for anyone interested in the tortured relationship between Washington and Tehran,” said Malcolm Byrne, who runs the National Security Archive’s Iran-U.S. Relations Project. “But the fact that it has taken over six decades to declassify and release these records about such a pivotal historical event is mind-boggling.”

 As Archive staff make their way through the hundreds of records in the volume, we will update this posting with highlights.



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