Sunday, October 26, 2008

The truth about the myth of CIA coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953

Accoring to a document which was published by NY Times and the GWU in 1997, Dr. Donald N. Wilber, in the year 1954, had written a summary of an operation that was conducted by CIA a year earlier in order to remove Dr. Mossadegh from power in Iran and bring Shah back. This in fact is the sole document that all stories about CIA covert operation have been flying around without any confirmation from CIA or presence of any other real document from CIA itself about involvement in such operation. Dr. Wilber who according to the preface of same document, had "played active role" in the operation, prepared that document to have "desired record" of such event which despite its importance, CIA apparently had forgotten to do it before! The word "secret" is written on the bottom of every page to make it look very real and eventhough aparently it was released by CIA but there is nowhere in their achives that you can find such document. One of the specifications of documents released under FOIA is that you can see different signatures, names and stamps and dates on almost every page of a released document while the word "secret" is crossed over to indicate that the document has been declassified. Neither is true in this document. There is nothing to show that this is a true CIA document.

New York Times states that:

"The New York Times has "obtained" a copy of the CIA's secret history of the 1953 Iranian coup. The history was written in March 1954 by Dr. Donald N. Wilber, "the C.I.A.'s chief coup planner," and "was provided ... by a former official who kept a copy." The still-classified document "discloses the pivotal role British intelligence officials played in initiating and planning the coup, and it shows that Washington and London shared an interest in maintaining the West's control over Iranian oil...."

Which gives the impression that Mr. Wilber had been in possession of a copy of a secret CIA document since 1954 that himself wrote about history of CIA operation in Iran but he kept that a secret for himself until he died and NY Times magazine which was a well known enemy of Pahlavis of Iran, somehow, got their hands on that copy. Whether this whole story is true or not and whether Mr. Wilber has been part of any operation and his writings can be truely considered "history of CIA operation in Iran" according to his own claim, is something that can not be verified from any of available documents. Despite the questionable reliability and source of the information in this document, many Iranian and non-Iranian researchers have refrenced its materials as real historical facts merely based on the claims of the author and the New York Times magazine!

Before discussing this document in details, I would like to mention a few things regarding "real CIA documents" which one can easily find from their archives and they are all marked with different emblems, stamps, names and dates as I mentioned above. There is nowhere in any of CIA communication documents in 1953 before, during or even after the events of August 1953 that one can read anything about an operation called "tpajax" or a person called Kim Roosevelt who aparently was the boss of Donald N. WIlber. Considering existance and availability of over 1400 pages of CIA documents about the operation In Guatemala which was conducted in 1954, one can not accept this claim that CIA did not keep a record of their operation in Iran as some of US officials claimed at some point. In another occasion, CIA officials claimed that their documents regarding operations in Iran was destroyed as per routine process, only 9 years after 1953 which makes one wonder why many other older documents related to Iran and other places survived such routine while a document about an event of such high importance for US interests did not? Finally, in 1990's, CIA admited the existance of a document called "zendebad shah" in their archive but claimed that this document was still classified as "top secret" by US authorities and could not be released to public due to considerations for US national security and interests.

In later developments, GWU succeeded in obtaining some of the documents related to 1953 events including the above mentioned document ("zendebad shah") which apparently was prepared for declassification after Islamic revolution by Scott A. Koch and much of it is still blanked out to indicate the amount of classified information in that document. In the meantime NS Archives in GWU prefered to include the document which was prepared by Mr. Wilber and was in possession of NY Time, in their archives as the only source of information about the events of year 1953 in Iran. Considering that Mr. Wilber's report, according to his claim, has been prepared in March 1954 and released to public in the year 2000, and there is no document in CIA declassified archives to confirm the information which has been discussed in that, one may wonder about the authenticity of that document and the information in it which has been prepared with fictional writing style.

In order to examine the authenticity of Mr. Wilber's report or, as he claims, the "CIA history of TPAJAX operation in Iran" which has over a hundred pages, we also need to look at the real declassified document that has been obtained from CIA by GWU and is available in their archives but before that, let's have a glance at credentials of both Mr. Donald Wilber and Mr. Scott Koch to see how their credentials and qualifications relate to the matter.

Mr. Wilber, according to wickipedia, had a phD in architectural history from Princeton since 1947 and authored multiple books, most of them related to Iran and Iranian Islamic hsitory. From what we read of himself and his friends, he has been an Indiana Jones kind of figure in his younger age who maintained a great interest in oriental rugs and archeological artifacts. He has been a member of oriental rugs society in Princeton where he associated with friends till last days of his life. According to one of his friends in a tribute to Mr. Wilber, he was recruited by CIA after WW II and worked with them till 1969 that he retired. In a note by one of his friends who has done proof reading of his articles for 15 years, the report about TPAJAX operation had some typos and errors in it which was uncharacteristic of Mr. Wilber even though Mr. Wilber himself had hinted about existance of such document.

According to a court's documents from district of Columbia Scott Koch has been working for CIA since 1990 and was assigned to the position of Chief Information Officer (CIO) of CIA in year 2004. In his position, Mr. Koch has been also responsible as Information Privacy Coordinator and in charge of reviewing and deciding about classification and declassification of CIA documents. The documents about CIA involvement in 1953 operations in Iran have been signed and released by him in year 2006. These documents include "zendebad shah" document.

On the cover page of Don Wilber's report we read: "Clandestine Service History" and in second line: "Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran" and then: "November 1952-August 1953" and at the bottom same page: "Date written: March 1954", "Date published: October 1969", "Written by: Doland N. Wilber".

The document discusses a lot of issues and provides many details about the plans and events which gives the impression that, not only the author should have been present in many places simultaneously but also, he should have had a superhuman memory in order to remember so much details with timing and wordings of conversations while himself was not even present at the place where event was taking place. The only other way is that he should have had a lot of notes about details of the events. From the first page in the notes of Dean L. Dodge (historian officer) we read that the report was prepared "because it seemed desireable to have a record of a major operation while documents were readily at hand and memories of the personel involved were still fresh". Apparently there were enough documents available for Mr. Wilber to extract the required information and mix it with "memories" of the personel involved to prepare such report. Strangely enough, all the documents apparently have vanished from CIA archives and memories of some of very important elements involved in such major operation seem not only to contradict Mr. Wilber's account but also make it like a totally made up story and pure imagination which was made in the minds of people like Kermit Roosevelt and Don Wilber and was sold for a good price!


Before going further, it is worthy to note that these two people were both in the business to make a living while both shared adventurinst tendencies and mentality and both were very imaginitive characters. Mr. Wilber, according to some of his friends, would love to be viewed like "lawrence of arabia" and most of the times especially when in Egypt and Lebanon, would dress himself like Lawrence while other times he showed off with his cowboy hat and jeans. Apparently at some point later, Mr. Wilber who considered himself the engineer of the TPAJAX operation, became upset with Mr. K. Roosevelt because Roosevelt had reduced the importance of his role when he wrote his book about this "story" and magnified the importance of his own role!

Going back to Mr. Wilber's report which was presented and publicised by NY Times as a genuine CIA document, in the summary we read:

"In March 1953 a telegram was received from the Tehran Station which stated that General [ ] had contacted the assistant military attache and had requested Ambassador (Loy) Henderson's views as to whether or not the US Government was interested in covertly supporting an Iranian military effort to oust Premier Mossadeq. A meeting was held in the Embassy at which Headquarters personnel, then in the field, and station personnel were in attendance.
A cautiously worded reply was drafted at Headquarters and its substance delivered to General [ ]. The reply did not commit the United States in any way but was mildly encouraging and revealed some US interest in the idea.

On the basis of the [ ] overture and other clear signs that determined opposition to Mossadeq was taking shape, and in view of the totally destructive and reck less attitude of the government of Prime Minister Mossadeq, General Walter Bedell Smith, Undersecretary of State, determined that the US Government could no longer approve of the Mossadeq government and would prefer a successor government in which there would be no National Frontists. The change in policy was communicated to CIA, and the NEA Division was informed that it was authorized to consider operations which would contribute to the fall of the Mossadeq government. The Department of State and CIA jointly informed Ambassador Henderson and the Chief of Station, Roger Goiran, of the new policy and of the operational authorization. The Director, on 4 April 1953, approved a budget of $1,000,000 which could be used by the Tehran Station in any way that would bring about the fall of Mossadeq. Full authority was given to Ambassador Henderson and the Chief of Station enabling any part or all of the $1,000,000 to be used without further authority, as long as the Ambassador and the station concurred."

Also a bit furhter in the report:

"Ashraf reached Tehran as a passenger on a commercial flight on 25 July. As expected, her unauthorized return did create a real storm. Neither the Shah, himself, nor the government of Mossadeq had been asked to permit her to return. Both were furious. The Shah refused to see her but did accept a letter passed on through the medium of [ ], ** head of the Shah's [ ], loyal and devoted in an effective way throughout this period. This letter contained news that US General Schwarzkopf was coming to see the Shah on an errand similar to that of Ashraf, herself. The Shah welcomed this news and received his sister on the evening of 29 July. The session opened stormily but ended on a note of reconciliation. On the next day she took a plane back to Europe. This was as had been planned, but it came as a relief to know that she was out of the country in view of the pro-Mossadeq press reaction."
"The second emissary arrived on the scene in the person of [ ], the principal SIS agent. According to the plan, [ ] initial task with the Shah was to convince the ruler that, [ ] was the official spokesman of the UK Government. The advance plan, that of having the Shah select a key phrase which would then be broadcast on the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) Persian language program on certain dates, was followed. In London the necessary arrangements had been made by Darbyshire to send the phrase over the BBC. On 30 July and again on the 31st the Shah saw, [ ]. He had heard the broadcast, but he requested time to assess the situation. , [ ] was, however, able to prepare the Shah for the visit of the American emissary, General Schwarzkopf, and to stress the point that this emissary would repeat the message and, hence, give an additional guarantee of the close collaboration between the United Kingdom and the United States in this undertaking.

Schwarzkopf had been chosen by the drafters of the operational plan because of the fact that he had enjoyed the friendship and respect of the Shah in the period from 1942 until 1948 when he headed the US MIlitary Mission to the Iranian Gendarmerie. Approached on 26 June 1953 by John Waller, Chief, NEA, briefed at Headquarters on 19 July, Schwarzkopf took to his mission with relish. He said that he had a reputation with the Shah for telling him unpleasant truths that others withheld from him, and he stated that he was sure he could get the required cooperation from the Shah. Schwarzkopf was given a cover mission consisting of a short tour to Lebanon, Pakistan, and Egypt so that his visit to Tehran would appear as a brief stop en route to a principal destination. Schwarzkopf left by air for Beirut on 21 July.
Schwarzkopf's mission was to obtain from the Shah the three papers which are described more fully in the operational plan. They were: (1) a firman naming [ ] as Chief of Staff, (2) a letter indicating his faith in [ ] which the latter could employ to recruit army officers for the plan in the name of the Shah, and (3) a firman calling on all ranks of the army to support his legal Chief of Staff. It was felt that it would be easier to get the Shah to sign such statements than to issue a firman dismissing Mossadeq. It was also believed that the action of replacing Mossadeq would be initiated through the Majlis."

There are also some parts in the report that mentions the name of Sec. State J. F. Dulles which gives the impression of his involvement and now let's take a look at part of another document from Truman library which is part of United States Oral History. This document is an interview given by Loy Henderson who was American Ambassador to Iran in those days and had a meeting with late Dr. Mosadegh a couple of night after he refused to step aside and in the night before his arrest:

"HENDERSON: In June 1953 I was ordered back to the United States for consultation, and since I had had no leave, the Department suggested that I take some on the way back. The situation in Iran had become so complicated that the Department felt it might be better that I delay my return. Iran was in a desperate financial situation.
Mossadegh had even spent the funds that had been set aside to pay pensions to the retiring civil servants and army personnel. Dissatisfaction with his administration had increased and there was tension. The Department apparently felt that if I should appear in Tehran, Mossadegh would ask me to see him, would have photographs taken of our chatting together, and would try to convince the public that the United States was supporting him. I spent a couple of weeks as a guest of our High Commissioner to Austria in the Austrian Alps, then I went to Beirut for some sea bathing. On the evening of Saturday, August 15, I heard from the radio in my hotel room that the Shah, who had been resting in his palace on the Caspian Sea north of Iran, had sent a messenger to Mossadegh, informing him that he had accepted the latter’s resignation and had appointed General Zahedi as Prime Minister; that Mossadegh had refused to resign and had arrested the army officer
who had served as a messenger; and that the Shah had flown to Baghdad.
I was so upset by this news that I could not sleep during the night, and I reproached myself for not having been on my job in Tehran. The next morning I called the Embassy by telephone and asked that it send our Naval Attaché’s plane for me. I arrived in Tehran in the afternoon of Monday, August 17, and was met at the airport by Mossadegh’s son, members of the Embassy, and a detachment of soldiers to accompany me to the Embassy. On my way to the Embassy, I found the city in confusion. Mobs with red flags were tearing down statues, destroying street signs which bore the name of the Shah or his father, pillaging shops, and beating up some of the shopkeepers.
I asked Mossadegh’s son to arrange an interview for me with his father, and that evening I had a meeting with the Embassy staff, at which I
learned that during the last two days many attacks had been made upon Europeans in the city and the suburbs; that the -chauffeur of our Naval Attaché had been stabbed while trying to defend the automobile; and that many Americans were being threatened.
On Tuesday morning I received a telegram from our consulate in Isfahan stating that several thousand persons bearing Communist flags and shouting in Persian "Yankees, go home" had been parading in front of the consulate.
I met with Mossadegh late Tuesday evening. I found him fully dressed and neatly groomed sitting in his reception room, an indication that he was planning a formal conversation. He began at once to upbraid me for the Shah’s attempt to dismiss him. He said that there could be no doubt that the United States was responsible for the Shah’s action, and it would now be held responsible for the aftermath.
I said that I had not come to argue about who was responsible for what had taken place but to discuss the danger in which American citizens in Iran now found themselves. I said, "Communist mobs seem to be in control of the streets; and the police, apparently under orders, are not attempting to control them; foreigners are being attacked; one of our Embassy chauffeurs has been stabbed. In Isfahan thousands of demonstrators, carrying Communist flags and using threatening language, are demonstrating in front of our consulate. Unless you can give me assurance that this violence and threats of violence will be stopped and American citizens and property will be given protection, I shall immediately order all American women and children and all the official American citizens whose presence here is not urgently needed to leave the country."
"If you pull out all the Americans, it will look to the whole world," said Mossadegh, "that
the United States is entirely deserting Iran."
I answered, "We would not be deserting Iran; I would be here and all the Americans who are needed would still be here, but as long as the police do not give them proper protection I do not want those who are not really needed to remain. If they do, incidents can take place which could seriously injure the relations between our countries."
Mossadegh picked up his telephone and talked for a few minutes with the chief of the police. It was apparent to me that he had previously given orders that they were not to interfere with the demonstrators unless they should get completely out of hand, and since he rarely left his residence he had not been fully aware of what was going on. Over the phone in my presence he gave orders that a stop should be put immediately to rowdyism and violence. When I left Mossadegh about an hour later the police, apparently with
pleasure, were busy dispersing the gangs in the streets and trying to restore order. I understood later that the Communists were furious at the interference of the police and returned to their homes feeling that Mossadegh was double-crossing them.
Early on the following morning, Wednesday, August 19, 1953, an important date, I received word while I was having breakfast that an uprising was taking place in the lower part of the city. I hurried across the Embassy garden to the chancery where I learned that a group of members of a well-known athletic club had suddenly emerged from the club with various kinds of arms calling upon the people to help them overthrow the Mossadegh regime and restore the Shah. In this club its members were accustomed to work hard developing their torsos in accordance with certain Iranian traditional exercises, which included the swinging of heavy clubs. The leaders of the
demonstration, therefore, were men with almost frightening physiques, and they were rapidly joined by people on the street. Members of my staff whom I had sent out to find what was going on kept us informed by telephone. Within an hour the demonstrators reached the building which houses one of the leading pro-Mossadegh newspapers and destroyed the plant. I was confident that when the crowd would come into contact with the military, it would disperse, but to my surprise the military joined it. By noon the demonstrators had taken over the Foreign Office and a little later the area surrounding our Embassy compound was full of cheering people. General Zahedi, whom the Shah had appointed to succeed Mossadegh, and who had been in hiding, came out and seated on a tank moved through the applauding, waving crowds.
Late in the evening Ardeshir Zahedi, the son of the new Prime Minister, came to see me. He said that the leading cities of the country and most of
the countryside were now under the control of the army, which had come out for the Shah and his father. He added that his father had asked him to inquire if I had any suggestions to offer. After a minute’s thought I said, "Yes, I have three suggestions. In the first place, I think every effort should be made to prevent Mossadegh from being harmed or killed. If he is taken prisoner, care should be exercised to make sure he is not physically abused. The question of his punishment, if any, should be left to the courts. In the second place, a circular telegram might be sent out at once to all the Iranian diplomatic missions and consular offices informing them that the new Prime Minister appointed by the Shah has taken over and they should continue to transact their business as usual. No revolution has taken place, merely a change in government. My third suggestion is that a similar announcement might be made for the benefit of the civil
servants. They should be told by radio that they should report to work tomorrow as usual."
During the next twenty-four hours, Mossadegh was captured and imprisoned pending a trial. Most of the Iranian diplomatic and consular offices carried on as usual. On the following day the governmental machinery was for the most part functioning. Zahedi proceeded to set up a new cabinet for the Shah’s approval. The Shah, who was in Rome on the day that Zahedi took office, returned to Tehran on August 22. I have never seen Tehran so happy as it was when it greeted him back.
MCKINZIE: Okay. Shortly after that there was an article in the American press, that you may know about, contending that Allen Dulles and Norman Schwarzkopf and a sister of the Shah . . .
HENDERSON: To my knowledge Allen Dulles was not in Tehran at all during that period. I am quite
sure that Schwarzkopf had nothing to do with the affair. I am not prepared, however, to say that the CIA had nothing to do with some of these developments. It has been charged that the CIA inspired the uprising that started with the march of the members of the athletic club in Tehran. Whether it did or did not, I honestly don’t know. When I returned to Tehran, I was under the impression that Mossadegh, at least for a time, had won his long conflict with the Shah. When I talked with Mossadegh on the evening of August 18, I had no idea that an attempt would be made to overthrow him by force. I was surprised by the events that took place the next day, and I think that if they are ever published, my telegrams to the Department will support what I am saying. I am sure of one thing, however. No matter how skilled the CIA might be, it could not have engineered the overthrow of Mossadegh if the people of Iran had not overwhelmingly been in favor of the return of the Shah."

here is the the link to NY Times report:
Story of CIA operation TPAJAX by NY Times Magazine

and Truman library:

More will be added.

Sohrab Ferdows