President Truman and Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/National Archives)
This story originally appeared at Truthdig. Robert Scheer is the author of The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street (Nation Books).
Sixty years ago this week, on August 19, 1953, the United States, in collaboration with Britain, successfully staged a coup in Iran to overthrow democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh that a newly declassified CIA document reveals was designed to preserve the control of Western companies over Iran’s rich oil fields.
The US government at the time of the coup easily had manipulated Western media into denigrating Mossadegh as intemperate, unstable and an otherwise unreliable ally in the Cold War, but the real motivation for hijacking Iran’s history was Mossadegh’s move to nationalize Western-controlled oil assets in Iran. According to the document, part of an internal CIA report:
The target of this policy of desperation, Mohammad Mosadeq, [sic] was neither a madman nor an emotional bundle of senility as he was so often pictured in the foreign press; however, he had become so committed to the ideals of nationalism that he did things that could not have conceivably helped his people even in the best and most altruistic of worlds. In refusing to bargain—except on his own uncompromising terms—with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, he was in fact defying the professional politicians of the British government. These leaders believed, with good reason, that cheap oil for Britain and high profits for the company were vital to their national interests.
There you have it, the smoking-gun declaration of the true intent to preserve high profits and cheap oil that cuts through all of the official propaganda justifying not only this sorry attempt to prevent Iranian nationalists from gaining control over their prized resources but subsequent blood-for-oil adventures in Iraq and Kuwait. The assumption is that “the best and most altruistic of worlds” is one that accommodates the demands of rapacious capitalism as represented by Western oil companies.
Tragically, the coup that overthrew Mossadegh also crushed Iran’s brief experiment in democracy and ushered in six decades of brutal dictatorship followed by religious oppression and regional instability. If Iran is a problem, as the United States persistently and loudly insists, it is a problem of our making. Mossadegh, who earned a doctorate in law from Neuchatel University in Switzerland, was not an enemy of the American people; he was an Iranian nationalist who as the CIA’s own internal report concedes was preoccupied with the well-being of his people as opposed to the profitability of Western oil interests.
The CIA report derides the Western media’s acceptance at the time of the coup of the demonization of all actors on the world stage that fail to follow the approved script provided by the US government. As the report notes, the “complete secrecy about the operation,” breached only by leaked information, made it “relatively easy for journalists to reconstruct the coup in varied but generally inaccurate accounts.”