The CIA in Iran
By JAMES RISEN
The Central Intelligence Agency's secret history of its covert operation to overthrow
Iran's government in 1953 offers an inside look at how the agency stumbled into success,
despite a series of mishaps that derailed its original plans.
Written in 1954 by one of the coup's chief planners, the history details how United
States and British officials plotted the military coup that returned the shah of Iran to
power and toppled Iran's elected prime minister, an ardent nationalist.
The document shows that:
Britain, fearful of Iran's plans to nationalize its oil industry, came up with the idea
for the coup in 1952 and pressed the United States to mount a joint operation to remove
the prime minister.
- The C.I.A. and S.I.S., the British intelligence service, handpicked Gen. Fazlollah
Zahedi to succeed Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and covertly funneled $5 million to
General Zahedi's regime two days after the coup prevailed.
- Iranians working for the C.I.A. and posing as Communists harassed religious leaders and
staged the bombing of one cleric's home in a campaign to turn the country's Islamic
religious community against Mossadegh's government.
- The shah's cowardice nearly killed the C.I.A. operation. Fearful of risking his throne,
the Shah repeatedly refused to sign C.I.A.-written royal decrees to change the government.
The agency arranged for the shah's twin sister, Princess Ashraf Pahlevi, and Gen. H.
Norman Schwarzkopf, the father of the Desert Storm commander, to act as intermediaries to
try to keep him from wilting under pressure. He still fled the country just before the