Operation Ajax: The CIA's Covert Coup in Iran

Operation Ajax: The CIA's Covert Coup in Iran

Okay Monkeys, you may be noticing a trend in my blogs. It is my goal to write about the history of our intelligence agencies in an effort to open peoples eyes about the shadow government that has been shaping the outcomes around the world. 

Operation Ajax, also known as the 1953 Iranian coup d'état, remains one of the most controversial and significant events in the history of U.S. foreign interventions. It marked the first time the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) orchestrated the overthrow of a foreign government. This covert operation had far-reaching consequences for Iran, the Middle East, and U.S.-Iranian relations. This blog post will delve into the intricate details of Operation Ajax, including its key players and the information that has come to light over the years.

The Prelude to the Coup 

In the early 1950s, Iran was experiencing a surge of nationalist sentiment. Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, a charismatic and popular leader, spearheaded the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry. Previously controlled by the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), this move threatened Western economic interests and triggered a crisis. 

Britain, losing a significant source of revenue, sought U.S. assistance in reversing Mossadegh's actions. The British government, alarmed by the potential spread of Soviet influence in Iran amid the Cold War, found a willing partner in the United States.

 Key Players

1. **Mohammad Mossadegh**: The democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mossadegh was a nationalist who sought to reduce foreign influence in Iran and improve its economy by nationalizing the oil industry.

2. **Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi**: The young and relatively weak monarch of Iran, the Shah initially had a turbulent relationship with Mossadegh but later became a pivotal figure in the coup.

3. **Kermit Roosevelt Jr.**: A senior CIA officer and grandson of former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, Roosevelt played a central role in orchestrating the coup on the ground in Iran.

4. **Allen Dulles**: The Director of Central Intelligence at the time, Dulles was instrumental in planning and approving the operation.

5. **Winston Churchill**: The British Prime Minister, Churchill was a driving force behind Britain's push to regain control over Iranian oil and supported the coup.

The Execution of Operation Ajax

Approved by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953, Operation Ajax was a meticulously planned covert operation. Kermit Roosevelt Jr. arrived in Tehran to coordinate the efforts, which included propaganda, bribery, and orchestrating protests.

**Phase One: Destabilization**

- The CIA launched a propaganda campaign to undermine Mossadegh's popularity. They spread false information and painted Mossadegh as a communist sympathizer, a dangerous label during the Cold War.

- Key political and military figures were bribed to support the coup. This included members of the Iranian parliament, military officers, and influential clerics.

**Phase Two: The Coup Attempt**

- On August 15, 1953, the initial coup attempt failed when Mossadegh got wind of the plans and arrested the conspirators.

- Despite this setback, Roosevelt and his team regrouped. Using the Shah's signed dismissal of Mossadegh and appointment of General Fazlollah Zahedi as Prime Minister, they persisted.

- On August 19, 1953, a second coup attempt succeeded. Pro-Shah military units took to the streets, clashing with Mossadegh's supporters. After intense street battles, Mossadegh's residence was besieged, and he was arrested.


- General Fazlollah Zahedi was installed as Prime Minister, and the Shah returned to Iran with enhanced authority.

- The nationalization of the oil industry was reversed, with Western companies regaining control, albeit under a new consortium agreement.

- The coup solidified the Shah's power, leading to an autocratic regime supported by the U.S. for its anti-communist stance.

 Long-term Consequences

 Operation Ajax had profound and lasting impacts:

1. **Iranian Politics and Society**: The coup led to the consolidation of the Shah's power, resulting in decades of authoritarian rule. The Shah's regime, marked by repression and human rights abuses, eventually fueled widespread discontent, culminating in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

2. **U.S.-Iran Relations**: The intervention left a deep-seated resentment among Iranians toward the U.S., contributing to the anti-American sentiment that persists to this day.

3. **Middle Eastern Geopolitics**: The success of Operation Ajax emboldened the CIA, setting a precedent for future interventions in the Middle East and beyond (eg Arab Spring, ISIL, etc). 



Operation Ajax remains a pivotal moment in the history of U.S. foreign policy and Iranian history. Understanding this event is crucial for grasping the dynamics of current U.S.-Iran relations and the broader context of Middle Eastern politics. As more information continues to surface, the story of Operation Ajax reminds us of the far-reaching impacts of covert operations by a rogue agency. 

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