People make their way on a sidewalk in downtown Tehran, Iran, Monday, July 30, 2018. Iran's currency has dropped to a record low ahead of the imposition of renewed American sanctions, with many fearing prolonged economic suffering or possible civil unrest. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)
With Eric Westervelt (@Ericnpr)
Automobiles, gold, steel. The Trump administration reimposes financial sanctions on Iran, with those on oil to come. Where might this hard-line policy lead?
Thomas Erdbrink, Tehran bureau chief for The New York Times. (@ThomasErdbrink)
Reuel Marc Gerecht, senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Former director of the Middle East Initiative at the Project for the New American Century and Middle East specialist at the CIA’s Directorate of Operations.
Jarrett Blanc, senior fellow in the Geoeconomics and Strategy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Former State Department coordinator for Iran nuclear implementation at the U.S. Department of State under President Obama, where he was responsible for the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program. (@JarrettBlanc)
New York Times: "Protests Pop Up Across Iran, Fueled by Daily Dissatisfaction" — "Across Iran’s heartland, from the sweltering heat of its southern cities to the bustling capital, protesters have taken to the streets with increasing intensity in recent months, much to the satisfaction of the Trump administration, which is hoping the civil unrest will put pressure on Iranian leaders.
"Some demonstrations — about the weak economy, strict Islamic rules, water shortages, religious disputes, local grievances — have turned deadly. The protesters have shouted harsh slogans against clerical leaders and their policies. The events are broadly shared on social media and on the dozens of Persian language satellite channels beaming into the Islamic republic.
"On Thursday, protests were held in the cities of Arak, Isfahan, Karaj and Shiraz, as people — in numbers ranging in the hundreds, perhaps more — took to the streets, chanting slogans like “death to high prices,” but also criticizing top officials. A smaller protest was held in Tehran, where some people were arrested, according to videos taken at the scene."
The Weekly Standard: "The Preeminent Challenge: For President Trump and His Foreign Polic..." — "The biggest foreign-policy challenge before Donald Trump isn’t North Korea, where the usual pattern of diplomacy and deception persists. Nor is it Russia; it doesn’t have the muscle to take on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which isn’t dead yet. Nor is the most imminent problem China, which doesn’t have the navy and air force to tempt fate in the South and East China Seas. It will one day really challenge the United States and East Asia’s democratic and anti-Chinese authoritarian states—the type of fascist confrontation that could lead to carnage—but Washington probably has years to check Beijing’s ambitions.
"The most troublesome, immediate challenge comes from Iran. Trump’s decision to walk away from his predecessor’s deeply flawed arms-control agreement will likely soon consume the administration’s attention since, depending on what the mullahs do, war may once more be on the horizon. If the president fails to corral the clerics and the Revolutionary Guards through sanctions and the threat of force, the reverberations will surely weaken, if not gut, the administration’s capacity to play hardball elsewhere. Barack Obama punted the Iranian nuclear problem down the road slightly (and didn’t really pivot to Asia). Trump has probably eliminated the possibility of punting. He now may have to deal with Iran more decisively than his predecessors."
The Trump administration is reimposing economic sanctions on Iran, putting new pressure on the Shiite power and fraying relations with European allies. In a tweet the president today warned, "Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!" Others worry Trump's hard-line policy will only worsen regional and world tensions.
This hour, On Point: America and Iran — the way forward.
— Eric Westervelt
This program aired on August 7, 2018. http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2018/08/07/us-iran-sanctions
The 1953 Iranian coup d'état, known in Iran as the 28 Mordad coup d'état (Persian: کودتای ۲۸ مرداد), was the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in favour of strengthening the monarchical rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on 19 August 1953, orchestrated by the United Kingdom (under the name "Operation Boot") and the United States (under the name TPAJAX Project or "Operation Ajax").
Mossadegh had sought to audit the documents of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), a British corporation (now part of BP) and to limit the company's control over Iranian oil reserves. Upon the refusal of the AIOC to co-operate with the Iranian government, the parliament (Majlis) voted to nationalize Iran's oil industry and to expel foreign corporate representatives from the country. After this vote, Britain instigated a worldwide boycott of Iranian oil to pressure Iran economically. Initially, Britain mobilized its military to seize control of the British-built Abadan oil refinery, then the world's largest, but Prime Minister Clement Attlee opted instead to tighten the economic boycott while using Iranian agents to undermine Mosaddegh's government. Judging Mosaddegh to be unreliable and fearing a Communist takeover in Iran, UK prime minister Winston Churchill and the Eisenhower administration decided to overthrow Iran's government, though the predecessor Truman administration had opposed a coup, fearing the precedent that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) involvement would set. British intelligence officials′ conclusions and the UK government′s solicitations were instrumental in initiating and planning the coup, despite the fact that the U.S. government in 1952 had been considering unilateral action (without UK support) to assist the Mosaddegh government. In August 2013, sixty years afterward, the U.S. government formally acknowledged the U.S. role in the coup by releasing a bulk of previously classified government documents that show it was in charge of both the planning and the execution of the coup, including the bribing of Iranian politicians, security and army high-ranking officials, as well as pro-coup propaganda. The CIA is quoted acknowledging the coup was carried out "under CIA direction" and "as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government".
Following the coup in 1953, a government under General Fazlollah Zahedi was formed which allowed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran (Persian for an Iranian king), to rule more firmly as monarch. He relied heavily on United States support to hold on to power. According to the CIA's declassified documents and records, some of the most feared mobsters in Tehran were hired by the CIA to stage pro-Shah riots on 19 August. Other CIA-paid men were brought into Tehran in buses and trucks, and took over the streets of the city. Between 200 and 300 people were killed because of the conflict. Mosaddegh was arrested, tried and convicted of treason by the Shah's military court. On 21 December 1953, he was sentenced to three years in jail, then placed under house arrest for the remainder of his life. Other Mosaddegh supporters were imprisoned, and several received the death penalty. After the coup, the Shah continued his rule as monarch for the next 26 years until he was overthrown in the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
As a condition for restoring the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, in 1954 the U.S. required removal of the AIOC's monopoly; five American petroleum companies, Royal Dutch Shell, and the Compagnie Française des Pétroles, were to draw Iran's petroleum after the successful coup d'état—Operation Ajax. The Shah declared this to be a "victory" for Iranians, with the massive influx of money from this agreement resolving the economic collapse from the last three years, and allowing him to carry out his planned modernization projects.
As part of that, the CIA organized anti-Communist guerrillas to fight the Tudeh Party if they seized power in the chaos of Operation Ajax. Released National Security Archive documents showed that Undersecretary of State Walter Bedell Smith reported that the CIA had agreed with Qashqai tribal leaders, in south Iran, to establish a clandestine safe haven from which U.S.-funded guerrillas and spies could operate.
Operation Ajax's formal leader was senior CIA officer Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., while career agent Donald Wilber was the operational leader, planner, and executor of the deposition of Mosaddegh. The coup d'état depended on the impotent Shah's dismissing the popular and powerful Prime Minister and replacing him with General Fazlollah Zahedi, with help from Colonel Abbas Farzanegan—a man agreed upon by the British and Americans after determining his anti-Soviet politics.
The CIA sent Major General Norman Schwarzkopf Sr. to persuade the exiled Shah to return to rule Iran. Schwarzkopf trained the security forces that would become known as SAVAK to secure the shah's hold on power.
The coup was carried out by the U.S. administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower in a covert action advocated by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and implemented under the supervision of his brother Allen Dulles, the Director of Central Intelligence. The coup was organized by the United States' CIA and the United Kingdom's MI6, two spy agencies that aided royalists and royalist elements of the Iranian army. Much of the money was channeled through the pro-Shah Ayatollah Mohammad Behbahani, who drew many religious masses to the plot. Ayatollah Kashani had completely turned on Mossadegh and supported the Shah, by this point.
According to a heavily redacted CIA document released to the National Security Archive in response to a Freedom of Information request, "Available documents do not indicate who authorized CIA to begin planning the operation, but it almost certainly was President Eisenhower himself. Eisenhower biographer Stephen Ambrose has written that the absence of documentation reflected the President's style."
The CIA document then quotes from the Ambrose biography of Eisenhower:
Before going into the operation, Ajax had to have the approval of the President. Eisenhower participated in none of the meetings that set up Ajax; he received only oral reports on the plan; and he did not discuss it with his Cabinet or the NSC. Establishing a pattern he would hold to throughout his Presidency, he kept his distance and left no documents behind that could implicate the President in any projected coup. But in the privacy of the Oval Office, over cocktails, he was kept informed by Foster Dulles, and he maintained a tight control over the activities of the CIA.
CIA officer Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., the grandson of former President Theodore Roosevelt, carried out the operation planned by CIA agent Donald Wilber. One version of the CIA history, written by Wilber, referred to the operation as TPAJAX.
During the coup, Roosevelt and Wilber, representatives of the Eisenhower administration, bribed Iranian government officials, reporters, and businessmen. They also bribed street thugs to support the Shah and oppose Mosaddegh. The deposed Iranian leader, Mosaddegh, was taken to jail and Iranian General Fazlollah Zahedi named himself prime minister in the new, pro-western government.
Another tactic Roosevelt admitted to using was bribing demonstrators into attacking symbols of the Shah, while chanting pro-Mossadegh slogans. As king, the Shah was largely seen as a symbol of Iran at the time by many Iranians and monarchists. Roosevelt declared that the more that these agents showed their hate for the Shah and attacked his symbols, the more it caused the average Iranian citizen to dislike and distrust Mossadegh.
The overthrow of Iran's elected government in 1953 ensured Western control of Iran's petroleum resources and prevented the Soviet Union from competing for Iranian oil. Some Iranian clerics cooperated with the western spy agencies because they were dissatisfied with Mosaddegh's secular government.
While the broad outlines of the operation are known, "...the C.I.A.'s records were widely thought by historians to have the potential to add depth and clarity to a famous but little-documented intelligence operation," reporter Tim Weiner wrote in The New York Times 29 May 1997.
"The Central Intelligence Agency, which has repeatedly pledged for more than five years to make public the files from its secret mission to overthrow the government of Iran in 1953, said today that it had destroyed or lost almost all the documents decades ago."
A historian who was a member of the C.I.A. staff in 1992 and 1993 said in an interview today that the records were obliterated by "a culture of destruction" at the agency. The historian, Nick Cullather, said he believed that records on other major cold war covert operations had been burned, including those on secret missions in Indonesia in the 1950s and a successful C.I.A.-sponsored coup in Guyana in the early 1960s. "Iran—there's nothing", Mr. Cullather said. "Indonesia—very little. Guyana—that was burned."
Donald Wilber, one of the CIA officers who planned the 1953 coup in Iran, wrote an account titled, Clandestine Service History Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran: November 1952 – August 1953. Wilber said one goal of the coup was to strengthen the Shah.
In early August, the C.I.A. stepped up the pressure. Iranian operatives pretending to be Communists threatened Muslim leaders with "savage punishment if they opposed Mossadegh," seeking to stir anti-Communist sentiment in the religious community.
In addition, the secret history says, the house of at least one prominent Muslim was bombed by C.I.A. agents posing as Communists. It does not say whether anyone was hurt in this attack.
The agency was also intensifying its propaganda campaign. A leading newspaper owner was granted a personal loan of about $45,000, "in the belief that this would make his organ amenable to our purposes."
But the shah remained intransigent. In a 1 August meeting with General Norman Schwarzkopf, he refused to sign the C.I.A.-written decrees firing Mr. Mossadegh and appointing General Zahedi. He said he doubted that the army would support him in a showdown.
In a January 1973 telephone conversation made public in 2009, U.S. President Richard Nixon told CIA Director Richard Helms, who was awaiting Senate confirmation to become the new U.S. Ambassador to Iran, that Nixon wanted Helms to be a "regional ambassador" to Persian Gulf oil states, and noted that Helms had been a schoolmate of Shah Reza Pahlavi.
In August 2013, on the sixtieth anniversary of the coup, the U.S. government released documents showing they were involved in staging the coup. The documents also describe the motivations behind the coup and the strategies used to stage it. The UK had sought to censor information regarding its role in the coup; a significant number of documents about the coup still remained classified. The release of the declassified documents, which marked the first U.S. official acknowledgement of its role, was seen as a goodwill gesture on the part of the Obama administration.
In June 2017, the United States State Department's Office of the Historian released its revised historical account of the event. The volume of historical records "focuses on the evolution of U.S. thinking on Iran as well as the U.S. Government covert operation that resulted in Mosadeq's overthrow on August 19, 1953". Though some of the relevant records were destroyed long ago, the release contains a collection of roughly 1,000 pages, only a small number of which remain classified. One revalation is that the CIA "attempted to call off the failing coup but was salvaged by an insubordinate spy."