“My greatest sin is that I nationalised Iran’s oil industry and discarded the system of political and economic exploitation by the world’s greatest empire.”

–Mohammad Mosaddegh

Persian soldiers chase rioters during civil unrest in Tehran, August 1953.

 

Operation Ajax (1953) (officially TP-AJAX) was a covert operation by the United States CIA in collaborating with the Pahlavi dynasty, to overthrow the elected government of Iran and Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and consolidate the power of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

In planning the operation, the CIA organized a guerrilla force in case the communist Tudeh Party seized power as a result of the chaos created by Operation Ajax. According to formerly “Top Secret” documents released by the National Security Archive, Under Secretary of State Walter Bedell Smith reported that the CIA had reached an agreement with Qashqai tribal leaders in southern Iran to establish a clandestine safe haven from which U.S. funded guerrillas and intelligence agents could operate.

Men associated with Mossadegh and his ideas dominated Iran’s first post-revolutionary government. However, Mosaddegh remains a popular historical figure among Iranian opposition factions. Mosaddegh’s image is one of the symbols of Iran’s opposition movement, also known as the Green Movement.

Only last year declassified documents released after 64 years of the coup shed light on the Central Intelligence Agency’s central role in the 1953 coup that brought down Iranian Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadegh, fueling a surge of nationalism which culminated in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and poisoning U.S.-Iran relations into the 21st century.