Regime change MI6-style

Torab Saleth reviews the online documentary 'Coup 53' which was written, produced and directed by Taghi Amirani

This is a well made documentary about the August 19 1953 British-American coup which overthrew Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, in order to scupper the nationalisation of the oil industry.

Although nothing is revealed that was not already known, it is a well researched piece of investigative work, showing all the main details about this criminal coup - for which the guilty parties have gone unpunished to this day.

Given the recent scandals about the institutional racism which pervades all aspects of life in Britain from the royal family down to the tabloid press, Coup 53 shows once again how the current British ruling class and its state has been built on centuries of world plunder. The oil concession granted to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company by Reza Shah - father of Mohammed Reza - is one of the most shameful examples of an ‘unequal treaty’. Iran only received 16% of net profits and the country’s government was not even granted access to the books in order to see how its pitiful share was calculated. Of course, Reza Shah had been himself placed on the throne after a British-made coup in 1921.

Although the USA has admitted its role on many occasions, the British to this day deny playing any part in the 1953 coup. This documentary, however, proves in no uncertain terms that the British were the main instigators and organisers and, despite later American bravado about taking the lead, in fact, they only played second fiddle. The Americans were basically fooled into joining the coup plot by being fed all the horror stories about how Mosaddegh was just about to hand over the whole country to the Soviet Union. In fact after the first coup attempt, on August 16, which failed miserably mostly because of the inept operational leadership of the CIA’s Kermit Roosevelt Jr, both the shah and the Americans fled.

The plot had been hatched on the basis of an agreement between Winston Churchill and Dwight D Eisenhower to persuade the shah to sign an order replacing Mosaddegh with general Fazlollah Zahedi, a Nazi sympathiser. This would then serve as a basis for the army to take over and shut down parliament. They sent agents to princess Ashraf, twin sister of the shah, to persuade him to sign the order, so that it could then be used as an excuse for the coup.

After the first attempt, British agents led by MI6’s Norman Darbyshire went into action and made a second try - this time without the Americans. The main reason for their success was the part played by ayatollah Abol-Qasem Kashani, a leading Shi’ite cleric - not because of his popular religious base, but because of his influence over mobsters and hoodlums in Tehran. Mobilising what was a rent-a-crowd of petty criminals to go on a rampage in the streets, harassing and attacking people, created chaos, allowing the army to move in and finish the job. Documents have proven that Kashani was in the pay of the British.

As has been the story globally since World War II, after the coup the Americans moved in to take over. They completely dominated the Iranian state right up to the 1979 revolution, when, fearing they could lose everything, they lined up the army and the secret service to fall in behind the religious leadership and crush the revolution - the results of which we are still witnessing today. The success of ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in controlling the revolutionary masses itself resulted from the total bankruptcy of Iranian bourgeois nationalists and the Stalinists in dealing with this coup and its aftermath.

After its success in Iran, US imperialism began a whole series of coups and dirty tricks across the world, wherever they saw their interests threatened - an addiction we see right up to the present. It is no exaggeration to say that US policies towards other countries were shaped by the 1953 coup. Corrupt US-supported dictatorial regimes still play a central role in Middle East politics.

The most vicious secret service in the world, Iran’s Savak, was set up after the coup by the CIA. Day-to-day running was later handed over to the Israelis. It was they who initiated the setting up of an Islamic anti-communist section of Savak. Many of the current leaders of the Iranian regime were closely associated with this section. In other words, the fact that we now have a semi-fascistic, religious dictatorship in Iran is thanks to the US and their outpost in the Middle East, the Zionist colonialist state of Israel.

Some of the successes of the Israeli intelligence service in its dealings with Iran in recent years are related to this earlier work and the network they still have in Iran. Indeed many of the so-called exposés (for example, the atomic file) by the Iranian Mujahedin-e-Khalq organisation, which enjoys the support of US rightwing Republicans, are fed to them by the Israeli intelligence.

The documentary does not, of course, cover everything and perhaps politically it is a bit too pro-Mosaddegh. For example, it does not go into the fact that Mosaddegh at first did not agree with oil nationalisation when it was presented to the 14th session of parliament. Indeed it is now known that he only went ahead with it in the 15th session because of assurances from the Truman administration, which did not support the British plan for a coup. It also does not touch on the treacherous role of the pro-Moscow Tudeh Party, which, in the face of a popular movement for oil nationalisation, was trying to obtain an oil concession for the Soviet Union in the Caspian Sea!

Coup 53 was released in 2019 and, as you can imagine, has faced many distribution problems. Now, at last, it can be viewed (alas with a payment) online via the following site: coup53.com/watch-coup-53

Torab Saleth