Excerpts from the statement of the Central Committee of the Tudeh Party of Iran: 19 August 1953…  70 years on from the coup that subverted democracy in Iran

Excerpts from the Statement of the Central Committee of the Tudeh Party of Iran on the 70th anniversary of the US-British imperialist coup that overthrew the national government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh to subjugate Iran and plunder her oil! 

On 19 August 2023, 70 years will have passed since the US-British imperialist coup that overthrew Mossadegh’s government.  70 years ago, US and British mercenaries blocked-off the path of national and democratic developments in our country with a hail of bullets so that they could turn Iran into their quasi-colony and regional gendarme with the help of the supporters of the notion of monarchy and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as king.

Furthermore, the [1953] coup in Iran and overthrow of Mossadegh’s government is a prominent early example of the “regime change” method of subverting progressive [governments] put into action by US imperialism via its espionage agency, the “CIA” – later implemented also to devastating effect in other parts of the world.

According to Lindsay O’Rourke’s research work, ‘The Strategic Logic of Regime Change: US-Sponsored Regime Change Campaigns During the Cold War’, the US conducted 64 covert and 6 overt regime change attempts during the Cold War years.  Among them were the coup d’état of 19 August 1953 against Mossadegh in Iran; the coup d’état of 1954 and resulting in the overthrow of the leftist government of Jacobo Árbenz in Guatemala; and the bloody coup of General Suharto against the national government of Sukarno in Indonesia and the subsequent massacre of hundreds of thousands of communists throughout that country.  [See: The article “Strategic Logic of Regime Change: US-backed Regime Change Campaigns During the Cold War”, in “Security Studies” magazine, November 29, 2019/2018, pages 92-127].

Contrary to all the Cold War propaganda regarding the “danger of communism” in Iran, one of the main goals of the coup and its plotters was to dominate Iranian oil and take advantage of Iran’s strategic position in the Persian Gulf region and neighbourhood of the Soviet Union.

Historical context of the 1953 coup d’état

The growth of the labour movement and the working-class party of Iran, the Tudeh Party of Iran, and the organised movement towards the nationalisation of Iranian oil – which seriously threatened the interests of British and US imperialism – were among the decisive factors in the decision of those two governments to organise of the coup in Iran and the overthrow of Mossadegh’s government.

After the popular movement culminating on 22 July 1952 [when the shah was forced to re-appoint Mossadegh as prime minister following several days of mass demonstrations against his dismissal], the US and British governments came to the conclusion that it would not be possible to remove Mossadegh from his position without a full-blown coup against him.  According to numerous research writings – including the books ‘The Coup’ and ‘Iran Between Two Revolutions’, both authored by esteemed Professor Ervand Abrahamian, the US and British governments then proceeded to pool their available capacities and resources to organise and then execute a coup against Mossadegh’s government.

The 19 August coup and the role of the Islamic clergy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             In among the collection of CIA documents pertaining to the 1953 coup, which have since been published in book form, the role of the Islamic clergy in helping to realise the coup – especially the key role of Ayatollah Kashani – has been clearly exposed.  According to these documents, Ayatollah Kashani had meetings and discussions not only with the US ambassador, but also with CIA agents in the months leading up to the coup.  As early as 11 August 1952, a CIA agent had visited Kashani at his residence in the Shemiran district of Tehran.  [The interpreter for the meeting was a certain Ardeshir Zahedi – son of General Fazlollah Zahedi, a Nazi collaborator, leader of the coup, and post-coup prime minister.]

Just three weeks after the 1953 coup, Ayatollah Kashani stated in an interview with the Egyptian newspaper, ‘Akhbar el-Yom’, that the coming to power of the coup government was “a reason for [his] rejoice.”  In recent decades, the leaders of the ‘Velayat-e Faqih’ [‘Rule of the Supreme Jurist’] regime, when addressing the events of the 1953 coup, have sought to sanctify the clergy and its own malignant role in the Shah’s suppression of the national popular movement of Iran and have used all their propaganda and resources to this end.

The CIA team which oversaw the organisation of faux demonstrations on 19 August 1953 through several clandestine channels, gave money to Ayatollah Behbahani and tried to convince Ayatollah Borujerdi [both of whom were influential conservative clerics] to raise violent anti-communist mobs.  [See: the book “Mossadegh and the Coup”, written by Gaziorowski and Burn, translated by Murshidzadeh, p. 274].

There is further important evidence of CIA agents being commissioned to organise demonstrations by agents provocateurs under the false flag of the Tudeh Party of Iran and to publish anti-religious slurs and threats in their name, to alienate and scare religious leaders and ordinary people as well as incite public opinion against Mossadegh and his supporters.

The 19 August coup was a grave step backwards to tyranny and [foreign] dependence.  Set against the hitherto monumental political and social developments accompanying the move towards democracy, this coup was the beginning of a dark chapter in the contemporary history of our country, Iran.  By organising and executing this coup, US and British imperialism diverted our country from the process of transformation towards democracy and social progress – and by choosing a mercenary like Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, they laid the foundations for the disaster that we are witnessing in our country today,

After Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was returned to the throne by the US-British-conceived coup, and with the support of reactionary clerics like Kashani, Behbahani, and Borujerdi, he followed a carefully planned program to support the reactionary elements in the clergy, entrench them in their positions, and thereby consolidate the religious foundations of his regime.

With the establishment of the coup government of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iran experienced a 25-year reign of terror and suffocating repression under his notorious secret police and security organisation, the SAVAK – which was inherited, with barely aesthetic changes, by the current regime with the aid of the organisation’s head at the time of the 1979 Revolution, General Hossein Fardoost.

The 19 August coup along with the failure of the popular movement and the nationalisation of the oil industry still hold many important lessons for the progressive and freedom-loving forces of our country.  Foremost among those lessons is that in the absence of the unity of action and close cooperation of the national and left forces, the coup was able to take place and bring about a continuous and lasting disaster in our country.  The experience also underlined that the interference of imperialist countries in Iran’s internal affairs – whether by the US, Britain, or the European Union – has always been detrimental to our national interests and development, and the forces that countenance or attempt to justify such interference are essentially no different from those who conspired with the putschists of 19 August.  A failure to heed these lessons only risks a repeat of past mistakes at the cost of the blood of our country’s courageous freedom fighters, political prisoners, and tortured masses – heroic figures like Dr. Hossein Fatemi, Mossadegh’s trailblazing anti-imperialist foreign minister, apprehended in March 1954 after the detection of his place of refuge, tortured horrifically, and then executed by firing squad.

The time has come for our national and progressive forces to heed and harness the bitter experiences of the past and move forward, unencumbered by dated and obsolete considerations.  Today, Iran stands at the crossroads and it is only through the joint and united action of all patriots and freedom-seekers that the country can be rescued from the reigning theocratic dictatorship, as well as the perils of foreign interference, and the way paved for the establishment of a national democratic government.  For its part, the Tudeh Party of Iran is ready to draw upon every resource at its disposal in this endeavour.


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