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Operation Ajax of 1953 and Its Effect on American-Iranian Relations

The paper focuses on the events of the 1953 in Iran known as the coup d’etat or Ajax. There is analysis of all the interested political forces involved. The American, British, and Soviet influence and intervention in domestic affairs of Iran before and after the operation Ajax are studied in the paper. The paper also discusses the final outcomes of the US assisted military coup on the political and economical life of Iran. The research paper also discuses the further relations between the countries involved in the coup, especially the American-Iranian relations after the putsch.

Keywords: coup d’etat, operation Ajax of 1953, American-Iranian relations, military intervention Defining Operation Ajax or Coup d’Etat (1953) Being a country rich in oil as well as many other natural sources, Iran served as the focal point in the foreign affairs and politics of the developed countries. American-Iranian relations have been greatly influenced by Iran’s coup d’Etat. The seemingly remote events which took place in Iran in 1953 are still echoing in the politics and international relations of the both countries.

Even though the US military intervention in the Iranian politics was presented as assistance of a democratic country, the tension and conflicts of these two countries never seemed to cease ever since. Being major organization in any international affairs as well as the first to solve any military issues, CIA’s participation was inevitable. Quasi-democratic plan of the United States to assist such developing country as Iran, resulted in overthrow of one of the most influential figures of the word of the 19th century, Mohammed Mossadeq, whose name was mentioned as often as the names of Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Winston Churchill.

Thesis: Operation Ajax of 1953 was a turning point of American-Iranian relations pulling up a “curtain” of coldness and political misunderstanding between the two countries for the next several decades. The events prior the actual deposition of Iranian government were such as leading to a conflict between the two countries exacerbating the economical tension in Iran. According to Mokhtari (2008), the events of 1953 “had their origins in circumstances brought to Iran in WWII, but also in a subterranean political disagreement that had plagued Iran for at least two centuries”.

(p. 457). The political debates in the country were led by nationalists and traditionalists. However, the earlier political and economical interventions of the foreign countries divided the country into Russian and British zones of influence. Britain took a very convenient economical position in Iran and was satisfied with what it was getting from the reach sources of Iran oil. The USA was changing their strategic planning concerning Iran. Remaining a partner to Britain on public, America was trying to take British position in Iran.

On August 19, 1953 democratic Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadeq, was deposed with the help of American armed forces. Iranian leader nationalist Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi replaced the deposed Prime Minister privatizing earlier nationalized Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. His 25-year long totalitarian regime was strongly supported by the US government foreign policy. In 1953 the country was on the verge of economical stagnation while the American conspiracy groups in Iran were spreading their claws into social sphere of life very quickly.

Different provocations of violence on the streets as well as broadcasting false information spreading hostile and chaos among the people was one of the dirty techniques used by the USA (Mokhtari, 2008, p. 458). These and other actions together with the operation Ajax undermined Mossadeq’s reputation and influenced his image as political leader of the country. People of Iran who were frightened by the riots and instability of the country played very important role in decisions made by their own government as well as other countries’ political forces.

According to Abrahamian (1968), the crowd in Iranian politics played the central role as it was too powerful lever: instrumental in carrying through a Constitutional Revolution and in winning the Civil War, in struggling against the Imperial Powers and in defeating the Anglo-Persian agreement of 1919, in preserving the Monarchy, and in preventing the establishment of Republic in 1924; and between I94I and I953 it was the main weapon of the Tudeh Party and of the National Front, providing with them a lever by which they could put pressure upon the decision-makers (pp. 191-192).

Politically America won from such a political shift in such a far away country as Iran. British control of Iranian oil loosened and its production shares were reduced to 40 %, while the Americans took control over the country’s oil sources in their hands and got 40 % of oil as well. The rest 20% of the natural resource was divided between the French and Dutch companies (Everest, 2007). While the people of Iran got really nothing from such a redistribution of power, nor did they got any profit from the oil resources of their own country, the America won the best prize.

Inability of Mossadeq to solve the dispute over the oil led the American government to the decision of his dismissal. Mokharti (2008) claims, that role of Iran’s King Muhammad Reza Pahlavi in the affair under the codename TP-AJAX or Ajax was very limited. The two organizations which were to carry out the plan were the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) or, sometimes referred to as, MI6. Operation AJAX viewed from American and Soviet Perspectives The attention of the United States had been attracted to Iran right after the moment American troops arrived into the state.

The situation changed in September 1942. During those times the state started to gather the means of gaining influence over the Iranian government. Being fully aware that Iran was the strategic point in US-Soviet controversy, the US issued the memorandum that stated that it is advisable for the United States to send a “military mission to Iran” (Ailing). The main object of the military mission was to check any internal plots that might have had a place in Iran. The placement of the American forces in Iran is not occasional when to take into account the strategic position of the region.

In fact, both military and civilian planners considered more seriously Iran’s post-war strategic importance to the West. The article by Habib Ladjevardi “The Origins of U. S. Support for an Autocratic Iran” states that it was according to the US military plan to take the territory of Iran under their control. Iran’s geographic position also mattered (it should be taken into consideration that Iran was bordering Russia on the north). In the case of war Iran could serve an important strategic location for the US.

Taking into control this location will enable Iran “to start bombing either the Russian oil fields in the north or the British oil fields in the south” (Ladjevardi, 1983, p. 376). In the post-war period Iran’s location also was an important point that could be used for transiting landing facilities for the various world airway projects. These inescapable factors gave Iran an international importance. All these factors are the main reason why the United States was so interested in handling the Iranian case. Operation AJAX viewed from American Perspective

Operation AJAX, known as the coup d’tat, was implemented at the height of the Cold War. Consequently, the controversy in Iran must have had its specific impact on the cold War. Maziar Behrooz in his article “Tudeh Factionalism and the 1953 Coup in Iran” supports the idea that Iranian coup should be viewed as definitely Cold War event and supports his point with a number of familiar justifications. In this perception, Maziar Behrooz’s research regards the Operation AJAX from the international perspective. The proof of this statement is Maziar Behrooz’s mentioning the fact of oil-nationalization crisis between Iran and Britain.

It should be mentioned, however, this event had a strong impact on then pattern of international events. If not solved, the crisis situation in Iran meant “the improbability of any resolution to the oil-nationalization crisis between Iran and Britain”. In fact, as long as Musaddiq remained in power, US were not able to control the situation. The situation was aggravated by the fact that the crisis situation in Iran developed under the circumstances of the Cold War. Maziar Behrooz goes so far as to say that the crisis Iran should be perceived as an important point of Cold War controversy.

Failure to response meant that the US will lose a battle in the Cold War. The author descirbes the situation in the following manner: the communist threat was posed by the Tudeh Party of Iran and its Soviet sponsor. The long-term consequence of this intervention can partially explain the 1979 revolution in Iran and the ongoing crisis in Iran-U. S. relations. (p. 366) The events in Iran received its evaluation in Mark Gasiorowski’s studies. He states that the events of 1953 were primarily aimed at making the analysis of the overall U. S. role in the coup.

Contrary to Maziar Behrooz, who viewed Iran crisis from the perspective of Cold War controversy, Mark Gasiorowski pays more attention to providing the reader with the detailed and technical account of CIA operations in Iran. The importance examination of the events took place in Iran. This examination provides an understanding of the general level of CIA involvement in the country. Specifically, Mark Gasiorowski’s research covers such important points as the extent of CIA involvement in vilifying the Tudeh, and the role the CIA played in staging fake prorepublican demonstrations during the crucial 16-19 August 1953 period.

In general, Mark Gasiorowski gave the reader an idea of the extent of CIA penetration into the Tudeh political party. Mark Gasiorowski’s observation is very important for the research as it gives a detailed evaluation of US actions in Iran. According to Gasiorowski, the CIA penetration in Iran can be evaluated as rather high when compared to the penetration made by the other actors. Gasiorowski also attributes the Tudeh party’s defeat in terms of a high level of CIA penetration in the state. Returning to Maziar Behrooz’s research we can see that this researcher covers more of an international aspect of the event in Iran.

He even makes a remark that “Tuden exerted considerable influence in Iran while occupying the country during the World War II, and they had some influence on the Tudeh at its inception” (p. 367). It is worth mentioning that Maziar Behrooz’s research gives a detailed account of Soviet involvement in the case which he sees from the perspective of the Cold War controversy. Specifically, he mentions the name of Rustam Aliev, a Soviet diplomat, who had many contacts with the party and influenced its development. Aliev was a close ally of Ja’far Baqirov, the chief of the Soviet Azerbaijan communist party, who in his turn was close to Lavrenti P.

Beria, the head of Narodnyi Komitet Vnutrenyh Del (NKVD; People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) under Stalin. Maziar Behrooz’s research signifies Baqirov as an important player in the Iranian-Azerbaijan crisis of 1945-46. Baqirov demise after Beria’s arrest following Stalin’s death negatively affected the strength of the Tudeh, which was largely supported by the USSR which viewed the crisis in Iran as “the citadel of victorious proletarian revolution. ” (p. 368). From the Soviet policy perspective, the case of Iran has somewhat different view.

Maziar Behrooz’s research presents the analysis of the relations in the state from communists’ point of view. His observation of the controversial forces make him draw a conclusion that “both factions believed that the party had to observe and respect its internationalist duties by coordinating the party’s policies with those of the Soviet Union” (p. 369). Furthermore, it should be noted that as long as Stalin was alive, the Soviet Communist Party (CPSU) had a very strong influence on Iranian policy. The situation changed with the death of the great Soviet leader.

This death weakened Soviet position on international arena. This event was largely attributed to the crisis situation within the Soviet leadership (Stalin’s death was followed by a long struggle for power in the state). Maziar Behrooz makes a remark that Soviet Communist Party (CPSU) demanded “discipline and obedience from fraternal parties around the world” (p. 369). The Tudeh generally supported the Soviet policies in Iran and around the world. Maziar Behrooz draws reader’s attention to the fact that Iran was a mere tool in the hands of politicians of Soviet Union.

This fact is one more reason to view the Iranian conflict as an a turning point of the Cold War. Under the circumstances like these it is not a big wonder that the crisis situation in the state led to a long-term coldness in the relationships between the US and Iran. Maziar Behrooz’s idea of Iran as the tool of Soviets was not occasional. To prove his statement the researcher delves deeply into the nature of Tudeh factions relations with the Soviet Union. The researcher pays particular importance to the political figures, who played a significant role in the Iranian events.

An interesting fact that was also noted by Maziar Behrooz is that Iranian leader themselves acknowledged their role as tools in the course of the Iranian conflict. The following passage take from Maziar Behrooz should be regarded as a kind of hint that threw the light on the nature of Soviet-Iranian relations: “Kishawarz accused the Soviets of misusing the trust and admiration the Tudeh had for the October revolution and the Soviet Union” (p. 368). According to him, “By misusing the belief we and the majority of party members honestly had in internationalism, the CPSU forced its operatives and spies on its ‘fraternal party.

” Kishawarz suggested that through Soviet support these operatives rose in party ranks “until they reached high party posts and gradually changed the Tudeh party of Iran into a tool of the Soviet Union’s policy in Iran. When speaking about Operation Ajax of 1953, we should not underestimate its value as the event that defined a further course of the Cold War. In general, Tudeh’s relationship with the Soviet Union during this crucial period is largely defined by the processes that took place within the Soviet Union. According to Maziar Behrooz, “the Soviet state was living through the period of crisis.

This crisis paralyzed the party leadership role while confronting the 1953 coup. ” (p. 370) A particular role in the crisis is attributed to Joseph Stalin died in March 1953, about five months before the coup in Iran. After Stalin’s death the Soviet Union had to live through the difficult period of “de-Stalinization” of the CPSU. (p. 370) During this period, the CPSU was making an attempt to consolidate power between two different groups that actually functioned in the state. One group concentrated around Georgy M. Malenkov and Nikita S. Khrushchev.

The unstable situation in the Soviet Union largely defined the outcome of Iranian’s crisis. The political struggle for leadership in the Soviet Union largely undermined its chances for victory in Iran. Instead of focusing on Iran, Soviets had to spend more time and energy on its domestic affairs. Failure of the Soviet Union to pay attention to the International issues provided an excellent opportunity for the proponents of the coup in Iran to take advantage over their old competitor, the Soviet Union, which was temporary forced to preoccupy with its internal affairs.

In general, the situation in the Soviet Union was largely disadvantageous to the Tudeh, which depended on and expected Soviet leadership to support their power in the state. Lack of Soviet influence and support largely contributed to the failure of the Tudeh’s regime to gain power in the state. Strategic Importance of Iran After the WWII and especially during the Cold War between the communist Soviet Union and the burocratic United States, the strategic and rich is oil country such as Iran was a very valuable ally not only for these two but for other developed countries.

Abundance of Iranian inexpensive oil was one of the major resources of normal functioning of the developed European countries. Moreover, in case of WWIII this ally would be even more valuable with its natural resource, oil. The soviet interventions in the Far East countries was threatening and proving the great power of this totalitarian country. It was not so desire to spread democracy of the Americans and not the desire to control one of the major sources of natural oil, but gaining more reputation and taking more zones of influence that really mattered to the USA (Gavin, 1999).

The threat represented in the form of the Soviet Union was ever growing and loss of such strategic territory as Iran would play against the Unites States. Both the soviets and the American knew that Iran was easy to seize because of political and economical instability. Besides, the soviets had gained some popularity by that time and one of the proofs of their popularity was the Commun ist Tudeh Party functioning in Iran (Behrooz, 2001, p. 376). In order to “protect” Iran from the communists’ intervention, the US government decided to intervene first.

Such a strategic and political step as organization and carrying out of coup d’etat in Iran was very risky, because it could have lead to the beginning of the WWIII, which fortunately did not happen. Truman administration knew very well that Iran, being part of the Middle East, was only second after Europe strategic important country in case of war with the Soviet Union. At first, it was agreed with the UK that the country will be protecting Iran. However, later such a plan was changed as it deemed not trustworthy.

The United States’ position as a protector looked like a mild aggressor which was trying to take over the strategic territory hiding under the mask of democracy and defensive mission (Gavin, 1999). Heads of the US government were also not sure whether they were ready and willing to offer a military protection to Iran against the soviet intervention. One of the major arguments of the American policymakers on this account was that they did not have sufficient armed forces for defense of Iran. At the same time, a conflict escalating to the size of world war was not the goal of the American government. Conclusion

Thus, further dictatorship of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was under the US influence as well as with its assistance. Soviet influence in Iran fell, at least, for the period of Reza Pahlavi’s running the country. However, level of corruption under the new ruler dramatically rose. Most of the Iranians tend to think that the major source of their social and economical problems was the USA. The instability of the social life shook trust of Iranian people in Americans’ readiness for assistance and support of their country. Moreover, religious nation was appalled by the problems and evils the Americans brought to their country.

Only in 1979 Iranian leader was changed. Ayatollah Khomeini became a leader of Islamic Revolution and a new head of Iranian government. Today’s confrontation between the US and Iran seems to be less critical, but not less crucial, in American-Iranian relations. Obviously, there has been some improvement in the American-Iranian relations during the recent years. However, the political and religious tension between the two countries never seems to cease. A couple of negotiations between the US and Iran were carried out in strenuous conditions. The outcomes of the coup are far reaching and have done much for the democratization of the country.

However, the military putsch had greatly influenced American-Iranian relations and distanced the two countries one from the other. Resources “Ailing” (September 4, 1942), RG-59, Numerical File 891. 00/1914, NA “CIA and the Ajax coup. ” The New York Times on the Web. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from http://www. nytimes. com/library/world/mideast/041600iran-cia-index. html “US. Military Missions to Iran, 1943-1978: The Political Economy of Military Assistance. ” (Summer-Autumn 1979). Iranian Studies 12. Abrahamian, Ervand. (December 1968). “The crowd in Iranian Politics, 1905-1953. ” Past and Present 41: 184-210.

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