Who is pulling the strings?

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History has a habit of turning on an event not a process. However, those turning points do create a process.

Newly declassified documents absolutely prove that the US government, through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), staged a coup and overthrew the only almost-democratic government Iran has ever had. “Operation Ajax” was about keeping Iranian oil under control of the West, particularly the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., now British Petroleum (BP).

The Arabian-American Oil Co. in Saudi Arabia bowed to government pressure in late-1950 to share profits with Riyadh. Popularly elected Iranian Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadegh in 1951 nationalized Anglo-Iranian Oil. Great Britain refused payment and asked the US for help. On August 19, 1953, with the aid of crowds widely believed to have been gathered with CIA assistance, the coup succeeded. Iran’s nationalist hero was jailed and the absolute power of a Western-friendly Shah of Iran was restored. The Iranian military was co-opted and the rest is history.

However, BP never got the oil back as the nationalistic feelings roused by Mossadegh were too strong even for the Shah to stop. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini used that fervor against the Shah, who was exiled, and eventually returned to power years later. Now we can say that the rest is history.

But part of the “history” involved Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani, a cleric and leading political figure in the 1950s who died in 1967. Kashani has always been seen as a hero of Iranian nationalism, including this year, when we was again praised as being a leader for bringing the oil back to Iranians. He broke with Mossadegh because he felt the Prime Minister was too close to the communist Tudeh Party.

The recent CIA documents also revealed that suspicions about Kashani’s ties to the US were closer than previously thought, even asking the CIA for money. Abbas Milani, a professor of Iranian studies at Stanford University, wrote, “Kashani was critical. Kashani’s forces were out in full force to defeat Mossadegh.”

In August 2013, 60 years after the coup, the CIA did admit that it was in charge of both the planning and the execution, including the bribing of Iranian politicians, security and high-ranking military officials, as well as providing pro-coup propaganda. But what the recent documents reveal is that the CIA and the British tried to stop the coup believing that Mossadegh was winning.

The coup took all of four days from the first protest march to Mossadegh being removed and jailed by the military. While supposedly done “in the name of and for the benefit of the people”—according to retired General Fazlollah Zahedi—the people for the most part did not have a clue what was going on both in front of and behind the scenes.

The United States government has a similar record in Chile, Guatemala, Congo, Dominican Republic, South Vietnam and Brazil, and these are only the ones we positively know about. When events start going weird and people are asking the question “Who is pulling the strings?”, Uncle Sam’s name comes up far too often.

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