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Six Myths about the Coup against Iran's Mossadegh

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tags: Iran, shah, Mossadegh



Morgan Carlston is an MA candidate in Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography from Macalester College, and blogs on Iran and the Middle East at Persophilia.blogspot.com.

The United States government, namely the CIA, is often blamed for the August 1953 coup removing Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh from power, however a careful examination of older studies, in addition to newly accessible information, reveal that common conceptions of the events and chronology are flawed, despite their prevalence.

One reason why these misconception exist is that many files from US government sources relating to this time period, and in particular to this event, remain classified or are otherwise inaccessible (most CIA documents regarding the events have allegedly been destroyed). Under United States law, special exceptions can be made allowing documents to be classified for 50 or 75 years rather than the normal 25 years. It has now been over 60 years since the events took place. This means that on at least two occasions, the documents have been determined to be too sensitive to release.

More documents regarding this series of events will be revealed later this year, when the State Department’s FRUS (Foreign Relations of the United States) Iran 1952-54 is re-released including newly declassified documents. While imperfect, these documents are the most reliable and most accessible. It is important see these documents (as well as those previously released) in context, and to correct widespread misconceptions about the coup and the parties involved.

These misconceptions are problematic because of how they have engrained themselves into our understanding of the events. The preeminent scholar of Iran, Richard Cottam—who himself lived in Iran for many years and was an employee of the CIA as well as the State Department—wrote in the 1960s edition of ‘Nationalism in Iran” (also included in the 2nd edition published in 1979) that "The distortions of the Mossadegh era, both in the press and in academic studies, border on the grotesque.”

Since this time there have been many new accounts, ranging from Kermit Roosevelt’s fundamentally flawed yet influential memoir ‘Countercoup’, to the scholarly work of Mark Gasiorowski, to Stephen Kinzer’s highly popular “All the Shah’s Men” and the most recent revisionist histories of Dariush Bayandor and Ray Takeyh. Though the academic work is considerably more accurate than that of Roosevelt and Kinzer, there are still significant errors in both traditional and revisionist narratives, which have affected the mainstream understanding of this monumental event. ...

Read entire article at The National Interest


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