It’s Time to Release the Real History of the 1953 Iran CoupRoundup
tags: 1953 Iran Coup
Malcolm Byrne runs a project on U.S.-Iran relations at the nongovernmental National Security Archive based at The George Washington University. The views presented here are his own.
Sixty-three years ago, the CIA and British intelligence fomented a coup d’état that toppled the prime minister of Iran, restored a cooperative shah and strengthened a regional buffer against possible Soviet aggression. It also unwittingly set Iran on a course toward dictatorship and helped inject the 1979 Iranian revolution with an anti-American cast that continues to animate hardline elements within the current regime.
More than six decades later, the coup against Mohammad Mosaddeq and its aftermath are still haunting U.S.-Iran relations. Yet amazingly, Americans do not have access to the full historical record of U.S. involvement in the event, even though much of that record (at least the parts the CIA has not destroyed, by its own admission) is unclassified.
Most recently, John Kerry’s State Department, which has shown real acumen in dealing with Iran, has decided not to release its long-overdue official compilation of internal documents on U.S. diplomacy covering the coup period, basing its reasoning on a concern for the fragility of relations with Iran.
The desire to protect the hard-won 2015 nuclear accord is fully understandable, but this decision appears to be based on misperceptions about the risks—and a disregard for the potential benefits—of releasing this important historical material.
Specifically, the State Department is declining to publish the relevant volume in its venerable series, Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), the “official documentary historical record” of U.S. foreign policy, according to the State Department’s web site. The series has already endured one major public scandal over its Iran coverage. In 1989, the State Department published a volume on the early 1950s that deliberately airbrushed out any trace of American and British authorship of the coup. ...
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