Allen Dulles

The hottest subject for the people of Iran was British control over the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which controlled Iranian oil reserves (it was later renamed British Petroleum, i.e. BP).

This meant the British had effective control over much of Iran’s national wealth.

Mosaddegh decided to nationalize the company soon after taking office to regain sovereign control of his country’s wealth.

This vastly displeased the British who made it their objective to overthrow Mosaddegh and replace him with someone they could control. 

Here comes Dulles, or more precisely, the Dulleses since on top of Allen being Director of the CIA his brother Foster was Secretary of State.

They were very interested in helping the British. Aside from their work as “public servants”, they had strong private incentives for this.

Both brothers used to be Partners at law firm Sullivan & Cromwell and were still strongly tied with the firm.

At the firm, they had big oil clients like Standard Oil who were of course very worried about the precedent that would be set by the nationalization of Iran’s oil. 

Both brothers used to be Partners at law firm Sullivan & Cromwell and were still strongly tied with the firm.

At the firm, they had big oil clients like Standard Oil who were of course very worried about the precedent that would be set by the nationalization of Iran’s oil. 

Allen had another former client with a big interest in the Iranian oil dispute: the London-based J. Henry Schroder Banking Corporation (today called Schroders), on whose board he served, was the financial agent for Anglo-Persian Oil. 

If that wasn’t enough, Allen Dulles had another strong incentive to remove Mosaddegh.

While at Sullivan & Cromwell he’d negotiated a deal with the Shah whereby Iran agreed to pay OCI, a consortium of 11 U.S. engineering firms, $650 million to modernize the country. 

Mosaddegh was staunchly opposed to the deal, which he denounced as a massive giveaway that would “break the back of future generations.”

He led the parliamentary vote not to fund the monumental development project, thereby killing the chances of Dulles and OCI for a huge payday.

 At first then president Eisenhower was more sympathetic to Mosaddegh than the Dulleses and British.

Mosaddegh had written him a letter: “In this day and age a great nation which has such an exalted moral standing in the world [as the U.S. cannot] afford to support the…

…immoral policy of a friend and ally. The Iranian people merely desire to lead their own lives [but Anglo-Iranian Oil Company], which for years was engaged in exploiting [our] oil resources, unfortunately has persisted in interfering in the internal life of [our] country.” 

Eisenhower’s innate midwestern sense of decency initially made him recoil from backing Britain’s colonial siege of Iran and as such he initially rebuffed the Dulles brothers’ advice.

But the Dulleses knew how to manipulate Ike better than anyone… 

The Dulles brothers decided to reframe their argument for intervention in Cold War terms.

They told Eisenhower that Iran was on the verge of communist takeover, that Mosaddegh was a communist “stooge” and that this meant 60% of the free world’s oil would be controlled by Moscow 

This was anything but true. Mossadegh was simply a fervent nationalist.

The Tudeh, Iran’s Communist Party, regarded Mosaddegh with wariness while he, in turn, relied on the Tudeh’s support when it suited him but kept his distance, seeing the party as too subservient to Moscow. 

But after weeks of intensive lobbying by the Dulles brothers and the British government, Eisenhower became convinced that Iran was a Cold War battleground and that Mosaddegh had to go.

They recruited Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt Jr., the grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, for the task.

Three years earlier, the Dulles brothers had recruited Roosevelt to work in Iran as a lobbyist for their ill-fated OCI deal and he had since been spearheading a secret CIA operation to organize an underground resistance network inside Iran. 

At the Dulleses’ direction Roosevelt got moving against Iran’s democratically elected government, hiring bands of mercenaries and bribing military leaders to betray their country. 

Officials who refused the bribes and remained loyal to Mosaddegh were kidnapped and murdered.

The corpse of General Afshartous, the officer in charge of identifying traitors, was found dumped on a roadside as a message to all officials who chose to stand by the Prime Minister.

Mosaddegh’s supporters still controlled the streets though, this was a problem for the Americans.

On April 18th the U.S. ambassador, Loy Henderson, arranged a meeting with Mosaddegh, cunningly convincing him to clear the streets. 

Mosaddegh knew a coup was in the works but he wasn’t aware of the extent of the U.S. involvement. 

Henderson told him that the anti-Western “mob attacks” were egregious and that if he didn’t clear the streets the U.S. would have to withdraw recognition of Mosaddegh’s government. 

That did the trick, Mosaddegh made what Henderson later called “the old man’s fatal mistake” of ordering his police chief to clear the streets.

This allowed the CIA’s hired thugs and the bribed military officials to drive tanks converging towards the Prime Minister’s residence. 

Within 2 hours, the 71 year old Prime Minister and his top aides were scaling the wall to a neighboring house, barely escaping the wrath of the hired mob.

The coup was done. 

Meanwhile, the Shah, who was in the words of Kermit Roosevelt Jr. “a wimp” had fled the country because of the disorders.

He’d gone to Rome with Queen Soraya where they were photographed shopping around the luxury stores of the capital.

Coincidentally (🤭) Allen Dulles was in Rome as well, and in the same hotel as the Shah, the Excelsior.

His mission there was to stiffen the shah’s spine and whisk him back to the Peacock Throne. 

He succeeded: soon afterwards the Shah – hated by his people for being a Western puppet – was on a KLM airliner home with Dulles at his side.

When landing in Tehran they were warmly greeted by Ambassador Henderson, proud of having a U.S. creature on the throne. 

Meanwhile Mosaddegh was arrested and put on trial for “treason”.

Fearing that executing him would make him more of a martyr, he was sentenced to 3 years of prison and then banished to his rural village, 60 miles north of Tehran, where he lived out the rest of his days. 

When he died 9 years later the Associated Press portraying him as an “iron dictator” who had terrorized his enemies and “brought the country to economic chaos.” 

The shah refused Mosaddegh’s final request—to be buried in the main Tehran cemetery, alongside the bodies of his supporters who had been shot down in the streets by the army.

Instead, he was buried underneath his own sitting room. 

Dulles always considered the Iran coup as one of the 2 great triumphs of his career, along with the coup he engineered in Guatemala. The CIA’s involvement was obviously hushed in the U.S. press but the coup was generally presented as a “cause to rejoice” like WaPo wrote back then 

The New York Times at the time called Mosaddegh “a rabid, self-seeking nationalist” whose disappearance from the political stage “brings us hope.”

The U.S. press generally described the coup as a “popular uprising” and a “nation’s revolt.” 

Obviously, a few months after the coup Iran’s oil industry was denationalized and handed over to foreign corporations, with 40 percent of the spoils now going to American oil producers, including Gulf, Texaco, Mobil, Standard Oil of New Jersey, and Standard Oil of California. 

Of course, the only people who did not benefit from the coup were the Iranians themselves.

The country’s fledgling democracy was dismantled, and members of oppositional parties and the press were rounded up or driven underground. 

The Americans and the Shah ultimately reaped what they had sown. In 1979 an actual popular revolt was led by the country’s Islamic mandarins, the only oppositional sector of Iranian society that had not been crushed by the regime. And the U.S. is Iran’s “great Satan” to this day.