The 1953 Iranian coup d’état Neoliberal Doctrine

The CIA sponsored 1953 Iranian coup d’état has become the blueprint for the neoliberal doctrine of colour revolutions, and the primary cause of world tensions today.

On August 19, 2013, the CIA released for the first-time documents detailing its (and alluding to British Intelligence) involvement in the 1953 Coup d’état against Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadeq, to regain control of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Industry resources that were nationalized in March 1951 by the Mossadeq’s government.

Dr David S. Robarge, a member of the CIA’s History Staff writes in his 2007 review of the 2003 book “All the Shah’s Men” by Stephen Kinzer that “the CIA’s covert intervention—codenamed TPAJAX—preserved the Shah’s power and protected Western control of a hugely lucrative oil infrastructure. The TPAJAX plan comprised propaganda, provocations, demonstrations, and bribery, and employed agents of influence, “false flag” operatives, dissident military leaders, and paid protestors.”

The CIA’s most senior officer in Iran, Kermit Roosevelt Jr. (a grandson of U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt) ‘bribed’ the Iranian media czars (first phase) and thus controlled the flow of the anti-Mossadeq propaganda (second Phase) machine. He made sure to recruit allies (third phase) among the elites, especially the influential Mullahs’ (Shiite Muslim clergy), and ‘persuaded’ the young Shah of Iran to delegitimize Mossadeq and his government, as they were portrayed as a serious threat to Iran’s economic fortunes. The fourth and final phase of the CIA action plan was to apprehend Mossadeq and his government ministers, and install a new government made up of the CIA cultivated and vetted allies.

However, the first attempt of the CIA’s sponsored regime-change failed, as the plans were leaked to Mossadeq and many were arrested, though the top conspirators fled the country. Kermit Roosvelt Jr. ignored the CIA cable calling off the coup attempt, and on August 19, 1953, with the aid of CIA ‘recruited’ crowds, the second attempt at the coup succeeded. A ‘kangaroo court’ placed Mossadeq under house arrest for the rest of his life, and the Shah enjoyed the fortunes of being the main ally of the U.S. in the Middle East until the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Since its first successful regime-change in 1953, the CIA and/or its shadowy partners of private military contractors were used in the 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état that deposed yet another democratically elected President Jacobo Árbenz and with mixed outcomes at a host of other countries, like Indonesia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ukraine, Egypt, Libya and Venezuela.

One cannot possibly reconcile the noble ideals of freedom and democracy with the instruments of US hegemony—covert intervention, client elites, psychological torture, and worldwide surveillance (especially the mobile phones of allies, like Angela Merkel). Those interventions explain in no small measure the ambivalence, distrust and hostility in many parts of the world towards U.S. foreign policy.

The UK and the US have had a long history of encircling rivals and adversaries with military bases, like in the Gulf and Guyana (to iron out the Iranian and Venezuelan problems). There are two notable goals in mind: firstly, to contain and surround the rival nation to prevent it from expanding its econo-politico sphere of influence as much as possible; and secondly, to support a regime-change operation in that rival nation when needed. This is what is commonly referred to as the Monroe Doctrine in US foreign policy circles, especially within the context of Central and South America.

Simply put, it means ‘privileging’ the Anglo-American ‘view’ (on how to re-organize resources allocation of those countries in favour of Anglo-American companies) in parts of the world that are at risk of a ‘shift’ to any competing ‘entity’ (read China and Russia) or ‘hostile’ ideology, like Communism.

The rhetorical slogan of having more ‘freedom and democracy’ often translates to a monopoly by Anglo-American elites and their corporations to pillage at will those countries’ resources with the help of client elites (preferably nationalist and populist ideologues), like the Suharto regime in Indonesia (1965-1998); the Marcos regime in the Philippines (1965-1986), and the Pinochet regime in Chile (1973-1990). It seems that U.S. support of those oppressive regimes, due to the fear of Socialism sweeping the world, was with the full awareness of their extrajudicial killings of their own people.

In Indonesia, the world’s fourth-largest country by population size and the communist party was the world’s third-largest after China and the Soviet Union, there was a systematic extermination of up to one million Indonesians who were affiliated with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), or simply for being accused of harbouring leftist sympathies. In addition, there were indiscriminate attacks on Chinese Indonesians and the confiscation of their liquid assets.

On October 17, 2017, the non-profit National Security Archive, along with the National Declassification Center, published a batch of U.S. diplomatic cables covering that dark period. While the newly declassified documents further illustrated the horror of Indonesia’s 1965 mass murder, they also confirmed that U.S. authorities backed Suharto’s purge. Perhaps even more striking, as the documents show, U.S. officials knew most of his victims were entirely innocent. U.S. embassy officials even received updates on the executions and offered help to suppress media coverage.

It should not be entirely surprising that Washington would tolerate the deaths of so many civilians to further its Cold War goals. In Vietnam, the U.S. military may have killed up to two million civilians. In Chile, two million Chileans were estimated to have been killed by the Pinochet regime. But Indonesia was different: the PKI was a legal, unarmed party, operating openly in Indonesia’s political system. It had gained influence through elections and community outreach but was nevertheless treated like an insurgency.

At the time the country had the official ‘NASAKOM’ ideology, which meant that Nationalists [NAS, from Nasionalisme], Muslim groups [A, for agama, or ‘religion’ in Indonesian] and Communists [Komunisme] were all supposed to work together to build the country. Though, it wasn’t only communists and leftists who were tortured, raped, and killed for being accused of being communists, or for belonging to an ethnic minority, or simply being an enemy of some member of the officially sanctioned death squads.

The methods Suharto used may have inspired other Washington-backed right-wing putsches around the world. According to several accounts from Santiago, Chile, cryptic graffiti that read “Jakarta is coming” showed up on walls around the city in the days before the U.S.-backed coup that deposed Salvador Allende. What is often lacking, however, is an appreciation of the importance of the event or how fundamental the violence was to achieving U.S. goals at the time.

Compared with the Vietnam War or a subsequent series of right-wing coups in Latin America, Indonesia 1965 is virtually unknown. But considering the U.S. government’s foreign-policy goals at the time—halting the spread of communism and bringing countries around the world into its sphere of influence—Suharto’s bloody purge was a huge win. The decimation of the PKI and Suharto’s rise to power constituted a major turning point in the Cold War.

The 1953 coup was often invoked by the proponents of the Iranian revolution as a justification for overthrowing the Shah and the turbulent relationship with the United States, whilst others share the belief that the rise of Islamist fundamentalism and terrorism is an unintended consequence to this 67-year-old coup d’état.

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George Mickhail is an LSE trained academic and a geopolitical risk analyst with 30 years’ experience in major global accounting firms and business schools. His research focuses on MetaCapitalism and mapping the geopolitical threats of global financial networks. He comments regularly on political economic affairs and his research is cited in the media.

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