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Mansour Farhang


On June 14, 2020 the British Channel Four broadcast a documentary about the 1953 coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mossaddeq entitled “The Queen and the Coup.” This documentary became newsworthy because it revealed, for the first time, that in February 1953 a letter from British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden was sent to U. S. Department of State while Eden was onboard Queen Elizabeth vessel but it was mistakenly assumed to be a message by Queen Elizabeth. The letter had to do with urging the Shah not to leave the country. The documentary is worth watching: <https://youtu.be/OzMRL8pHkHw>


Following this revelation, a number of British and American scholars asked their governments to declassify all documents about the 1953 coup.


One country that can be helpful in this regard is the Islamic Republic of Iran. What Iran’s clerical rulers should do is to admit that many high ranking clerics supported the coup and/or celebrated the fall of Mossaddeq.   Grand Ayatollah Hossein Borujerdi welcomed the return of eh Shah after the coup.  Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, never condemned the coup or mentioned Mossaddeq’s name in his writing, sermons or interviews. Once an interviewer asked him about his view of Mossaddeq, he replied “that man was slapped by God,” which implies that CIA and MI6 did God’s work in ousting Mossaddeq. Many clerical and lay lieutenants of Khomeini had welcomed the coup because they considered Mossaddeq’s liberal secularism a threat to their sociocultural dogmas.   Khomeini praised Ayatollah Kashani and a number of other clerics who had supported the coup. Hassan Ayat, a radical opponent of Mossaddeq and active participant in the coup, became a close associate of Khomeini after the revolution. 


According to the latest declassified intelligence, Ayatollah Kashani and Ayatollah Behbahani received money from foreign agents to pay the organizers of mob demonstrations against Mossaddeq on the day of the coup. For Mossaddeq’s liberal democracy was more of a threat to rightwing clerics than the Shah’s secular dictatorship. The state sponsored demonstrators who shout “death to America” know nothing about Mossaddeq or the post W. W. II events in Iran. The regime uses the 1953 coup in its anti-American propaganda without ever mentioning Mossaddeq’s name.  Western observers who fall for this deception lack an adequate comprehension of Iran’s theocratic dictatorship.  They rarely, if ever, pay attention to the fact that Iran’s ruling clerics have been suppressing   Mossaddeq’s followers or liberal democrats over the past forty years in a much more vengeful and violent way than the Shah ever did.  The most embarrassing moment of this naiveté was illustrated when in 1999 Secretary of State Madeleine Albright publicly apologized for American involvement in the coup with the expectation that it would please the Ayatollahs.  


Today, Iranians are not permitted to visit Mossaddeq’s grave. Even his family members have to obtain permission from the security organs of the state to visit the grave.  The Tudeh (Communist) party of Iran used to refer to Mossaddeq as “the chained dog of imperialism” during his premiership. And at least two years following the 1979 revolution, the party   worked closely with rightwing clerics to characterize pro Mossaddeq forces, liberals and social democrats, as enemies of the revolution.