In the summer of 1953, the CIA executed a coup against the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran. The success of Operation Ajax emboldened the CIA to embark upon a series of coups throughout the developing world. But in their overthrown of Mohammad Mossadeq, the CIA eliminated the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, and set the stage for the emergence of the current Islamic theocracy in Iran, which threatens stability in the region to this day.
Were the CIA's actions in 1953 justified given the context of the time, and the looming threat of Soviet expansion into Iran? Or, was the coup all about protecting the West's monopoly on exploiting Iran's vast oil reserves? As usual, the only way to arrive at some semblance of an informed answer is to dig deep into the trends and forces, context, and individuals which shaped events in those fateful August days.
This first instalment in a multi-part series on Operation Ajax will look at history of Iran's contact with European powers starting around 1800, the various concessions defining 19th century European-Iranian relations, the discovery of oil, and the ultimate subjugation of Iran by Britain in the aftermath of the World Wars. We'll end our episode in the year 1949, as the discontent of the Iranian people finally coalesces into a unified nationalist movement able to directly challenge British control.
For a full transcript of the episode, visit https://pivotalhistorypodcast.com/podcast/episode-2-part-one-operation-ajax/