The Myth of the CIA’s Meddling in Iran’s 1953 Coup

In 1953, a failed coup in Persia, aimed at ousting Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq, was launched with the support of U.S. and British intelligence. Shortly thereafter, the Iranian military deposed Mossadeq successfully. According to the version of events later cited by Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and Barack Obama, as well as by propagandists of the Islamic Republic, the coup was an Anglo-American plot that overthrew the duly elected government of Persia. But, writes Ray Takeyh, this version mainly from a self-aggrandizing memoir by the CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt. Newly released documents—whose declassification was delayed by John Kerry—tell a very different story:

Even before Western intelligence services devised plots against Mossadeq, his party [had] started to crumble. . . . [T]he armed forces, which had stayed quiet despite Mossadeq’s purges, grew vocal and began to participate in political intrigues.

Among Iran’s factions, the clergy would play the most curious role. As it has with most historical events, the [post-1979] Islamic Republic has whitewashed the role that the mullahs played in Mossadeq’s downfall. . . . [The Mossadeq government’s] liberal disposition . . . had unsettled the clerical order. . . . As large landowners, the mullahs distrusted governments prone to carving out their property. As reactionaries, they disdained female equality in all its forms. And as guardians of tradition, they were averse to modernization of Iran’s educational sector. . . . Far from being a passive observer, the priestly class seemed to have made its preferences clear. . . .

[Furthermore], it was hard to see how then-President Eisenhower could take advantage of Mossadeq’s mishaps . . . when he was informed by his intelligence services that the “CIA presently has no group which would be effective in spreading anti-Mossadeq mass propaganda.” . . .

In August 1953, the Iranians reclaimed their nation and ousted a premier who had generated too many crises that he could not resolve. . . . Mossadeq’s unpopularity and penchant toward arbitrary rule had left him isolated and vulnerable to a popular revolt. America might have been involved in the first coup attempt that failed, but it was largely a bystander in the more consequential second one.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: CIA, History & Ideas, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy, United Kingdom

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security