Even though it has long been public knowledge that U.S. and British operatives were behind the 1953 Iranian coup, which overthrew the nation's then-democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq, only yesterday did the CIA officially confirm it.
Yes, you did just read that right.
Previously classified documentsÂ show that the agency carried out the coup "as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved by the highest levels of government."
A key document, The Battle for Iran, was first released in 1981 and contained many redacted lines, including the mostly blacked-out section on "Covert Action."
Now thanks to a request filed under the Freedom of Information Act, these documents have been released and show how the coup was executed. Local collaborators played a key role in the coup, which was known as Operation Ajax, by disseminating and supporting propaganda that would undermine the then-Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq.
Clerics were also paid to organize protests, and members of parliament were bribed. The documents even illustrate how an initial attempt at an overthrow failed, with the second try ultimately succeeding.
Though this is the first time the CIA's involvement in the coup has been confirmed, speculation about the CIA's role has long been part of American discourse: The coup got a mention it in the Oscar-winning movie Argo, and has been talked about publicly by Presidents Obama and Clinton.
Additionally, the 1953 Iranian coup was the subject of Countercoup, a book by Operation Ajax coordinator Kermit Roosevelt, which details how he and the CIA carried out the operation. Still, the intelligence community does hold concerns over disclosing its sources and methods, for fear that such information could benefit an adversary.
Malcolm Byrne filed the Freedom of Information request to declassify the documents. He is the director of the National Security Archives, which made these documents public for the first time. He joins The Takeaway to discuss these documents and possible ways to make the CIA more transparent.