Obama Admin Blocks Release of Report Detailing U.S. Covert Action in Iran

Officials concerned information about 1953 coup could detonate nuke talks

• December 19, 2014 5:00 am


The Obama administration is stalling the release of a key report detailing U.S. covert action in Iran due to concerns that information about America’s activities there could harm ongoing negotiations with Tehran over its contested nuclear program, according to sources in the State Department’s Office of the Historian.

State Department efforts to suppress the report, which focuses on CIA and U.S. intelligence actions in Iran in the 1950s, has sparked "frustration" among some members of the department’s historical committee.

State Department historian Stephen Randolph informed the bureau’s committee on historical diplomatic documentation in September that the repeated and highly unusual delay had to do with administration fears that it would negatively impact diplomacy with Iran, according to recently published minutes of the meeting.

Richard Immerman, chairman of the committee, went on to express "frustration that the department had to decided to delay publication of the Iran volume" based solely on political concerns, according to the meeting’s minutes.

A State Department official confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon that there is a desire to "minimize risk that [the report] be misinterpreted."

Release of the controversial and "long-awaited" report—which details U.S. participation in the controversial 1953 coup that brought the Shah into power in Iran—was originally slated for last summer, according to Immerman, a Temple University professor.

The report, in fact, has been completed and ready for release since at least last June

"We were expecting it to come out," Immerman told the Free Beacon, explaining that higher-level officials apparently stepped in to put a kibosh on the scheduled release.

"We were told that it had been placed on hold based on, or largely because of the ongoing negotiations [with Iran] and the concern … that this would further roil the waters and make the prospects of reaching some sort of agreement less likely," Immerman said.

Since that time, "there’s been no movement either way," according to Immerman, who said the historical committee has been rebuffed in its attempts to press for the report’s release.

The issue seems to be political and based on the administration’s desire to keep talks with Iran amicable.

"This is unusual since all of the agencies have signed off on the document," Immerman explained. "It’s not being held up by the continued classification of documents. It’s being held up, based on my understanding, by the State Department’s perspective that it would not serve the interests of U.S. foreign policy."

Records such as this typically are not withheld from the public for longer than 30 years, according to the Associated Press.

When questioned on Thursday about the historical committee’s frustration over the delay, a State Department employee told the Free Beacon that there are lingering concerns the report could be "misinterpreted."

"Given that the release of this specific volume in question has already waited over 30 years, and given its historical importance, its release date is still under consideration, particularly with an eye towards a release date which will maximize focus solely on the historical importance of these documents and minimize risk that it be misinterpreted as an attempt to affect any ongoing discussions or other events," said the official, who would only speak on background.

The report on covert actions in Iran is "part of a series that the Office of the Historian releases approximately 30 years after the date of the documented events," the official added. "There is no set date for these kinds of releases."

One volume of information covering the historical period in question already has seen public release, the official went on to note.

"While it does not include all documentation from every U.S. government agency, it is an extensive record of State Department documentation from that period," the official said.

The State Department’s hesitance to release the report "has been a source of frustration for decades," according to FAS, which discussed the issue in a recent publication.

A volume on this time period published in 1989 makes "no mention of CIA covert action" in Iran, according to FAS.

The unreleased volume "will provide documentary evidence, and also officially put the U.S. on the record as admitting its involvement in the 1953 overthrow," according to historical committee member Immerman.

"It was decided that in this political environment, it would be counterproductive" to go forward with the release, he said.

Efforts to continue suppressing the report could be "an indirect affirmation of the enduring significance of the withheld records, which date back even further than the U.S. rupture with Cuba that is now on the mend," according to the FAS.

Additional information about the United States’ action in Iran may "hold the power to move whole countries and to alter the course of events today," the FAS speculated.

Published under: Iran, Obama Administration