U.S. Quietly Admits Covert CIA Role in Iranian Coup

Long suppressed report on U.S. covert action in Iran finally sees light of day

Picture released in the early 50s of Iranian Prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh
Picture released in the early 50s of Iranian Prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh / Getty Images
June 19, 2017

The Trump administration has released a long-suppressed and classified government report disclosing U.S. clandestine action in Iran that outlines America's role in the country's 1953 coup, the State Department announced last week in a move that is likely to roil the Islamic Republic.

The report, which details covert U.S. operations in Iran, has been the source of controversy for quite some time, as the former Obama administration had suppressed its publication in a bid to avoid upsetting Iran during diplomatic efforts to foster the landmark nuclear deal.

While a small portion of the report still remains classified, its release marks the first time the United States is officially acknowledging its clandestine role in the 1953 coup against the Iranian government led by Mohammad Mosadeq.

Multiple efforts to force publication of the documents were blocked by the Obama administration during its time in the White House, and it seemed the report would not see the light of day as late as April of this year.

However, the State Department quietly released the detailed report late last week, potentially in an effort to minimize the fallout.

"There is no known evidence that Secretary of State Tillerson participated in the decision to permit publication," according to the Federation of American Scientists, or FAS which has long been tracking the publication.

The State Department did appear to bury the report's release last week.

"Evidently wishing to downplay its significance, however, the State Department buried an announcement of the new volume at the bottom of a June 15 press release," FAS noted in its publication Secrecy News, which documents national security events." After listing 16 other publications, it briefly mentioned that the Iran retrospective volume had "also" been released, making no mention of the decades-long controversy leading up to its publication."

One U.S. official claimed, "there is no question that receiving approval to publish the volume was much less difficult with the change of administrations," according to FAS. "Indeed, it encountered remarkably little resistance."

The release could be part of an effort by the Trump administration to more forcefully confront Iran and move away from a U.S. policy that sought to appease the Islamic Republic in order to keep it complying with the nuclear agreement.

Historians have long sought the report, which ties CIA operative to the 1953 coup in Iran.

The Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation to the Department of State, or HAC, criticized the Obama administration for preventing the report's release, citing an effort by the former administration to suppress this information in order to avoid upsetting Iran.

"The HAC was severely disappointed that the Department of State did not permit publication of the long-delayed Iran Retrospective volume because it judged the political environment too sensitive," the committee wrote in a report issued in April. "The HAC was unsuccessful in its efforts to meet with [former] Secretary Kerry to discuss the volume, and now there is no timetable for its release."