Spymaster Allen Dulles Praises Iran Coup
In Letter Commending Agent Donald Wilber, CIA Director Hailed Operation Ajax a “Great Success” — January 30, 1954
It should come as no surprise that CIA Director Allen Welsh Dulles never publicly revealed the American scheme to overthrow Iran’s legitimate government. While he did obliquely acknowledge giving “support” to the Shah’s partisans, it would seem that, insofar as a direct admission of an elaborate coup plot is concerned, he took that secret to the grave.
Yet there is a recorded admission of sorts—a certain little-known letter from Dulles which closes the case. Though this document ought to be regarded as indispensable, curiously, it has remained almost universally ignored in historical chronicles. We know of not a single book which cites it other than its source, Adventures in the Middle East, the 1986 memoir of the letter’s recipient, former CIA operative Donald Newton Wilber.
A Crucial Document Neglected
Wilber wanted to make absolutely sure that the letter, hand delivered by Allen Dulles himself, wasn’t overlooked. So he placed a facsimile of the original document, typewritten and signed by Dulles on paper with CIA letterhead, at the very opening of his book, even though he wouldn’t arrive at discussing Operation Ajax until Chapter 14. He had gone to great lengths to get CIA permission to publish it. At one point, the CIA legal adviser even asked for Wilber to return it “so that it can be appropriately stored and safeguarded at the agency” (the CIA only learned of its existence after Wilber exposed it). “It was and is my personal property”, Wilber retorted, asking for guidance in how to get it declassified.
By July 5, 1983, the agency did authorize its declassification (though still contesting Wilber’s claim to property rights), providing Wilber manually conceal two items. These were the two-letter prefix before the word "AJAX" (obviously the TP from codename TPAJAX), and the reference to MI-6, Britain’s spy agency. In its place, Wilber inserted the word "British" in brackets. “Apart from that”, Wilber explained, “the contents of the letter are as Allen Dulles wrote them, and they show how generous he could be with his agents...”
Despite Wilber’s accentuation, the letter, like his unremarkable book, has remained sequestered for decades, even though it’s been declassified since 1983!
The Proverbial “Smoking Gun”
The Dulles letter is significant for several reasons. The only known admission by the CIA Director of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh’s overthrow, it further cements the undeniable importance of the CIA plan, mocking the recent revisionist mini-trend which pathetically attempts to paint it as “inconsequential” since it initially failed. Clearly, the CIA’s own assessment found its actions to ultimately be most potent.
It also underlines CIA agent Donald Wilber’s apparently crucial significance to the Iran operation, which he insists he masterminded. Wilber’s contributions are usually overshadowed by the mouthier Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., whose lengthier account in Countercoup got far more play than Wilber’s boring small-press opus, “sanitized” to oblivion by the CIA in an inexplicable double-standard. It’s also worth mentioning that while the CIA chief gave Wilber a personal thank you note for his work on AJAX, there was no such equivalent, as far as we know, granted to Roosevelt.
Of all the various tools used by the CIA to undermine Mossadegh, among the most de-emphasized is its use of PSYOPS. Dulles’ specific reference to the “psychological warfare” aspect for which Wilber specialized helps underscore just how key this tactic ended up being in toppling Mossadegh.
If one were looking to prove to a skeptic, as efficiently as possible, that the United States government snuffed out a popular leader in 1953, these two documents would do nicely: President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s candid diary confession from October 1953, and Allen Dulles’ highly enthusiastic letter of commendation to his agent in January 1954.
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