October 1953: In the wake of the August 19th military coup that removed Mossadegh's legal government, one U.S. commentator, atypically, ventured into conspiracy theory territory. In his widely syndicated weekly column for the NEA (Newspaper Enterprise Association), veteran journalist Bruce Biossat (1910-1974) noted that while the United States denied any involvement in the overthrow, a trail of clues belied an alternate version of events.
Biossat's suspicions, however, had nothing to do with his position on Iran. In 1951, he accused Dr. Mossadegh of "immorality" and "blackmail". In the days following the coup, Biossat described the ex-premier as a "ruthless" fanatic, adding, "Few in the West will bemoan Mossadegh's departure from the seat of Iranian power." Even later, when Mossadegh's sentence of three years solitary confinement was announced in December 1953, Biossat found the verdict "remarkably mild".
Yet in a highly unusual display of skepticism for the time, this columnist could not ignore the series of glaring coincidences surrounding the momentous event. The U.S., of course, would continue to deny their role in the atrocity for years to come. A decade later, Eisenhower would confess nothing in his Presidential memoirs, describing the 1953 coup as a popular uprising in favor of the Shah. And in a 1965 television interview, CIA director Allen Dulles flatly denied any U.S. role in Mossadegh's demise, other than supplying moral support for that outcome.
We know differently now.
MYSTERY CLOUDS IRANIAN REVOLT
by Bruce Biossat
When former Premier Mossadegh was overthrown in Iran by forces loyal to the Shah, the Communists shouted that Americans had engineered the coup. Our government modestly disclaimed any credit for the affair.
Since then, assorted fragments of information have been collected and pieced together in a fashion which suggests, circumstantially, that U.S. officials may have been entirely too modest. It's all guesswork, but the skein of "evidence" ties in like the clues in a who-done-it.
Crosby Noyes, a correspondent of the Washington Star, recently undertook to trace the various threads in a lengthy dispatch. He followed them through diplomatic circles in the capital, where they have had considerable notice in a quiet way.
A prime point seems to be that a number of diplomatic observers accurately forecast Mossadegh's ouster in secret dispatches to their home governments, suggesting they were privy to a plan of action.
A key figure in the plan is alleged to have been the Shah's very bright twin sister, the Princess Ashraf [Ashraf Pahlavi]. Reports have that she employed her brains in several abortive plots against Mossadegh, until he finally had her exiled. But in Europe, she is said to have continued stirring up trouble against the former premier. She shuttled back and forth from Rome to Paris to Switzerland.
Meanwhile at least four U.S. experts on Middle Eastern affairs left Washington for this summer for various foreign destinations. By August 1, all of them had shown up in Tehran, the Iranian capital.
Mossadegh had appealed to President Eisenhower May 28 for financial help, but after waiting a month the President turned him down flat. Loy Henderson, our ambassador to Iran, left that country not long after Mr. Eisenhower sent his regrets. His goal: a vacation in Switzerland.
Coincidentally, Allen Dulles, head of U.S. Central Intelligence, departed Aug. 10 from Washington, likewise for a Swiss vacation. To fan the flames of mystery, the Shah's sister also turned up in Switzerland about that time, following a quick trip to see her brother in Tehran. Reports suggest she had tried hard to get the Shah to play a decisive role in the events to come.
Finally, Brig-Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, an American who reorganized the Iranian national police force for the Shah, an assignment that took six years, bobbed up in Tehran on a summer vacation trip. He was visiting "old friends." Some think the timing of his visit, mid-August, suggests strongly he was intended to be a final messenger of persuasion at the Shah's palace.
On Aug. 13, the Shah issued decrees ousting Mossadegh and naming his successor. Mossadegh thwarted the plot temporarily, and the Shah fled. But on Aug. 19. his forces rose up and smashed Mossadegh in an evidently well-managed revolt.
It is possible that all the comings and goings set forth here were moves in a careful plan, that there was nothing of coincidence in their simultaneous presence of three key figures in Switzerland. It is also possible that the revolt was a genuinely spontaneous uprising, and that everyone who said he was “on vacation” really was.
If we did intervene, the truth won't be known for a good while. Meantime, we'll have to content ourselves with the fact that it all makes a good yarn.