The CIA Scheme to ‘Dismiss’ Premier Mossadegh

compel the Shah to sign illegal decrees under duress

Ebrahim Norouzi, MD & Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | August 16, 2012                     

“In a constitutional monarchy if the Shah says ‘I appoint the Prime Minister, I dismiss the Prime Minister, I do what I wish’ — I swear to God, that’s not constitutional…”

“Even if they hang me, I would not consent to this: that in a constitutional monarchy the shah can dismiss the Prime Minister… I am ready to submit documents from several constitutional monarchies that the king cannot dismiss a government.” — Mossadegh at his military trial1

Colonel Nematollah Nassiri displaying the farman appointing Zahedi as Prime Minister Tehran — August 16, 1953 (25 Mordad, 1332): It is sometime between midnight and 1:00AM. The commander of the Royal Guard, Colonel Nematollah Nassiri, has arrived at the Kakh Ave. residence of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh to deliver a farman (royal decree) dismissing him as Prime Minister.

Nearly six decades later, that single moment seems permanently seared in the minds of many Iranians of that generation. Likewise, the constitutionality of the Shah’s decrees — one dismissing Mossadegh, the other appointing Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi in his place — continues to be a topic of serious debate.

Many believe that according to the 1906 constitution, only the Majles (parliament) had the power to elect or terminate the Prime Minister, and that the Shah’s role was merely to ceremoniously endorse the decision. Others argue that specific bills passed by the Majles in 1949 gave the Shah the power to dissolve the Majles and to appoint or dismiss the Premier at will. The legitimacy of this legislation, however, is questionable due to the opportunism that led to it — the expanded powers were maneuvered amid a wave of public sympathy for the Shah following an assassination attempt on his life.

Still others insist that in the absence of the Majles, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had the power to appoint and dismiss prime ministers. This theory wrongly assumes that at the time the farmans were issued — due to a recently held referendum initiated by Mossadegh — the Majles had been dissolved.

It had not.

The referendum, which had been boycotted by those in opposition to Mossadegh’s government, had asked the nation to vote whether or not the Majles should be dissolved. Mossadegh said he held the referendum because the Majles had fallen into chaos and dysfunction, “and the opposition, instead of making justified criticism of the government, are resorting to intrigue and plots against it, leaving me no choice but to seek the people’s voice on the matter”2

In a radio message on August 15th, Mossadegh reported that the people had overwhelmingly voted in favor of dissolution. However, he only officially announced the dissolution on August 16th. This indicates that the issuance of the farmans preceded the dissolution of the Majles.3

It’s worth noting that during Zahedi’s government four months later, on December 19, 1953, the 17th Majles was again disbanded.4

The debate over the Shah’s overall constitutional authority, which had been an ongoing point of contention, was most intensified following the No’he Esfand episode of February 28, 1953. To put an end to the dispute, the Majles formed an eight member committee, with the participation of different factions, to study this crucial question and report back their conclusion. In the end, they determined that only the government had the power to govern and not the Shah. The opposition, however, was unhappy with the conclusion and with British support, managed to obstruct its ratification in the Majles, thus preventing Iran from becoming one of the world’s true constitutional monarchies.5

The Shah and Soraya

Despite the Shah’s continuing power struggle with the Prime Minister, he still believed that Mossadegh was the most qualified to bring the oil nationalization crisis to a satisfactory conclusion, and initially resisted intense pressure from both the British and Americans. Even when the U.S. approached him with their scheme of dismissing Mossadegh and appointing Zahedi as Prime Minister, the Shah again refused to go along. He was then barraged with pressure from, among others, U.S. ambassador Loy Henderson, American General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, British agent Assadollah Rashidian, CIA spy Kermit Roosevelt, and even his own twin sister Ashraf Pahlavi (at the behest of the CIA).

Ultimately, the Shah gave in and joined the plot, which was entirely devised by the Anglo-American axis for the purpose of crushing Mossadegh — a process that began with the issuance of farmans, signed under duress, seemingly against his better judgment.

It is highly likely that the CIA-produced decrees were first signed by the Shah and the text added later. Zahedi’s farman also showed signs of alterations — the date had been modified, and more than one pen was used. Furthermore, in an apparent rush to get the documents prepared, the farman appointing Zahedi had the misspelling Morad instead of Mordad [the fifth month of the year].6 During his trial, Mossadegh said he had doubted the authenticity of the documents. “[W]hen I saw the farman,” Mossadegh explained, “I realized that it was based on a sepid mohr [meaning that it had been signed first], and the last lines were written with wider spaces between them as though to fill out [the space above the signature].”

The enormity of the Shah’s reckless and irresponsible behavior — allowing himself to be used in such a way that imperiled the very sovereignty and security of an entire nation and its people — is breathtaking.

One cannot ignore the devious and underhanded context of Mossadegh’s unceremonious dismissal. Late in the evening of August 15th, the coup plotters first attempted to capture Brig. General Taghi Riahi, the army chief of staff, but were unsuccessful, as he had departed for the army headquarters shortly before their arrival. Then, soldiers burst into the home of Foreign Minister Hossein Fatemi, terrifying his wife and child, as he was cruelly arrested and dragged away, where he was allegedly told he would be executed the following day.

Two other members of Mossadegh’s circle — National Front deputy Ahmad Zirakzadeh and Minister of Roads Jahangir Haghshenas — were also kidnapped. Prior to their kidnapping, the phone lines outside the homes of all three men were cut. Finally, with the full intention of arresting him as well, they came for Mossadegh. Normal protocol was abandoned. Instead of having the court minister or his assistant present the farmans as was the tradition, they had military personnel do the deed — at a highly unusual hour, after curfew when most people were asleep.

The dismissal of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh on August 16, 1953 comprised a key component of a coup d’état instigated by foreign governments — and that alone renders the farmans null and void.

Operation Ajax, which amazingly succeeded three days later, was a perverse interference in the domestic affairs of a vulnerable nation with a nascent democratic system — in violation of international law and the United Nations charter — by the two most powerful countries in the world.

A crime against humanity.


The Persian word farman is almost universally spelled firman in most texts, a misleading and incorrect pronounciation.

1 MOSSADEGH, The years of struggle and opposition, Col. Gholamreza Nejati
(Translated by Ebrahim Norouzi © 2012 The Mossadegh Project)

2 The National Iranian Movement for the Oil Nationalization, Col. Gholamreza Nejati
(Translated by Ebrahim Norouzi © 2012 The Mossadegh Project)

3 AZADI Quarterly Review, No. 26 & 27, Summer & Autumn 2001

4 ایران در گذرگاه تاریخ  [Iran in the thoroughfare of history] in ‘Rahnavard’, Summer 2007, Dr. Abbas Tofigh

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.


Related links:

Court Martial Rules Itself Legal To Try Mossadegh | November 15, 1953

Mossadegh’s Permanent Estrangement from the Shah (Norouz, 1953)

The U.S. and Shah Acted Illegally, Not Mossadegh

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  Tumblr   Instagram