The House of Commons’ UK-Iran Policy
Committee Ponders Formally Acknowledging 1953 Coup
If Conditions Right and Iran Makes Similar Admissions

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | July 15, 2014                      

British House of Commons LONDON, July 14, 2014 — The Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons has completed a new report on “UK policy toward Iran”, though its conclusions could nearly as easily apply to its Yankee friends across the pond.

“It would be in the UK’s interest to have a mature and constructive relationship with Iran on many levels: political, strategic, commercial and cultural.”, it states. “Yet this remains an ideal which is far from being achieved. Relations between the UK and Iran have been strained for years and suffer from lack of trust on both sides, born of a fear that one side is seeking to destabilise or thwart the other, and a perception on both sides that their interests rarely coincide. This perception has been reinforced by missed opportunities at various times by both countries.”

The report also considers the effect of Britain’s alliance with America on UK-Iran relations. “Has the UK allowed itself to be too closely identified with the US?” it asks almost rhetorically. The inverse of this question was proven to be an enormously significant factor in the previous century, during the fervid Anglo-American oil negotiations with Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh.

Of direct significance to the former Premier is a section which contemplates an exchange of goodwill gestures, including the idea of formally acknowledging for the first time the UK role in the 1953 coup, and recognizing the trauma of the bloody Iran-Iraq War. The suggestion is contingent on the political climate at the time and the assurance that Iran will offer similar nods pertaining to its support for terrorism and the 2011 mob attack on the British embassy in Tehran.

During a 2005 discussion on Anglo-Iranian relations, one Parliamentarian who brought up the 1953 coup commented, “The present Government do not need to apologize for our past behavior; however, we need to be aware of it...” Dr. Mossadegh was evoked at another House of Lords session in 2006, when four members from three different parties raised the issue of the enduring Iranian resentment related to his overthrow.

If Britain is considering officially admitting its role in terminating Iranian democracy, the world should know exactly what it is they are confessing to. This can be achieved by finally releasing all of the relevant Foreign Office and MI6 records.

UK Policy Toward Iran


At a round table event on Iran hosted by the British Academy in February and attended by several former senior diplomats, Members and leading figures from academic institutions, several people spoke of the value of symbolic gestures which the UK might make at little or no cost but which could nonetheless send a welcome signal to Iran and generate goodwill. It was said, for instance, that the UK could do more to recognise publicly the scale of Iranian suffering in its war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988 (a war in which Iraq was the provocateur and in which Iran lost an estimated 1 million lives).

More controversially, perhaps, the UK could acknowledge its part—alongside the US—in fomenting the unrest which led to the overthrow of Prime Minister Mossadeq in Tehran in 1953, something which rankles still in Iran. The British Government at the time saw Mr Mossadeq as a serious threat to its strategic and economic interests after he had nationalised the British-owned Anglo-Persian Oil Company, latterly known as BP. A joint operation by the CIA and by British intelligence services helped to depose Mr Mossadeq and to install a more pro-Western government. President Obama acknowledged the US role in a speech in Cairo in 2009, and US papers revealing the CIA role (and indeed British involvement) were declassified last year; but the UK has not yet formally acknowledged its role.

Iran sets store by reciprocity, and the chances of securing any concession from Iran are higher if it can be seen to match an equivalent concession from the UK. While it should be for the FCO to judge when the right time might be for a gesture such as a statement by the UK recognising the scale of Iranian suffering during the Iran-Iraq war, or acknowledgement of any UK role in the overthrow of Prime Minister Mossadeq in 1953, we believe that the FCO should be prepared to take such a step if the circumstances warrant it and if Iran also makes a similar public gesture recognising its own support for terrorism, attack on the British Embassy or other past behaviour. [bold/italic emphasis from original text]

The U.S.-Britain Alliance To Erase Mossadegh Was Not Inevitable
The U.S.-Britain Alliance To Erase Mossadegh Was Not Inevitable


House of Commons Sessions:

Foreign Affairs (Middle East) | July 30, 1951

Persian Oil Nationalisation (British Recognition) | Nov. 25, 1953

Anglo-Persian Diplomatic Relations (Resumption) | Dec. 7, 1953

Persian Oil Agreement | House of Commons | Nov. 1, 1954

Related links:

(VIDEO) 1984 BBC Program on the British Role in the Abadan Oil Crisis

Jack Straw on Iran’s “Perfectly Democratic” Prime Minister Mossadegh

UK v. Iran Judgment: ICJ Lacks Jurisdiction on AIOC Case | July 22, 1952

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

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