Consequently, Churchill had every reason to take interest in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s crisis. ‘Churchill enjoyed dramatic operations and had no high regard for timid diplomatists.’¹Therefore, when Eden became ill, Churchill took on responsibility for foreign affairs. After a number of conversations with Woodhouse, he gave the authority from London. The date was set for mid-August 1953. Similar to Churchill, Eisenhower mastered details and paid attention to documents. He gave his endorsement to the operation. Operation AJAX was the American name, and Operation BOOT was the British name for the anti-Musaddiq plan.

Operation AJAX, like Operation BOOT, was based on Iranian influentials. The two networks now closely worked together. Since no British official could now enter Iran, Kermit Roosevelt became the obvious man to take charge of the coup. Roosevelt, on 6th July 1953, went to Iran, and was authorised to co-ordinate fully the details of the operation, with General Norman Schwarzkopf (then Brigadier-General), in charge of the overall operation, who had served in Iran for six years as head of the Shah’s gendamerie.

The Rashidian brothers were provided with a radio transmitter to maintain contact with MI6 and Woodhouse put his opposite number in the US Central Intelligence Agency in touch with other useful allies in Iran.²

In southern Iran some of the tribal leaders were in the pay of MI6. Both the unban and the rural components would be activated simultaneously in order to counter Tudeh support of Musaddiq.³

The Rashidian brothers were given advice and kept informed by radio about anti-Musaddiq activities, monitored from Beirut and Cyprus. Forces against Musaddiq were growing and getting more and more strong; on 19th August 1953 a demonstration headed towards Musaddiq’s house. He did not attempt to resist by force and was quickly arrested. Kermit Roosevelt immediately flew to London to report to his MI6 colleagues and Churchill. Therefore, there was good deal of justification for Disraeli’s claim, when as noted in this article he said that governments often continue with their predecessor’s policies. This, indeed, proved to be the case. The plan to overthrow Musaddiq by covert means started under the Labour Government and was executed by the Conservative Government. Soon after Musaddiq’s overthrow General Fazrollah Zahedi, appointed by the Shah as the Prime Minister, chose his cabinet.

The Aftermath of the Crisis 

Convalescing from his operation on a cruise between the Greek islands, Eden heard the news of the final result and said, ‘I slept better that night.’4 The London Times saw the cause of Musaddiq’s fall in ‘dissatisfaction at his failure to make even a show of carrying out his promises of social, administrative and economic progress.’5 The Spectator reacted by saying about Musaddiq, ‘he rose to power with little but a colourful personality and fanatical determination.’6

The Lord President, Lord Salisbury, in a brief statement told the Cabinet

there was a reason to believe that, if the military coup d’etat had not succeeded a Communist revolution would have been attempted. 7

According to the British Government,

Geographically Persia enjoys a key position in the Middle East. It would be a most serious strategic blow for the free world if she were to fall under Communist domination, particularly because of the increased threat to the other Middle East oil fields which would result.

Her Majesty’s Government, therefore, wish to see a politically stable country free from the danger of Communist domination.8

  1. Ibid.
  2. B. LAPPING, op. cit., p. 269.
  3.  J. A. BILL and W. R. LOUIS, op. cit., p. 254
  4.  A. EDEN, Full Circle, (London: Cassell, 1960), p. 214.
  5. The Times, 20th August, 1953, in H. ENAYAT, British Public Opinion and the Persian Oil Crisis from 1951 to 1954, M.Sc. Econ. Thesis, University of London, 1958, p. 166.
  6. The Spectator, 21st August 1953, in ibid, p. 165. 
  7. PRO, London, CAB 128/26 pt 2 CC (53) 20th Conclusions, Minute 4, p. 103
  8. PRO, London, FO 248/ 1543, The General Correspondence of the Foreign Office, the British Embassy and Consular Archive: Iran (Persia), Secret, Memorandum, on British policy towards Persia,

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