August 19, 1953: CIA and MI-6 Conduct Iranian Coup, Reinstate the Shah

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A Brief History

On August 19, 1953, United States and British covert spy agencies CIA and MI-6 overthrew the government of Iran led by democratically elected Mohammad Mossaddegh and reinstated the Shah (King), Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Digging Deeper

Pahlavi had first taken power when his father abdicated during World War II.  The impetus for overthrowing the elected government by the US and Britain was not only to gain an important ally on the borders of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but also because Iran was attempting to nationalize their oil industry to the detriment of American and British oil companies.

Installing the Shah as a Western puppet served as a bulwark against the Soviets and calmed the consternation of Western oil firms.  Unfortunately, the Shah, a secular oriented Muslim lost the support of his conservative Islamic people and was overthrown himself in the 1979 revolution.  The King of Kings (Shahanshah) as he called himself was forced to flee into exile and never returned to Iran, dying only a year later.

The now Islamic theocracy that Iran became has been an enemy of the West, and especially the United States ever since, just one more failed US meddling with the internal workings of a foreign country.

Frequently referring to the US as “The Great Satan” and the like, and threatening to wipe Israel off the map, Iran is a sponsor of Islamic fundamentalism and terror in the Middle East and is the leader of the Shiite sect of the Muslim faith.  To make matters worse, it is widely believed that the current Iranian regime is making strenuous efforts to build nuclear weapons, resulting in crippling economic sanctions against their country and spawning hate and mistrust in the West.

Today, negotiations toward a reduction in sanctions against Iran in return for promises of at least temporarily shelving nuclear ambitions is a hotly debated topic in the US and other countries, and gains the condemnation of Israel.  How this all turns out is History in the making, so we will have to wait and see.

Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think the results of the Iran vs. the West conflict will be?  Will it result in Iran actually making and or using nuclear weapons?  Will the US and or Israel end up preemptively bombing, possibly even nuking Iran?  Tell us what you think in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Byrne, Malcolm and Mark J. Gasiorowski.  Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran (Modern Intellectual and Political History of the Middle East).  Syracuse University Press, 2004.

Abrahamian, Ervand.  The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations.  The New Press, 2013.

The featured image in this article, a photograph of coup supporters celebrating victory in Tehran,  is now in the public domain in Iran, because according to the Law for the Protection of Authors, Composers and Artists Rights (1970) its term of copyright has expired for one of the following reasons:

  • The creator(s) died before 22 August 1980, for works that their copyright expired before 22 August 2010 according to the 1970 law.
  • The creator(s) died more than 50 years ago. (Reformation of article 12 – 22 August 2010)

In the following cases works fall into the public domain after 30 years from the date of publication or public presentation (Article 16):

  • Photographic or cinematographic works.
  • In cases where the work belongs to a legal person or rights are transferred to a legal person.

The media description page should identify which reason applies.

For more information please see: Commons:Copyright rules by territory/Iran.

You can also watch a video version of this article on YouTube:


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.