05 September 2023

1953: the year that never ended

Ioseb Besarionis due Jughashvili or Joseph Vissarionocivh Stalin, the strongman of the USSR died. Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was crowned queen of England. James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick announced the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA. Cambodia declares its independence from France. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay completed the first recorded ascent to the summit of Mount Everest. Jonas Salk gave himself and his family the polio vaccine. The Korean War came to an end. The North Sea flood left 1,835 people dead in the Netherlands.

History does not pause. Natural disasters do not retire. The year 1953 was not an exception. Name the year and ask a Sri Lankan, ‘what happened in 1953?’ The likely answer would be ‘The Hartal.’ The answer would be different in each country. Sometimes it is personal but sometimes it is of national importance.

Len Hutton’s Englishmen defeated Australia to win ‘The Ashes’ for the first time in 19 years that year but few would remember the fact. It must have been big news back then. Ask any citizen of the United Kingdom to name a single event that had an overwhelming impact on that country in 1953 and few would say ‘Iranian coup d'√©tat'. Ask anyone in that county if he or she knows about ‘Operation Boot’ and you’ll probably get far more blank faces than raised eyebrows, fist-pumps or shame-showing dropping of gaze.

And yet, in terms of providing an example that clearly indicates the true worth of democracy and human rights posturing of the British and of course her friends and masters in the matter of plunder, ‘1953’ is pretty significant.

It’s all there in ‘Coup 53,’ a documentary by Iranian filmmaker Taghi Amirani which details how the CIA worked with Britain’s MI6 clandestinely in Operation Boot. At the time the British were more like what the US is today, thinking of themselves as equal rather than junior partners in imperialism as evident in involvement in Iran, the Suez Canal, Egypt and of course the most violent and pernicious displacement in the 20th century, that of Palestinians.

The UK now plays second fiddle to the USA, but that country has planned or executed over 40 attempts to remove foreign governments in 27 countries since the end of the Second World War. And the USA?

Here’s a post-1953 list. Guatemala, Syria, Indonesia, Iraq, Vietnam, Cuba, Cambodia, the Congo, Laos, Dominican Republic, Iraq (again), , Indonesia (again), Cambodia (again), Chile,  Bolivia, Ethiopia, Angola,  East Timor, Argentina,  Afghanistan,  Poland,  Chad,  Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Haiti, Zaire,  Yugoslavia, , Afghanistan, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan,  Palestinian territories, Syria, Libya,  Syria and Pakistan. This is not counting all those so-called democratising efforts executed by ambassadors like Julie Chung and State Department busybodies like Victoria Nuland.

Iran in 1953 provided a blueprint for CIA-orchestrated coups. Had it not been for ‘Iran 1953’ how would such moves have played out is a question people have pondered. That’s speculation, though.  

Let’s go with what is known. The introduction by Chris Hedges in an interview of Amirani for ‘The Real News Network,’ is a nutshell capture.

‘On August 19th, 1953, 70 years ago this week, the democratically-elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh, who had seized Iran’s vast oil fields from the British and put them under Iranian control, was removed from power in a coup organized and financed by the British and US governments. He was replaced by the dictatorial Shah, who immediately signed over 40% of Iran’s oil fields to US companies.

‘The CIA and the British Intelligence Services used bribery, libel, black propaganda that accused Mosaddegh of being a communist, assassinations, and orchestrated riots by paid mercenaries to overthrow the democratic government. They hired agents to pose as communists to threaten religious leaders, while the US ambassador lied to the prime minister about alleged attacks on American citizens. They oversaw the assassination of the chief of police, a Mosaddegh loyalist, leaving his mutilated body on the street as a warning to others who might defend the democracy. Mosaddegh’s house was surrounded and attacked and most of his security detail were killed. Mosaddegh was sentenced to three years in prison, followed by house arrest for life.'

Amirani observes: ‘To this day, 70 years since the 1953 coup, the British government has not officially admitted its role in this coup. Everything that happens in Coup 53, everything that happened to Coup 53 after its release, everything we talk about right now must be seen through that prism. The British have not yet come clean. The coup didn’t happen. They had nothing to do with it, although the CIA have finally admitted. They released the documents.’

It was about oil. The sequence isn’t all that unfamiliar.

In March 1951 Mohammed Mossadegh presented the idea of nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company to the Iranian Parliament. The Parliament approved it. In April that year Mossadegh was elected as Iran's new Prime Minister. In May 1951 Britain imposed an embargo on Iranian oil and banned the exportation of goods to Iran in retaliation while mobilising her navy as a show of force. In June, President Truman of the USA tried to sort out Iran-Britain tensions diplomatically, but Britain decided to take legal action against Iran in the International Court of Justice. The ICJ threw out the case. In 1952, Iran severed diplomatic ties with Great Britain. In 1953, a failed coup against Mossadegh forced Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to flee, but he returned to power in a second coup heavily backed by Britain and the USA.

This is the story of 'empire' that has only seen the addition of several more chapters since 1953. This is why France is so agitated over the coup in Niger. ‘Our interests,’ France thunders. What are these interests and have they changed since 1953 (yes, and for several centuries before that when marauding Europeans laid waste lands, perpetrated genocide and plundered resources)? Access to and control of resources (primarily oil, but also, as in the case of Niger, uranium), strategic footholds and more, and creation of markets. That’s what it is.

A central feature of Amirani’s documentary is an interview  given in 1985 by Norman Darbyshire to the Granada TV documentary ‘End of Empire.’ Amirani claims that Darbyshire, ‘in the absence of the British government official admission, stands in for that confession.’

‘He happens to be the lead MI6 officer who co-wrote the plan. He masterminded the coup. He ran the coup. He paid the mob. He orchestrated the whole management of agents on the ground. When the British were kicked out of Iran, when Mosaddegh discovered the plots for the coup, he remote-controlled the coup from Cyprus. Darbyshire’s interview is really the most clear piece of evidence of British involvement in this coup.’

The British Foreign Office hasn’t responded, to my knowledge. They do not. Neither does the US State Department. They believe that tossing in liberal quantities of words like peace and democracy, and enhancing traction by kept-media would suffice. They aren’t wrong.

This is why whenever Europeans and North Americans and their lapdog allies Japan and Australia (and sometimes India too) offer tuition classes to countries such as Sri Lanka, they should be told, ‘STOP, tell me about 1953 and all 1953s thereafter that your country has been associated with, directly or indirectly.’  

They might say ‘yes, but that’s then, this is now,’ but they can be told, “‘1953’ is TODAY, darling.’ Got to do homework though. Got to know history. Got to know the global political economy. No shortcuts to exposing lies and liars.