Time-line of Events

Year of Birth



Constitutional Movement



Minister of Finance



WWII Allied Invasion of Iran



Azerbaijan Crisis



Oil Nationalization



Coup of Mossadegh



Establishment of SAVAK



Origin of Nuclear Program



Year of Death


The Coup of 1953

Mossadegh's Resignation

Dr. Siavush Randjbar-Daemi

Mosaddegh, once in power, progressively created a wedge between himself and his opponents.  He had a very unique style of political organization. His oil – the oil issue was being conducted in a single-handed way by him and this started to create divisions within Iranian politics.  The Shah in particular and the royal household were very apprehensive about the possible collapse of Iran’s alignment with America and Great Britain.

They were apprehensive about Mosaddegh’s popularity on the one hand and his style of governance, which they felt could eventually result in Mosaddegh trying to overthrow the royal family and asserting himself as a sort of a dictator in Iran. Added to this the Tudeh party was gaining power.  So the Shah and elements of the right wing factions that were close to the royal court fought hard to prepare themselves for parliamentary elections which were scheduled for December 1951 to January 1952 period.

These elections would become critical because they would spark a crisis that would remain unresolved all the way to the August of 1953.  What happened in these elections is that a variety of anti-Mosaddegh opponents who by that time also included a sizeable amount of the original members of the National Front. In July of 1952 Mosaddegh went to the Hague for this hearing against the British.  He went with a couple of high profile MPs and supporters and he came back in a victorious way.

Almost simultaneous to this trip to the Hague he approached the Shah with a proposal to break this deadlock with the parliament and it was a law which would assign him for an initial limited period, a wide-ranging set of powers; executive powers, the capacity to engage in economic and political reform without needing parliamentary approval which was very tough to obtain and with this parliament in this state. And among the reforms we wanted to bring about was a reform of the electoral law that would ensure in his view a – the creation of a wholly legitimate parliament because of course Mosaddegh’s rationale for interrupting these elections was that he would either do that or he would have had the parliament stuffed by MPs elected through fraud effectively.

The Shah, among the powers that Mosaddegh sought to assign to himself was that of being able to choose the Ministry of War, or the Defense Ministry as we would put it in present day terms on his own. That had been a prerogative up to that point in time of the Shah.  The Shah usually, it was an unwritten rule if you want that the Shah would choose a figure of his own liking, and the Shah was very sensitive to this issue.

He did not agree and what happened was that Mosaddegh stormed off this crucial meeting he had with the Shah and prepared his resignation.  What happened in the next few days following this is a very seminal and very important moment of modern Iranian history. It’s called the — see a Tir, the 30 Tir uprising in Persian, the July 1952 uprising in English, and it came about as a consequence of rumors that started swirling in Tehran to the extent that Mosaddegh was ready to resign.

1953 Coup of Mossadegh

Dr. Michael Axworthy

That in turn creates a further reaction among the more traditional minded in Iranian society and particularly the more, the people who are particularly scared about introduction of possibly of communism in the country ’cause it’s not just the Americans, some Iranians as well.  And that particularly means important people among the clergy.

The clergy really don’t like communism.  They never have.  A significant part of it obviously is the official communism is athiestical and antireligious and they know all about that from what they know has happened in Russia during the Russian revolution and afterwards.  It’s also about religious property and religious endowments and they fear land reform appropriation of religious endowments of communist or communist sympathetic governments come to power. So there’s a phase of two to three days where a lot of people are recalculating and there seems to be a serious threat of a republic destabilization of the country and a possible communist takeover.

And in addition, the Americans and the British and their sympathizers are thinking “What should we do now as well?”  It’s possible that the Americans and the British were able to readjust very quickly and organize a second coup and some people say that is what happened.  Other people have looked at it and said, “Well there are other significant forces at play at this point and we shouldn’t necessarily just look at the British and the Americans in this second phase as being the main actors.  They’ve obviously helped set up the situation that leads to the second coup but they may not be the main prime organizers of it.  And the actual documentation is not really sufficient to make it fully clear what really happened.

At any rate what does happen is that a column of tanks moved against Mosaddegh’s residence and is able to, after a lengthy gun battle is able to overwhelm the tanks which are trying to defend the residence and Mosaddegh is forced to leave the residence over the back wall and is arrested a few days later. The Shah comes back to the country, is quite careful in his arrival because there’s a bodyguard and he’s worried that the bodyguard might actually arrest him or shoot him rather than protect him.  So he keeps them at a safe distance.  But he with the help of the army officers who are his supporters is able to reestablish himself in power.  He has the support of the United States and the CIA.

Oil Production Post Coup

Dr. Ervand Abrahamian

Well, the main problem after the coup was to resolve the oil crisis. So, both the Iranian government, the British government and also the American embassy got together to basically hammer out an agreement that would be face-saving from Iran’s point of view, but, but also get what the British and Americans wanted, which was to make sure that Iran did not have control over the oil industry in Iran. Of course, the whole meaning of nationalization is having state control, but the way the agreement was hammered out was, on face value, nationalization was accepted on paper.

It looked as if Iran ran the oil industry, so the National Iranian Oil Company was in – on paper, in charge of the oil industry. But, in actual fact, the agreement were known as the consortium, gave the power of operating the industry to a number of Western oil companies. Two of them were, of course, British Petroleum, the former Anglo-Iranian Oil Company changed its name to British  Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, which was a, a, a company very closely allied to, of course, British Petroleum. They were like twin sisters in terms of oil industry. So, they got actually more than 50% of the consortium.

The other shares with the oil, oil consortium were divided up into mainly the large American oil companies, and smaller in what were known as the independent American oil companies, the French company and that basically became the consortium that replaced Anglo-Iranian Oil Company before. So, from 1954, when the oil consortium was signed, until really, until the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the consortium was in charge of Iranian oil industry so there’s sort of irony in this. Iran was the first country to nationalize its oil industry, but – the Mossadeq in 1951, but actually, in fact – in reality, it was the – became the last country to actually get control over its oil and that did not come until, really, 1979.

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The Coup of 1953
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The 30th of Tir Uprising
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Learn About the History of Iran that Lead to the Upheaval of Today