363. Memorandum Prepared in the Directorate of Plans, Central Intelligence Agency1


AUTHORITY: Approved by the President, Secretary of State, and DCI on 11 July 1953. NSC 136/1.2


Prime Minister Mossadeq and his government


Through legal, or quasi-legal, methods to effect the fall of the Mossadeq government; and

To replace it with a pro-Western government under the Shah’s leadership, with Zahedi as its Prime Minister

CIA Action

Plan of action was implemented in four phases:

1. Through direct pressure, applied by CIA’s representatives in Iran, to strengthen the Shah’s will to exercise his constitutional power and to sign those decrees necessary to effect the legal removal of Mossadeq as Prime Minister;

2. Welded together and coordinated the efforts of those political factions in Iran who were antagonistic toward Mossadeq, including the powerfully influential clergy, to gain their support and backing of any legal action taken by the Shah to accomplish Mossadeq’s removal;

3. Launched an intensive propaganda campaign intended to disenchant the Iranian population with the myth of Mossadeq’s patriotism, [Page 911] by exposing his collaboration with the Communists and his manipulation of constitutional authority to serve his own personal ambitions for power;

Simultaneously, conducted a “war of nerves” against Mossadeq designed to reveal to Mossadeq and to the general populace that increased economic aid would not be forthcoming and that the U.S. viewed with alarm Mossadeq’s policies:

a. A series of public statements by high U.S. officials implying that there was little hope that Mossadeq could expect increased U.S. aid;

b. U.S. press and magazine articles which were critical of him and his methods; and

c. The induced absence of the American Ambassador, lending credence to the impression that the U.S. had lost confidence in Mossadeq and his government.

4. Developed covertly and independently a military apparatus within the Iranian Army which could be counted on to back up any legal action taken by the Shah to remove Mossadeq.


The original D-Day set by CIA misfired when Mossadeq, learning of the plan through a leak in our military covert apparatus, took immediate counteraction to neutralize the plan.

An intensive propaganda campaign, engineered and directed by CIA, was launched in the interim period between the original and final D–Days to educate the Iranian population to the fact that, in view of the dissolution of the Majlis (effected by Mossadeq at an earlier stage to prevent its voting him out of power) and the Shah’s decree removing Mossadeq as Prime Minister, Mossadeq’s continued exercise of the powers of that office was illegal and that authority to govern the people rested solely and completely in the hands of the Shah.

The Nationalists and the Communists during this period inadvertently assisted our cause through their premature attempts to promote a republican government. This theme was contrary to the public’s opinion, whose sympathies were with the Shah. The Shah’s dramatic flight out of the country served to further intensify his people’s sense of loyalty to him.

These actions resulted in literal revolt of the population, whose street demonstrations were touched off,3 aided and abetted by CIA’s covert contributions. The military and security forces joined the populace, Radio Tehran was taken over, and Mossadeq was forced to flee on 17 Aug 53.4

[Page 912]

The ouster of Mossadeq was successfully accomplished on 19 Aug 1953.


This was a [less than 1 line not declassified] U.S. [less than 1 line not declassified] project. The President and the Secretary of State in determining the U.S. policy to apply in this instance, requested assurances on the following points before finally approving the plan of action:

1. That the British would be flexible in their approach to the government which succeeded Mossadeq as far as the oil question was concerned; and

2. That an adequate amount of U.S. interim economic aid would be forthcoming to the successor government.


Operational Costs
Initial Phase: From inception of project in mid-May 1953 to installation of Zahedi
as Prime Minister on 19 Aug 1953
$ [dollar amount not declassified]
Follow-up Phase: To solidify the positions of the Shah and Zahedi $ [dollar amount not declassified]
Political Expediency
Emergency Phase: Immediately following Zahedi’s assumption of the Prime Minister-ship and to fill the financial gap
until official U.S. funds could be
made available to the new Iranian government, CIA made an outright grant to Zahedi for immediately necessary governmental expenditures of
$ [dollar amount not declassified]
Grand Total: $5,330,000.00

Information received from John Waller, Chief, NE/4 on 5 Mar 54.5

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDO Files, Job 80–01701R, Box 3, Folder 11, Misc. TPAJAX Correspondence. Top Secret.
  2. See Document 225. NSC 136/1 is Document 147.
  3. The words “touched off” are inserted here by hand at this point.
  4. This sentence was revised by hand. It originally read: “The military were forced to act in quelling the riots and gained strength on the momentum of the situation in support of the Shah.”
  5. A handwritten note at the end of the memorandum indicates it was revised on March 8 and signed by Waller on that same day.