Sources for the Foreign Relations Series

The Foreign Relations statute requires that the published record in the Foreign Relations series include all records needed to provide comprehensive documentation on major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant U.S. diplomatic activity. It further requires that government agencies, departments, and other entities of the U.S. Government engaged in foreign policy formulation, execution, or support cooperate with the Department of State’s Office of the Historian by providing full and complete access to records pertinent to foreign policy decisions and actions and by providing copies of selected records. Almost all of the sources consulted in the preparation of this volume have been declassified in full or in part and are available for review at the National Archives and Records Administration.

The editors of the Foreign Relations series have complete access to all the retired records and papers of the Department of State: the central files of the Department; the special decentralized files (“lot files”) of the Department at the bureau, office, and division levels; the files of the Department’s Executive Secretariat, which contain the records of international conferences and high-level official visits, correspondence between the President and Secretary of State and foreign leaders, and memoranda of officials; and the files of overseas diplomatic posts. All the Department’s indexed central files for these years have been permanently transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration at College Park, Maryland (Archives II). The Department’s decentralized office (or lot) files covering this period have been transferred from the Department’s custody to Archives II.

The editors of the Foreign Relations series also have full access to the papers of Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, as well as other White House foreign policy records. Presidential papers maintained and preserved at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri, and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas, include some of the most significant foreign affairs-related documentation from the Department of State and other Federal agencies, including the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Department of State historians also have full access to records of the Department of Defense, particularly the records of the Joint Chiefs [Page XII] of Staff and the Secretaries of Defense and their major assistants. The Central Intelligence Agency provided full access to its files.

Sources for Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, Iran, 1951–1954

This volume includes National Security Council and Presidential materials that document the U.S. decision to proceed with the operation against Mosadeq, and the operational files within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that document the implementation of the operation, codenamed TPAJAX. Moreover, this volume includes documents that illustrate the U.S. Government’s collective attempt to understand Mosadeq as a leader, his role in Iranian history, the likely trajectory of Iranian history at that time, and, not least, the position within the U.S. Government’s understanding of the Cold War in the Near East during the early 1950s. The compilation thus draws on many documentary collections throughout the U.S. Government, including the Department of State, the National Security Council, the Presidential libraries, the Department of Defense, foreign aid agencies, and the many collections of the Central Intelligence Agency. For the most part, the CIA files were still classified. Other collections were either still classified, still classified in part (i.e. redacted), or had been released to the public recently.

The focus of Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, volume X, Iran, 1951–1954, published in 1989, was on the oil negotiations resulting from Iran’s nationalization of the British controlled Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1951. This retrospective volume focuses on the evolution of U.S. thinking on Iran as well as the U.S. Government covert operation that resulted in Mosadeq’s overthrow on August 19, 1953. Both volumes should therefore be read together for complete documentation on U.S. policy toward Iran from 1951 to 1954.

This volume has drawn heavily on the central decimal files of the Department of State in Record Group 59, particularly those including material on Iranian political affairs (788 series) and economic affairs (888 series). Bureau lot files for the Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs, while small, contained copies of key position papers particularly from late 1952. (These lot files include Lot 57 D 155 and Lot 57 D 529, both of which originated from the Greece, Turkey, Iran Desk within the Bureau.) The Department of State post files also proved of great use as a supplement to the central files. This is because the post files tend not to have been culled. Thus, though the files are organized more strictly by subject, they often contain material that appeared significant from the point of view of the Embassy. These files are found in Record Group 84. Additionally, this volume includes materials from the London and Tehran posts.

The general National Security Council (NSC) records in Record Group 273 have been used to establish the evolution of policy from [Page XIII] 1951 to 1954. Drawn from both the relevant Truman and Eisenhower administration collections, these documents include the official minutes, which are quite short and consist largely of records of action, and files on the major NSC policy papers relevant to U.S. policy toward Iran (NSC 107 and NSC 136). These NSC files allow the researcher not only to follow policy, but also to locate those analytical pieces that played direct roles in the formulation of policy. As the official minutes in Record Group 273 consist only of records of action, this volume has made use of the more extensive NSC meeting minutes found in the Truman and Eisenhower Presidential libraries. Many of these documents appeared in the 1989 Foreign Relations volume on Iran, albeit with critical redactions which have been restored here. Special attention has also been given to the CIA files devoted to the NSC policymaking process. The relevant files here are housed in the Office of the Deputy Director for Intelligence, who maintained the NSC files for the Director of Central Intelligence. These files, found in Job 33R00601A and Job 80R01443R, contain CIA contributions to the policy debates surrounding NSC papers 107 and 136.

Great use has also been made of the many collections containing analytical documentation devoted to the evolving U.S. Government understanding of Mosadeq and Iran. Along with analytical pieces from the Department of State collections discussed above, this volume draws heavily on documents produced by the analytical arm of the CIA, particularly the relevant National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) and Special National Intelligence Estimates (SNIEs), housed in the files of the present-day National Intelligence Council. Special care has been taken not just to print the relevant estimates, but also to document the debates and/or evolution of consensus opinion, material for which is also contained in the NIE files. The most important such collection is in Job 79R01012A. The Deputy Director for Intelligence files also have material that effectively demonstrates the debates over how to understand Mosadeq within the context of Iranian history, the expected future trajectory of the country, and U.S. Government strategic priorities. These are found in the “staff memoranda” files (Job 79T00937A). Unfortunately, these memoranda, of which there are many hundreds per year, are arranged solely chronologically and thus practical to use only for short projects covering a limited period of time. This volume also made use of the collections of intelligence memoranda from the Office of Current Intelligence and a limited number of longer research reports from the Office of Research and Reports, both offices of which were in the Directorate of Intelligence.

In order to document the specific decision to employ covert means to seek Mosadeq’s overthrow, as well as to document the course of the operation itself, much greater use has been made of the secret files of [Page XIV] the Directorate of Operations (DO) within the CIA. To be sure, the distinction between operational files and analytical files does not always accurately reflect what is housed in DO files. Nevertheless, these files tend to have been created and organized with the intent to facilitate policy decisions and implementation. Also of great importance are the relevant files maintained by the Office of the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). These actually are not considered operational files, but, for the purposes of this volume, have been utilized to document the Director’s role in the covert policy toward Iran. These files are often very useful, but are not of uniform quality, nor do they give the consistent impression of completeness. They contain the DCI’s correspondence, important files on specific issues the documentation of which was not maintained in the individual directorates, the DCI’s records for the Psychological Strategy Board and other inter-departmental bodies subordinated to the NSC, and, importantly, the DCI’s logs and the minutes of his regular meetings with the Deputy Directors.

Of greater importance are the Directorate of Operations files themselves.(References to records maintained by the Directorate of Operations (DO), Central Intelligence Agency, were accurate at the time the volume was compiled. The DO has since been renamed the National Clandestine Service.) On the whole, DO files are well-organized. In adherence to the strict operational principle of compartmentation, they tend to be organized by operation. That is, unlike in the Department of State where a central filing system was maintained in order that individuals could become familiar with overall policies, the DO system parceled out information on the “need-to-know” basis. If one was involved in a specific operation, one could obtain access to documents that related specifically to that operation and that operation only. These kinds of files are called project files. While in theory, compartmentation made a considerable amount of sense, it also became obviously clear that there was a need to maintain collections that illustrated policy contexts within which specific operational needs were to be met. This practice was significant to this volume in two ways. First, there is an overall tendency for certain project files for countries regarded as more important to contain documentation of internal DO discussions that led to the approval of proposed covert operations as well as the execution of those operations. These files, a kind of central file by default, contain relevant telegraphic traffic, DO analytical pieces, operational proposals, and reports about the implementation of covert operations. Second, the DO also maintained more general files for top-level officials within the Directorate. The files maintained for Frank Wisner, the head of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) and later the Directorate for Plans (DP) were particularly relevant for this volume. Wisner’s “secret” files, in Job 79–01228A, organized by subject, are variously rich and sparse in documentation, but generally episodic in char [Page XV] acter. Wisner’s “top secret” files, in Job 80–01795R, are organized chronologically up to 1954 and appear more complete. They do not contain materials on the evolution of covert policies to the extent that the core project files do, but they do contain complete collections of reports submitted to Wisner by the Area Divisions as well as a complete record of Wisner’s interaction with the “Senior Consultants,” the interdepartmental body that officially discussed and approved covert actions with Wisner and other high officials of the Directorate of Plans before the adoption of the NSC committee covert action approval process of late 1954.

The original CIA cables relating to the implementation of the covert action TPAJAX no longer exist. The original TPAJAX operational cables appear to have been destroyed as part of an office purge undertaken in 1961 or 1962, in anticipation of Near East (NE) Division’s move to the Central Intelligence Agency’s new headquarters. However, during the preparation of the previous volume on this topic, Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, volume X, Iran, 1951–1954, in the late 1970s, Department of State historians obtained hand-typed transcriptions of microfilmed copies of these cables. The microfilm was later destroyed in accordance with a National Archives approved records schedule. Although the Office of the Historian (HO) did not obtain approval to publish these transcribed cables in the earlier volume, twenty-one are published in this volume and an additional seven are referenced in footnotes. The following account of these transcribed cables is based on investigations conducted by CIA’s History Staff from 1994 until 1996, as well as more recent searches undertaken by HO with the cooperation of the CIA.

When interviewed in the mid-1990s, NE staff members who were present during the office move to the new CIA headquarters building in the 1960’s stated that the Division’s “chrono” files and cables were destroyed at that time. Chrono files, typically held for only one year, were intended as duplicate reference sets of documents held in other files. The staff also noted that the Division destroyed its cables only after determining that copies of the cables were retained on microfilm in CIA’s Cable Secretariat, in the Directorate of Support’s Office of Communication. However, a National Archives-approved CIA records schedule issued in 1977 authorized the destruction of the microfilmed cables in the Cable Secretariat once they were 20 years old. Although there is no written record confirming the destruction of the 1953 microfilmed cables, records of such routine destruction were themselves temporary and scheduled to be destroyed after five years. A thorough CIA search in the mid-1990s turned up no 1950s microfilmed cables, nor any record of their destruction.

HO began research on the previous 1951–1954 Iran volume in the late 1970s, at a time when the microfilm cables in the Cable Secretariat [Page XVI] had been scheduled for destruction but not yet destroyed. At that time, a CIA historian assisting with the volume searched and located relevant cables relating to TPAJAX in the Cable Secretariat’s microfilm set. Due to the poor quality of this microfilm (and possibly the lack of printing capability) the CIA historian transcribed these cables on a typewriter. It appears that the transcriptionist attempted to capture everything on the original cables, and to reproduce all of the text and numbers on the same part of the page where they appeared on the original. Given the way in which the cables were transcribed, as well as the fact that they were transcribed by a professional historian for use in the official Foreign Relations series, HO believes that the transcribed cables represent a good faith effort to accurately reproduce the original microfilm. However, some of the transcriptions contain question marks and brackets, suggesting that in some instances the text of the microfilm was partially illegible.

There are differing accounts of the total number of transcribed cables that HO received at the time the previous Iran volume was compiled. Some subsequent accounts describe as many as 102 or 105 transcripts in HO’s possession; another account describes half an inch of transcripts; more recent accounts list 68 cables, including the ones printed in this volume. Currently, 68 cable transcripts have been located at the CIA. It appears that they are all copies HO brought to the CIA in 1994, when HO began contemplating the current retrospective volume and inquired about the origins of the transcripts. More recently, HO has searched its own files, active and retired, and has been unable to find the transcribed cables originally provided to HO by the CIA historian in the late 1970s. However, the compiler of this volume had access to all of the transcribed cables at the time the volume was compiled approximately 10 years ago. In a few instances, cable transcripts printed or footnoted in this volume could not be located in the extant set of 68 cables at CIA, specifically: Document 276; the cable referenced in footnote 2, Document 273; and the cable referenced in footnote 3, Document 290. It should be noted that a few other CIA cables from before and after the time of the TPAJAX operation itself have survived in the CIA and Truman Library collections listed below. Some of these surviving original cables appear in this volume, in addition to the transcribed cables.

[Page XVII]

Unpublished Sources

  • National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland
    • Record Group 59, Records of the Department of State
      • Central Files 1950–1954

        • 788.00
        • 788.11
        • 788.13
        • 788.21
        • 788.5
        • 888.00
        • 888.2553
      • Lot Files

        • GTI Files, Lot 57 D 155
          • Files on Iran dealing chiefly with petroleum matters and U.S. oil negotiations with Iran for the years 1946–1954.
        • GTI Files, Lot 57 D 529
          • Files on Iran covering principally political and military matters and U.S. economic and military assistance to Iran for the years 1946–1954.
    • Record Group 84, Records of the Department of State’s Posts
      • London Embassy Files, Lot 59 F 59
        • Classified General Records, Boxes 34 & 274
      • Tehran Embassy Files
        • Classified General Records, 1950–1952, Boxes 10–129
        • General Records, 1953–1955, Boxes 1–7
        • Classified General Records, 1953–1955, Box 934
    • Record Group 273, Records of the National Security Council
      • Policy Papers
        • Box 194 (Pertaining to the NSC 107 Series)
        • Box 210 (Pertaining to the NSC 136 Series)
      • Official Minutes, 1947–1961
        • Boxes 12, 14, 16, 22–24, 26–27, 29, 35, 38
    • NSC Records of Action, Box 95
  • Record Group 330, Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense
    • OSD/ISA Files
      • Office of Military Assistance, Project Decimal Files, Boxes 35 & 63
  • Record Group 469, Records of U.S. Foreign Assistance Agencies, 1948–1961
    • Mission to Iran
      • Executive Office Subject Files (Central Files) 1951–1961, Boxes 1–7
  • Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, Independence, Missouri
    • President’s Secretary’s Files, Box 180
    • Dean Acheson Papers
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Abilene, Kansas
    • Ann Whitman File
      • Box 4 (NSC Meetings)
      • Box 4a
      • Box 32 (Iran)
      • DDE Diary Series, Box 1
    • Disaster Files Series
      • NSC Staff Papers, Boxes 65 & 69
    • International Series
      • Box 9 (Iran)
    • Special Staff Files, Box 4
  • Central Intelligence Agency, Langley, Virginia
    • Office of the Director of Central Intelligence
      • Job 80B01676R (DCI Logs, Minutes of Deputies Meetings, and Subject Files)
      • Job 80R01731R (DCI’s Interagency Correspondence)
      • Job 80–01065A (Records of the Psychological Strategy Board, as maintained by the DCI)
    • National Intelligence Council Files
      • Job 79R01012A (Registry of National Intelligence Estimates)
      • Job 79S01011A (Registry of Special National Intelligence Estimates)
      • Job 79R00904A (Memoranda for the DCI)
      • Job 98–00979R (National Intelligence Estimates)
    • Files of the Deputy Director for Intelligence
      • Job 01–00707R
      • Job 33R00601A (Files on NSC Papers, as maintained by the DDI)
      • Job 79T00937A (Staff memoranda)
      • Job 80R01443R (Briefing for DCI intended for meetings of the NSC)
      • Job 80–00810A (Disseminated Telegrams)
    • Files of the Directorate of Intelligence, Office of Current Intelligence
      • Job 91T01172R (Intelligence Memoranda)
    • Files of the Directorate of Intelligence, Office of Research and Reports
      • Job 79S01097A
    • Files of the Deputy Director for Operations
      • Job 79–01228A (Wisner’s general chronological and subject files)
      • Job 80–01795R (Wisner’s Top Secret Files)
      • Job 81–01061 (Wisner’s Top Secret Monthly/Quarterly Reports)
      • Job 58–00070R (Project Files)
      • Job 59–00133R (Project Files)
      • Job 78–01521R (Project Files)
      • Job 78–00222R (Project Files)
      • Job 80–01701R (Project Files)
      • Job 89–00176R (Project Files)
  • The National Archives, Kew, United Kingdom

Published Sources

  • International Court of Justice. Reports of Judgements, Advisory Opinions and Orders, 1952. Leyden: A.W. Sijthoff Publishing, n.d.
  • Roosevelt, Kermit. Countercoup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979.
  • United States. Department of State. American Foreign Policy, 1950–55: Basic Documents, Vol. II. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1957.
  • United States. Department of State. Department of State Bulletin. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1953.
  • Warner, Michael (ed.). CIA Cold War Records: The CIA Under Harry Truman. Washington: Central Intelligence Agency, 1994.