Wednesday, 15 January 2020

As EU goes cold on new nuclear, barbarian Brexit Britain hots up on a failed technology

On Tuesday (14 January) the EU’s regional policy Commissioner Elisa Ferreira revealed ( details of the €100 billion Just Transition Mechanism, a key financial component of the European Green Deal that should make the European Union climate neutral by 2050. One key  political point made by Ferreira was: “Nuclear energy is excluded from the Just Transition Mechanism.” She revealed this very significant development ahead of the college meeting of the European Commission that approved the proposal for the fund aimed at supporting poorer EU regions achieve climate neutrality.

EU leaders had earlier agreed in December on an EU-wide objective of reaching climate neutrality by 2050. In order to convince Hungary and the Czech Republic to sign up, they also reaffirmed the right of countries to decide on their own energy mix, including nuclear. (Poland refused to sign up, saying it needed more EU funding to help phase out coal.)

The Just Transition Fund is intended to support regions that will be particularly affected by the changes brought by ‘greening’ the economy. (Euractiv 14 January 2020

On the same day in London, as the UK approaches its return to the deep dark ages post Brexit, the nuclear Neanderthals were out en masse in a House of Lords  Q&A session on the future of nuclear power and climate change.

One of the beneficial characteristics of an unelected House of Lords was meant to be you could create peers who were expert in their field to better inform scrutiny and debate. You would not  believe it if you read the collective ignorance on display from peers today on nuclear power, pasted in full below…


Here are some of the low lights:


“Nuclear power ..will have an important role in securing a low-cost, stable, reliable low-carbon system by 2050.” – Energy minister Lord Duncan


I know—that we are never going to meet our carbon targets without a significant contribution from nuclear energy” -  Lord Cunningham, former MP for Copland, in which Sellafield is located


“Nuclear will be a vital part, I believe, of the ongoing energy mix in this country.” – Lord Duncan

“the reality is that small modular reactors are vital. ,,,This may well be how we can move forward a whole new generation of nuclear electricity generation.” Lord Duncan

“nuclear energy is obviously essential to enabling us to combat climate change”- Labour Baroness Whittaker


“we have to ensure the development of the small modular reactors, which we believe will be key to the development of a workable global strategy.” – Lord Duncan


I offer no further comment on their utter and crass idiocy.



Nuclear Power: Emissions


14 January 2020


2.37 pm

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the nuclear power capacity required to meet their target of net zero emissions by 2050.

I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In so doing, I declare my interest as an engineer in the energy industry, as set out in the register.

My Lords, a substantial increase in low-carbon generation will be needed to reduce our emissions to net zero by 2050. Nuclear power currently provides a fifth of our generation and will have an important role in securing a low-cost, stable, reliable low-carbon system by 2050. The Government will publish an energy White Paper in 2020, which will provide further detail of the necessary transformation of our energy system.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. Our current nuclear fleet is approaching the end of its working life and only a single new station is being built. We need much more than that to provide additional zero-carbon firm power and reduce the risk of not meeting net zero by 2050. Does the Minister agree that a key means of doing this at least cost is to focus on replication: building a number of the same design to learn lessons and gain efficiencies, rather than using a wide range of designs, as per the previous strategy? Can he confirm that the Government are prioritising a decision on the financing of new nuclear to enable the industry to move forward?

The simple answer to that question is yes, but more details are required. The first thing to remember is that by 2030 all but one nuclear power station will be closed.

The noble Lord’s second point is correct: we do need replication on a common theme to help us, but there are other factors too, not least of which is experienced management in the construction industry and sometimes constructing nuclear reactors in greater numbers on the same site. Each of these can make a significant difference, and in order for us to increase capacity we need, in the energy White Paper, to give serious consideration to them, at which point the decision-making will be made clear.


My Lords, I welcome the Minister’s statement strongly in support of civil nuclear power. It is quite obvious to most people—not to everyone, I know—that we are never going to meet our carbon targets without a significant contribution from nuclear energy. For the first time in a generation we have the opportunity now, at Sizewell C, to use the learning curve and replication of design and construction to bring down costs and possibly the timescale involved in building the second nuclear power station, much more than the last Labour Government did, I must say—to my regret; I do not know about theirs. I hope the Minister will persuade his colleagues that we need to expedite these developments.

We must expedite these developments. The nuclear sector deal which the Government have invested in is worth £200 million. Its purpose is to reduce significantly the costs of the replication of these new developments, and the regulated asset base should be a new model for us to make sure that there is value for money as well. Nuclear will be a vital part, I believe, of the ongoing energy mix in this country.


My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend’s brief really reflects the full position. After all, Hinkley is now £3 billion over budget and delayed by a year or two, Wylfa has been suspended, Moorside has been abandoned, and the Chinese and French are struggling to raise finance for Sizewell C. It is not a very good picture. Should we not be focusing rather more on prospects for small modular reactors, which can be built much more quickly, and perhaps more cheaply, and might make an even bigger contribution when it comes to global climate change, which is the real problem?

My noble friend is, of course, absolutely correct. If we get to the stage where Hinkley comes online according to its timetable in 2025, it will in due course supply 7% of our electricity needs. However, the reality is that small modular reactors are vital. That is why we have invested £18 million in development thus far—£18 million that is matched by the private sector. This may well be how we can move forward a whole new generation of nuclear electricity generation.

My Lords, I think all your Lordships will welcome the fact that an energy White Paper is going to be published. This country has lacked a joined-up strategy on energy for many years. Can the Minister confirm that this White Paper will include not only generation of all kinds but the storage of energy and the flexible, or more flexible, distribution of energy? Clearly those will be key in how we go forward.

The noble Lord has raised these points before; he was right then and is right now. Storage is absolutely vital in this area. Without it, we run the risk not just in nuclear but in our renewables more widely that we cannot capture and hold the energy that we create. Storage needs to be in the White Paper.

My Lords, nuclear energy is obviously essential to enabling us to combat climate change, as my noble friend Lord Cunningham just said, but what are the Government doing to enable the public to move away from the other fossil fuel, gas, which is so widely used in domestic heating?

There will also be a strategy next year examining gas in the domestic heating system. There are options available to us and decisions will be required. Shall it be electrification, use of hydrogen, or indeed a hybrid of the two? We need to consider that, and the White Paper will help inform our decisions going forward.

My Lords, what discussions has my noble friend had with friends and partners internationally on the potential for using UK nuclear expertise and technology in the fight to deal with climate change?

As part of my responsibilities as Climate Change Minister, we have engaged with a number of countries to examine what prospects we have to ensure the development of the small modular reactors, which we believe will be key to the development of a workable global strategy. We commit to continuing to do that at a greater pace.

How will the Government ensure that any new offshore wind capacity during the 2020s will not simply replace retiring nuclear plants rather than push carbon-emitting gas power plants off the grid?


The noble Lord is quite right: each of our ambitions in these areas has a finite lifespan, and it is important to make sure that, each time we replace them with the next generation, the carbon footprint decreases. We would like to see it significantly decrease, which is why offshore wind remains vital and why nuclear has a significant part to play.

My Lords, the Wylfa project on Anglesey has been suspended, as we have heard. Would my noble friend agree that it is clear that Governments will need to invest in new nuclear? Will the Government look at promoting that project with Hitachi through a government commitment to invest sovereign capital, thereby reducing the cost of capital and offsetting some of the risk?

Yes, indeed. We will be looking at exactly this through the regulated asset base approach. The Wylfa site is at the moment still owned by Hitachi. There are still opportunities to build on that site, and we are in discussions to make sure that we can move this matter forward.

In considering the position of the small modular reactors, can the Minister give an undertaking that the medical dimension will be taken on board so that any possible synergy between the development of the two can take place, possibly at Trawsfynydd?

The noble Lord is absolutely right. We often think of nuclear only in terms of energy generation, but in fact our health service depends significantly upon the isotopes that are created by the system. Yes, we need to recognise the synergy and work with it.

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Financing the green transition: The European Green Deal Investment Plan and Just Transition Mechanism

Press release14 January 2020, Brussels

The European Union is committed to becoming the first climate-neutral bloc in the world by 2050. This requires significant investment from both the EU and the national public sector, as well as the private sector. The European Green Deal's Investment Plan - the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan - presented today will mobilise public investment and help to unlock private funds through EU financial instruments, notably InvestEU, which would lead to at least €1 trillion of investments.

While all Member States, regions and sectors will need to contribute to the transition, the scale of the challenge is not the same. Some regions will be particularly affected and will undergo a profound economic and social transformation. The Just Transition Mechanism will provide tailored financial and practical support to help workers and generate the necessary investments in those areas.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “People are at the core of the European Green Deal, our vision to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050. The transformation ahead of us is unprecedented. And it will only work if it is just - and if it works for all. We will support our people and our regions that need to make bigger efforts in this transformation, to make sure that we leave no one behind. The Green Deal comes with important investment needs, which we will turn into investment opportunities. The plan that we present today, to mobilise at least €1 trillion, will show the direction and unleash a green investment wave.”

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said: “The necessary transition towards climate-neutrality is going to improve people's well-being and make Europe more competitive. But it will require more efforts from citizens, sectors and regions that rely more on fossil fuels than others. The Just Transition Mechanism will help support those most affected by making investments more attractive and proposing a package of financial and practical support worth at least €100 billion. This is our pledge of solidarity and fairness.”

Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, added: “For Europe to transition to a climate-neutral economy, we need both political commitment and massive investments. The Green Deal shows our determination to tackle climate change, which we are now backing up with a funding plan. First, we will use the EU budget to leverage private funds for green projects across Europe and support the regions and people most affected by transition. Second, we will create the right regulatory incentives for green investments to thrive. Last but not least, we will help public authorities and market players to identify and develop such projects. The European Union was not built in a day. A Green Europe will not happen overnight. Putting sustainability at the heart of how we invest requires a change of mindset. We have taken an important step towards achieving this today.”

The European Green Deal Investment Plan

The European Green Deal Investment Plan will mobilise EU funding and create an enabling framework to facilitate and stimulate the public and private investments needed for the transition to a climate-neutral, green, competitive and inclusive economy. Complementing other initiatives announced under the Green Deal, the Plan is based on three dimensions:

  • Financing: mobilising at least €1 trillion of sustainable investments over the next decade. A greater share of spending on climate and environmental action from the EU budget than ever before will crowd in private funding, with a key role to be played by the European Investment Bank.
  • Enabling: providing incentives to unlock and redirect public and private investment. The EU will provide tools for investors by putting sustainable finance at the heart of the financial system, and will facilitate sustainable investment by public authorities by encouraging green budgeting and procurement, and by designing ways to facilitate procedures to approve State Aid for just transition regions.
  • Practical support: the Commission will provide support to public authorities and project promoters in planning, designing and executing sustainable projects.

The Just Transition Mechanism

The Just Transition Mechanism (JTM) is a key tool to ensure that the transition towards a climate-neutral economy happens in a fair way, leaving no one behind. While all regions will require funding and the European Green Deal Investment Plan caters for that, the Mechanism provides targeted support to help mobilise at least €100 billion over the period 2021-2027 in the most affected regions, to alleviate the socio-economic impact of the transition. The Mechanism will create the necessary investment to help workers and communities which rely on the fossil fuel value chain. It will come in addition to the substantial contribution of the EU's budget through all instruments directly relevant to the transition.

The Just Transition Mechanism will consist of three main sources of financing:

1)   A Just Transition Fund, whichwill receive €7.5 billion of fresh EU funds, coming on top of the Commission's proposal for the next long-term EU budget. In order to tap into their share of the Fund, Member States will, in dialogue with the Commission, have to identify the eligible territories through dedicated territorial just transition plans. They will also have to commit to match each euro from the Just Transition Fund with money from the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund Plus and provide additional national resources. Taken together, this will provide between €30 and €50 billion of funding, which will mobilise even more investments. The Fund will primarily provide grants to regions. It will, for example, support workers to develop skills and competences for the job market of the future and help SMEs, start-ups and incubators to create new economic opportunities in these regions. It will also support investments in the clean energy transition, for example in energy efficiency.

2)   A dedicated just transition scheme under InvestEU to mobilise up to €45 billion of investments. It will seek to attract private investments, including in sustainable energy and transport that benefit those regions and help their economies find new sources of growth. 

3)   A public sector loan facility with the European Investment Bank backed by the EU budget to mobilise between €25 and €30 billion of investments. It will be used for loans to the public sector, for instance for investments in district heating networks and renovation of buildings. The Commission will come with a legislative proposal to set this up in March 2020.

The Just Transition Mechanism is about more than funding: relying on a Just Transition Platform, the Commission will be providing technical assistance to Member States and investors and make sure the affected communities, local authorities, social partners and non-governmental organisations are involved. The Just Transition Mechanism will include a strong governance framework centred on territorial just transition plans.


On 11 December 2019, the Commission presented the European Green Deal, with the ambition of becoming the first climate-neutral bloc in the world by 2050. Europe's transition to a sustainable economy means significant investment efforts across all sectors: reaching the current 2030 climate and energy targets will require additional investments of €260 billion a year by 2030.

The success of the European Green Deal Investment Plan will depend on the engagement of all actors involved. It is vital that Member States and the European Parliament maintain the high ambition of the Commission proposal during the negotiations on the upcoming financial framework. A swift adoption of the proposal for a Just Transition Fund Regulation will be crucial.

The Commission will closely monitor and evaluate the progress on this transition path. As part of these efforts, every year the Commission will hold a Sustainable Investment Summit, involving all relevant stakeholders, and it will continue to work for promoting and financing the transition. The Commission invites the investment community to make full use of the enabling regulatory conditions and ever-growing needs for sustainable investments, and authorities to take an active role in identifying and promoting such investments.

For More Information



Tuesday, 14 January 2020

The Giant Green Hulk and nuclear hazards in Iran

Here are two letters sent recently to The Guardian and Daily Mail respectively:

Your report that Incredible Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno has joined the sheriff’s department in Socorro county in the New Mexico desert( “Don’t make him angry,” The Guardian, 13 January 2020; is an
intriguing example of fact following fiction.
Ferrigno’s character began as Dr Banner, who takes part in a lab experiment whereby he is bombarded by gamma radiation. But he self administers a massive overdose that leads to his transformation into a green seven foot tall superhuman.
Socorro is in real life the location of the very first test of an atomic bomb, dubbed Trinity, in July 1945 (not at Alamogordo, mistakenly given as the location: it actually was the nearest telegraph station from which the news was transmitted).
One of the outcomes of Trinity was the man-made creation of a melted rock form, now named Trinitite. It’s colour: olive green!

I would like to correct and clarify a few points made by Mark Almond of the Crisis Research Institute in Oxford in his article on “Now Iran Will Go Nuclear” (Daily Mail, 8 January 2020 )

He suggests that Iran could access plutonium for weapons-use from the Iranian Bushehr nuclear power plant, which he describes as “Russian-built”. This reactor was started in 1975 by the German company Siemens, and only finished by Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear company after it had laid dormant for several years after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iran had a dedicated plutonium production reactor at Arak, which was disabled as part of the Iran Nuclear Deal, wrecked by Trump’s withdrawing the US from it in May 2018. In January four years ago, Iran agreed to remove the reactor core (or calandria) and fill it with concrete to render it unusable.

The plutonium created in the Bushehr reactor would not  be immediately  useable in nuclear warheads as it is so-called “reactor grade”, not “weapons-grade”, and  in any case Iran has no facilities to extract it from the irradiated “spent” fuel withdrawn from the reactor core.

The UK itself has had an unreported role in helping Iran start in the nuclear business.

The then Trade and Industry Secretary Michael Heseltine revealed to the late Labour MP Paul  Flynn in a written answer  on 14 December 1992 that the Baghdad nuclear training centre -  established  in 1955 as part of the Bagdad Pact – and fully supported by the UK, was  “transferred to Tehran following the revolution in Iraq in 1959.” (Hansard, column 23:

Friday, 10 January 2020

Trumping Iran: how many US presidents have Iranian blood on their hands

After a week of geopolitical turmoil in Iran and its middle east neighbour Iraq, triggered - but not started - by the assassination authorised by President Trump of the second most senior political figure in Iran, it is worth looking at some of the background to this event. A very insightful starting-point is an article in the current special issue on ‘Trump’s Middle East’ of the international journal, Foreign Affairs, by Martin Indyk, a former US Ambassador to Israel.

MARTIN INDYK is a Distinguished Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of the forthcoming book Henry Kissinger and the Art of the Middle East Deal. He has served as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations.MORE BY Martin IndykUnder a section of his article headlined ‘Trump Administration understands little about how the Middle East works’, Indyk writes:

“The Trump administration likes to see itself as clear-eyed and tough-minded, a confronter of the hard truths others refuse to acknowledge. In fact, it understands so little about how the Middle East actually works that its bungling efforts have been a failure across the board. As so often in the past, the cynical locals are manipulating a clueless outsider, advancing their personal agendas at the naive Americans’ expense.

The Trump administration’s Middle East policies cannot possibly create a new, more stable regional order. But they will certainly do a good job of continuing the destruction of the old one, and risking all that it had gained. And this will fit neatly into Trump’s overall campaign to do away with the liberal international order in favor of the law of the jungle.

(“Disaster in the Desert: Why Trump’s Middle East Plan Can’t Work,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 2019;

Ambassador Indyk also pointed out that in February of this year, Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “attempted to organize an anti-Iran conference in Poland. Netanyahu tweeted that it was ‘an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of combating Iran.’”

The Ambassador continued “Just like its blundering on other fronts, the Trump administration’s efforts on Iran have produced few positive results. It seemed for a while that the “maximum pressure” campaign was reducing Iran’s funding of its proxies abroad. Yet those operations have always been run on the cheap, and with some belt-tightening, they have continued apace…. in April of this year, Trump dialed up the pressure even further by designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization… With its economy crashing and the Europeans failing to provide adequate sanctions relief, Tehran decided enough was enough.

Up to that point, the Iranians had been exercising what they termed “strategic patience”—waiting for the 2020 U.S. presidential election, toughing things out in the meantime, and keeping the Europeans onboard by sticking to the nuclear agreement. Now, Iran decided to retaliate….. First, it reduced its compliance with the JCPOA by expanding its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. Then, it resumed higher levels of enrichment. And in September, it restarted centrifuge development, shortening the breakout time for nuclear weapons production. Since Trump was the first to walk away from the accord, ripping up the painstakingly developed international legal consensus that prevented Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, the United States was in no position to say or do anything to stop it.

Iran’s moves are putting Trump in an increasingly tight corner. If he does not persuade the Iranians to reverse course, he will come under pressure from his hawkish advisers and Netanyahu to bomb their nuclear program, a dangerous adventure.”

The Ambassador concluded “if the United States continues to follow Trump’s folly instead, it should not be surprised to find itself alone in the desert, chasing a mirage.”

A chilling report in USA Today on 9 January of a campaign rally in Ohio held by President Trump bragged that US was "ready to go" if Iran's rocket attack [in response to the drone execution of Iran’s second highest Governmental official] inflicted additional damage or resulted in the death of US soldiers stationed on the two Iraqi bases that were targeted. Trump said Iran "hit us with 16 missiles" but that he decided to stand down after he saw the relatively minor impact, which he attributed to a "pretty good warning system " adding “So we didn't do anything...Not that I wanted to, but we were ready…You have no idea. Lot of people got very lucky."

It also recorded him boasting his decision to order a "bold and decisive action" to "deliver American justice" against the "sadistic mass murderer" Qasem Soleimani  via a U.S. drone strike near the Baghdad International Airport, the main  airport of the capital city of a sovereign state, Iraq.

Trump claimed, without providing any evidence, that General Soleimani “was looking very seriously at our embassies," adding "We stopped him quickly and we stopped him cold." 

 (“'We were ready.' Trump signals at Ohio rally that Soleimani strike will be 2020 issue,”

Trump speaks without any apparent knowledge of the historical Iranian blood on the hands of earlier belligerent US administrations.


On 22 September 1980, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Iran, using high-tech weaponry  provided by, inter alia, the US, UK and France. Eight years later, on 22 July 1988,  Iran finally agreed fought to a ceasefire, shortly after the US cruiser USS Vincennes shot down Iranian civilian airliner flying from , 3 July 1988, killing all 290 passengers and crew on board, claiming it thought it was a fighter plane. The US  government claimed that Vincennes was in international waters at the time (which was later proven to be untrue), that the Airbus A300 had been mistaken for an Iranian F-14 Tomcat and that Vincennes feared that she was under attack. The Iranians maintain that Vincennes was in their own waters, and that the passenger jet was turning away and increasing altitude after take-off. [US Admiral William J. Crowe later admitted on the Nightline  TV show that Vincennes was in Iranian territorial waters when it launched the missiles. At the time of the attack, Admiral Crowe claimed that the Iranian plane did not identify itself and sent no response to warning signals he had sent. In 1996, the United States expressed their regret for the event and the civilian deaths it caused]


Over a million Iranian soldiers died in the war. More than 144,000 Iranian children were orphaned as a consequence of these deaths (



There has a been a sophisticated civilization in the territory of what is modern day Iran for over 6,000 years, beginning with the formation of the Elamite kingdoms in the fourth millennium BC, so events barely 70 years ago are practically as if yesterday in the collective Iran mind. Thus virtually all Iranians are fully aware of the time in 1953 when the  US and UK orchestrated a coup - led by the CIA, backed by Britain’s MI6 - to depose their elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddeq, to secure control over and access to Iran’s oil wealth; and replace him  with their own authoritarian puppet leader, The Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi,  backed up from 1956 by a terrifying internal security police apparatus, called Savak (Sazeman-e Ettela'at va Amniyat-e Keshvar literally National Organization for Security and Intelligence) trained by the US military


The extraordinary US National Security Archive  - based at George Washington University  in the US capital -  posted on line on 19  August 2013 some thirty five detailed, original and  hitherto highly classified secret documents obtained via Freedom of Information requests to the Obama Administration,  exposing the background, basis, course and consequence of the coup .( Links to each document are provided below.


Here is the front page of the first document confirming the CIA’s intimate role.





Prime Minister Mossadeq and his government

OBJECTIVES . ' • . ... ; .. :. •• ·.~ i'. ~).~~·;. ;:: • Through legal, or quasi-legal. methods to effect the fall of the Mossadeq ::"(:1.f:~~i;;:: ~;;~ . ·. . . . \ . . . .:.:~:.:~;:·\}.~~:~);;, government; and · .·. · ·. '•·'~·.:::·.:-.i·~-~= ~t~~·· . ·.-- . ..  ~..,~ :;~~-~~ '··{~ ~ ~~ i~fof:i~Jl .. To replace it with a pro-Western government "under the Shah's le~erst1i};;"}f:~:X:.~~1~ ~ti; ~~edi7;.,; i.~ ':Prl,.; Miniat8r . · .. • . · ..•.. • · · · ···, Zt·\~!.~\-~!:.~ .. ,. ..· . CIA ACTION . ... ·.

Plan of aetion was implemented in four phases:

"1. . . · to strengthen  the Shah's will to exercise his constitutional power and to sign

.. those decrees necessary to effect the legal removal or Mossadeq as Prime


2. Welded together and coordinated the efforts or those political fac- . ~~~~~=!!~;~~~~ i fully influential clergy,- to "gain their support and bacldrig or any·tegal ac~on .· ; '· ..

taken by the Shah to accomplish Mossadeq’s removal;

disenchant the Iranian population with the myth of Mossadeq's patriotism., by exposing his collaboration with the Communists and his manipulation of constitutional authority to serve his own · · · ', : ·· ·



And here is the digest, using key highlights, of the UK Labour government in 1978 trying  to Convince the US Administration to censor details of UK involvement in the official US Archives.



Document 23: FCO, Minute, B.L. Crowe to R.S. Gorham, "Anglo-American Planning Talks: Iran," October 12, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

This memo recounts Precht's dramatic presentation on Iran two days earlier (see previous document). "His was essentially a policy of despair," the author writes. When the British follow up with the Americans about Precht's outlook of gloom, they find that State Department and National Security Council (NSC) staff were just as bewildered by his remarks. One NSC staff member calls them "bullshit." Policy Planning Director Lake laments the various "indiscreet and sensitive things" the Americans said at the meeting, and asks the British to "be very careful" how they handle them.

"On a completely different subject," the minute continues, "Precht let out … that he was having to go through the records of the 1952/53 Mossadeq period with a view to their release under the Freedom of Information Act [sic]. He said that if released, there would be some very embarrassing things about the British in them." (Much of this passage is underlined for emphasis.) The note goes on: "I made a strong pitch that we should be consulted," but the author adds, "I imagine that it is American documents about the British rather than documents on which HMG have any lien which are involved." (This is a point that may still be at issue today since the question of discussing American documents with foreign governments is very different from negotiating over the use of foreign government records.)


It is perhaps not surprising millions of ordinary Iranians took to the streets across the nation  this week, mourning the assassination of  the head of their military forces and calling for ‘Death to the USA’. Well before Trump, the US had bad form in  destabilzising Iran.


Backstory Annex


CIA Confirms Role in 1953 Iran Coup
Documents Provide New Details on Mosaddeq Overthrow and Its Aftermath
National Security Archive Calls for Release of Remaining Classified Record
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 435
Posted – August 19, 2013
Edited by Malcolm Byrne
For more information contact:
Malcolm Byrne 202/994-7043 or

Related Links
Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran
By Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, Syracuse University Press, May 1, 2004

Kermit Roosevelt, chief of CIA's Near East operations division, and on-the-ground manager of the U.S.-U.K. coup plan.
Donald N. Wilber, an archeologist and authority on ancient Persia, served as lead U.S. planner of TPAJAX (along with British SIS officer Norman Darbyshire). He wrote the first CIA history of the operation (
Document 1).
Tanks guard a downtown thoroughfare in Tehran during the coup. (National Security Archive collections)'s-house.jpg
The house of ousted Prime Minister Mosaddeq lies in ruins after a prolonged assault by coup forces, including several tanks. (Stephen Langlie, courtesy of Mark Gasiorowski)
General Zahedi (right) emerging from a safehouse on the afternoon of August 19. By this time, the coup's outcome has been determined. (National Security Archive collections)
Zahedi (center, wearing white shirt) atop a tank on his way to the Radio Transmission Station to address the nation. (National Security Archive collections)
After the overthrow, an uneasy alliance obtained between the Shah (right) and his new prime minister. (

·         Decades of Delay
·         Questioning CIA Rationales
Have the British Been Meddling with the FRUS Retrospective Volume on 1953?
Foreign Office Worried over Very Embarrassing Revelations, Documents Show
The United Kingdom sought to expunge "very embarrassing" information about its role in the 1953 coup in Iran from the official U.S. history of the period, British documents confirm. The Foreign Office feared that a planned State Department publication would undermine U.K. standing in Iran, according to declassified records posted on the National Security Archive's Web site today.
The British censorship attempt happened in 1978, but London's concerns may play a role even today in holding up the State Department's long-awaited history - even though U.S. law required its publication years ago.
The declassified documents, from the Foreign Office (Foreign and Commonwealth Office since 1968), shed light on a protracted controversy over crucial gaps in the State Department's authoritative Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series. The blank spots on Iran involve the CIA- and MI6-backed plot to overthrow the country's prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddeq. Six decades after his ouster, some signs point to the CIA as the culprit for refusing to allow basic details about the event to be incorporated into the FRUS compilation.[1]
Recently, the CIA has declassified a number of records relating to the 1953 coup, including a version of an internal history that specifically states the agency planned and helped implement the coup. (The National Security Archive obtained the documents through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.) This suggests that ongoing CIA inflexibility over the FRUS volume is not so much a function of the agency's worries about its own role being exposed as a function of its desire to protect lingering British sensitivities about 1953 - especially regarding the activities of U.K. intelligence services. There is also evidence that State Department officials have been just as anxious to shield British interests over the years.
Regardless of the reasons for this continued secrecy, an unfortunate consequence of withholding these materials is to guarantee that American (and world) public understanding of this pivotal episode will remain distorted. Another effect is to keep the issue alive in the political arena, where it is regularly exploited by circles in Iran opposed to constructive ties with the United States.
Background on FRUS and the Mosaddeq Period
By statute, the FRUS series is required to present "a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record" of American foreign policy.[2] That law came about partly as a consequence of the failure of the original volume covering the Mosaddeq period (published in 1989) to mention the U.S. role in his overthrow. The reaction of the scholarly community and interested public was outrage. Prominent historian Bruce Kuniholm, a former member of State's Policy Planning Staff, called the volume "a fraud."[3]
The full story of the scandal has been detailed elsewhere,[4] but most observers blamed the omission on the intelligence community (IC) for refusing to open its relevant files. In fact, the IC was not alone. Senior Department officials joined in opposing requests for access to particular classified records by the Historical Advisory Committee (HAC), the group of independent scholars charged with advising the Department's own Office of the Historian.[5] The head of the HAC, Warren Cohen, resigned in protest in 1990 citing his inability to ensure the integrity of the FRUS series. Congress became involved and, in a display of bipartisanship that would be stunning today (Democratic Senator Daniel P. Moynihan getting Republican Jesse Helms to collaborate), lawmakers passed a bill to prevent similar historical distortions. As Cohen and others pointed out, while Moscow was disgorging its scandalous Cold War secrets, Washington was taking a distinctly Soviet approach to its own history.[6]
By 1998, State's historians and the HAC had decided to produce a "retrospective" volume on the Iran coup that would help to correct the record. They planned other volumes to cover additional previously airbrushed covert activities (in Guatemala, the Congo, etc.). It was a promising step, yet 15 years later, while a couple of publications have materialized, several others have not - including the Iran volume.[7]
Institutional Delays
A review of the available minutes of HAC meetings makes it apparent that over the past decade multiple policy, bureaucratic, and logistical hurdles have interfered with progress. Some of these are routine, even inevitable - from the complications of multi-agency coordination to frequent personnel changes. Others are more specific to the realm of intelligence, notably a deep-seated uneasiness in parts of the CIA over the notion of unveiling putative secrets.
In the Fall of 2001, an ominous development for the HO gave a sense of where much of the power lay in its relationship with the CIA. According to notes of a public HAC meeting in October 2001, the CIA, on instructions from the Director of Central Intelligence, decided unilaterally "that there could be no new business" regarding FRUS until the two sides signed an MOU. Agency officials said the document would address legitimate IC concerns; HAC members worried it would mainly boost CIA control over the series. The agency specifically held up action on four volumes to make its point, while HAC historians countered that the volumes were being "held hostage" and the HO was being forced to work "under the threat of 'blackmail'."[8]
The CIA held firm and an agreement emerged in May 2002 that, at least from available information, appears to bend over backwards to give the IC extraordinary safeguards without offering much reassurance about key HO interests. For instance, the MOU states that the CIA must "meet HO's statutory requirement" - hardly something that seems necessary to spell out. At the same time, it allows the CIA to review materials not once, but again even after a manuscript has passed through formal declassification, and once more after it is otherwise in final form and ready for printing. In the context of the disputed Iran volume, HAC members worried about the "random" nature of these provisions which gave the agency "a second bite at the apple."[9] The implication is that the CIA will feel little obligation to help meet the HO's legal requirement if it believes its own "equities" are at stake. (This of course may still affect the Iran volume, currently scheduled for 2014 publication.)
Is It the British?
As mentioned, the CIA has begun to release documentation in recent years making explicit its connection to the Mosaddeq overthrow. Even earlier, by 2002, the State Department and CIA jointly began compiling an Iran retrospective volume. These are not signs of a fundamental institutional unwillingness to publish American materials on the coup (although parts of the CIA continued to resist the notion). The HO even tried at least twice previously to organize a joint project with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Iran, but the idea evidently went nowhere.[10]
In 2004, two years later, the State Department's designated historian finished compiling the volume. According to that historian, he included a number of records obtained from research at the then-Public Record Office in London. Among his findings was "material that documents the British role." He added that he had also located State Department records "that illustrate the British role."[11] By no later than June 2006, the Iran volume had entered the declassification queue. At the June 2006 HAC session, CIA representatives said "they believed the committee would be satisfied with the [declassification] reviews."
Up to that point, the agency's signals seemed generally positive about the prospects of making public previously closed materials. But in the six years since, no Iran volume has emerged. Even State's committee of historians apparently has never gotten a satisfactory explanation as to why.[12]
When the IC withholds records, "sources and methods" are often the excuse. The CIA is loath to release anything it believes would reveal how the agency conducts its activities. (For many years, the CIA kept secret the fact that it used balloons to drop leaflets over Eastern Europe during the Cold War, and would not confirm or deny whether it compiled biographical sketches of Communist leaders.) On the other hand, clandestine operations have been named in more than 20 other FRUS publications.[13] One of these was the retrospective volume on PBSUCCESS, the controversial overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954. Furthermore, the agency has released troubling materials such as assassination manuals that demonstrate how to murder political opponents using anything from "edge weapons" to "bare hands." In 2007, in response to a 15-year-old National Security Archive FOIA request, the CIA finally released its file of "family jewels" detailing an assortment of infamous activities. from planning to poison foreign leaders to conducting illegal surveillance on American journalists.
If the agency felt it could part with such high-profile sources and methods information, along with deeply embarrassing revelations about itself, why not in the Iran case? Perhaps the British are just saying no, and their American counterparts are quietly going along.
State Department Early Warning - 1978
The FCO documents in this posting (Documents 22-35) strongly support this conclusion. Theytell a fascinating story of transatlantic cooperation and diplomatic concern at a turbulent time. It was a State Department official who first alerted the FCO to plans by the Department's historians to publish an official account of the 1953 coup period. The Department's Iran expert warned that the records could have "possibly damaging consequences" not only for London but for the Shah of Iran, who was fighting for survival as he had 25 years earlier (Document 22). Two days later, FCO officials began to pass the message up the line that "very embarrassing things about the British" were likely to be in the upcoming FRUS compilation (Document 23). FCO officials reported that officers on both the Iran and Britain desks at State were prepared to help keep those materials out of the public domain, at least for the time being (Document 33). Almost 35 years later, those records are still inaccessible.
The British government's apparent unwillingness to acknowledge what the world already knows is difficult for most outsiders to understand. It becomes positively baffling when senior public figures who are fully aware of the history have already acknowledged London's role. In 2009, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw publicly remarked on Britain's part in toppling Mosaddeq, which he categorized as one of many outside "interferences" in Iranian affairs in the last century.[14] Yet, present indications are that the U.K. government is not prepared to release either its own files or evidently to approve the opening of American records that might help bring some degree of closure to this protracted historic - and historiographical - episode.
(Jump to the British documents)
[1] A recent article drawing attention to the controversy is Stephen R. Weissman, "Why is U.S. Withholding Old Documents on Covert Ops in Congo, Iran?" The Christian Science Monitor, March 25, 2011. ( )
[2] Section 198, Public Law 102-138.
[3] Bruce Kuniholm, "Foreign Relations, Public Relations, Accountability, and Understanding," American Historical Association, Perspectives, May-June 1990.
[4] In addition to the Kuniholm and Weissman items cited above, see also Stephen R. Weissman, "Censoring American Diplomatic History," American Historical Association, Perspectives on History, September 2011.
[5] Joshua Botts, Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State, "'A Burden for the Department'?: To The 1991 FRUS Statute," February 6, 2012,
[6] Editorial, "History Bleached at State," The New York Times, May 16, 1990.
[7] Retrospective compilations on Guatemala (2003) and the intelligence community (2007) during the 1950s have appeared; collections on the Congo and Chile are among those that have not.
[8] HAC minutes, October 15-16, 2001,
[10] HAC minutes, July 22-23, 2002,
[11]HAC minutes, March 6-7, 2006,
[12] See HAC minutes for July 12-13, 2004,; September 20-21, 2004,; September 8-9, 2008,; for example.
[13] Comments of then-FRUS series editor Edward Keefer at the February 26-27, 2007, HAC meeting,
[14] Quoted in Souren Melikian, "Show Ignores Essential Questions about Iranian King's Role," The International Herald Tribune, February 21, 2009.
Do Allied Demands for Secrecy Undercut the U.S. Public Interest?
The delays in publication of the Iran FRUS volume raise broader questions about U.S. government justifications for withholding records after so much time has elapsed. When it comes to foreign government information (known as FGI) U.S. agencies deny access for sometimes decades after the events they cover - six decades in the Iran case, and counting. Consulting with allies before declassifying documents is a long-standing practice, though what exactly that entails is not well understood. The intelligence community regularly invokes FGI and "foreign relations" as reasons to deny requests through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In response to a 1999 National Security Archive FOIA lawsuit, the CIA used both rationales in declining to release all but a single sentence from the 200-page internal history of the 1953 coup written by Donald Wilber.[1]
Although agencies often cite legal grounds for keeping information on relations with other governments classified, there is good reason to challenge the appropriateness of relying exclusively on those determinations. The following questions raise additional considerations. They make particular reference to the Iran 1953 case:
[1] See HAC minutes, February 25-26, 2008, (; see also "Declaration of William H. McNair…," August 13, 1999, in National Security Archive v. Central Intelligence Agency, Civil No. 99-1160. (
[2] Quoted in Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News, March 10, 2013.
[3] Tim Weiner, "C.I.A. Destroyed Files on 1953 Iran Coup," The New York Times, May 29, 1997.
[4] Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's negative public response emphasized other issues, notably Albright's comment that Iran was ruled by a handful of unelected individuals.
[5] See U.S. Justice Department, Office of Information Policy, FOIA Update, Vol. XX, No. 1, (undated),
Washington, D.C., August 19, 2013 – Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the National Security Archive is today posting recently declassified CIA documents on the United States' role in the controversial operation. American and British involvement in Mosaddeq's ouster has long been public knowledge, but today's posting includes what is believed to be the CIA's first formal acknowledgement that the agency helped to plan and execute the coup.
The explicit reference to the CIA's role appears in a copy of an internal history, The Battle for Iran, dating from the mid-1970s. The agency released a heavily excised version of the account in 1981 in response to an ACLU lawsuit, but it blacked out all references to TPAJAX, the code name for the U.S.-led operation. Those references appear in the latest release. Additional CIA materials posted today include working files from Kermit Roosevelt, the senior CIA officer on the ground in Iran during the coup. They provide new specifics as well as insights into the intelligence agency's actions before and after the operation.
This map shows the disposition of bands of "ruffians," paid to demonstrate by coup organizers, early on August 19, 1953. The bands gathered in the bazaar and other sections of southern Tehran, then moved north through the capital. Thug leaders' names appear at left, along with the estimated size of their groups, and their targets. (Courtesy of Ali Rahnema, author of the forthcoming Thugs, Turn-coats, Soldiers, Spooks: Anatomy of Overthrowing Mosaddeq in Four Days.)
The 1953 coup remains a topic of global interest because so much about it is still under intense debate. Even fundamental questions
— who hatched the plot, who ultimately carried it out, who supported it inside Iran, and how did it succeed — are in dispute.[1]
The issue is more than academic. Political partisans on all sides, including the Iranian government, regularly invoke the coup to argue whether Iran or foreign powers are primarily responsible for the country's historical trajectory, whether the United States can be trusted to respect Iran's sovereignty, or whether Washington needs to apologize for its prior interference before better relations can occur.
Pro-Shah police, military units and undercover agents became engaged in the coup starting mid-morning August 19. (Courtesy of Ali Rahnema, author of the forthcoming Thugs, Turn-coats, Soldiers, Spooks: Anatomy of Overthrowing Mosaddeq in Four Days.)
Also, the public release of these materials is noteworthy because CIA documents about 1953 are rare. First of all, agency officials have stated that most of the records on the coup were either lost or destroyed in the early 1960s, allegedly because the record-holders' "safes were too full."[2]
Regarding public access to any remaining files (reportedly about one cubic foot of material), the intelligence community's standard procedure for decades has been to assert a blanket denial. This is in spite of commitments made two decades ago by three separate CIA directors. Robert M. Gates, R. James Woolsey, and John M. Deutch each vowed to open up agency historical files on a number of Cold War-era covert operations, including Iran, as a sign of the CIA's purported new policy of openness after the collapse of the USSR in 1991.[3]
Tanks played a critical role on August 19, with pro-Shah forces gaining control of some 24 of them from the military during the course of the day. (Courtesy of Ali Rahnema, author of the forthcoming Thugs, Turn-coats, Soldiers, Spooks: Anatomy of Overthrowing Mosaddeq in Four Days.)
A clear sign that their pledge would not be honored in practice came after the National Security Archive filed a lawsuit in 1999 for a well-known internal CIA narrative about the coup. One of the operation's planners, Donald N. Wilber, prepared the account less than a year later. The CIA agreed to release just a single sentence out of the 200-page report.
Despite the appearance of countless published accounts about the operation over the years - including Kermit Roosevelt's own detailed memoir, and the subsequent leak to The New York Times of the 200-page CIA narrative history[4] — intelligence agencies typically refused to budge. They have insisted on making a distinction between publicly available information on U.S. activities from non-government sources and official acknowledgement of those activities, even several decades after the fact.
Anti-Mosaddeq armed forces converged on his house (left side of map) beginning around 4:00 pm, eventually forcing him to escape over a garden wall before his house was destroyed. By then, Zahedi had already addressed the nation from the Radio Transmission Station. (Courtesy of Ali Rahnema, author of the forthcoming Thugs, Turn-coats, Soldiers, Spooks: Anatomy of Overthrowing Mosaddeq in Four Days.)
While the National Security Archive applauds the CIA's decision to make these materials available, today's posting shows clearly that these materials could have been safely declassified many years ago without risk of damage to the national security. (See sidebar, "Why is the Coup Still a Secret?")
Archive Deputy Director Malcolm Byrne called for the U.S. intelligence community to make fully available the remaining records on the coup period. "There is no longer good reason to keep secrets about such a critical episode in our recent past. The basic facts are widely known to every school child in Iran. Suppressing the details only distorts the history, and feeds into myth-making on all sides."
To supplement the recent CIA release, the National Security Archive is including two other, previously available internal accounts of the coup. One is the narrative referred to above: a 1954 Clandestine Services History prepared by Donald N. Wilber, one of the operation's chief architects, which The New York Times obtained by a leak and first posted on its site in April 2000.
The other item is a heavily excised 1998 piece — "Zendebad, Shah!" — by an in-house CIA historian. (The Archive has asked the CIA to re-review the document's excessive deletions for future release.)
The posting also features an earlier declassification of The Battle for Iran for purposes of comparison with the latest release. The earlier version includes portions that were withheld in the later release. As often happens, government classification officials had quite different — sometimes seemingly arbitrary — views about what could and could not be safely made public.
Read together, the three histories offer fascinating variations in perspective — from an agency operative to two in-house historians (the last being the most dispassionate). Unfortunately, they still leave wide gaps in the history, including on some fundamental questions which may never be satisfactorily answered — such as how to apportion responsibility for planning and carrying out the coup among all the Iranian and outside actors involved.
But all 21 of the CIA items posted today (in addition to 14 previously unpublished British documents — see Sidebar), reinforce the conclusion that the United States, and the CIA in particular, devoted extensive resources and high-level policy attention toward bringing about Mosaddeq's overthrow, and smoothing over the aftermath.




CIA Records

CIA Internal Histories

Document 1 (Cover Sheet, Summary, I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, Appendix A, Appendix B, Appendix C, Appendix D, Appendix E): CIA, Clandestine Services History, Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran: November 1952 - August 1953, Dr. Donald N. Wilber, March 1954

Source: The New York Times

Donald Wilber was a principal planner of the initial joint U.S.-U.K. coup attempt of August 1953. This 200-page account is one of the most valuable remaining records describing the event because Wilber wrote it within months of the overthrow and provided a great deal of detail. Like any historical document, it must be read with care, taking into account the author's personal perspective, purpose in writing it, and audience. The CIA routinely prepared histories of important operations for use by future operatives. They were not intended to be made public.


Document 2: CIA, Summary, "Campaign to Install a Pro-Western Government in Iran," draft of internal history of the coup, undated

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

This heavily excised summary was almost certainly prepared in connection with Donald Wilber's Clandestine Services History (Document 1). By all indications written not long after the coup (1953-54), it includes several of the phrases Wilber used — "quasi-legal," and "war of nerves," for example. The text clearly gives the impression that the author attributes the coup's eventual success to a combination of external and internal developments. Beginning by listing a number of specific steps taken by the U.S. under the heading "CIA ACTION," the document notes at the end (in a handwritten edit): "These actions resulted in literal revolt of the population, [1+ lines excised]. The military and security forces joined the populace, Radio Tehran was taken over, and Mossadeq was forced to flee on 17 [sic] Aug 53."


Document 3A & Document 3B: CIA, History, The Battle for Iran, author's name excised, undated (c. mid-1970s) - (Two versions - declassified in 1981 and 2011)

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

This posting provides two separate releases of the same document, declassified 30 years apart (1981 and 2011). Each version contains portions excised in the other. Though no date is given, judging from citations in the footnotes The Battle for Iran was written in or after 1974. It is marked "Administrative - Working Paper" and contains a number of handwritten edits. The author was a member of the CIA's History Staff who acknowledges "the enthusiastic cooperation" of the agency's Directorate of Operations. The author provides confirmation that most of the relevant files were destroyed in 1962; therefore the account relies on the relatively few remaining records as well as on public sources. The vast majority of the covert action portion (Section III) remains classified, although the most recent declassification of the document leaves in some brief, but important, passages. An unexpected feature of the document (Appendix C) is the inclusion of a series of lengthy excerpts of published accounts of the overthrow designed, apparently, to underscore how poorly the public understood the episode at the time.


Document 4: CIA, History, "Zendebad, Shah!": The Central Intelligence Agency and the Fall of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq, August 1953, Scott A. Koch, June 1998

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

The most recent known internal history of the coup, "Zendebad, Shah!" was written by an in-house agency historian in 1998. It is heavily excised (but currently undergoing re-review by the CIA), with virtually all paragraphs marked Confidential or higher omitted from the public version. Still, it is a useful account written by someone without a stake in the events and drawing on an array of U.S. government and published sources not available to the earlier CIA authors.


CIA Records Immediately Before and After the Coup


Document 5: CIA, memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], July 14, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Kermit Roosevelt conveys information about rapidly unfolding events in Tehran, including Mosaddeq's idea for a referendum on his remaining in office, the prospect of his closing the Majles, and most importantly the impact President Eisenhower's recent letter has had in turning society against the prime minister. The U.S. government publicized Eisenhower's undiplomatic letter turning down Mosaddeq's request for financial aid. The move was one of the ways Washington hoped to weaken his political standing.


Document 6: CIA, memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], July 15, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Responding to the resignation of Mosaddeq supporters from the Majles, Kermit Roosevelt fires off a plan to ensure that other Majles members keep the parliament functioning, the eventual goal being to engineer a no-confidence in Mosaddeq. The memo provides an interesting clue on the subject of whether CIA operatives ever bought votes in the Majles, about which other CIA sources are vague. Roosevelt urges that as many deputies as possible be "persuaded" to take bast in the parliament. "Recognize will be necessary expend money this purpose and determine precisely who does what." At the conclusion of the document he appears to tie this scheme into the previously elaborated — but clearly evolving — coup plan.


Document 7: CIA, memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], July 16, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Roosevelt reports on developing plans involving Fazlollah Zahedi, the man who has been chosen to replace Mosaddeq. CIA sources, including the Wilber history, indicate that the military aspects of the plan were to be largely Zahedi's responsibility. This memo supports that (even though many details are excised), but also provides some insight into the differences in expectations between the Americans and Zahedi. With some skepticism ("Zahedi claims ..."), Roosevelt spells out a series of events Zahedi envisions that presumably would bring him to the premiership, albeit in a very round-about way. His thinking is clearly prompted by his declared unwillingness to commit "'political suicide' by extra-legal move."


Document 8: CIA, memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], July 17, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

The CIA's Tehran station reports on the recent resignations of independent and opposition Majles members. The idea, an opposition deputy tells the station, was to avert Mosaddeq's planned public referendum. The memo gives a bit of insight into the fluidity and uncertainty of developments with each faction undoubtedly elaborating their own strategies and tactics to a certain degree.


Document 9: CIA, note to Mr. [John] Waller, July 22, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

This brief note conveys much about both U.S. planning and hopes for Mosaddeq's overthrow. It is a request from Kermit Roosevelt to John Waller and Donald Wilber to make sure that a formal U.S. statement is ready in advance of "a 'successful' coup." (See Document 10)


Document 10: CIA, note forwarding proposed text of State Department release for after the coup, August 5, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

This draft text from the State Department appears to be a result of Roosevelt's request (Document 9) to have an official statement available for use after completion of the operation. The draft predates Mosaddeq's ouster by two weeks, but its language — crediting "the Iranian people, under the leadership of their Shah," for the coup — tracks precisely with the neutral wording used by both the State Department and Foreign Office in their official paperwork after the fact.


Document 11: CIA, Memo, "Proposed Commendation for Communications Personnel who have serviced the TPAJAX Operation," Frank G. Wisner to The Acting Director of Central Intelligence, August 20, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Wisner recommends a special commendation for the work performed by the communications specialists who kept CIA headquarters in contact with operatives in Iran throughout the coup period. "I am sure that you are aware of the exceptionally heavy volume of traffic which this operation has necessitated," Wisner writes — an unintentionally poignant remark given how little of that documentation has survived.


Document 12: CIA, Memo, "Commendation," Frank G. Wisner to CNEA Division, August 26, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Wisner also requests a commendation for John Waller, the coup overseer at CIA headquarters, "for his work in TPAJAX." Waller's conduct "in no small measure, contributed to the successful result."


Document 13: CIA, "Letter of Commendation [Excised]," author and recipient names excised, August 26, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Evidently after reflection, Frank Wisner concludes that there are troubling "security implications" involved in providing a letter of commendation for a covert operation.


Document 14: CIA, Memo, "Anti-Tudeh Activities of Zahedi Government," author's name excised, September 10, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

A priority of the Zahedi government after the coup was to go after the Tudeh Party, which had been a mainstay of support for Mosaddeq, even if the relationship was mostly one of mutual convenience. This is one of several memos reporting details on numbers of arrests, names of suspected Central Committee members, and planned fate of arrestees. The report claims with high specificity on Soviet assistance being provided to the Tudeh, including printing party newspapers at the embassy. Signs are reportedly mixed as to whether the party and pro-Mosaddeq elements will try to combine forces again.


Document 15: CIA, memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], September 21, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Roosevelt reports on an intense period of political maneuvering at high levels in the Zahedi government. Intrigues, patronage (including a report that the government has been giving financial support to Ayatollah Behbehani, and that the latter's son is angling for a Cabinet post), and corruption are all dealt with in this memo.


Document 16: CIA, memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], September 24, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

A restless Zahedi is reported to be active on a number of fronts including trying to get a military tribunal to execute Mosaddeq and urging the Shah to fire several senior military officers including Chief of Staff Batmangelich. The Shah reportedly has not responded to Zahedi's previous five messages.


Document 17: CIA, Memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], October 2, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

According to this account, the Shah remained deeply worried about Mosaddeq's influence, even while incarcerated. Roosevelt reports the Shah is prepared to execute Mosaddeq (after a guilty verdict that is a foregone conclusion) if his followers and the Tudeh take any threatening action.


Document 18: CIA, Memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], October 9, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Iranian politics did not calm down entirely after the coup, as this memo indicates, reporting on "violent disagreements" between Zahedi and his own supporter, Hoseyn Makki, whom Zahedi threatened to shoot if he accosted any senators trying to attend a Senate session. Roosevelt also notes two recent payments from Zahedi to Ayatollah Behbehani. The source for these provocative reports is unknown, but presumably is named in the excised portion at the top of the memo.


Document 19: CIA, memo from Kermit Roosevelt to [Excised], October 20, 1953

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

Roosevelt notes a meeting between the new prime minister, Zahedi, and Ayatollah Kashani, a politically active cleric and once one of Mosaddeq's chief supporters. Kashani reportedly carps about some of his former National Front allies. Roosevelt concludes Zahedi wants "split" the front "by wooing Kashani away."


Document 20: CIA, Propaganda Commentary, "Our National Character," undated

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

This appears to be an example of CIA propaganda aimed at undermining Mosaddeq's public standing, presumably prepared during Summer 1953. Like other examples in this posting, the CIA provided no description when it released the document. It certainly fits the pattern of what Donald Wilber and others after him have described about the nature of the CIA's efforts to plant damaging innuendo in local Iranian media. In this case, the authors extol the virtues of the Iranian character, particularly as admired by the outside world, then decry the descent into "hateful," "rough" and "rude" behavior Iranians have begun to exhibit "ever since the alliance between the dictator Mossadeq and the Tudeh Party."


Document 21: CIA, Propaganda Commentary, "Mossadeq's Spy Service," undated

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act release

This propaganda piece accuses the prime minister of pretending to be "the savior of Iran" and alleges that he has instead built up a vast spying apparatus which he has trained on virtually every sector of society, from the army to newspapers to political and religious leaders. Stirring up images of his purported alliance with "murderous Qashqai Khans" and the Bolsheviks, the authors charge: "Is this the way you save Iran, Mossadeq? We know what you want to save. You want to save Mossadeq's dictatorship in Iran!"


British Records

Document 22 : FCO, Summary Record, "British-American Planning Talks, Washington," October 10-11, 1978

Source: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO) FCO 8/3216, File No. P 333/2, Folder, "Iran: Release of Confidential Records," 1 Jan - 31 Dec 1978 (hereafter: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216)

In October 1978, a delegation of British FCO officials traveled to Washington for two days of discussions and comparing of notes on the world situation with their State Department counterparts. The director of the Department's Policy Planning Staff, Anthony Lake (later to serve as President Bill Clinton's national security advisor), led the American side. Other participants were experts from various geographical and functional bureaus, including Henry Precht, the head of the Iran Desk.

Beginning in paragraph 22, Precht gives a dour summary of events in Iran: "the worst foreign policy disaster to hit the West for many years." In a fascinating back-and-forth about the Shah, Precht warns it is "difficult to see how the Shah could survive." The British politely disagree, voicing confidence that the monarchy will survive. Even his State Department colleagues "showed surprise at the depth of Mr. Precht's gloom."

In the course of his presentation (paragraph 23), Precht notes almost in passing that the State Department is reviewing its records from 1952-1954 for eventual release. A British representative immediately comments that "if that were the case, he hoped HMG [Her Majesty's Government] would be consulted."


Document 23: FCO, Minute, B.L. Crowe to R.S. Gorham, "Anglo-American Planning Talks: Iran," October 12, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

This memo recounts Precht's dramatic presentation on Iran two days earlier (see previous document). "His was essentially a policy of despair," the author writes. When the British follow up with the Americans about Precht's outlook of gloom, they find that State Department and National Security Council (NSC) staff were just as bewildered by his remarks. One NSC staff member calls them "bullshit." Policy Planning Director Lake laments the various "indiscreet and sensitive things" the Americans said at the meeting, and asks the British to "be very careful" how they handle them.

"On a completely different subject," the minute continues, "Precht let out … that he was having to go through the records of the 1952/53 Mossadeq period with a view to their release under the Freedom of Information Act [sic]. He said that if released, there would be some very embarrassing things about the British in them." (Much of this passage is underlined for emphasis.) The note goes on: "I made a strong pitch that we should be consulted," but the author adds, "I imagine that it is American documents about the British rather than documents on which HMG have any lien which are involved." (This is a point that may still be at issue today since the question of discussing American documents with foreign governments is very different from negotiating over the use of foreign government records.)


Document 24: FCO, Letter, R.J. Carrick to B.L. Crowe, October 13, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

An FCO official reports that Precht recently approached another British diplomat to say that "he hoped we had not been too shocked" by his recent presentation. He says Precht acknowledged being "over-pessimistic" and that in any event he had not been offering anyone's view but his own.[5] According to the British, NSC staff members put more stock in the assessments of the U.K. ambassador to Tehran, Sir Anthony Parsons, than in Precht's. The writer adds that U.S. Ambassador to Iran William Sullivan also shares Parsons' judgment, and concludes, without indicating a source, that even "Henry Precht has now accepted Sullivan's view!"


Document 25: FCO, Letter, R.S. Gorham to Mr. Cullimore, "Iran: The Ghotbi Pamphlet and the Mussadeq Period," October 17, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

This cover note (to Document 24) refers to Precht's revelation about the impending American publication of documents on the Mosaddeq period. The author suggests giving some consideration to the implications of this for "our own record of the time."


Document 26: FCO, Letter, B.L. Crowe to Sir A. Duff, "Anglo-American Planning Talks," October 19, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

FCO official Brian Crowe summarizes the October 10-11 joint U.S.-U.K. talks. The document is included here mainly for the sake of comprehensiveness, since it is part of the FCO folder on the FRUS matter. The writer repeats the remark from State's Anthony Lake that "some of the comments" from the U.S. side on Iran (among other topics) were "highly sensitive" and should not be disclosed - even to other American officials.


Document 27: FCO, Letter, J.O. Kerr to B.L. Crowe, "Talks with the US Planners: Iran," October 24, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

This brief note shows that word is moving up the line in the FCO about the forthcoming FRUS volume on Iran. The writer conveys a request to have the U.K. embassy in Washington check the risks involved in the potential release of U.S. documents, and "when the State Department propose to raise them formally with us."


Document 28: FCO, letter, G.G.H. Walden to B.L. Crowe, "Anglo-American Planning Talks: Iran," November 10, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

Still more interest in the possible State Department release is reflected in this short note, now a month after the joint U.S.-U.K. talks. Here and elsewhere, the British notes erroneously report that the release will come under the Freedom of Information Act (or the Public Information Act, as given here); they are actually slated for inclusion in the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series.


Document 29: FCO, R.S. Gorham cover note to Streams, "Iran: Release of Confidential Records," attaching draft letter to Washington, November 14, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

This note and draft are included primarily because they are part of the FCO file on this topic. However, the draft letter does contain some different wording from the final version (Document 31).


Document 30: U.S. Embassy London, Letter, Ronald I. Spiers to Sir Thomas Brimelow, March 24, 1975

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

Three years before Precht's revelation to his British counterparts, the U.K. sought general guidance from the State Department about how the U.S. would handle "classified information received from Her Majesty's Government." The month before, robust amendments to the U.S. Freedom of Information Act had gone into effect. This letter from the number two official in London at the time, Ronald Spiers, offers a detailed response. Britain's awareness of the new amendments and anxiousness about their implications (including the fairly abstruse question of how secret documents would be handled in court cases) show how sensitive an issue the British considered protection of their information to be. The U.S. Chargé is equally anxious to provide the necessary reassurances. (More than a decade later, Spiers would sharply oppose efforts by the State Department's Historical Advisory Committee to gain access to restricted documentation for the FRUS series.[6])


Document 31: FCO, Letter, R.S. Gorham to R.J.S. Muir, "Iran: Release of Confidential Records," November 16, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

The British embassy in Washington is alerted to the possibility of documents being released on the 1952-54 period. The FCO clearly expects that, as apparently has been the case in the past, "there should be no difficulty for the Americans in first removing … copies of any telegrams etc from us and US documents which record our views, even in the case of papers which are not strictly speaking 'official information furnished by a foreign government.'" (This raises important questions about how far U.S. officials typically go to accommodate allied sensibilities, including to the point of censoring U.S. documents.) "What is not clear," the letter continues, "is whether they could withhold American documents which referred to joint Anglo/US views about, say, the removal of Musaddiq in 1953."


Document 32: British Embassy in Washington, Letter, R.J.S. Muir to R.S. Gorham, "Iran" Release of Confidential Records," December 14, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

This follow-up to Gorham's earlier request (Document 31) is another reflection of U.K. skittishness about the pending document release. The embassy officer reports that he has spoken to Henry Precht "several times" about it, and that the British Desk at the State Department is also looking into the matter on London's behalf. The objective is to persuade the Department to agree to withhold not only British documents but American ones, too.


Document 33: British Embassy in Washington, Letter, R.J.S. Muir to R.S. Gorham, "Iran: Release of Confidential Records," December 22, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

The embassy updates the FCO on the status of the Iran records. Precht informs the embassy that he is prepared to "sit on the papers" to help postpone their publication. Precht's priority is the potential impact on current U.S. and U.K. policy toward Iran. Conversely, a historian at the State Department makes it clear that his office feels no obligation even to consult with the British about any non-U.K. documents being considered. The historian goes on to say "that he had in the past resisted requests from other governments for joint consultation and would resist very strongly any such request from us." But the same historian admits that the embassy might "be successful" if it approached the policy side of the Department directly.

The embassy letter ends with a "footnote" noting that State Department historians "have read the 1952-54 papers and find them a 'marvelous compilation.'"

Interestingly, a handwritten comment on the letter from another FCO official gives a different view about the likely consequences of the upcoming document publication: "As the revolution [in Iran] is upon us, the problem is no longer Anglo-American: the first revelations will be from the Iranian side." In other words, the revolution will bring its own damaging results, and the revolutionaries will not need any further ammunition from the West.


Document 34: FCO, Cover Note, Cohen (?) to Lucas, circa December 22, 1978

Source: TNA: PRO FCO 8/3216

In a handwritten remark at the bottom of this cover note, an unidentified FCO official voices much less anxiety than some of his colleagues about the possible repercussions of the disclosure of documents on Iran. Referring to a passage in paragraph 3 of the attached letter (see previous document), the writer asks: "why should we be concerned about 'any other documents'?" The writer agrees with the cover note author's suggestion to "let this matter rest for a while," then continues: "I think we ought positively to seek the agreement of others interested to Y." ("Y" identifies the relevant passage on the cover note.)


Document 35: FCO, Meeting Record, "Iran: Policy Review," December 20, 1978

Source : British National Archives, FCO 8/3351, File No. NB P 011/1 (Part A), Title "Internal Political Situation in Iran"

British Foreign Secretary David Owen chairs this FCO meeting on the unfolding crisis in Iran. It offers a window into London's assessment of the revolution and British concerns for the future (including giving "highest priority to getting paid for our major outstanding debts"). The document also shows that not everyone at the FCO believed significant harm would necessarily come to British interests from the FRUS revelations. Although he is speaking about events in 1978, I.T.M. Lucas' comment could apply just as forcefully to the impact of disclosing London's actions in 1953: "[I]t was commonly known in [the Iranian] Government who the British were talking to, and there was nothing we could do to disabuse public opinion of its notions about the British role in Iran." (p. 2)



[1] Just in the last several years, books in English, French and Persian by Ervand Abrahamian, Gholam-Reza Afkhami, Mohammad Amini, Christopher de Bellaigue, Darioush Bayandor, Mark Gasiorowski (and this author), Stephen Kinzer, Abbas Milani, Ali Rahnema, and others have focused on, or at least dealt in depth with, Mosaddeq and the coup. They contain sometimes wide differences of view about who was behind planning for the overthrow and how it finally played out. More accounts are on the way (including an important English-language volume on Iranian domestic politics by Ali Rahnema of the American University of Paris).

[2] Tim Weiner, "C.I.A. Destroyed Files on 1953 Iran Coup," The New York Times, May 29, 1997.

[3] Tim Weiner, "C.I.A.'s Openness Derided as a 'Snow Job'," The New York Times, May 20, 1997; Tim Weiner, op. cit., May 29, 1997. (See also the link to the Archive's lawsuit, above.)

[4] Kermit Roosevelt, Countercoup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1979); The New York Times, April 16, 2000.

[5] Precht recalls that he was originally not slated to be at the meetings, which usually deputy assistant secretaries and above attended. But the Near East division representative for State was unavailable. "I was drafted," Precht said. Being forced to "sit through interminable and pointless talk" about extraneous topics "when my plate was already overflowing" on Iran contributed to a "sour mood," he remembered. (Henry Precht e-mail to author, June 2, 2011.)

[6] Joshua Botts, Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State, "'A Burden for the Department'?: To The 1991 FRUS Statute," February 6, 2012,


Did Trump Do the Right Thing with Iran?

How people across the political spectrum are taking stock of his latest shock to the world order.

Spencer Bokat-Lindell

By Spencer Bokat-Lindell

Mr. Bokat-Lindell is a writer in The New York Times Opinion section.


·         NY Times, Jan. 9, 2020

Credit...Illustration by The New York Times; photographs by Arash Khamooshi and Al Drago for The New York Times, Mehdi Ghasemi/ISNA, Via Associated Press

This article is part of the Debatable newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Nothing unites Washington like war. But then nothing divides it, and scrambles it, quite like Donald Trump.

A Republican senator called the administration’s defense of the president’s decision to kill Iran’s most powerful commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, with a drone strike on Iraqi soil “absolutely insane.” A Democratic senator, evoking the rhetorical stylings of George W. Bush, called Iran a nation “full of malevolent evildoers.” People are still trying to make sense of what happened and what it will mean: Was it justified ethically? Was it wise strategically?

I’ve read more than 30 articles on the debate. Here are the points worth paying attention to.

‘Trump won the first round’

General Suleimani’s death deals a huge blow to Iran’s plans for regional domination, writes Hassan Hassan, the director of the nonstate actors program at the Center for Global Policy.

·         “His work took a long time to bear fruit in Iraq and Lebanon, but he had not yet had the same time nor secured the same connections in such places as Syria and Yemen,” he says.

·         “His death does not mark the end of Iran’s hegemonic project, but it does serve a heavy blow to the regime’s ability to expand its influence and deal with erupting crises.”

General Suleimani’s assassination could also open the door to diplomacy, says Ian Bremmer, a political scientist and the president of Eurasia Group. Mr. Bremmer notes that Mr. Trump took a similar tack of escalation when he threatened Mexico with tariffs if it didn’t tighten its border, which it eventually vowed to do. He tweeted:

The strike was necessary because the United States’ deterrence strategy with Iran wasn’t working, Marc A. Thiessen, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, writes in The Washington Post.

·         “Iran had been carrying out increasingly bold attacks — attacking Japanese and Norwegian oil tankers, then an unmanned U.S. drone and then Saudi oil facilities,” he writes. “Our lack of serious response emboldened Iran to escalate further.”

·         General Suleimani’s killing shows that “Trump is serious about enforcing his red line” against killing Americans and “creating a measure of deterrence,” writes Max Boot in The Washington Post. “Other international actors, including North Korea, will now be more wary of provoking Trump.”

This apparent victory seems to have been won at a reasonable cost, argue the editors of National Review, since Iran’s retaliation, at least for now, was limited and caused no American casualties.

‘An egregious violation’

The assassination of General Suleimani was wrong, writes Greg Shupak in Jacobin. “The United States has no right to bomb other countries, to try to overthrow governments, or to assassinate other states’ officials, though it has been doing so for so long that these practices have come to be widely accepted as natural,” he writes, noting how the United States orchestrated the coup in 1953 that overthrew Iran’s democracy.

·         The assassination was also illegal, argues Karen Greenberg in The Times. “In employing the euphemism ‘targeted killing’ for a member of a sovereign state,” she writes, “the Trump administration has exposed the faulty assumptions and dangerous legacy posed by the war on terror’s targeted killing policy.” (Gerald Ford banned assassination in 1976, but succeeding presidents have simply narrowed the definition of assassination.)

·         The policy has unacceptable implications, writes Ryan Cooper: “If it’s fine to kill Iranian statesmen while they are traveling to a peace conference, in public and undefended, then it’s fine for Iran (or some other power) to blow up, say, Vice President Pence when he is on a diplomatic trip to Ireland or somewhere.”

Both parties are to blame for executive overreach, writes Andrew Bacevich, a Vietnam veteran and the president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, calling Congress “pusillanimous and supine” for having long since forfeited its constitutional authority to make and unmake war.

·         The Democrats complaining “deserve not a respectful hearing but contempt,” he writes, for “their behavior over the past decade and more in giving presidents a free hand to wage war however they see fit cannot be described as anything but cowardly.”

·         "It was, after all, President Obama who pioneered the role of assassin-in-chief to which Trump has now laid claim.”

‘No coherent strategy’

The real question to ask about the assassination was not whether it was justified, but whether it was wise, writes The Times editorial board. General Suleimani was “indisputably an enemy of the American people,” they write, but the administration has offered no specific evidence of the “imminent threat” it said General Suleimani posed to the United States or how his death supposedly resolved it.

Instead, Trump has only produced a more dangerous Iran, Vali Nasr, a Middle East scholar at Johns Hopkins University, told The Times’s Michelle Goldberg.

·         “Already,” Ms. Goldberg writes, “NATO has suspended its mission training Iraqi forces to fight ISIS. Iraq’s Parliament has voted to expel American troops — a longtime Iranian objective.”

·         A country that was recently fractured by protests and a brutal crackdown will now unify behind the regime, which has already named General Suleimani’s successor, says Narges Bajoghli in The Times.

There is no hope now to revive the Iran nuclear deal, writes Susan Rice, the national security adviser to Barack Obama. Iran announced that it would stop observing the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear fuel production.

·         “We must expect Iran will accelerate its efforts to revive its nuclear program without constraint,” she writes.

·         “Iran has cast off nuclear curbs so that it is now potentially within five months of having enough fuel for a nuclear warhead, down from almost 15 years when Trump took office,” says The Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

The biggest losers will be the Iranian people, writes Barbara Slavin. “The Iranian regime will not fall but will be more ruthless than ever, seeing American plots against it around every corner,” she predicts. “The regime will outlast President Trump, and so, unfortunately, will the devastation caused by his actions.

‘We don’t know yet’

There was reason on Wednesday for relief that the United States and Iran had avoided a plunge into full-scale war, writes The Washington Post’s editorial board. “But Mr. Trump’s manifest lack of clear goals or strategy in the Middle East, combined with his readiness to launch strikes or order troop movements on impulse, is cause for continued alarm,” they write.

The United States should still be worried, Ilan Goldenberg, a senior fellow and director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, told Jen Kirby at Vox. Iran could still launch cyberattacks or terrorist attacks, target American embassies or assassinate American officials, he says. “I think all those things are entirely on the table for potentially years, frankly, in retaliation.”

Do you have a point of view we missed? Email us at Please note your name, age and location in your response, which may be included in the next newsletter.


When is killing an assassination? [The New York Times]

Vali Nasr explains the meaning of General Suleimani’s death in the Middle East. [The New Yorker]

Dexter Filkins wrote an in-depth profile of General Suleimani in 2013. [The New Yorker]


An Attack by Iran, Then an Easing of Tensions

Writers discuss the attack on American air bases and the speech by President Trump.

NY Times, Jan. 8, 2020


President Trump spoke about Iran Wednesday at the White House.

President Trump spoke about Iran Wednesday at the White House.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Iran could have reacted two ways to the assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani. It could have bombed the hell out of us, killing hundreds of Americans. That would have forced America to respond in kind, and the end result would have been the feared war that nobody wanted. Or the Iranians could phone in a warning and then lob a bunch of low-rent missiles into an unoccupied part of two Iraqi bases. Obviously, that’s the option it chose.

The president killed General Suleimani for two reasons: because President Barack Obama wouldn’t, and because he knew it would take the emphasis off his impeachment trial and bolster his ratings with his followers. The schoolyard bully poked and prodded a hostile enemy until it responded, then made up a story about pending terrorist attacks and his awesome response to the threat.

As a former military member, I cried when I heard about the attacks on our bases. I thought of all those young American men and women who were going to die in the name of Donald Trump’s maniacal bravado. Then I realized that Iran didn’t target the Americans; it targeted Mr. Trump’s ego. And in the process both sides got what they wanted.

Iran won’t get an ill-fated U.S. attack on its critical infrastructure. Mr. Trump hopes this boosts his chances of getting re-elected by followers who honestly think he saved us from Iranian terrorism.

Jeffery Donaldson
Las Vegas

To the Editor:

I am thankful that at least for now, President Trump seems to be backing off from engaging in further provocation of our implacable foe, Iran. Obviously, some reasonable individual has gotten through to him that to continue the dangerous game of tit for tat could be ruinous to our country and our allies.

Mr. Trump’s incompetence and impetuousness brought about the assassination of one of the most revered and powerful individuals in Iran. The world has been ridden of an evil and bloodthirsty man, but at what cost? It would be reasonable to expect that Iran and its network of proxies would respond with vengeance, and we have seen the outrage of millions of its people in the streets since the killing.

If we are able to emerge from this with no loss of life or limb by our soldiers and civilians, which seems to be the case as I write this, we should consider ourselves lucky. Let us hope that this is not simply the calm before the storm.

Oren Spiegler
Peters Township, Pa.

To the Editor:

Long Before President’s Drone Strike, Iran Hawks Pushed for the Killing of a General” (news article, Jan. 7) is spot on. The assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani was utterly brilliant, in conception and in execution. General Suleimani had the blood of numerous victims on his hands.

I’m appalled that the Democrats can’t see that the swing voters whom they need in order to beat President Trump won’t respond well to criticism of the assassination. They are so full of disdain for Mr. Trump that they are helping him to be re-elected rather than agree with anything he does.

Those of us who really dislike Mr. Trump should check if we are forming our opinion of General Suleimani’s killing because of our antipathy for the president. If Barack Obama had authorized the killing of General Suleimani, as he did for Osama bin Laden, what would we say?

Gilad Stern
Cape Town

To the Editor:

Re “The Day After War Begins in Iran,” by Azadeh Moaveni (Op-Ed,, Jan. 6):

I thank Ms. Moaveni for her thoughtful perspective and insights. I’m of the generation that had the privilege to attend an American university during the 1960s along with quite a few Iranian students, and to work weekends at a restaurant with several of them who, like me, needed a bit of income to keep body and soul together.

They were wonderful young people, and that very positive experience is a vivid memory. It stimulated a lifelong interest in Iran and its peoples. Now, in my declining years, and with these recent events, I am saddened to realize that I am unlikely to ever be able to visit their country and learn more about their culture.

Could our two countries do what is needed to heal our differences and return to a state of mutual respect and appreciation? I sincerely hope so.

John R. Martin
Sarasota, Fla.


'We were ready.' Trump signals at Ohio rally that Soleimani strike will be 2020 issue

John Fritze and David Jackson USA TODAY

Published 9:10 PM EST Jan 9, 2020

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump touted his decision to order the killing of Qasem Soleimani at a campaign rally in Ohio on Thursday, describing the Iranian general as a "sadistic mass murderer" and signaling the confrontation will play into his reelection campaign.  

Days after a crisis with Iran threatened to upend his presidency and drag the U.S. into another Middle East war, Trump spoke at length about what he described as "bold and decisive action" to "deliver American justice" via a U.S. drone strike near the Baghdad International Airport that killed Soleimani last week.  

"He was looking very seriously at our embassies," Trump said. "We stopped him quickly and we stopped him cold." 

The rally – Trump's first of 2020 – provided the president a venue to explain the latest developments in the Middle East and the perilous relationship between the U.S. and Iran to his supporters. Trump's extensive remarks on Iran suggested he will use the strike on Soleimani to laud his foreign policy to voters in this year's election.

Trump touched on the Iranian response to Soleimani's death, saying the U.S. was "ready to go" if Iran's rocket attack inflicted additional damage or resulted in the death of U.S. soldiers stationed on the two Iraqi bases that were targeted. Trump said Iran "hit us with 16 missiles" but that he decided to stand down after he saw the relatively minor impact, which he attributed to a "pretty good warning system."     

"So we didn't do anything...Not that I wanted to, but we were ready" he said. "You have no idea. Lot of people got very lucky."  

War powers: House votes to limit Trump's ability to wage war with Iran after Soleimani 

The crowd roared as Trump discussed the strike and blasted Democrats for attempting to curb his ability to launch strikes against Iran. Trump's rally came hours after the Democratic-led House passed a resolution aimed at limiting his war powers. Democrats have criticized Trump for not consulting Congress on the Soleimani strike and have accused him of recklessness.

"We got a call. We heard where he was," Trump said. "And we had to make a decision. We didn't have time to call up Nancy [Pelosi], who is not operating with a full deck."

In the aftermath of the strike against Soleimani Republicans embraced the move and praised Trump for taking action against a country that has been widely perceived as a bad actor in the Middle East. But the president can't necessarily count on the issue unifying American voters ahead of the election. 

Americans by more than 2-1 said the killing of Soleimani has made the United States less safe, a nationwide USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll found Thursday. A majority of those surveyed, by 52%-34%, called Trump's behavior with Iran "reckless."

More: Americans say Soleimani's killing made US less safe, Trump 'reckless' on Iran

Americans were divided on the wisdom of the drone strike at the Baghdad airport that killed Soleimani and others: 42% supported it, 33% opposed it; 25% said they didn't know what to think. Republicans were much more supportive than Democrats; independents were almost evenly split.

President Donald Trump points as he arrives to speak at a campaign rally, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Toledo, Ohio. (AP Photo/ Jacquelyn Martin) ORG XMIT: OHJM107

Jacquelyn Martin, AP

"We seek friends, not enemies," Trump told the rally audience.

But, he added, "if you dare to threaten our citizens, you do so at your own grave peril."

Minutes after Trump took the stage his remarks were interrupted by protesters holding a banner that read: "NO WAR." 

The Toledo rally is one of three Trump has scheduled this month. The others are set for Wisconsin, a critical state for his reelection effort, and New Jersey. It was his first major political event since the confrontation with Iran escalated. 

Trump has raised Iran at virtually every political rally he has hosted since entering the White House in 2017. His remarks on one of Washington's most challenging foes in the Middle East have generally focused on the 2015 multi-national nuclear agreement that offered sanctions relief in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program. 

Trump pulled the U.S. out of that agreement in 2018, arguing it did not do enough to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions.

President Donald Trump

Ralph Freso

Iran and the U.S. both moved Wednesday to deescalate the confrontation. Trump largely avoided saber-rattling during a nine-minute address to the nation and even suggested the possibility of a diplomatic resolution to the crisis. Iranian leaders, including foreign minister Javad Zarif described the attack as "self-defense."

Iran crash: Trump says he thinks 'something very terrible happened' to Ukraine jet 

Trump address: Trump, Tehran step back from war footing after Iran's attack in Iraq

Trump faced a similar test in 2017 as his rhetoric over North Korea began to boil. Trump held an Arizona rally at the end of August just weeks after he threatened to rain "fire and fury" on North Korea. Trump raised the issue at that rally, though his remarks were overshadowed by his comments about the violence in Charlottesville, Va. 

"What I said, that's not strong enough," Trump said, referring to his "fire and fury" tweet. "Some people said it's too strong; it's not strong enough. But Kim Jong Un, I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us. I respect that fact very much."

The rally in Ohio also comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is poised to send impeachment articles to the Senate, which will determine whether to remove Trump from office. Pelosi said Thursday that she would transmit those articles "soon." The Republican-led Senate is expected to acquit Trump on the charges of abusing his power and obstructing the congressional probe into his interactions with Ukraine.

Protesters hold signs as President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio, on January 9, 2020.

SAUL LOEB, AFP via Getty Images

Trump slammed Pelosi and other Democrats for pursuing the impeachment, arguing that the House speaker is "not playing with a full deck."

More: Pelosi says she'll send Senate articles of impeachment against Trump 'soon'

More: Trump says environmental policy change would fix 'regulatory nightmare'

Trump carried Ohio in the 2016 election with nearly 52% of the vote. By rallying in Toledo he can also draw from supporters in nearby Michigan, which he won narrowly.  

Contributing: Susan Page, Nicholas Wu, Christal Hayes

Published 9:10 PM EST Jan 9, 2020