CIA activities in Iran

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There have been many claims of repeated U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) intervention in the internal affairs of the Islamic Republic[1] of Iran (Persia), from the 1953 Mosaddeq coup to present. The CIA collaborated with the last Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to overthrow Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq and install General Fazlollah Zahedi. Later, the 1979 hostage crisis at the American embassy in Tehran, lasting 444 days until January 21, 1981, stemmed from past CIA affairs in Iran, and involvement and collaboration between the two countries requires further analysis to understand the 1979 hostage crisis. CIA personnel proved instrumental in the Iran-Contra affair of the mid-1980s involving a triangulation of arms-dealing and arms-smuggling between the United States military, Iran, and right-wing Contra groups waging a civil war in Nicaragua. More recently in 2007–08, the CIA claimed to be supporting the Sunni terrorist group Jundallah against Iran, but these claims were refuted by a later investigation. It is widely believed the CIA was directly involved with the Mosaddeq coup as declassified documents from 2011 have revealed. The declassified documents explicitly state the CIA objective to replace the Iranian government in the early 1950s with a "pro-western government under the Shah's leadership."[2] The U.S. and Iran have maintained a strained relationship for a long time as claims of CIA involvement kept surfacing. These claims included such that the U.S. Officials were committing acts of violence and rape against the eastern locals. However, these accusations were never brought to justice despite United States validation on the acts. In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in 2013, the CIA confirmed its role in the coup as various documents outlining its involvement have been released to the public, most of which were previously unknown. The evidence followed by violent protests and strikes.[3] Ultimately, the United States promised to refrain from interfering with Iranian internal affairs. The U.S. government coup was eventually discovered as the United States was providing services to both Iran and Iraq.[4]


On May 28, 1901, Shah Mozzafar al-Din of Persia made an oil concession with William Knox D'Arcy, founder of Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) and later to become British Petroleum or Beyond Petroleum (BP), for all future oil and petroleum exports from Persia for the next 60 years.[5] On May 20, 1914, the British government signed a deal with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company paying 2.2 million pounds (£) for 51% of APOC’s stock, receiving a majority stake and nationalizing the APOC for Britain.[6] This was primarily due to the fact that Winston Churchill, then the First Lord of the Admiralty, had converted the British Royal Navy from coal burning to oil burning ships just weeks before the onset of World War I.[7] By 1950, 40% of the western oil and 75% of Europe-bound oil was produced in Iran. In March 1951, Prime Minister Mosaddeq submitted and passed a bill with the Iranian Parliament to nationalize AIOC. On May 2, 1951, the bill went into effect and Mosaddeq began the nationalization of Iranian oil wishing to rebuild the country using the profits from Iranian oil, whose production was primarily executed by the British-owned APOC.[8] The nationalization of the APOC put Mossadeq and Britain in direct conflict, as Britain still owned half of the AIOC's stock. Iran sought the same 50-50 split of profits that had previously been granted to both Venezuela and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by the oil giants of the United States of America. Britain denied Iran's request, instead choosing to keep the lion's share of the profits accrued from the production of Iranian oil.[9] Britain had no intentions of letting Mossadeq nationalize the APOC without some sort of compensation, but was unable to get an agreeable compromise from Mossadeq. When the issue was brought before the International Court of Justice on July 22, 1952, the court ruled that it was unable to intervene in the conflict, stating "it is nothing more than a concessionary contract between a government and a foreign corporation * * * It does not regulate in any way the relations between the two Governments"[10] This ruling caused Britain to revisit Mossadeq's first proposal of a 50–50 profit split, however by this point it was too late.[9] After this loss, the British began using alternative tactics to force Mossadeq to agree to a more suitable compromise, placing severe economic embargoes on Iranian exports as well as withdrawing the skilled workers needed to run the APOC refineries, known as the Abadan Crisis.[11][12]

Concerns arose within the United States that the actions taken by the British would cause Iran to begin aiding the Soviets. The United States worried of Soviet encroachment into Iranian domestic and political affairs. In spite of these hardships, anti-communist Mosaddeq refused to abandon his stance. The British government turned to the U.S. for help, but the Truman administration was not interested and remained neutral in this conflict. After months of holding out against Britain's wishes, the British concluded that Mosaddeq had to be replaced with someone who would greater acquiesce to British economic interests and political influence. The economic downturn from the embargoes placed on Iran by Great Britain would cause the newly elected President Eisenhower to become concerned about the Soviet influence in the region, especially if Iran were to start selling its oil to the Soviets.[13] Mosaddeq responded to this partnership by offering the U.S. the following ultimatum: Iran would sell oil to the U.S. at a 40% discount rate, or the Iranian oil companies would start selling their oil to the Soviets. The U.S. remained resolute with Britain stating that until an agreement and compensation had been met with Britain on their end, they could not discuss any matters concerning oil.[14] Plan Y was an operation involving a three-part assault on Iran by land, air, and sea. Britain attempted to seek aid from the United States under the Truman administration, but the U.S. declined due to a possible conflict that could arise with the Soviet Union. In 1952, the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), more commonly known as MI6, constructed a plan for a coup and pressed the U.S. to mount a joint operation to remove the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq[15] and install the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to rule Iran autocratically. Representatives of British intelligence met with newly formed CIA representatives in Washington during November and December 1952 for the purpose of discussing a joint war and stay-behind plans in Iran. Although it was not on the previous agreement and agenda of the meeting, British Intelligence representatives—including Christopher Montague Woodhouse, Samuel Falle, John Bruce Lockhart[16]—met with representatives of the CIA's Near East and Africa Division—including Kermit Roosevelt, John H. Leavitt, John W. Pendleton, and James A. Darling[16]—and brought up the proposition of a joint political action to remove Prime Minister Mossadeq. Mohammed Mossadeq was Iran's first elected prime minister appointed through popular demand by the people of Iran. Mossadeq, a nationalist mindful of foreign meddling, felt that the wealth, needed to rebuild Iran, was leaving the country under the control of a British company called Anglo-Iranian oil company (later known as British Petroleum, or BP). While in power, Mossadeq successfully imposed the naturalization of the oil industry in Iran which gave him control over the oil industry. As a result, the British company sued Mossadeq in the world court and lost. In order to regain control of the oil industry, the British persuaded and collaborated with the US government to overthrow Mossadeq. In March 1953, the CIA began to draft a plan to overthrow Mossadeq.

Mosaddeq coup – Operation Ajax[edit]

Mohammed Mossadeq

The Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadeq, meeting with George McGhee, a U.S. assistant secretary of state

In March 1953, a telegram detailing a correspondence from the CIA station in Tehran inquired over American interest in “covertly supporting an Iranian military effort to oust Mossadeq. A meeting was held at the U.S. Embassy in Iran to discuss the telegram. While remaining noncommittal, the Embassy personnel expressed an affable response that suggested a growing US interest. (Dr. Donald Wilber. CIA, Clandestine Services History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran. Published by the New York Times. Accessed at the National Security Archives Website. Document 1, Section 1 “Preliminary Steps” p. 1) Dr. Donald Wilber, a writer, spy, and covert consultant to the CIA's Near East and Africa Division (NEA) eventually recognized as the principal architect of Operation Ajax, was charged with investigating and developing the plan to overthrow Mossadeq. He traveled to Nicosia, Greece in May 1953, and together with Matthew Darbyshire, the head of the Secret Intelligence Service's Iran branch, they designed the recommended plan of action.[17] At this point, opposition toward Mossadeq had significantly developed within the US government. The US Embassy personnel in Iran came to view Mossadeq’s government as “totally destructive” and demonstrating “reckless” proclivities. Under Secretary of State General Walter Bedell Smith stated that the U.S. Government preferred for Mossadeq to step down so that stability in the region could be reinstated. Opposition to the National Frontists, a political opposition faction founded by Mossadeq originally in 1949, catalyzed a reversal in policy defined under the Truman administration. Both the CIA and NEA Division were authorized to formulate a plan of action aimed at toppling the Mossadeq regime. The Department of State and the CIA continued to hold meetings discussing the specifics of plans to proceed. (Dr. Donald Wilber. CIA, Clandestine Services History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran. Published by the New York Times. Accessed at the National Security Archives Website. Document 1, Section 1 “Preliminary Steps” p. 2) At these meetings, they reviewed all of the important political players in Iran, especially General Fazlollah Zahedi, who was the most pronounced politician who opposed Mossadeq. Zahedi, a former member of Mossadeq's cabinet, commanded an undeniable public stature along with a significant base of supporters. Wilber noted that his views were similar with that of Darbyshire’s, and that SIS was pleased to allow the CIA to take the lead on the operation, because of their advantages in personnel, funding, and facilities.[17] After the discussion of politics in Iran, the parties involved discussed their current assets in Iran. The SIS mentioned that they had Rashidians in the armed forces, members of the Iranian Parliament, religious leaders, and other people they believed to be influential. Although their assets were considered to be useless, the Rashidians came through and were willing to assist in the overthrow.[17] They concluded that Zahedi was the best candidate to support in the coup, and that all attempts must be given the appearance of a legal transition of power, rather than an absolute coup. Zahedi was at one time a member of the Mossadeq government and had sophisticated knowledge of Mossadeq’s plans. (Dr. Donald Wilber. CIA, Clandestine Services History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran. Published by the New York Times. Accessed at the National Security Archives Website. Document 1, Section 1, “Preliminary Steps” p. 3) They also concluded that public opinion must be swayed against Mossadeq directly before beginning the operation, and that the plan must be shared and reviewed with the Iranians who will help implement it. To sway the opinion of the public, the CIA devised a plan to expose Mossadeq's collaboration with the Soviet Union and show the falsehood of his patriotism. On April 4, 1953, a budget of one million dollars was approved by the CIA to be used by the Tehran Station with the sole purpose of ousting Mossadeq. (Dr. Donald Wilber. CIA, Clandestine Services History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran. Published by the New York Times. Accessed at the National Security Archives Website. Document 1, Section 1 “Preliminary Steps” p. 3) By June 1953, operational plans were finalized and sent for approval. The operational plan was approved by the British (Director of SIS, Foreign Secretary, and Prime Minister) on 1 July 1953, and by the United States (Director of CIA, Secretary of State, and President) on 11 July 1953. About a week later, the Tehran Station made direct contact with General Zahedi to inform him of the plans. (Dr. Donald Wilber. CIA, Clandestine Services History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran. Published by the New York Times. Accessed at the National Security Archives Website. Document 1, Section 1 “Preliminary Steps” p. 4)

The study indicated that a Shah/General Zahedi political collaboration, supported by local CIA assets and financial backing, represented a strong probability of overthrowing Mossadeq, provided the guarantee of the CIA's physical and financial support, which was self-described by the CIA as "quasi-legal,"[2] with mobs filling the streets and Mossadeq's orders being ignored.[16] Partially due to this report, in addition to the fear of a communist government overthrow and expansionism in the region, the CIA sought to avoid influence of the Communist Tudeh Party.[17] Also, having the Shah's cooperation meant that the legalization of the new and chosen prime minister would occur.[18] However, solidifying the cooperation of the Shah proved arduous for the CIA, so they pressured the Shah to comply with U.S. plans for overthrowing Mossadeq. The goal was to get the Shah to believe it would be easier to go with the plan rather than fighting it.[19] United States Ambassador to Iran Loy W. Henderson reiterated the Shah’s reluctance to name Zahedi as succeeding prime minister, suggesting tactical ways to convince the Shah to cooperate. (Dr. Donald Wilber. CIA, Clandestine Services History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran. Published by the New York Times. Accessed at the National Security Archives Website. Document 1, Section IV “The Decisions Are Made: Activity Begins” p. 18)

Speaking to the influence of Soviet Communism in the Tudeh Party, a declassified CIA memorandum from September 1953 highlighted the collaboration between the Tudeh Party and the Soviet Union. Point 6 of this memorandum states that the, "Tudeh Party is now printing newspapers in Soviet Embassy…Newspapers are then taken by diplomatic cars to four distribution centers…From these points, bundles are thrown into unlicensed jeeps which throw bundles on streets."[18]

The Tudeh Party and its connections to the Soviet government proved problematic for the United States’ decision making for multiple reasons. While the Truman administration did not want to create friction with the United States’ primary ally against the Soviet Union, Great Britain, it also feared the unstable economic conditions in Iran that would result from the United States siding with the British. American oil interests were also under threat. NSC intelligence pointed to the idea that if the United States explicitly sided with the British, it would push the Iranian people closer to the Tudeh party and Mosaddegh further into the Soviet sphere of influence in the hopes the Soviets could assist in the production and purchase of Iranian petroleum products. The State Department feared an alliance between the extremely popular Mosaddegh and the Soviet Union as it would provide the Soviets with a perfect window of opportunity to gain further political influence.[19]

Similarly, based on the reports of CIA field agents, the United States feared the consequences of a further deterioration of Iran’s economy if Mosaddegh continued to rebuff Soviet influence. The CIA believed that the constant poor economic conditions of the country and Mosaddegh's unwillingness or inability to solve Iran’s economic problems would cause the people to revolt against Mosaddegh. If the Iranian people did act against their government, the Tudeh would have proven to be the greatest political organizing force in the country, and would, therefore, be thrust into a primary political role. Considering the Tudeh party’s friendly relationship with the Soviets, if Mosaddegh were to fall, the Soviets would have direct access to political control or influence in Iran.[20] Not only was Soviet influence and control in the region an inspiration for the United States to get involved in Britain's coup, but the United States also feared that a move toward the Tudeh would destabilize the region while also causing the U.S.'s relationships with countries in the region to deteriorate, thus causing a decreased amount of available oil. The US would gain control of a larger share of Iranian oil supplies as a result of their involvement in the coup. Ultimately, the US did not want the Iranians to become so desperate they would be willing to turn to the communist countries for help. The US agreed to the operation dreamed up by the British,[21] U.S. Brigadier General Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr., and CIA guru Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. were ordered to begin a covert operation to overthrow Mossadeq. The resulting operation was inspired by Plan Y, a 1951 British planned land, sea, and air invasion that the U.S. opposed under Truman. MI6 and the CIA once again discussed plans to orchestrate a coup in Iran in 1952 under the name "Operation Boot." However, knowing President Truman's opposition to the previous plan, "Operation Boot" was kept secret under the order of CIA director Allen Dulles. With Kermit Roosevelt Jr. serving as chief of the CIA's Near East and Africa Division under newly elected President Eisenhower, Operation Boot was renamed Operation Ajax and set into motion. Representatives from both the United States and Britain met in Beirut in order to finalize the details of the plan, and examine .[22] certain aspects such as the state of the political scene in Iran. Also, in addition to TPAJAX that was crafted during these meetings, there was another plan entitled the "Amini/Qashqai Plan" that was to serve as a backup to it. After meetings in Beirut, the plan was formally given to the SIS and redrafted as a final London draft.[23] On June 19, 1953, the final operational plan was submitted to Washington and the British Foreign Office for approval, after it had been agreed upon by Kermit Roosevelt and British intelligence. The State Department would want to ensure two things before they granted approval: firstly, the United States wanted to ensure adequate aid would be provided to the successor Iranian government so that such a government could be sustained until an oil settlement was reached and secondly, the British government would submit in writing their intention to reach an early oil settlement with the successor government in Iran.[24]

On June 25, 1953 Kermit Roosevelt met at the State Department with the senior foreign policy makers to discuss the final plan for TPAJAX. Though President Eisenhower didn't attend, other officials did including Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, DCI Allen Dulles, and Under Secretary of State Walter Bedell Smith. Following Roosevelt's briefing all officials agreed with the plan, but Allen Dulles and Walter Smith expressed a greater interest. On July 10, 1953, the operation began with its first phase: Asadollah Rashidian would meet with Princess Ashraf in the French Rivera. However, Princess Ashraf was not initially in Paris. The meeting was delayed until July 15, 1953, and it was reported that the princess demonstrated a lack of enthusiasm. (Dr. Donald Wilber. CIA, Clandestine Services History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran. Published by the New York Times. Accessed at the National Security Archives Website. Document 1, Section V “Mounting Pressure Against the Shah” p. 23) After he met with her to suggest that Mossadeq was a danger to Iran and he should be dismissed, she was not convinced by the idea. A meeting with “official representatives” from the Tehran Station curiously generated a complete reversal in the Princess’ attitude. She returned to Tehran on July 25, 1953, and, as she predicted, her “unauthorized return” created a “real storm.”The Shah and Mossadeq did not grant her permission to return and shared a frustration with the situation. (Dr. Donald Wilber. CIA, Clandestine Services History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran. Published by the New York Times. Accessed at the National Security Archives Website. Document 1, Section V “Mounting Pressure Against the Shah” p. 23) As a result, she agreed to meet with her brother to discuss the removal of Mossadeq. She wasn't able to convince her brother and left the next day.[26] On August 26, 1953 a memorandum was written for the commendation for the work that John Waller had done for TPAJAX. He had stuck by the plan from start to finish and Frank O. Wisner had written the memorandum in hopes of drawing positive attention to John Waller.[27]

Authorization was granted by the Prime Minister and the Director of the SIS on July 1, 1953.[25] Operation Ajax was granted authorization by the President, the Secretary of State, and the Director of the CIA on July 11, 1953.[25] In a memorandum to the President circa August 1953, the Department of State detailed the behaviors of General Zahedi and the Shah, both present leaders of Iran at the time. With regard to Zahedi, the Department of State reported that he had been excited about the aid received by the United States and was eager to resume diplomatic relations with the United States.[26] With regard to the Shah, he was reported to have shared similar feelings of the Zahedi, remarking that along with swift economic aid, military aid would be useful as well.[26] After concluding whether or not they were worthy of support, officials would then have to decide the resources they were going to allocate to them.[27] Operation Ajax was conceived and executed from the US Embassy in Tehran. The United States government saw the need to take covert action with the CIA. The National Security Council had decided that covert action was a legitimate instrument of US policy.[28] The CIA was divided into two distinct groups. One had the responsibility of studying the military aspect of the operation. The other group was responsible for the psychological warfare phases of the plan. Dr. Donald Wilber was placed in charge of propaganda, and he received help from the CIA art group.[25]

Operation Ajax contained four components. The first was a massive propaganda campaign designed to ruin Mossadeq's name and accuse him of communist affiliations (though he was famously democratic). One piece of propaganda by the CIA portrayed Mossadeq as a totalitarian dictator complete with a secret spy network to intimidate his political opponents and allies alike. This piece of propaganda attempted to illustrate Mossadeq as a madman, a dictator with sympathies towards the Soviets and communist sympathizers, and an enemy to his own nation(with implications of corruption and taking money from domestic landowners). The document also linked Mossadeq to anti-Islamic sentiment.[29] Another major piece of propaganda was for high ranking U.S. officials to make official statements that the United States would not provide any forthcoming economic aid to Mossadeq and Iran. This would also destroy the illusion that the United States supported his regime.[24] Still other documents containing anti-Mosaddeq sentiments from the CIA attempted to paint him as a threat to the good moral character and international reputation of the Iranian people, blaming the "dictator" and his alliance with the Soviet Tudeh Party for the rise in "rudeness," while espousing the love that "foreigners" had for Iran and its people.[30] Although this last document made little mention of Americans and focused on other countries (i.e. France, Germany, and England), American anti-Soviet sentiments were present in its condemnation of the Soviet Tudeh Party and its likening of the Iranian dictator to Bolsheviks.

The second component was to encourage disturbances within Iran. A report released by the CIA regarding the results of Operation Ajax suggested that both nationalists and communists "inadvertently assisted our cause through their premature attempts to promote a republican government."[34] The CIA performed much of its own encouragement by paying citizens to wreak havoc. Kermit Roosevelt hired a crowd of Iranian citizens to act as a riotous mob in Tehran. For a sum of $50,000, the crowd was instructed to attack mosques and images of the Shah under the facade of supporting Mossadeq to in order to link the leader to anti-Islamic and communist groups. However, Mossadeq’s Chief of Staff, General Taghi Riahi was informed of all the details of the plot on August 15, 1953, yet he decided to stay at his house with the National Frontists. (Dr. Donald Wilber. CIA, Clandestine Services History: Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran. Published by the New York Times. Accessed at the National Security Archives Website. Document 1, Section VI “The First Try” p. 39-40) On August 19, 1954, the same mob hired by the CIA was sent to march on Mossadeq’s house with knives, clubs, sticks, and other weapons. Reports stated Mosaddeq was pinned in his home and the only way out was climbing over a garden wall. It was also reported that he was home at the time of the attack and that he took refuge in a neighbor's home.[35] Over 300 individuals died in this CIA-organized attack, some were found with the CIA’s dollars still in their pockets.[36] This number has also been challenged as a British report in 1953 had the count at 300 wounded and 50 dead.[37] Other CIA propaganda focused on Iranian national pride. It claimed that "we Iranians are proud of our" culture and "reputation abroad" and then went on to paint Mossadeq as a threat to that source of pride.[38]

The third component was to pressure the Shah into selecting a new prime minister to replace Mossadeq. The comeback of the Shah and end of Mossadeq was sparked by two political sides. The tensions of both political sides caused this outcome to occur.[31] A CIA memo from Kermit Roosevelt suggests that CIA operatives possibly bribed members of the Iranian Parliament to create a vote of no-confidence in Mossadeq's leadership.[32]

The final component called for the support of Zahedi as a replacement prime minister for Mossadeq.[33] A memorandum from the Acting Chief for the Division of Near East and Africa, released by the CIA in 2012, demonstrates the involvement of US intelligence in "anti-Tudeh activities" supported by Zahedi.[34] The document reveals that Zahedi and the US actively tracked pro-Tudeh information being distributed in Iran as well as the existence of Tudeh networking.

Operation Ajax was implemented the following year, though it was initially unsuccessful. On August 16, 1953, the Shah of Iran fled to Baghdad after a failed attempt to oust Prime Minister Mossadeq. This failed mission was said to happen because Mossadeq learned of the plan through a leak, most likely from the Tudeh Party, and took immediate counteraction to protest the plan.[35] One of the most influential figures in this coup was Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of former President Theodore Roosevelt, and head of CIA operations in the Middle East.[36] with the cooperation of the Department of State, the CIA had articles planted in the United States but when reproduced in Iran, it had psychological affects in Iran and contributed to the war.

In addition to internal propaganda, the CIA also worked to make sure that the United States government publicly distanced itself from Mossadeq's government in order to protect its image of not being involved. This was done to both discourage Mossadeq and encourage public dissent with the government.[24] The letter that President Eisenhower sent to Mossadeq in response to his call to the U.S. for economic aid, due to not agreeing to the British oil deal was the most notable example of how this effort created public anger with the government. Eisenhower wrote "The failure of Iran and of the United Kingdom to reach an agreement with regard to compensation has handicapped the Government of the United States in its efforts to help Iran."[37] According to CIA reports, this succeeded in weakening Mossadeq's position, and turned the media, the Parliament, and the populace against him.[38] The Shah believed that any delay in execution for Mossadeq would cause for his supporters to attack back.[39] The CIA also increased their propaganda campaign to link Mossadeq to the Communists. In an attempt for a second coup, the CIA began to bribe the army and police officials.[40][24]

Roosevelt used the first failed coup and the exodus of the Shah to his advantage. Using $50,000, he bribed many protestors to pretend as if they were communists. They destroyed and defaced property pertaining to the Shah.[41] Many Iranians were "shocked and angered" at the fact that the Shah was forced to leave Iran after the failed coup attempt. On August 19, 1953, pro-Shah demonstrators began protesting in the bazaar section of Tehran. They would also be joined by army units loyal to the Shah. By the afternoon these protestors and army units had gained control of much of Tehran. In particular, Radio Tehran was considered one of the top priorities in the city by the CIA: "Radio Tehran was a most important target, for its capture not only sealed the success at the capital but was effective in bringing the provincial cities quickly into line with the new government."[42] The eventual takeover of the radio allowed Zahedi to declare himself prime minister, and by the end of August 19, he had effective control of the nation.[43] Newspapers were also heavily involved in circulating Zahedi's message. An internal history of the coup by the CIA mentions that the firman (a Near Eastern sovereign's edit) that named Zahedi prime minister circulated in numerous newspapers around Tehran, along with an interview that was fake in which it was stated, falsely, that Zahedi had declared his government the only legitimate one.[42]

In order for Zahedi to receive the financial assistance he badly needed, the CIA made five million dollars available within two days of Zahedi's assumption of power. After several attempts and over 7 million dollars were spent, operations to overthrow Mossadeq were completed. Zahedi immediately implemented martial law and began executing nationalist leaders. Mossadeq was spared from execution by serving three years in solitary confinement. Afterwards, he remained on house arrest until his death in 1967.[40][44] In September after the coup, the Zahedi government had begun to remove Tudeh Party officials from the government. This forced the party underground and attempting to form a pro-Mossadeq coalition.[45] The Coup in Iran was the CIA's first successful coup operation.[46] Several people involved in the coup received commendations. This included John Waller, who managed the coup at CIA headquarters, who was described as "in no small measure," playing a central role in the coup's success.[47] It became a model for future covert political operations on foreign soil.[48] Mossadeq was removed from power and Iran oil shares were split amongst the British, French, and United States for a 25-year agreement netting Iran 50% of oil profits.[49] Britain earned 40% of the oil shares, the Dutch Oil Company, Shell received 14%, French CFP received 6%, and the United States received the remaining 40%. By 1953, the U.S. installed a pro-U.S. dictator, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. As the CIA took this as a win to overthrow the Prime Minister it also created more problems that the U.S. would have to deal with later on. Over the next decades the Shah increased the economic strength of Iran but he also repressed political dissent. He accomplished this through the use of a secret police force known as the SAVAK, which he had help in creating via the CIA and Mossad. The Shah was accused by many as trying to get rid of Islam, despite the fact that the country's population was over 90% Muslim.[46] This eventually led to the rise of political Islam in Iran.[50][51] In a speech on March 17, 2000 before the American Iranian Council on the relaxation of U.S. sanctions against Iran, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said: "In 1953, the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran's popular prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh. Further proof of the United States involvement was announced on March 19, 2013, the 60th anniversary of the overthrow, when the National Security Service posted recently declassified documents that the CIA had on the coup.[52] Although previous to this the CIA claimed that all the documents about 1953 were destroyed or lost in the 1960s because of lack of storage space, it was said that the record holders safes were too full.[52] As the National Security Service posted declassified documents, it was still hard to see how much Britain played a factor in the coup. While many documents had deleted passages which hid the role of the British, there were some that couldn't hide. Two declassified references place them involved in the coup. One of them was an official admission by both the United States and United Kingdom that normal, rational methods of international communication and commerce had failed. The second inclination of Britain's involvement was the State Department off insisted that, if a coup were to go forward, London would have to provide "firm commitment" to be "flexible" on any future oil settlement with "the new government."[53] As we now know, the CIA's involvement with overthrowing the prime minister and replacing him with the Shah remains questionable among many over who truly was responsible. In an article in the July/August 2014 issue of Foreign Affairs by noted Iran analyst Ray Takeyh is the latest in a series of analyses by respected scholars who conclude Iranians, not the CIA or British intelligence, were fundamentally responsible.[54] The following link is of President Eisenhower's diary where he talks about the Mossadeph coup on pages 10 and 11.[1]

The operational plan was created from a skew of assumptions, which were agreed upon by the CIA and the SIS. A few of these assumptions were 1) That the Shah would be persuaded to take action is pressure was applied to him, 2) Zahedi would win the support of key positiones officers with the support and backing of the Shah, and 3) The rank and file of the army would choose the Shah over Mosaddeq if faced with a choice. These assumptions were challenged by the American ambassador and State department. It was "unrealistic to believe the Shah would sponsor a coup supported by an army". Although many were at odds with these assumptions, it was the action of strong and positive action that would make these assumptions come true. The success of the plan put into place was not about agents carrying out orders, but having "the heart and soul" to believe in the operation.[55] Following the success of the coup, the Shah had chosen to put the former Prime Minister Mossadeq on trial and condemned to death. However, he was unsure on how to proceed with the trial and as to whether Mossadeq should either be immediately banished from Iran or executed. With the conclusion of the trial, the Shah wanted to prevent any delay in Mossadeq's punishment because he feared that it would allow the pro-Mossadeq Tudeh to commence a counterattack. Because of this, the Shah decided to execute Mossadeq immediately. This however did not prevent from the Tudeh from formulating an attack. The CIA reported to the Shah that the Tudeh will attack at some point within the next thirty days.

In addition to the Shah’s worries about the strong supports for Mossadeq, the political consolidation of the new government under Zahedi was shaky. According to a Kermit Roosevelt memo, Zahedi had a fierce disagreement with Hoseyn Makki in deciding whether the formal session of the Majlis should be convened or not. Zahedi even threatened to shoot Makki if he persuaded the member of the Majlis to attend a Senate session.[56]

Although the U.S. and British played a major role in the overthrow of Mosaddeq, there have been many subsequent analyses by respected scholars concluding the Iranians were fundamentally responsible.[57]

United States Acknowledgement[edit]

Although the general public had known for sometime about the United States' involvement in the Coup that led to Mosaddeq's departure, the United States finally publicly acknowledged it some 60 years later in 2013. Convincing the CIA to declassify documents acknowledging the coup and its involvement took quite a bit of effort. For example, the NSA Archives had to file a lawsuit against the CIA in 1999 in an attempt to declassify documents. Initially, the CIA was only willing to release one sentence from the over 200 pages of documents following the lawsuit. Initially, the CIA used the excuse of trying to protect national security, but following 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union their stance changed. The CIA became more open to declassifying documents, but still took considerable time to do so, despite the NSA archive arguing there would be minimal to no threat to national security for the CIA to release said documents.[3] The United States' acknowledgement came in the form of a data dump of several declassified reports that had been used during both the planning and the execution of the coup. Written shortly after the coup had taken place, it is regarded as the most thorough and complete report on Operation Ajax.[2]

Dr. Wilber outlines the reasoning that the United States used to intervene in Iran as

"Iran was incapable of reaching an oil settlement with interested Western countries; was reaching a dangerous and advanced stage of illegal, deficit financing... In view of these factors, it was estimated that Iran was in real danger of falling behind the Iron Curtain; if that happened it would mean a victory for the Soviets in the Cold War and a major setback for the West in the Middle East. No remedial action other than the covert action plan set forth below could be found to improve the existing state of affairs."[58]

Donald Wilber outlined, to the date, how the plan to overthrow Mossadeq was conceived and carried out.

  • March 1953: CIA began drafting a plan that through covert action could be used to overthrow Mossadeq.
  • April 16, 1953: "Factors Involved in the Overthrow of Mossadeq" was completed.
  • April 1953: It is decided that "CIA should conduct the envisioned operation jointly with the British Secret Intelligence Service."[59]
  • June 3, 1953: US Ambassador Loy Wesley Henderson arrives in the United States and is consulted regarding the "CIA's intention to design covert means of achieving the objective and aims"
  • June 10, 1953: The plan is completed.
  • June 14, 1953: Kermit Roosevelt, Roger Goiran, and two CIA planning officers make minor changes to the plan and submit it to the SIS in London.
  • June 19, 1953: Final operational plan submitted to Allen Dulles, Director of CIA.
  • Mid-July 1953: TPAJAX is approved by the President of the United States.
  • August 16, 1953: First attempt to pull off TPAJAX fails after pro-Shah soldiers were overwhelmed by superior armed forces still loyal to Mossadeq.
  • August 19, 1953: A second pro-Shah demonstration takes place, eventually ending in Mossadeq hiding while Zahedi declared the government was his.

Reconnaissance of USSR[edit]

Through the Cold War in the 1960s and 1970s, the CIA used their alliance with the government of Iran to acquire an advantage over their Soviet counterparts with the Iranian airfields, airspace, and Air Force assets for aggressive, airborne reconnaissance missions along the edge of the Soviet territories and Warsaw Pact countries in Project Dark Gene.[60] The advantage gained over their Soviet counterparts were crucial to the almost daily sorties that were flown near the borders of the USSR and Warsaw Pact countries. Below there is a map of the USSR highlighted in green. You can see the Middle Eastern States that border the far southern Soviet States, which helps us to identify the motives for the U.S. and the American intelligence community's obsession over states such as Iran. By allowing American military and spy forces to stage in northern Iran, it would ensure the less likely of suicide missions and more friendly airspace. This helped to keep the numbers of pilots and personnel killed in action to a minimum. During the 1970s, Iran maintained a good relationship with the United States, which allowed the U.S. to install long range radar technology and establish listening posts enabling the U.S. to monitor activities in the Soviet Union.[60]

Information of the KGB USSR to the International Department of the CC CPSU, October 10, 1979. "The Leadership of Iran About the External Security of the Country" "According to KGB information, in August in Teheran a secret meeting was held with the participation of representatives of the Prime Minister, the Ministries of Foreign and Internal Affairs, the Intelligence and Operational Administrations of the General Staff, Gendarme and Police Administrations of the General Staff and the Staff of the "Corps of Defenders of the Revolution," with the goal of studying issues which touch on the security of Iran. It was noted that the USSR and the US, which have their own interests this region, are worried about the victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran.~ presumed that the USA might resort to a direct military threat and realization of a blockade. But in the event that Iran will not take sharp steps which hurt the US, and will obstruct the penetration of the Soviets, this will ease the position of the USA. Evaluating the policy of the USSR in relation to the Iranian regime, the participants in the meeting came to the conclusion that insofar as strengthening the Islamic republic will lead to a weakening of the position of the regime in Afghanistan, exert a certain influence on the Moslem republics in the USSR and will be "a brake in the path of penetration of Communism in the region," the Soviet Union "will not turn away from the ideological struggle and efforts to put into power in Iran a leftist government." It was stressed that with the aim of weakening the Islamic regime the USSR might organize "provocative" activity among Iranian Kurds, Azeris, Turkmen, Baluchis, support leftist forces, create economic difficulties, resort to a military threat on the basis of the agreement of 1921. It was noted that Afghanistan is not in any condition to undertake military actions against Iran. However, border conflicts are not excluded. In addition, Afghanistan is in need of economic assistance from Iran, which might soften its position. The positions of Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia were also analyzed."[61] Based on research notes taken at the Center for the Preservation of Contemporary Documentation (Moscow), Fond 5, Opis 76, File 1355, Pages 17–20.

CIA propaganda[edit]

In an effort to undermine Premier Mossadeq and to set the stage for a coup, the CIA used propaganda to undermine the character of Premier Mossadeq. In an undated memo, a CIA author posed as an Iranian national who felt disillusioned by Mossadeq’s policies. The author explained that the West viewed Iranian people as friendly and peaceful. However, the author explained, since Mossadeq's alliance with the Communist Tudeh Party, the Iranian people have become noisy and intolerant of foreigners, going as far as to "throw acid on the wife of the Argentine Ambassador".[62] The piece placed the blame on Mossadeq and claimed that he had corrupted the Iranian people. The author used strong language throughout the document, calling Mossadeq a “dictator” and urging the Iranians to “stop acting like Bolsheviks.”[62]

In a second memo, the author again attacked the character of Mossadeq, alleging that his claim of being the "Savior of Iran" was inconsistent with his actions. The author claimed that Mossadeq used money received from landowners to undermine those who helped him in the past. The memo claimed Mossadeq did not want to save Iran, but rather wanted to save the "dictatorship" of Iran by its alliance to the Tudeh Communist Party.[63]

The propaganda published by the CIA showed that the organization wanted to shift public opinions on Mossadeq in order to make Zahedi's installation more popular with the Iranian people. By creating propaganda that appeared to be for and by Iranian citizens, the CIA had a better chance of influencing the views of actual Iranian citizens. The propaganda also painted a negative image of the Soviets and tied Mossadeq to the Bolsheviks.

In response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001; the United States felt as though there was a fundamental misunderstanding of its policies in the Middle East. The Bush Administration felt as though the end of the Cold War led to a diminishing of public diplomacy, thus causing a revitalization of propaganda attempts in the Middle East by the United States via a more assertive campaign of self-promotion.[64]

Identification of leftists[edit]

In 1983, the CIA passed an extensive list of Iranian communists and other leftists secretly working in the Iranian government to Khomeini's administration.[65] A Tower Commission report later observed that the list was utilized to take "measures, including mass executions."[65][66]

Iran-Contra affair[edit]

Beginning in August 1984, a small group within the US government composed primarily of Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Oliver North, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, and National Security Advisor John Poindexter, in the Iran-Contra affair, arranged for the indirect transfer of arms to Iran in its drawn-out war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, in a circumvention of the Boland Amendments. This amendments were intended to prevent the expenditure of US funds to support the Nicaraguan Contras. Since the arms-for-hostages deal struck by the Reagan Administration channeled money to the Contras in their civil war against the Sandinista Junta in Nicaragua, the legal interpretation at the time dictated that the CIA, as an organization, could not participate in Iran-Contra.

The relationships, first to avoid the Boland Amendment restriction, but also for operational security, did not directly give or sell U.S. weapons to Iran. Instead, the Reagan Administration authorized Israel to sell munitions to Iran, using contracted Iranian arms broker Manucher Ghorbanifar.[67] The proceeds from the sales, less the 41% markup charged by Ghorbanifar and originally at a price not acceptable to Iran, went directly to the Contras. Those proceeds were not interpreted as U.S. funds. The Administration resupplied Israel, which was not illegal, with munitions that replaced those transferred to Iran.

While Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) William Casey was deeply involved in Iran-Contra, Casey, a World War II Office of Strategic Services (OSS) clandestine operations officer, ran the Iran operation with people outside the CIA, such as White House/National Security Council officials such as John Poindexter and Oliver North, as well as retired special operations personnel such as John K. Singlaub and Richard Secord.[68]

The scandal was ultimately compounded by a failure of the US to hide its delivery of weapons to the Iranians. The principal objective of North's clandestine mission was to deliver eight hundred antiquated missiles on an EL Al 747 to Lisbon where they would then be transferred to a Nicaraguan plane secured by U.S. Air Force Major General Richard Secord. Secord's role in the mission was to then fly the missiles to Tehran. CIA officials, most notably Duane Clarridge, worked around the clock in securing a better way of delivery. In late November 1985, a CIA 707 was secured from Frankfurt in order to deliver eighteen HAWK missiles to the Iranians on Monday, November 25. The plan required proof of presidential backing, which, due to the timing of the events, required a retroactive signature authorizing, "the provision of assistance by the Central Intelligence Agency to private parties in their attempt to obtain the release of Americans held hostage in the Middle East."[69] The document was signed by Reagan on December 5, 1985.

The United States was found guilty of violating international law by the International Court of Justice in the 1986 case of Nicaragua v. United States yet refused to participate or pay the reparations that had been ordered by the court.[70] Christian Mixter, a lawyer on the staff of Independent Counsel, reported that President Reagan had been made aware of each arms transaction to Iran. However, it would be difficult for Reagan to be prosecuted because the 1947 National Security Act could override the Arms Export Control Act.[71] Reagan felt that he could answer questions about illegal actions but not about him passing up the chance to free hostages.

Iran arms-for-hostages[edit]

In 1986, Secretary of State George Shultz and his executive assistant, M. Charles Hill, began to prepare for their meeting with the president regarding ideas to get troops back home. It was later uncovered via Hill's notes that President Reagan showed a willingness to break the law in order to get American troops being held hostage in the Middle East back home to the United States. Hill's notes also detail his and Shultz's grim outlook on the situation noting, "We have assaulted our own MidEast policy .... We appear to have violated our own laws .... There is a Watergate-like atmosphere around here ...." Secretary Shultz quoted President Reagan as stating, "They can impeach me if they want."[72]

Intelligence analysis[edit]

The Islamic Republic of Iran, or more commonly known by its shorthand name Iran, was described as a problem area in the February 2005 report by Porter Goss, then CIA Director, to the Senate Intelligence Committee.[73] "In early February, the spokesman of Iran's Supreme Council for National Security publicly announced that Iran would never scrap its nuclear program. This came in the midst of negotiations with EU-3 members (Britain, Germany and France) seeking objective guarantees from Tehran that it will not use nuclear technology for nuclear weapons. This is unsurprising given the political instability and shaky economic conditions that have gripped the nation since the US and British intervention of 1953. Iran's economy is almost completely dependent on foreign oil exports, and its government is rife with corruption.[74]

"Previous comments by Iranian officials, including Iran's Supreme Leader and its Foreign Minister, indicated that Iran would not give up its ability to enrich uranium. Certainly, they can use it to produce fuel for power reactors. We are more concerned about the dual-use nature of the technology that could also be used to achieve a nuclear weapon.

"In parallel, Iran continues its pursuit of long-range ballistic missiles, such as an improved version of its 1,300 km range Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM), to add to the hundreds of short-range SCUD missiles it already has.

"Even since 9/11, Tehran continues to support terrorist groups in the region, such as Hezbollah, and could encourage increased attacks in Israel and the Palestinian Territories to derail progress toward peace. Iran reportedly is supporting some anti-Coalition activities in Iraq and seeking to influence the future character of the Iraqi state. Iran continues to retain in secret important members of Al-Qai'ida-the Management Council—causing further uncertainty about Iran's commitment to bring them to justice.

"Conservatives are likely to consolidate their power in Iran's June 2005 presidential elections, further marginalizing the reform movement last year."

Alleged support for terrorist groups[edit]

During 2007–2008, there were allegations that the CIA was supporting the Sunni terrorist group Jundallah, but these claims were debunked by a subsequent investigation showing that the CIA "had barred even the most incidental contact with Jundallah." The rumors originated in an Israeli Mossad "false flag" operation; Mossad agents posing as CIA officers met with and recruited members of Jundullah in cities such as London to carry out attacks against Iran. President George W. Bush "went absolutely ballistic" when he learned of Israel's actions, but the situation was not resolved until President Barack Obama's administration "drastically scaled back joint U.S.-Israel intelligence programs targeting Iran" and ultimately designated Jundallah a terrorist organization in November 2010.[75] Although the CIA cut all ties with Jundallah after the 2007 Zahedan bombings, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and United States Department of Defense continued to gather intelligence on Jundallah through assets cultivated by "FBI counterterrorism task force officer" Thomas McHale; the CIA co-authorized a 2008 trip McHale made to meet his informants in Afghanistan. According to The New York Times: "Current and former officials say the American government never directed or approved any Jundallah operations. And they say there was never a case when the United States was told the timing and target of a terrorist attack yet took no action to prevent it."[76]

Operation Merlin[edit]

Operation Merlin was a United States covert operation under the Clinton Administration to provide Iran with a botched design for a component of a nuclear weapon ostensibly in attempts to delay the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program, to get more information about State's nuclear weapons program, or to simply frame Iran. The intentions behind Operation Merlin may have been to help the Iranians develop weapons of mass destruction so that future military conflicts with the state would be properly justified. In other words, sabotaged blueprints for a "firing set" were underhanded onto the Iranians laps because the CIA, for whatever reasons, wanted to guarantee that Iran would have nuclear weapons in the years to come.[77][78]

In State of War, author and intelligence correspondent for The New York Times James Risen relates that the CIA chose a defected Russian nuclear scientist to provide deliberately flawed nuclear warhead blueprints to Iranian officials in February 2000.[79] Risen wrote in his book that President Clinton had approved operation Merlin and that the Bush administration later endorsed the plan.[79][80] Risen later refused to testify about the leaked information about operation Merlin. Earlier publication of details on Operation Merlin by the New York Times in 2003 was prevented by the intervention of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice with the NYT's Executive Editor Howell Raines.[81]

Unfortunately, Operation Merlin didn't unfold as planned. According to Risen, the CIA's Russian contact/messenger noticed flaws in the schematics for the TBA 480 high-voltage block during his briefing for the operation in San Francisco.[78] After recognizing the errors, the Russian asked nearby agents about said discrepancies and his inquiry was ignored. Some members of the CIA were unsettled by the Russian's observations, but Operation Merlin progressed nevertheless. Shortly before flying to Vienna for the delivery, the Russian was handed a sealed envelope, containing the blueprints for the "firing set", and was ordered to not open the envelope. However once in Vienna, the Russian chose to defy his instructions. Further, the Russian opened the envelope and inserted a letter informing the Iranians about the errors in the blueprints. The Russian took the envelope to 19 Heinstrasse in North Vienna, where he hastily shoved it through the mail slot in the door to the Iranian office. After completing the delivery, the Russian returned to the US. In the days that followed, members of the CIA were able to infer that the blueprints had been taken back to Iran.[78] Instead of crippling Iran's nuclear program, the book alleges, Operation Merlin may have accelerated it by providing useful information: once the flaws were identified, the plans could be compared with other sources, such as those presumed to have been provided to the Iranians by A. Q. Khan.[78]

Sabotage Iran’s nuclear program[edit]

Operation Olympic Games[edit]

Operation Olympic Games was a covert and still an unacknowledged campaign of sabotage by means of cyber disruption, directed at Iranian nuclear facilities by the United States and likely Israel. As reported, it is one of the first known uses of offensive cyber weapons.[82] Started under the administration of George W. Bush in 2006, Olympic Games was accelerated under President Obama, who heeded Bush’s advice to continue cyber attacks on Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz.[82] Bush believed the strategy was the only way to prevent an Israeli conventional strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.[82]

During Bush's second term, General James Cartwright along with other intelligence officials presented Bush with a sophisticated code that would act as an offensive cyber weapon. "The goal was to gain access to the Natanz plant's industrial computer controls ... the computer code would invade the specialized computers that command the centrifuges."[82] Collaboration happened with Israel's SIGINT intelligence service, Unit 8200. Israel's involvement was important to the Americans because the former had "deep intelligence about operations at Natanz that would be vital to making the cyber attack a success."[82] Additionally, American officials wanted to "dissuade the Israelis from carrying out their own preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities."[82] To prevent a conventional strike, Israel had to be deeply involved in Operation Olympic Games. The computer virus created by the two countries became known as "the bug," and Stuxnet by the IT community once it became public. The malicious software temporarily halted approximately 1,000 of the 5,000 centrifuges from spinning at Natanz.

A programming error in "the bug" caused it to spread to computers outside of Natanz. When an engineer "left Natanz and connected [his] computer to the Internet, the American- and Israeli-made bug failed to recognize that its environment had changed."[82] The code replicated on the Internet and was subsequently exposed for public dissemination. IT security firms Symantec and Kaspersky Lab have since examined Stuxnet. It is unclear whether the Americans or Israelis introduced the programming error.

According to the Atlantic Monthly, Operation Olympic Games is "probably the most significant covert manipulation of the electromagnetic spectrum since World War II.[83] The New Yorker claims Operation Olympic Games is "the first formal offensive act of pure cyber sabotage by the United States against another country, if you do not count electronic penetrations that have preceded conventional military attacks, such as that of Iraq's military computers before the invasion of 2003."[84]

The Washington Post reported that Flame malware was also part of Olympic Games.[85]

In the past, the U.S. as well as many other countries opposed Iran's ability to produce highly enriched uranium or plutonium. As of now, it is a fact that Iran has this ability.[86]

Leak investigation In June 2013, it was reported that Cartwright was the target of a year-long investigation by the US Department of Justice into the leak of classified information about the operation to the US media.[87] In March 2015, it was reported that the investigation had stalled amid concerns that necessary evidence for prosecution was too sensitive to reveal in court.[88]


Stuxnet is a malicious computer worm believed to be a jointly built American-Israeli cyber weapon.[89] Although neither state has confirmed this openly,[90] anonymous US officials speaking to The Washington Post claimed the worm was developed during the Obama administration to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program with what would seem like a long series of unfortunate accidents.[91]

Stuxnet is typically introduced to the target environment via an infected USB flash drive. The worm then propagates across the network, scanning for Siemens Step7 software on computers controlling a PLC. In the absence of either criterion, Stuxnet becomes dormant inside the computer. If both the conditions are fulfilled, Stuxnet introduces the infected rootkit onto the PLC and Step7 software, modifying the codes and giving unexpected commands to the PLC while returning a loop of normal operations system values feedback to the users.[92][93]

The worm initially spreads indiscriminately, but includes a highly specialized malware payload that is designed to target only Siemens supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems that are configured to control and monitor specific industrial processes.[94][95] Stuxnet infects PLCs by subverting the Step-7 software application that is used to reprogram these devices.[96][97]

Different variants of Stuxnet targeted five Iranian organizations,[98] with the probable target widely suspected to be uranium enrichment infrastructure in Iran;[97][99][100] Symantec noted in August 2010 that 60% of the infected computers worldwide were in Iran.[101] Siemens stated that the worm has not caused any damage to its customers,[102] but the Iran nuclear program, which uses embargoed Siemens equipment procured secretly, has been damaged by Stuxnet.[103][104] Kaspersky Lab concluded that the sophisticated attack could only have been conducted "with nation-state support".[105] This was further supported by the F-Secure's chief researcher Mikko Hyppönen who commented in a Stuxnet FAQ, "That's what it would look like, yes".[106]

On 1 June 2012, an article in The New York Times said that Stuxnet is part of a US and Israeli intelligence operation called "Operation Olympic Games", started under President George W. Bush and expanded under President Barack Obama.[107]

On 24 July 2012, an article by Chris Matyszczyk from CNET[108] reported how the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran e-mailed F-Secure's chief research officer Mikko Hyppönen to report a new instance of malware.

On 25 December 2012, an Iranian semi-official news agency announced there was a cyberattack by Stuxnet, this time on the industries in the southern area of the country. The virus targeted a power plant and some other industries in Hormozgan province in recent months.[109]

A study of the spread of Stuxnet by Symantec showed that the main affected countries in the early days of the infection were Iran, Indonesia and India:[110]

Country Share of infected computers
Iran 58.85%
Indonesia 18.22%
India 8.31%
Azerbaijan 2.57%
United States 1.56%
Pakistan 1.28%
Other countries 9.2%

Iran was reported to have "beefed up" its cyberwar capabilities following the Stuxnet attack, and has been suspected of retaliatory attacks against US banks.[111]

In a March 2012 interview with CBS News' "60 Minutes", retired USAF General Michael Hayden – who served as director of both the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency – while denying knowledge of who created Stuxnet said that he believed it had been "a good idea" but that it carried a downside in that it had legitimized the use of sophisticated cyberweapons designed to cause physical damage. Hayden said, "There are those out there who can take a look at this... and maybe even attempt to turn it to their own purposes". In the same report, Sean McGurk, a former cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security noted that the Stuxnet source code could now be downloaded online and modified to be directed at new target systems. Speaking of the Stuxnet creators, he said, "They opened the box. They demonstrated the capability... It's not something that can be put back."[112] A Wired magazine article about US General Keith B. Alexander stated: "And he and his cyberwarriors have already launched their first attack. The cyberweapon that came to be known as Stuxnet was created and built by the NSA in partnership with the CIA and Israeli intelligence in the mid-2000s."[113]


On 1 September 2011, a new worm was found, thought to be related to Stuxnet. The Laboratory of Cryptography and System Security (CrySyS) of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics analyzed the malware, naming the threat "Duqu".[114][115] Symantec, based on this report, continued the analysis of the threat, calling it "nearly identical to Stuxnet, but with a completely different purpose", and published a detailed technical paper.[116] The main component used in Duqu is designed to capture information[117] such as keystrokes and system information. The exfiltrated data may be used to enable a future Stuxnet-like attack. On 28 December 2011, Kaspersky Lab's director of global research and analysis spoke to Reuters about recent research results showing that the platform Stuxnet and Duqu both originated from in 2007, and is being referred to as Tilded due to the ~d at the beginning of the file names. Also uncovered in this research was the possibility for three more variants based on the Tilded platform.[118]


In May 2012, the new malware "Flame" was found, thought to be related to Stuxnet.[119] Researchers named the program "Flame" after the name of one of its modules.[119] After analysing the code of Flame, Kaspersky Lab said that there is a strong relationship between Flame and Stuxnet. An early version of Stuxnet contained code to propagate infections via USB drives that is nearly identical to a Flame module that exploits the same vulnerability.[120]


The Stars virus is a computer virus which infects computers running Microsoft Windows. It was named and discovered by Iranian authorities in April 2011. Iran claimed it was used as a tool to commit espionage.[121][122] Western researchers came to believe it is probably the same thing as the Duqu virus, part of the Stuxnet attack on Iran.

Containment or monetary gain?[edit]

Over time, the motives of the United States have been questioned.[according to whom?] For many, it was not clear why they United States decided to enter Iran. This passage ought to provide insight as to why the United States committed the actions that it did. One controversial idea that can be immediately ruled out is oil. Despite the potential influence of the director of the CIA formerly holding a position on Wall Street as a lawyer of international business, this theory is likely incorrect.[123] It is much more believable that the CIA focused its energy on controlling the spread of communism. Americans already had existing contractual agreements with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for oil, so invading Iran with intentions of getting oil for free would cause conflict.[123] Containment was the goal of the CIA. One thing that hints at this being true is the United States' approval to overthrow Mossadeq.[123] Information received by the CIA led them toward making that decision. After watching countries fall to communism across the world, America did not want the same thing to happen in Iran. When the United States successfully overthrew the government in Iran, the CIA attempted to find information that permitted them to invade other possible threats.[123]


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