He also showed concern that the Shah might not be “flexible” enough and the British insufficiently “conciliatory.”
Ike made clear that his intentions in backing the coup were all Cold War oriented—“to give a serious defeat to Russian intentions and plans in that area.” That made clear what has always been assumed—that Ike believed Prime Minister Mohammad Mos-sadegh was a tool of the communists and that the US motivation was to upend Soviet plans.
President Harry S Truman had rejected a 1952 British proposal for a joint coup plot in Iran because he did not see any Soviet hand in what was happening in Iran. Eisenhower did suspect a Soviet role and, after taking office in January 1953, approved the plan Truman had dismissed.
The Eisenhower Library in Topeka, Kansas, Ike’s birth place, released a load of declassified documents last week. One of the documents was the president’s private diary.
In the entry for October 8, 1953, about seven weeks after Mossadegh was ousted in a scheme set in motion by CIA agent Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt, the grandson of President Theo-dore Roosevelt, Eisenhower discussed the coup in his diary. Here is the full text of what he thought about it—the first time his actual thoughts on the coup have been revealed in his own words.
“Another recent development that we helped bring about was the restoration of the Shah to power in Iran and the elimination of Mossadegh. The things we did were ‘covert.’ If knowledge of them became public, we would not only be embarrassed in that region, but our chances to do anything of like nature in the future would almost totally disappear,
“Nevertheless our agent there, a member of the CIA, worked intelligently, courageously and tirelessly. I listened to his detailed report and it seemed more like a dime novel than an historical fact. When we realize that in the first hours of the attempted coup, all element of surprise disappeared through betrayal, the Shah fled to Bagh–dad, and Mossadegh seemed to be more firmly entrenched in power than ever before, then we can understand exactly how courageous our agent was in staying right on the job and continuing to work until he reversed the entire situation.
“Now if the British will be conciliatory and display some wisdom, if the Shah and his new premier, General Zahedi, will be only a little bit flexible, and the United States will stand by to help both financially and with wise counsel, we may really give a serious defeat to Russian intentions and plans in that era.
“Of course, it will not be so easy for the Iranian economy to be restored, even if her refineries again begin to operate. This is due to the fact that during the long period of shut down of her oil fields [for three years], world buyers have gone to other sources of supply. These have been expanded to meet the need and now, literally, Iran really has no ready market for her vast oil production. However, this is a problem that we should be able to help solve,” Ike wrote.
In the end, the world econ-omy expanded rapidly and demand for oil rose, allowing Iran to quickly find its market again.
Eisenhower has been quoted by others as saying that Kim Roosevelt’s report sounded like a dime novel. That has been cited by others as evidence the president didn’t believe all that Roosevelt was saying and thought his report exaggerated to make himself look good. But it is clear from the diary entry that the “dime novel” quote was not a criticism and that Eisenhower believed what he heard from Roosevelt.