Kermit Roosevelt Jr. paced nervously in a small room at the American embassy in Tehran. It was just after midnight on August 16th, 1953, he was waiting for a phone call to confirm the arrest of Iran's prime minister, Mohammad Mossadeq. The call never arrived.
In the early hours of the morning, Roosevelt heard the rumble of tanks in the streets outside and crowds marching past the embassy. They chanted, Victory to the nation. Mosaddeq has won.
At seven o'clock radio, Tehran broadcast a special address from the prime minister. He informed the Iranian people that he'd foiled a coup organized by the shah of Iran and so-called foreign elements.
Roosevelt struggled to piece together what happened as reports from his Iranian contacts poured in. The Shah was on a plane to Iraq. Exiled Iranians who had participated in the coup had been arrested. Mossadeq was in full control of the country.
Roosevelt had no choice but to prepare a report to his superiors in the United States. But he didn't send it to the State Department or the White House. He sent it to the CIA brief and to the point.
Roosevelt's report stated that Operation Ajax, the mission to overthrow the Iranian government, had failed.
The reply from the CIA was equally curt, as the story is told by some in the CIA. It instructed him to abandon the assignment and leave Iran immediately. They feared his life was in danger.
But as Roosevelt read these evacuation orders, he started to form a new plan, perhaps all was not lost. He disregarded Washington's commands and gathered the few Iranian contacts he had left in the country.
Roosevelt was going rogue. The real coup in Iran was about to begin.
Welcome to Conspiracy Theories, a Spotify original from cast every Monday and Wednesday, we dig into the complicated stories behind the world's most controversial events and search for the truth.
Carter Roy. And I'm Ali Brandenberg.
And neither of us are conspiracy theorists, but we are open minded, skeptical and curious. Don't get us wrong. Sometimes the official version is the truth, but sometimes it's not.
You can find episodes of conspiracy theories and all other Spotify originals from Park for free on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. This is our second episode on Operation Ajax, the CIA mission that allegedly overthrew Iran's democratically elected government in 1953.
Last week, we explored what led to the oil crisis in Iran and the rise of the country's nationalistic prime minister, Mohammad Mossadeq. His fight with Britain over petroleum riots devastated Iran's economy. In 1953, the Shah rallied the common people who rose up and deposed Mossadeq.
This week, we'll examine the theory that the coup wasn't engineered by the Shah and his supporters at all. Instead, it was the work of a single American CIA agent who used bribery, intimidation and violence to topple Iran's government.
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But according to American journalist Stephen Kinzer, was it true mistake was losing the favor of the British government? In his 2003 book, All the Shah's Men, Kinzer makes the case that nationalizing the oil industry was possibly the largest factor that led to the coup that destroyed Iran's democracy.
Allegedly, the operation was performed by the American CIA, which was confusing because in the 1940s, America supported Iran nationalizing its oil. Somehow the U.S. turned against Mossadeq. This brings us to conspiracy theory. Number one, Britain convinced the United States to stage the coup against Iran's democratically elected prime minister.
During the early days of the Iranian oil crisis, America sided with Mossadeq and his government, newspapers in the U.S. lauded the prime minister's statesmanlike qualities and passion to defend his people. Time magazine named Mosaddeq Man of the Year. Britain was largely alone in its condemnation of Iran.
In 1951, British military leaders drew up plans to invade the country and claim its oil by force. They reached out to their strongest military ally for support.
The United States president Harry Truman, though, was alarmed to hear that Britain was considering an invasion. He promptly called a meeting of his National Security Council to assess this growing global crisis. The news wasn't good.
Truman's staff warned that invading Iran would have disastrous consequences. It was likely that Mosaddeq would turn to the Soviet Union for help. He already had connections to the Communist two day party, which received orders from the Kremlin. This could be the final push that would turn Iran into a communist state.
At that moment in 1951, America was embroiled in the Korean War, meaning Truman couldn't afford another country becoming a Cold War battleground. He instructed the State Department to reject Britain's plans for invasion.
The Iranian oil crisis needed to be solved peacefully, even if that meant Britain lost its primary source of petroleum. Truman dispatched special envoys to negotiate between the two countries. Britain's invasion plans were shelved and government officials worked with American mediators.
But secretly, Prime Minister Winston Churchill disagreed with Truman. He didn't think it would take an invasion for Iran to fall to the Soviet Union. In fact, it would require, much less largely because of Mossadeq.
Kinzer claims that in private, Churchill called Mossadeq, quote, an elderly lunatic bent on wrecking his country and handing it over to the communists and, quote, convinced that the Iranian prime minister had to be replaced by British intelligence officers, reached out to Mosaddeq political opponents, Muslim clerics and Iranian gangsters.
They told these contacts that Churchill was willing to finance a coup to overthrow the prime minister. If successful, the conspirators would be rewarded politically and financially.
But in October 1952, Mossadeq caught wind of the plot. In response, he closed the British embassy and expelled its workers from Iran by the end of the year. Churchill didn't have a single intelligence asset in the country.
Again, British intelligence reached out to the United States for aid. They asked if America was willing to use their personnel to carry out the coup. And again, the Truman administration refused to get involved. But then the presidential election changed everything.
Truman was succeeded by Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had campaigned on an aggressive anti-communist platform. Churchill hoped that this new administration would be more open to intervening in Iran if he aligned it with Eisenhower's priorities.
Two weeks after the election, Churchill sent a diplomat to Washington to meet with Alan Dulles. Eisenhower, soon to be CIA director. The British envoy painted Mossadeq as a weak leader who would be unable to resist the inevitable coup by the two day communists. And while Dulles was easily persuaded the incoming president would be harder to convince, like his predecessor, Eisenhower was reluctant to meddle in Iranian politics.
In January of 1953, he met with Churchill in New York, and the president made it clear that when it came to Iran, he thought all that Britain had done was bully a weaker nation.
However, the situation in Iran was growing violence even without direct foreign intervention. On February twenty eighth, 1953, a mob attacked the Iranian prime minister's home in Tehran.
The crowd was led by one of Iran's most infamous gangsters called Shabaan, the brainless Mosaddeq front gate was smashed in, forcing the prime minister to escape over the back wall in his pajamas. Though these attackers claim to be rallying in support of the Shah, they were paid by Mosaddeq political enemies.
This encounter prompted Iran's prime minister to arrest many of his political opponents, a move that angered the people. But across the Atlantic, the attack on Mosaddeq home had a more sinister effect.
It confirmed American suspicions that he was losing political support and would soon be overthrown.
Kinzer believes that Eisenhower first began to change his mind about the idea of regime change at a National Security Council meeting on March 4th, 1953. There he was shown a bleak analysis of Iran's prospects. His advisers anticipated that the country would inevitably become a dictatorship under Mossadeq.
As long as the prime minister was in control of Iran, the country was stable. But if he died or was assassinated, the two day communists would take over and ally with the Soviet Union. Other countries in the Middle East could follow suit, leading the Soviet Union to own more than 60 percent of the world's oil reserves. It could mean their victory in the Cold War.
If this was true, Eisenhower had a choice after that fateful meeting, either he could order the overthrow of Mossadeq or the Soviet Union what Eisenhower was sold.
Within two weeks, Operation Ajax was set into motion. His administration wired one million dollars to the CIA station in Tehran, about nine point eight million dollars. Today, the officer there was to use the money to bring about the fall of Mohammed Mosaddeq.
Well, Kinzer's narrative about the political intrigue behind Iran's 1953 coup is thrilling. For nearly 50 years, both the CIA and Britain's MI6 denied it. To say that they had a role in it was just another conspiracy theory.
But that all changed in March of 2000, when American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright acknowledged the United States role in the 1953 coup. In a speech to the American Iranian Council in Washington, D.C., she said that the United States played a significant role.
Albright was sparse with details. She only claimed the Eisenhower administration believed intervention was justified at the time. But the covert operations irreparably harmed relations between America and Iran.
That wasn't the last time the American government was forced to address Operation Ajax in 2009. US President Barack Obama spoke of America's actions in Iran during a speech in Cairo, Egypt.
It was the first time an American president had mentioned the coup. And though he, too, left the details vague, Obama said that to find future peace, both nations had to acknowledge the past.
Finally, in 2013, a research institution called the National Security Archive filed a Freedom of Information Act with the CIA. They wanted to see the documents about the 1953 revolution, and they got them.
Exactly 60 years after the coup, the CIA released a trove of papers. They explicitly stated that the military coup was carried out under CIA direction as an act of U.S. foreign policy.
Given the extensive evidence provided from Madeleine Albright, Barack Obama and even the CIA itself, it's clear conspiracy theory no one is true. Britain convinced the Eisenhower administration to take action in Iran on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the most believable. I give this a 10 out of 10.
I also give this theory, attan. The evidence for the US's involvement is overwhelming, and it fits perfectly with American strategy at the time combat communism. However, I will note that even though Operation Ajax was approved, that doesn't mean it went according to plan and the unintended consequences affected U.S. and Iranian relations for decades. Coming up, one CIA agent goes rogue and changes the course of Iran forever.
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Well, it seemed the plan was foiled on the early morning of August 16th when it became apparent that Mosaddeq caught wind of it. Somehow, four days later, the prime minister was imprisoned. The shah was the undisputed leader of Iran.
Conspiracy theory number two stipulates that when Operation Ajax failed, Roosevelt went rogue and disobeyed orders from the CIA. He sowed chaos in Tehran, which helped install the Shah's new regime, actions that changed Iran forever. In 1953, Kermit Roosevelt Jr. was a rising star in the CIA. He was the grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt and shared his grandfather's enthusiasm for adventure, and he had considerable experience in the Middle East.
Naturally, he was the CIA's first choice to run Operation Ajax when he received his orders from Washington. He was ecstatic. Roosevelt immediately flew to Beirut, then snuck into Iran through the deserts of Syria and Iraq.
He entered the country on July 19th. It was already a tumultuous time granted that several members of the Iranian parliament had recently resigned in protest of Mosaddeq rule. The Prime Minister announced a referendum to dissolve the legislative body and rule via emergency powers. He was making himself a dictator.
Iran was a tinderbox, and Roosevelt was eager to light the fuse. He assumed a fake name, James Lakeridge, and rented a villa in Tehran. Soon, he was meeting with the current CIA and MI6 assets in the country and recruiting new ones to carry out operation.
Ajax was relatively simple and involve four main components. First, Roosevelt would stoke resentment in the streets of Iran. He and his associates would bribe Muslim clerics, newspapers and gangsters to undermine Mosaddeq authority.
Second, they would use military officers to arrest Mossadeq and proclaim his rule illegitimate. Third, mobs paid by the CIA would fill the streets and seize important government buildings, police headquarters and radio stations. And finally, a new prime minister would emerge and take control of the chaotic situation. That person, of course, was an Iranian general chosen in advance by the CIA and MI6.
The British recruited this new prime minister in 1952, a political opponent of the prime minister named Fazlalizadeh Hadi.
But it was the CIA who contacted him about joining this new coup operation, specifying that he would be working with the Americans, not the British generals.
Ahady agreed and received nearly 100000 dollars from the CIA to buy his loyalty. But the rest of the plan was far more complicated.
Roosevelt needed to create an intense psychological campaign against Mosaddeq. Control of the press was critical, so the CIA used bribes and political connections to manipulate nearly all of the newspapers in Iran. Articles in these papers were written by operatives and functioned as propaganda, designed to portray Mossadeq as a communist sympathizer and a fanatic. This undermined the Prime Minister's support among both working class and upper middle class Iranians.
Next, Roosevelt organized various riots and demonstrations against Mazatec Iranian instigators like Shabaan the brainless Marschall droves of vicious mobs to fill the streets. By the summer of 1953, Mossadeq was isolated and unpopular.
Now all the CIA needed was the justification to dismiss Mossadeq from his post. The Prime Minister dissolved parliament. The CIA allegedly claimed that only one other office in the Iranian constitution could legally order Mossadeq to step down the Shah of Iran himself.
However, the Shah wasn't receptive to Roosevelt's advances. In fact, the king sent away CIA assets who approached him. Not only did the Shah believe Operation Ajax would fail, he feared Mossadeq would inevitably retaliate against himself and his family.
Operation Ajax couldn't move forward without the Shah, so Roosevelt persuaded and bribed several of his advisers to join the CIA initiative. Once they were on board, they put pressure on the king. Eventually worn down, the Shah was ready to consider taking part in the coup. On one condition, he must meet with Kermit Roosevelt in person in early August.
Roosevelt agreed. The Shah sent a car to his villa, which the CIA agent climbed into the backseat of. He hid under a blanket as the car passed through Tehran's various security checkpoints. No one could know that the king of Iran was meeting with an American. When Roosevelt arrived at the palace, the Shah greeted him warmly once inside the CIA agent explain the premise of Operation Ajax, he assured his hosts that it had the full support of the American and British governments as proof Winston Churchill had arranged for a secret code word to be aired on the BBC the following night.
Instead of ending the broadcast with the phrase It is now midnight, the station would announce it is now exactly midnight. This minor change would go unnoticed by all but the Shah of Iran.
It was clear to Roosevelt, though, despite these assurances that the Iranian monarch still had reservations about the plan. Frustrated, he offered an ultimatum.
Either the Shah agreed to participate immediately or Roosevelt would launch a new operation. Without him, the king was either with the CIA or against it.
It wasn't a choice at all. The Shah agreed to do whatever the CIA required of him. Roosevelt covertly met with the leader nearly every night for the next several days as they ironed out the details of the coup. A few days prior to August 15th, the Shah would sign two royal decrees, or Furman's, written by Roosevelt and his Iranian associates.
The first document would dismiss Mossadeq as Iran's prime minister, the second named General Zahedi as his successor. This would be delivered by the Shah's loyal Imperial Guard. Their leader was Colonel Nazeri, one of Roosevelt's Iranian contacts.
Though Roosevelt was confident that the plan would work, the Shah requested to leave Tehran before the Furman's were delivered to Mossadeq. If Operation Ajax did fail, he wanted to be far from Mosaddeq influence. Roosevelt agreed to his terms after months of planning and hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.
Finally, on August 15th, Roosevelt ordered the coup to begin as agreed, the Shah had signed the Furman's and Colonel Nassiri was sent to arrest Mossadeq.
Once the operation was in motion, there was nothing Roosevelt could do but wait. He retreated to his command center in the basement of the American embassy.
As we mentioned in part one, an informant told Mosaddeq about the coup. Col. Nassiri and his men were arrested and the Shah fled.
Roosevelt watched helplessly from the American embassy as his plans crumbled around him. Many of his fellow conspirators were arrested or went into hiding from Mosaddeq. Supporters marched in the streets, chanting their support for their prime minister.
Despondent, Roosevelt updated his superiors in Washington, informing them of the coup's failure. And the Eisenhower administration immediately tried to minimize the damage. And official from the State Department sent Eisenhower a memo stating that the United States had no choice but to, quote, snuggle up to Mosaddeq, end quote.
In the wake of the unsuccessful operations mess, the CIA sent a short message to Roosevelt, though no copy of this note survived. Sources say it warned Roosevelt that his life was in danger. He should evacuate Iran immediately.
But as politicians in Washington accepted defeat, Roosevelt assessed his options. Mosaddeq himself believed the Shah coordinated the coup with the king fleeing the country. The prime minister assumed the danger was over. He had no idea that the CIA was involved or that Kermit Roosevelt even existed.
His defenses were down and Roosevelt still had resources like copies of the Shah's decrees, thousands of dollars in funding and General Zahedi hiding out in the city. The element of surprise was on his side.
Disregarding his orders from Washington, Roosevelt instead drove through Tehran to the apartment where Zahedi was hiding. He asked the general if he was willing to try again. Zahedi agreed Operation Ajax was back in motion, but this time Roosevelt was in complete control.
The rogue CIA agent then smuggled Zahedi to another safe house and told him to reach out to his military contacts. Soon they would be needed to seize Iran's capital.
Then Roosevelt returned to the American embassy. He believed that the only chance at overthrowing Mossadeq lay with the Iranian people. They had to be mobilized against the prime minister and side with the now exiled Shah. He had to. So chaos Roosevelt used his connections to acquire a copy machine, a rarity in 1953, Iran, however unwieldy and difficult to operate, he nonetheless procured one and had it delivered to the embassy.
After printing copy after copy of the Shah's decrees, they were distributed to newspapers, Muslim clerics and people on the street. By the next morning, the Furman's were on the front page of every major newspaper in the country.
The public began to doubt Mosaddeq story, perhaps there hadn't been a coup after all the whispers of disbelief that the prime minister disobeyed a direct order from the shah grew louder.
According to Iran's ancient traditions, royal power was sacred, and not even the prime minister was above it. It was exactly the narrative Roosevelt wanted them to believe.
Soon, new mobs filled the already chaotic streets of Tehran. They claimed to be Mosaddeq supporters and communists, but they left a path of destruction. The people of Iran were enraged, which was the point. After all, these weren't really Mosaddeq supporters at all. These rioters were hired by ROSEVELT.
If Iran slid into anarchy, he believed that the populace would welcome military intervention in order to cause maximum destruction. Roosevelt then filled the streets with paid Paracha protesters.
These hired crowds attracted real supporters from both sides. Over the next three days, brawls erupted in the streets, but Roosevelt became concerned Mosaddeq might resort to the police to rein in the pro shah protesters who needed a new tactic.
That was when the American ambassador to Iran approached him and offered to help.
Roosevelt knew that Mossadeq was a politician at heart who valued etiquette and courtesy. He decided to exploit that weakness. Roosevelt told the ambassador to alert the prime minister that Americans in Iran were being harassed by his supporters.
The ambassador leapt at the opportunity. He met with Mosaddeq and claimed that American citizens were under serious threat, like having their cars vandalized and their homes attacked.
But this was all a lie and Mosaddeq fell for it, horrified for how this would be perceived internationally. He ordered the police into the streets to quell the violence and told all of his supporters to stand down. He would not tolerate these acts of aggression against guests in Iran.
This ruse worked. Mosaddeq effectively disarmed himself. On Wednesday, August 19th. Only the Shah's supporters took to the streets. They yelled Death to Mosaddeq and long live the Shah as they destroyed promos, EDEK, newspapers, government buildings and the central police station.
Then General Zahedi activated his military contacts, sending soldiers and tanks into Tehran. Mosaddeq home was surrounded and attacked. Zahedi announced victory on Radio Tehran and the Shah was welcomed back to Iran. Operation Ajax was a success.
The Shah returned and met with Rosevelt one last time before the CIA agent left Iran. The victorious king raised his glass and said, quote, I owe my throne to God, my people, my army, and to you, end quote.
In 1979, Kermit Roosevelt published a memoir about his time in Iran titled Countercoup, it followed his life from the beginning of his involvement with Project Ajax to the return of the Shah.
Many critics believed it to be self aggrandizing and embellished. Several of the parties involved, including the Anglo Iranian oil company, which changed its name to British Petroleum Company Ltd. in 1954, called the book Libelous.
Behind the scenes, there was pressure on Roosevelt's publisher to recall the book and reissue a new version, one that omitted key details about Operation Ajax.
It wasn't until the CIA released their files in 2013 that official support for Kermit's narrative ballooned. He did, in fact, play a central role in the operation and was critical to its success.
Well, Rosevelt story is spectacular to the point of being hard to believe at times. Official government files did verify it. The slight gap in information about Roosevelt's order to evacuate is the only thing that doesn't align perfectly for me. For that reason, I give conspiracy theory number two a nine out of 10.
I'm more inclined to give this theory a ten out of ten. It's undeniable that Roosevelt used the resources of the CIA to overthrow Mosaddeq and install the Shah as the undisputed leader of Iran.
Washington used the 1953 coup as evidence that covert regime change could work. It would be emulated in nations across the globe and the consequences would be felt for decades. Coming up, the 1953 coup in Iran changes world politics forever. If you are tuning in, chances are you've got quite the imagination for the dark, dangerous and deceitful, cool for podcasts, but not so cool for your safety. For peace of mind, consider ADT as the leader in home security.
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Alcohol volume one on one roof. Copyright twenty twenty one. Campari America. New York. New York. Now back to the story. In 1953, CIA officer Kermit Roosevelt masterminded a covert mission to overthrow Iran's prime minister. Supposedly, this plan, Operation Ajax, was to prevent the Middle Eastern country from falling under communist control thanks to Roosevelt's connections and improvisations.
The mission was a success. The shah of Iran became a close ally of the United States, but in 1979, he was deposed by the Islamic Revolution. Iran became a theocracy ruled by a supreme religious leader. Its relations with America deteriorated. Some claim the seeds of this revolution were planted in 1953.
Which brings us to conspiracy theory. Number three, Operation Ajax crushed democracy in Iran and created strife that has plagued the Middle East for generations.
After the 1953 coup d'etat, the shah ruled Iran uncontested. Like his father, he had complete control over the country. Even his secret police, known as SAVAK, which hunted down his enemies, were allegedly trained by CIA operatives.
The Iranian people chafed under his rule, and in 1979, Iran was wracked by another coup. This time it was the Shah who was the one deposed. The populace instead rallied around a religious leader, Ruhollah Khomeini. He preached that Iran was being destroyed by the Shah and his Western allies. The only way forward was a return to strict Islamic rule.
The Shah fled the country as Khomeini's followers filled the streets and raided military armories. The king hoped that America and the CIA would help him reclaim his throne like they did in 1953. Unfortunately for him, that wasn't the case. Khomeini consolidated his power and created a new government. The Shah died in exile.
The Islamic Revolution of 1979 caught American leaders unprepared. They believed the shah would be able to quell the unrest. More importantly, they greatly underestimated the anti-American sentiment in the country.
Tensions came to a head on November 4th, 1979, when thousands of Iranian students assaulted the United States embassy. They took 52 American citizens hostage and held them in captivity for 444 days.
The hostage takers cited their reason for targeting the embassy. It was where Roosevelt ran Operation Ajax in 1953. To them, the building symbolized America's meddling in Iranian affairs.
The hostage crisis became a cultural touchstone of modern Iran. It was the first time that the country struck back against what they viewed as American aggression.
After the Islamic Revolution, Iran's government became increasingly repressive. It rejected all American and Western influence and has funded terrorist groups throughout the Middle East. It remains hostile towards the United States diplomatically.
But in his book, All the Shah's Men, Stephen Kinzer states that the revolution of 1979 and all of the tragedies since were preventable. If the CIA hadn't overthrown Mosaddeq, Iran could be a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. Today, Kinzer argues that Mosaddeq symbolized the moderate liberals of Iran. The prime minister embraced political ideals, values and institutions common in the West. His movement to nationalize the oil industry may have been inspired by Britain's own nationalization of various industries.
Ironically, Britain was trying to stop Mossadeq from doing the very thing they had done themselves.
By overthrowing Mossadeq, the CIA destroyed the political party that saw America as an ally to be emulated. Instead, it pushed Iranian politics to the brink and poisoned its people against America.
On the other hand, though, Mosaddeq government may have crumbled even without the CIA's interference. Dr Ray Takeyh, an expert on Iran and the Middle East, believes that Operation Ajax only succeeded because the Iranian people wanted the prime minister gone to claims that Mosaddeq handling of the oil crisis decimated the country's economy.
Many Iranians didn't support the prime minister's resolve to keep the British out of the oil industry, no matter the cost. That was more than enough to make him deeply unpopular.
Furthermore, Mossadeq dissolved parliament and ruled Iran with emergency powers well before Operation Ajax began. It appeared that the country was no longer a democracy. He was a dictator. While Mosaddeq may have reinstated parliament after the crisis passed, there's no way to be certain how or if fair elections would have resumed.
Mosaddeq actions sparked anger in Iran long before Kermit Roosevelt arrived on the scene. And though the CIA paid many Iranians to protest in the streets, thousands of regular people joined them. Operation Ajax didn't create the movement against Mossadeq. Instead, it amplified the sentiment that was already there.
One piece of evidence that supports this view comes from Kermit Roosevelt himself. After his success in Iran, the CIA asked him to perform a similar mission in 1954. He was to depose the democratically elected leader of Guatemala, but Roosevelt told his superiors that the mission wouldn't work. Unlike Iran, the Guatemalan people weren't eager to get rid of their president. After Roosevelt declined to lead the operation, the CIA went forward with the mission anyway. It had disastrous consequences.
The Eisenhower administration contended that Operation PBH success prevented communism from taking root in Guatemala. CIA Director Allen Dulles considered it a success of democracy. But thousands of Guatemalans were killed in the chaotic aftermath. The CIA's actions were universally condemned by other nations.
Finally, it's possible that if the CIA hadn't launched a coup in Iran, another world power might have. The two day Communist Party was extremely powerful in Iran. Mossadeq was able to keep them in check, but Soviet backing could have helped them overthrow the prime minister and install their own regime.
If Iran and other countries in the Middle East had sided with the Soviet Union, the outcome of the Cold War could have changed entirely.
There's no way to know for sure what Iran would look like today if Operation Ajax didn't take place. It's possible that Mosaddeq would have won his battle with Britain, oil wealth would have flowed into Iran, and it would have become a prosperous world power or Mosaddeq would have been overthrown by his own people or a communist backed coup.
In either case, the outcome for both Iran and the world would be quite bleak indeed.
With the evidence we have, it seems likely that Operation Ajax did damage Iran's political institutions and its people. I give conspiracy theory number three a seven out of 10. If the CIA stayed out of Iran, it would have averted all the death and destruction that followed.
On the other hand, it's impossible to predict the future using hypotheticals. I give this theory a five out of 10. The evidence we've laid out does make sense, but there's simply no way to know where Mosaddeq government would have ended up. It could have gone either way.
Today, the CIA's intervention in Iran is considered a grave mistake. It violated the sovereignty of an American ally and pushed its government towards extremism. Critics of Operation Ajax claim that the deciding factor in the 1953 coup was Kermit Roosevelt and the CIA.
In this version of events, the Iranian people were used as pawns.
But the reality is not black and white. Placing full responsibility for the coup on the CIA discounts the will of the Iranian people themselves. Kermit Roosevelt may have lifted the curtain, but the stage was set long before him. Thanks for tuning into conspiracy theories. We'll be back next time with a new episode of the many sources we used. We found All the Shah's Men by Stephen Kinzer to be the most helpful in our research. You can find all episodes of conspiracy theories and all other Spotify originals from podcast for free on Spotify.
Until then, remember, the truth isn't always the best story, and the official story isn't always the truth.
Conspiracy Theories is a Spotify original from podcast. It is executive produced by Max Cutler, Sound Design by Dick Schroder with production assistance by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden and Travis Clark. This episode of Conspiracy Theories was written by Evan McGehee with Writing Assistants by Nicholas Ward and McKenzie. More fact checking by Bennett Logan and research by Bradley Klein. Conspiracy theory stars Molly Brandenberg and Carter Roy.