Saturday, September 25, 2010

CIA in Guatemala 3

The next operation, dubbed PBSuccess, was drafted within the CIA on November 12, 1953. The objective was “To remove covertly, and without bloodshed if possible, the menace of the present Communist-controlled government of Guatemala,” and “To install and sustain, covertly, a pro-US government in Guatemala (“Program for PBSuccess”). The covert completion of the objectives was necessary to provide possible denial of US or CIA participation in the coup. On May 24, 1954, the US Navy began Operation Hardrock Baker, a sea blockade on Guatemala, followed by the invasion of Armas’s forces on June 18. On June 27, Jacobo Arbenz resigned as Guatemala’s president and Castillo Armas was installed as the new leader on September 1. PBSuccess was claimed a success and terminated.
After the coup, the CIA began collecting documents left behind by the Communist government. After examining over 500,000 documents, the CIA concluded that only a small fraction of them had actually been valuable, and that there had been no ties to Moscow from Guatemala (Mylkes). This meant that the Arbenz had been acting without any Russian influence and that there was no reason to fear a Russian front in the western hemisphere through Central America. However, this also further enforced the reasoning that the US was concerned about the issue of communism rather than the cultivating land of the United Fruit Company.
The CIA’s motives in intervening in numerous foreign issues may seem to diverge from its initial purpose of repelling communism. Portraying the CIA’s actions as choosing the economic interests of America over the popular government installation of another country portrays them as a meddlesome American pestilence, but in the popular cases of Iran and Guatemala, communism emerges as a strong reason at the time for interference. The tyrannical Mossadeq used communists to his advantage to fight against his political enemies, and the government of Jacobo Arbenz was believed to have close ties to Russia, posing a threat to the US, justifying the use of covert operations within foreign nations.

Friday, September 24, 2010

CIA in Guatemala 2

Though initially Guatemala did not seem like a direct threat to the United States, it was believed that the country provided a front in the western hemisphere for Soviet influence. From the CIA memorandum titled “Guatemalan Situation,” the agency describes the popular opinion of the communist government, stating that “The growing Communist tendencies of the Guatemalan Government have alienated the majority of Guatemalans to such an extent that a popular uprising to overthrow the government is to be expected as a normal reaction” (“Guatemalan Situation”). Whether this information was true or not, it still demonstrates the paranoia against Communism, making it the most prevalent reason for action. Another excerpt from the document reacts to the reform act, claiming that “The recent passage of the Agrarian Reform Act… is expected to win further adherents to the government although it is opposed by the landowning class whose influence will wane as the Act takes effect.” This shows that the CIA was more concerned with the landowners who were being robbed rather than the fruit company, which is not mentioned in the document at all.
The purpose of CIA action in Guatemala was to establish a pro-US democratic government. The first operation drafted was PBFortune, authorized by Truman in 1952. This initiated CIA collaboration with Colonel Castillo Armas in Honduras with support from President Somoza in Nicaragua and President Galvos in Honduras. The plan included memos that designated assassination targets, including a list of 58 military leaders and other important figures, and probably Arbenz himself (Doyle and Kornbluh). Later, the CIA distributed “A Study of Assassination,” which explicated targeted clandestine murder in great detail, including diagrams and instructions such as the “Conference Room Technique.” The handbook justifies assassination by stating that “Killing a political leader whose burgeoning career is a clear and present danger to the cause of freedom may be held necessary” (“A Study of Assassination”). The operation eventually ended because of its compromise.
A general plan of action for Guatemala was drafted in September 1953. The CIA still believed that Russia held a base of operations in the country and that it presented a direct harm to American interests. The plan concluded that the revolutionaries within Central America would not be able to fight the Communists without American help and that due to the growing power of the Communist government and the deteriorating power of the resistance, the CIA should act quickly. The means through which overthrow would be accomplished included economic pressure and military aid to other Central American nations. Covert economic warfare was to be used against oil supplies and shipping vital exports and imports. They also planned to disrupt the Guatemalan coffee industry. Financial aid to other countries was estimated to cost just under $3 million (“Guatemala – General Plan of Action”) Psychological warfare was intended to be used in the coup; however, it was deemed unnecessary due to unsatisfactory effects.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

CIA in Guatemala

In Guatemala, the CIA’s motives followed a similar pattern. President Jacobo Arbenz was popularly elected in 1950. He was known to have established an effective alliance with Communists. What is generally thought to be the reason for US intervention was that the Arbenz government damaged US business interests by the expropriation and redistribution of much of the United Fruit Company’s land in the Agrarian Reform Act of 1952 (Faragher). Guatemala initially planned to compensate UFC with $594,572 in government bonds, but the company valued the land at $15,854,849 ("GUATEMALA: Square Deal Wanted"). The US billed Guatemala for UFC, yet Guatemala denied, claiming violation of its sovereignty. However, this was not the prominent reason for CIA intervention. A plan for Operation PBFortune under the Truman administration had been drafted in 1951, before the UFC expropriation.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

CIA in Iran

Before the CIA coup in Iran in 1953, Shah Pahlavi had ruled the country with the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) and a Senate. Starting in World War II, Russian and British troops had occupied Iran. After the war, Russia wanted concession to develop northern Iranian oil fields to counterbalance British oil interests in the south. The Shah refused Russia because it was in the country’s best interest to control its own natural resources. The Tudeh, the communist party of Iran backed by the Russian army, increased anti-government activity after the Shah’s refusal of oil imperialism, leading to the communist takeover of Azerbaijan (Edmonds).
            Following this, Iran filed a complaint to the United Nations against the USSR on January 19, 1946. This was the first complaint filed by a nation in the UN, which feared falling apart like the League of Nations if it took a stand against Stalin (Edmonds). Eventually, US President Truman saved Iran when he wrote an ultimatum letter to Stalin, who finally withdrew Russian troops. America was the only country with an atom bomb at the time, intimidating Russia. Though the Shah retook Azerbaijan on December 12, 1946, the communist influence still existed through the Tudeh.
            Dr. Muhammad Mossadeq and the Tudeh shared the same goal of extreme government reform; however Mossadeq was a nationalist rather than a communist. He sought a nationalized oil industry which would remove the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, and used anti-British propaganda, increasing his popularity. To counterbalance popular support given to Mossadeq, the Shah passed social reforms. In justification of the reforms, he stated “My wish is that every Iranian will benefit from his national and social rights. There is no honor in being the king of a poor people” (Edmonds 115). In one of his reforms of 1950, the Shah distributed part of his personally owned land to peasants for cultivation, showing that he was not a maniacal dictator as implied by some textbooks.
            In contrast, Mossadeq was not the hero that other sources portray him to be. He rallied against the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, depicting it as foreign enslavement of Iranians. In April 1951, the Shah started to support Mossadeq because of his popularity and nominated him for Prime Minister. With his new power, Mossadeq formed the National Iranian Oil Company after refusing an offer by the British to split Anglo-Iranian Oil profits evenly. This led to the threat of British military action. However, showing his support, the Shah threatened to personally lead the army against the British if they provoked war (Edmonds). In September of 1951, the British requested that the UN Security Council set aside the nationalization act and consider the matter as a threat to world peace. The council refused to take immediate action, leaving the decision to the International Court. The court eventually ruled in favor of Iran, but soon the Iranian oil industry had fallen apart due to British expulsion. The British had also started a trade embargo on Iran, which increased oil production elsewhere in the Middle East, including Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq.
            In 1951, Mossadeq demanded new elections until he realized that the worsening economy gave the communist Tudehs more support. The Shah stopped the elections at Mossadeq’s request; however, he refused to grant him new power to appoint a Minister of War and Chief of Staff, which would bring him to near dictator status (Edmonds). In a fit, Mossadeq resigned from Prime Minister. The Shah nominated Ahmad Qavam, who was forced from office by rioting led by Mossadeq’s nationalists and the Tudehs. Though the two parties were considered enemies, Mossadeq used the Tudehs against his political enemies. On July 22, 1951, in response to the British complaint, the International Court had ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the oil industry in Iran, revering Mossadeq among the public again and forcing the Shah to nominate him as Prime Minister a second time to prevent rioting.
            Due to the worsening economy, Mossadeq appealed to the Eisenhower administration in 1952 for American aid. After being refused, Mossadeq threatened that he would drive Iran into Communism if they received no assistance. In a letter to Mossadeq, Eisenhower responded that “The Government of the United States is not presently in a position to extend more aid to Iran or to purchase Iranian oil… I note the concern reflected in your letter at the present dangerous situation in Iran and sincerely hope that before it is too late the Government of Iran will take such steps as are in its power to prevent a further deterioration of the situation (Edmonds 131).” This shows the terms on which Mossadeq was with the United States government. Threatening to turn to communism out of spite made Mossadeq a possible threat to the country, which would make him the CIA’s responsibility.
Mossadeq was not the democratic, popular man he was portrayed as. The only thing he succeeded in was destroying Iran’s economy beyond any quick repair. Eventually, the Shah decided that he wanted to remove Mossadeq from power, but he feared a civil war. The only chance of success was through CIA initiated covert operations. The CIA had been in contact with the Shah himself and General Fazlollah Zahedi, the leader of a pro-Shah faction. They provided the financial support, the psychological warfare, and the training of the Iranian royalist military. When Mossadeq realized that there was a plot against him, he disbanded the Senate because he did not hold a majority and suspended the Supreme Court, revealing his tyrannical traits. He also staged a rigged election to suspend the Majlis.
Political and military officials began retiring and deserting the Prime Minister in support of the Shah. After gaining enough support from Iranian military officials, the CIA, and influential politicians, the Shah signed a decree on August 13, 1953, removing Mossadeq form power, and replacing him with General Zahedi. The decree was being delivered to Mossadeq on August 16 by a colonel accompanied by a platoon of soldiers. However, the Prime Minister organized tanks and guards in opposition after learning of the platoon from Tudeh spies. The colonel messenger was jailed and Mossadeq ordered the arrest of the Shah, causing him to flee to Rome.
After this failure of an overthrow, the CIA’s prestige was devastated, motivating them further towards their goal. Soon, Tudeh riots gave the CIA the opportunity to move against Mossadeq on August 19, 1953. Mossadeq eventually surrendered and was imprisoned with a life-sentence conviction for treason, reduced to 3 years by the Shah. On August 22, the Shah returned to Iran to initial public acclaim, but Mossadeq had left him taken over by his own paranoia. The Shah set up military tribunals to punish the antiroyalists. This persecution killed 5000 people over two years (Hiro 36). After this, the Shah set out to restore the country with economic aid from America and social and political reforms, which ultimately proved futile because of the bureaucracy.
The CIA’s intervention had a multitude of effects in Iran: the devastation of the Tudeh party, the lift on the oil embargo, and the removal of a corrupt leader, falsely portrayed as a hero.

The CIA in Iran and Guatemala

In modern textbooks, the role of the CIA in foreign affairs has been notorious for their international intervention. In the 50s, it’s believed that the agency took part in the removal of allegedly democratically elected Muhammad Mossadeq in Iran for an oil embargo, and that they forcibly removed Jacobo Arbenz from power in Guatemala for expropriating lands owned by the United Fruit Company (Faragher). These historical accounts portray the CIA as only a protector of the economic interests of the United States. However, the initial formation of the CIA was for the purpose of quarantining the spread of the Communist disease radiating from Russia. In areas such as Iran and Guatemala, the CIA believed that there was significant communist influence, which was perceived as a direct threat by the American government. Remember that this is the time of McCarthyism, in which anti-communist paranoia had overtaken American politics domestically and internationally. The modern retelling of CIA operations has portrayed them as an inimical twist on the “Big Stick” policy; but in reality, the organization had actually sought to satisfy the interests of other countries while rolling back Communism.