The hidden function of a British secret service officer who led the coup that completely altered the Center East is to be revealed for the primary time since an Observer information story was suppressed in 1985.
The report, headlined “How MI6 and CIA joined forces to plot Iran coup”, appeared within the 26 Might version however was swiftly quashed. It uncovered the truth that an MI6 man, Norman Darbyshire, had run a covert and violent operation to reinstate the Shah of Iran as ruler of the nation in 1953. But just some days after the newspaper got here out, all recent proof of this British operation and of Darbyshire’s identification disappeared from public debate.
“We nonetheless have no idea who leaked this to the Observer initially, or why,” mentioned film-maker Taghi Amirani this weekend, forward of the discharge of his documentary, Coup 53. “We solely know that any document of the interview with Darbyshire shortly disappeared and nobody adopted up the story. It smacks of an entire cover-up of British involvement to this present day.”
The background to the 1953 coup d’etat has lengthy been the reason for worldwide suspicion and conjecture. Prime Minister Winston Churchill opposed the rule of the nation’s first democratic chief, Mohammad Mossadegh, largely as a result of it threatened Britain’s pursuits in Iran’s oil business. Working with the CIA, who additionally hoped to see the Shah Reza Pahlavi again on the throne, it’s now clear that MI6 did way more than agitate for Mossadegh to be overthrown.
In June, paperwork present in a Washington archive confirmed how Queen Elizabeth II’s identify was mistakenly used to steer the Shah to remain in Iran previous to the coup. Coup 53 now makes a transparent case that the British had been orchestrating an rebellion, going so far as kidnapping, torturing and paying for protesters to exit on to the streets of Tehran.
Coup 53, launched on 19 August, the 67th anniversary of the coup, follows the investigations of Anglo-Iranian director Amirani. Working with Walter Murch, the acclaimed editor of movies comparable to The Dialog, Apocalypse Now and The English Affected person, Amirani delves into the archives and interviews lots of these concerned.
“We knew nothing of the Darbyshire thriller, or of the thriller about that thriller, once we began making this movie,” mentioned Murch. “None of this was on our radar. Taghi found issues as we went alongside. The thriller ingredient was not a part of our template, which was to look again at unseen interviews. This was essentially the most materials I’ve ever needed to work with – 532 hours – greater than double what I dealt with on Apocalypse Now.”
The turning level was when Amirani discovered key proof in deserted analysis carried out for a landmark Granada documentary sequence of the mid-1980s, Finish of Empire. A transcript of an episode about Iran initially contained an interview with Darbyshire, who spoke candidly.
“My transient was quite simple,” says Darbyshire. “Go on the market, don’t inform the ambassador, and use the intelligence service for any cash you may must safe the overthrow of Mossadegh by authorized or quasi-legal means.” The MI6 officer goes on to clarify he spent “huge sums of cash, nicely over a million-and-a-half kilos”, including, “I used to be personally giving orders and directing the road rebellion.”
But the explosive interview footage was by no means broadcast. In Amirani’s movie, the a part of Darbyshire is performed by Ralph Fiennes, who delivers strains from the censored Granada transcript. The 1985 Observer article by reporter Nigel Hawkes was printed simply earlier than the Iranian episode was proven by Channel 4.
However when the programme went out, Darbyshire and his testimony had been absent. A TV assessment per week later by Observer critic Julian Barnes made no point out of this a part of the story. Amirani, Murch and the intelligence specialists they’ve consulted now conclude the federal government stepped in after a personal screening, stopping the producers from utilizing the Darbyshire interview. Newspapers, together with the Observer, edited on the time by Donald Trelford, would even have been informed to go no additional with the story, utilizing a state provision often known as a D Discover.
Darbyshire labored carefully with a CIA counterpart, Stephen Meade, who did seem in Finish of Empire. He describes his British colleague as “a really competent particular person who spoke Farsi fluently in addition to French”.
Maybe essentially the most surprising proof in Coup 53 issues British guilt within the kidnapping and eventual “unintentional” killing of the Iranian police chief Mahmoud Afshartous. This incident intentionally provoked the unrest that led to the arrest and imprisonment of Mossadegh in August.
Within the misplaced footage, Darbyshire claims he made “the proper psychological studying of the Persian mob character”, however that he understood that they “had the sensation they had been being screwed, and rightly so, from 1920 onwards”.
Darbyshire died in 1993, and former Granada researcher Alison Rooper, who labored on Finish of Empire, collectively together with her producer/director Mark Anderson, inform Amirani they haven’t any clear reminiscence of interviewing the MI6 officer or of what occurred to the footage.
The shah, who had been residing in exile in Italy, flew again to Iran, then ruled by CIA- and MI6-approved Common Fazlollah Zahedi. In America, the coup was often known as Operation Ajax, whereas in Britain it was Operation Boots. The shah dominated the nation till the Islamic revolution of 1979.
“This coup formed not solely western relations with Iran for 60 years, however modified the Center East. Think about if there had been a democracy there,” mentioned Amirani.