Desperate Measures: Truman, Eisenhower, and the Lead-up to Operation Ajax

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2015-06-11

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Abstract

In August 1953, the American CIA and British SIS collaborated with the Shah of Iran and elements of the Iranian military to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in Operation Ajax. The coup marked the culmination of an ongoing crisis that had begun when Mossadegh nationalized the holdings of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1951. Operation Ajax has become one of the controversial episodes of the early Cold War on account of what many see as its role in creating the “blowback” of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. However, historians cannot properly engage in the blowback debate without understanding why the United States undertook such a bold policy. This thesis interrogates explanations for the decision to approve Operation Ajax and analyzes their strengths and shortcomings using primarily archival evidence, some not available to many previous scholars, and accounts of participants in the crisis. In doing so, I engage theories of American policy in the larger Cold War. Finally, the thesis questions the limits that scholars impose between those different theories and advocates a multilayered approach to Cold War history.

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Leonhardt, Theodore L. (2015). Desperate Measures: Truman, Eisenhower, and the Lead-up to Operation Ajax. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/10211.


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