Filmmaker sheds new light on Britain’s role in 1953 Iran coup

Agence France-Presse. London | Published: 00:00, Oct 10,2019


Iranian director Taghi Amirani of the film Coup 53, poses in London on October 4, 2019. — AFP photo

Filmmaker Taghi Amirani calls them the documents that changed the fate of his country, casting light on Britain’s role in organising the overthrow of Iran’s leader six decades ago.

His film, ‘Coup 53’, screened at the London Film Festival last weekend, purports to find fresh evidence that a British spy spearheaded the ousting of popular prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953.

With the help of the CIA, the covert operation led to the removal of Mossadegh, who had riled London by moving to nationalise the UK-controlled oil industry.

The United States effectively conceded playing a role when in 2013 it released some CIA archives showing its involvement, but Britain has never admitted its part in the plot.

Amirani, an Iranian physicist turned award-winning filmmaker who has been based in London for 45 years, said finding proof that an agent from Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency coordinated the coup was ‘a monumental lightbulb moment’.

‘It will in a way confirm everything Iranians have been saying for decades about the Brits,’ he told AFP in an interview at the festival, where his film is competing for a best documentary prize. 

‘The Brits are famously known in Iran as ‘the old fox’... there’s huge distrust.’

Amirani said 1953’s events were ‘more relevant than ever’ and help explain the current heightened tensions between Iran and Britain and the US.

‘No one can claim to really understand the dynamics and the volatile relationship... well unless they know what happened in ‘53,’ he added. 

‘It casts a lot of light on this.’

Appointed prime minister in 1952, Mossadegh quickly became a hugely popular leader inside Iran but irked the British by moving to take over the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the predecessor of modern-day BP.

He had also angered the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, by trying to limit his powers and the king left the country later that year in protest.

In August 1953, a military coup saw Mossadegh arrested and then jailed for three years, before being placed under house arrest. He died in 1967.

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