Timeline of the Abadan Crisis

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The Abadan Crisis was a major event in Iranian history. It began when the British Government invited themselves to the Middle East to look for oil, a resource that could not be found in their own land. Oil was discovered in commercial quantities in the southwest of Iran in May 1908. Although the oil did not belong to the British they claimed it as their own and forced the Abadani people (poor, hungry Iranians of the South West of the country) to risk their own lives in oil refinery’s to collect it. The British then sold it to western countries, earning themselves millions of pounds and hiding the majority of the profits to the Iranian government and its people.


In 1951 the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh nationalised the oil, ensuring that money earned from Iran’s land, rightfully went back to the Iranian people. He shut down the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company's oil refinery in Abadan which upset the British and the United States Government. A CIA-orchestrated an unlawful coup coup which overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mosaddeq in 1953, and enabled the Shah to rule autocratically for the next 26 years, before he was overthrown by the Iranian Revolution.


1925 Mohammed Mosaddeq opposes coronation of Reza Shah.Establishing a reputation for integrity. [1]
1930s Mosaddeq is hounded from public life by the powerful Reza Shah. [2]
1941Reza Shah deposed [2] during the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran and his son Mohammad Reza Shah is placed on the throneMosaddeq re-emerges as a popular hero.
1946–1949The National Front, a coalition of parties and groups comes together with the goal of moving Iran's oil resources from British to Iranian control. Mosaddeq emerges in the leadership. [3] Marks the arrival in Iranian politics of an organized and sophisticated bloc opposed to British control of Iranian resources. [4]
1946MarchOil workers at Abadan strike for better housing, decent health care and enforcement of Iranian labor laws. British management brings in Arab and tribal strike breakers.Raises awareness of workers' plight and British high handedness. [5]
1949MaySupplemental oil agreement offer by the British - guarantees royalty payments by AIOC "would not drop below 4 million pounds", a reduced area in which it would be allowed to drill, and a promise that more Iranians would be trained for administrative positions." But gives no "greater voice in company's management" or right to audit the company books. Prime Minister tried to argue with AIOC chairman, but chairman Fraser "dismissed him" and flies back to UK. [6] Arrogance of AIOC increases popular support for nationalization.
1950SummerNew American ambassador Henry Grady arrives in Iran to a greeting of protests by thousands of Iranians. Several protesters are killed. Grady is unknown in Iran but serves as a supporter of Mosaddeq over the UK during the crisis.Example of anti-Western and heavily politicized atmosphere at the time. [7]
1950SummerGeneral Haj Ali Razmara becomes prime minister.Favorite of British, PM opposes nationalization. [7]
1950November 25Supplemental Agreement rejected unanimously as inadequate by Mosaddeq-chaired parliamentary commission. [8] [9] Nationalization gains further momentum.
1950December, lateWord reaches Tehran of the Arabian American Oil Company deal to share profits with Saudis on a 50-50 basis. UK Foreign Office rejects idea of following suit. (p. 76-7).Makes Supplemental Agreement look even worse to Iranians. [10]
1951JanuaryHuge rally in Tehran to launch campaign to force nationalization of Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. National Front politicians are succeeded at the podium by a parade of mullahs issuing fatwas ordering support by Muslims for nationalization. [11]
1951March 3Razmara appears before majlis oil committee warning of illegality of nationalization, of the unpredictability of British retaliation, and of the potential devastation to Iran's economy from retaliation. [12]
1951March 7Prime Minister Razmara assassinated by Fadayan-e Islam. Majlis rejects Shah's choice for successor and three weeks later votes for Hussein `Ala as new PM.Openness of Fadayan-e Islam and lack of any public sympathy for Rezmara intimidates politicians who oppose nationalization. [13]
1951March 15–20Vote for nationalization of oil industry by Majlis and then Senate. [14]
1951early AprilStrikes and riots led by the communist Tudeh party protesting low wages and bad housing in oil industry and delays in nationalizing the oil industry. "Street demonstrations and sympathy strikes in Tehran, Isfahan, and the northern cities." Police in Abadan open fire, killing six workers. Britain sends gunboats "to protect British lives and property."Mossadeq offered the premiership so that he could implement the nationalization law. [15]

Mosaddeq becomes prime minister

1951April 29Mosaddeq voted Prime Minister. Basks in acclaim of "respect, devotion, loyalty" by Iranians. [16] Cabinet is "noticeably conservative" with royalists included.National Front and Mosaddeq's "main source of strength" is in "the streets" not in its parliamentary numbers. [17]
1951May 1Shah signs law revoking Anglo-Iranian's concession and establishing the National Iranian Oil Company.Nationalization official. [18]
1951May 26The UK government lodges a formal complaint against Iran with the International Court of Justice. The court would rule in favor of Iran July 22, 1952. [19]
1951JuneMosaddeq sends committee of five (including four National Front deputies) created by Majlis to Khuzestan to take over the oil installations" and implement the nationalization law. [20] Nationalization takes shape.
1951JulyMosaddeq breaks off negotiations with AIOC when the latter threatens "to pull out its employees," and warns "tanker owners [that] the receipts from the Iranian government would not be accepted on the world market." [20] Confrontation escalates.
1951July 15US diplomat W. Averell Harriman arrives in Tehran to attempt to negotiate an end to the crisis; he is greeted by 10,000 protesters shouting "Death to Harriman". More than 20 people are killed and 2000 wounded in the protests. (p. 102) [21] Further escalation.
1951August 22British cabinet imposes a series of economic sanctions on Iran: Prohibits the export of key British commodities, including sugar and steel; directs the withdrawal of all British personnel from Iranian oil fields and all but a hard core of about 300 administrators from Abadan; and blocks Iran's access to its hard currency accounts in British banks. [22] Economic situation in Iran begins to deteriorate.
1951SeptemberAIOC evacuates its technicians and closes down the oil installations, while the British government reinforces its naval force in the Persian Gulf and lodges complaints against Iran before the United Nations Security Council. [20]
1951October 19Mosaddeq travels to the US to appear before the UN to present the Iranian case. After listening to both Mosaddeq and the British UN ambassador, the UN Security Council votes to `postpone discussion of the question to a certain day or indefinitely.`"Humiliating diplomatic defeat" for the British. [23]
1951October 23Mosaddeq travels to Washington DC to negotiate with US government and seek financial assistance from the World Bank. [20] Unsuccessful, no relief for Iran's economy.
1952January? February?Elections held despite lack of reform to exclude illiterates. "Realizing that the opposition would take the vast majority of the provincial seats, Mosaddeq stopped the voting as soon as 79 deputies - just enough to form a parliamentary quorum - had been elected." [24] Mosaddeq asserts that `foreign agents` have been exploiting the election campaign with bribes to destabilize Iran, and thus `the supreme national interests of the country necessitate the suspension of elections." [25]

Halt of vote counting is seen as a defense against subversive British agents by some, and "as undemocratic and grasping for personal power" by others. [25]

1952February17th Majlis convenes. National Front, or pro-National Front, deputies occupy 30 out of 79 seats. Opposition harasses Mosaddeq "with side skirmishes" refusing to vote for special powers to deal with the economic crisis caused by the rapidly dwindling oil revenues", voice regional grievances against the capital. National Front, in turn, wages "a propaganda war against the landed upper class.". [26]
1952With the departure of most foreign personnel, oil production falls from lack of maintenance and expertise. Oil boycott engineered by AIOC. Mosaddeq appeals to United States to mediate. [27]
1952JulyUK Royal Navy warships intercept Italian tanker Rose Mary after it leaves Iran and force it into the British protectorate of Aden on the grounds that the ship's oil was stolen property.News of this scares off other customers and tanker owners, staunching the small flow of Iranian oil exports. [28]
1952JulyBritain's boycott becoming devastatingly effective. Iranians "becoming poorer and unhappier by the day".Mosaddeq's political coalition beginning to "fray", his enemies increasing in number. [29]

Mosaddeq resigns, is reinstated and wins emergency powers

1952July 16Mosaddeq nominates his own War Minister. The Shah refuses to accept his nomination. Mosaddeq then resigns and appeals to the general public for support. After the Shah dismisses Mosaddeq and appoints another prime minister, the National Front—supported by the Tudeh—calls for protest strikes and mass demonstrations in favor of Mosaddeq. [30] Shift of power away from Shah who had traditionally controlled the ministry of war.
1952July 21Siyeh-i Tir. After five days of mass demonstrations, and 29 killed in Tehran, and "signs of dissension in the army," the Shah backs down and asks Mosaddeq to form a new government. [2] [31] Coincidentally, the final verdict in the case at the International Court of Justice is announced, supporting Iran's contention that the nationalization dispute is outside the court's jurisdiction. [32] Enormous personal triumph for Mosaddeq. Shah loses still more power.
1952July 23Mosaddeq asks majlis for "emergency powers for six months to decree any law he felt necessary for obtaining not only financial solvency, but also electoral, judicial, and educational reforms." [33] Capitalizing on the defeat of his opposition Mosaddeq deals "a rapid succession of blows ... not only at the Shah and the military but also at the landed aristocracy and the two Houses of Parliament.". [34]
1952AugustTruman-Churchill joint communique issued, demonstrating America is in alliance with Britain. Calls for the amount of compensation for AIOC to be arbitrated. Mosaddeq responds with a demand for £50 million in compensation for underpayment by the British [35] Communique is "deeply damaging to Mosaddeq" as he can "not longer claim to be able to use [U.S.] against the British." Americans now closer to the British position that it is "impossible to do business with Mosaddeq." [36]
1952OctoberMosaddeq "orders the British embassy shut" after learning of British plotting to overthrow him. [37] UK plans to overthrow Mosaddeq derailed.
1952October 13Gen. Abdolhossein Hejazi and three members of the Rashidian family are arrested for plotting against the government in association with a foreign (i.e. British) embassy. Gen. Hejazi was released shortly after and the Rashidians were released six weeks later.Failure to crush anti-regime forces. [38]
1952October 23General Zahedi, an anti-Mosaddeq conspirator goes underground after the Majlis declares the Senate dissolved, ending Zahedi's immunity from arrest. Zahedi has been meeting (conspiring) with British agents and Islamist leader Kashani.Prospects for a coup now dim. "Britain has no intelligence agents in Iran" and Zahdi is "out of circulation." American Truman administration remains "implacably against the idea of intervention." [39]
1953January 20Mosaddeq successfully presses Parliament to extend "emergency powers for another 12 months". With these powers, he decrees a land reform law that establishes village councils, and increases the peasants' share of production. [40]

Opposition grows

1953mid-FebruaryMosaddeq works to limit Shah's power, demands "that the Shah confine himself to a government-designated budget", and give Crown properties to the state, or use them "for the public welfare, ... refrain from receiving government opponents ..."Pre-emptive move against budding center of government opposition, arouses opponents such as Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani. [41]
1953February 28Kashani mobilizes a clamorous pro-Shah crowd. [42] A jeep carrying an army colonel and gang leader Shaban "the Brainless" Jafari smashes through the front gate of Mosaddeq's house. Mosaddeq is forced to flee in his pajamas over the back garden wall. [43] British diplomat reports that the mob`was certainly organized by former Mosaddegh supporter ... Kashani.` [43]
1953March 4–18In the U.S., President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who has resisted the idea of a US instigated coup, comes "to the conclusion" that Iran is collapsing and that the "collapse could not be prevented as long as Mosaddeq" is in power. Others in his administration take "his change in tone as a sign that he would not resist the idea of a coup." [44] US planning for coup to remove Mosaddeq from office begins. [45]
1953MarchSeveral former members of Mosaddeq's coalition began to turn against him. They include Muzzaffar Bazaui, head of the worker-based Toilers party; Hussein Makki, who had helped lead the takeover of the Abadan refinery and was at one point considered Mosaddeq's heir apparent; and most outspokenly Ayatollah Kashani, who damns "Mosaddeq with the vitriol he had once reserved for the British."Defections reduce Mosaddeq's ability "to organize crowds in the streets." [46] Result is "partly through the efforts" of Iranians working as British agents. [47]
1953April 4$1 million given to the Tehran CIA station for use to `bring about the fall of Mosaddeq.` [48]
1953April 19Anti-Mosaddeq plotters kidnap Tehran police chief General Mahmoud Afshartus. He is killed by his captors as police close in. Zahedi, who will appoint himself the next prime minister, is implicated and takes refuge in the Majlis under Kashani's protection.Iran shocked. Foe of coup eliminated. Plotters succeed in pushing Iran toward greater chaos. [44]
1953MayThe Shah "is stripped of all powers he had recovered since [his father was deposed in] August 1941." His budget is cut, he is forbidden to communicate directly with foreign diplomats, royal lands are transferred back to the state, his sister is expelled from Iran, etc. [34] Competitor is weakened.
1953MayMosaddeq under siege, is losing support from erstwhile supporters in the bazaar and the army. The communist Tudeh party supports the government with "hard-knuckle tactics that employ thugs ... lawlessness." [49] As the National Front becomes weaker, the Tudeh party's support becomes more important to the government. [49]
1953June 14In America, president Dwight D. Eisenhower approves the coup plot presented to him in `broad brush` outline by Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles. [50]
1953June 25Plans for the coup are laid out in detail at the U.S. State Department. Operation Ajax is given its final go ahead with unanimous vote. [51] [52] Gray and black propaganda campaign begins attacking Mosaddeq as pro-Tudeh and anti-Islamic; working to destroying army morale and promoting economic collapse. [53]
1953July 1Pro-Mosaddeq members managed to oust Kashani as Speaker by a 41-31 vote, but are not able to prevent a successful vote approving Hossein Makki as supervisor of the government's monetary policy.Parliament effectively paralyzed. [54]
1953July 14"National Front deputies resigned en masse, reducing the Majles below its quorum."Effectively dissolves the 17th Majles, which had resisted Mosaddeq's bypassing of it with emergency powers to decree law. [40] [55]
1953July 14–19"Mosaddeq - supported by the Tudeh - calls for a national referendum" to dissolve parliament. [40]
1953July 19American coup organizer Kermit Roosevelt enters Iran, which is "aflame" with antagonism between pro and anti-Mosaddeq forces. [56]
1953July 21The communist Tudeh Party rallies against the Shah, against American imperialism and in favor of the Soviet Union. Rally draws a reported 100,000 demonstrators in Tehran. This far exceeds the 5000 supporters at an earlier National Front rally, which surprises and frightens non-communists.One of the largest political demonstrations in Iran's history, suggests a shift in popular support to Communists. [57]


1953July 29Mosaddeq's cabinet decrees that referendum vote will have separately placed ballot boxes for yes or no ballots and "each ballot must be clearly inscribed with the full name of the voter and the number and place of issue of his identity card."Abandonment of secret ballot is a violation of 1906 Constitution's insistence on a secret ballot. [58]
1953August 10Yes wins with 99% approval, 2,043,300 vote to 1300 no votes. [59] Mosaddeq now has authority to dissolve parliament. [60] "The transparent unfairness of this referendum [is] more grist for the anti-Mosaddeq mill." [56]
1953mid-AugustReferendum gives Mosaddeq unprecedented powers, but government is weakened by dwindling oil revenues, increasing unemployment and rising consumer inflation. [61] Mosaddeq appears to be in full control but is losing his popular backing.


1953SummerHead of CIA, Allen Dulles, U.S. ambassador to Iran, Loy Henderson, and Princess Ashraf gather in Switzerland. [62] Meeting of conspirators.
1953August 12Colonel Nasiri flies to Ramsar on the Caspian Sea to get the Shah's signature on royal decrees dismissing Mosaddeq and appointing Zahedi in his place as prime minister. [63] A result of much effort by the CIA and allies to persuade the Shah to dismiss Mosaddeq.
1953August 15–16Failed coup attempt. Late at night "Colonel Nasiri of the Imperial Guards arrives at Mosaddeq's doorstep" with a number of Imperial Guards and "a royal decree replacing Mosaddeq with Zahedi as premier". Tipped off by the Tudeh's military network, a pro-Mosaddeq army contingent surrounds Nasiri and the coup fails. [64] With the planned coup a failure, CIA's Roosevelt chooses to stay in Iran and improvise another coup, and find another coup leader.
1953August 16Backlash against the coup attempt. Pro-Mosaddeq army units establish control throughout Tehran, arresting suspected coup participants. Freed from jail, Hossein Fatemi speaks on radio and to a large pro-Mosaddeq demonstration, denouncing the Shah as a traitor. His newspaper announces the Iranian people want the Shah hanged. [65]
1953August 17Shah flees Iran, stopping first in Baghdad. On hearing this news, the "National Front sets up a committee to decide the fate of the monarchy, and the Tudeh crowds pour into the streets, destroying royalist statues. In some provincial towns ... the Tudeh take over the municipal buildings." [66] In Tehran, mob attacks are started by "black" mobs, i.e. paid for by the CIA to "loot shops, destroy pictures of the Shah, ransack offices of royalist groups", but include sincere supporters of Mosaddeq that have joined in the rioting. [67] Hurts Mosaddeq forces as they
1) mistakenly believe the Shah was behind coup, and with him gone, they relax their guard. [68]
2) the disorder led many Iranians to believe Mosaddeq was losing control of the situation. [69]
3) Mosaddeq reacted against calls for a republic as he saw them as going against his constitutional mandate as premier. [70]
1953August 18Shah arrives in Rome without any money or entourage. In Tehran, riots have intensified and Mosaddeq instructs the army "to clear the streets of all demonstrators" following a (dishonest) promise by the American ambassador of "aid if law and order was reestablished." [68] [71] Plotter takes advantage of Mosaddeq's trusting nature.
1953August 19'Shahban the Brainless' leads a noisy demonstration from the red light district to the bazaar; the gendarmerie transport 800 farm hands from the royal stables in Veramin to central Tehran. [71] "The decisive day", people of the bazaar, led by athletes from gymnastic clubs, zurkhaneh, poured out en masse into the city and, supported by military loyal to the Shah, confronted and dispersed the military elements defending Mosaddeq. [52] Many anti-Mosaddeq demonstrators are killed by military defenders as they attempt to overrun Mosaddeq's house, but in the afternoon General Fazallah Zahedi, commanding 35 Sherman tanks, surrounds the premier's residence. Nine-hour battle finally ends with 300 people dead, Mosaddeq fleeing, and his house burnt. [71] Counter-coup succeeds. George Lenczowski notes that it "was carried out with a more substantial participation of the Iranians themselves than has generally been acknowledged in the West", in spite of the US role in planning and financing the movement that supported the Shah. [52]
1953August 20Mosaddeq is arrested and the Shah returns to Iran. [72]
1953November–DecemberMosaddeq is tried for treason, defends himself brilliantly and is given a three-year prison sentence. [73]
1957Mosaddeq released from prison and confined to the village of Ahmad Abad, where his country estate is located. He spends the rest of his life running his farm, never leaving his estate compound. [68]

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  1. Mackey, Sandra, 1937- , The Iranians : Persia, Islam and the soul of a nation, New York : Dutton, c1996, p.187-210
  2. 1 2 3 Mackey p.187-210
  3. Mackey p.196"
  4. Kinzer, Stephen, All the Shah's Men : An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, Stephen Kinzer, John Wiley and Sons, 2003, p.71
  5. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men, (2003), p.52
  6. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.68
  7. 1 2 Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.73
  8. Mackey p.198
  9. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.76
  10. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.76-7
  11. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.77
  12. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.78
  13. Abrahamian, Ervand, Iran between two revolutions, Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1982, p.266
  14. Abrahamian, 1982, p.266
  15. Abrahamian, 1982, p.267
  16. Mackey p.199
  17. ""iran between two revolutions" "main source of strength" - Google Search". www.google.com. Retrieved 2022-05-03.
  18. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.91
  19. Abrahamian, Ervand (2013). The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the roots of modern U.S.-Iranian relations. New York: The New Press. pp. 108–111. ISBN   978-1-59558-826-5.
  20. 1 2 3 4 Abrahamian 1982, p.268
  21. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.101-2
  22. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.110
  23. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.127
  24. Abrahamian, 1982, p.268-9
  25. 1 2 Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.137
  26. Abrahamian, 1982, p.270
  27. Mackey p.201
  28. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.138
  29. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.135-6
  30. Abrahamian p.270-1
  31. Abrahamian p.270
  32. Abrahamian, Ervand (2013). The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the roots of modern U.S.-Iranian relations. New York: The New Press. pp. 141–142. ISBN   978-1-59558-826-5.
  33. Abrahamian, 1982, p.273
  34. 1 2 Abrahamian, 1982, p.272
  35. Fakhreddin Azimi, and William Roger Louis writing in Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, Edited by Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, Syracuse University Press, 2004, p.77, 158
  36. Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, Edited by Mark j. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, Syracuse University Press, 2004, p.74, 158
  37. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.3
  38. Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, Edited by Mark j. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, Syracuse University Press, 2004, p.77
  39. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.147
  40. 1 2 3 Abrahamian p.273
  41. Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, Edited by Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, Syracuse University Press, 2004, 79
  42. Mohammad Mosaddeq, Azimi, p.79
  43. 1 2 Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.157
  44. 1 2 Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.160
  45. Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, Edited by Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, Syracuse University Press, 2004, p.xiv
  46. Gasiorowski writing in Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, Edited by Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, Syracuse University Press, 2004, p.233
  47. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.159
  48. Gasiorowski, p.232
  49. 1 2 Mackey p.202
  50. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.161
  51. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.164
  52. 1 2 3 George Lenczowski, American Presidents and the Middle East, (1990), p.32-40.
  53. Gasiorowski writing in Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, , p.237-8
  54. Katouzian writing in Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, Edited by Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, Syracuse University Press, 2004, p.233
  55. New York Times, July 14, 20
  56. 1 2 Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.165
  57. New York Times, "100,000 Red Rally in Iranian Capital", July 15, 1953
  58. New York Times, July 28, 1953, p.6, "Mosaddegh Voids Secret Balloting : Decrees `Yes` and `No` Booths for Iranian Plebiscite on Dissolution of Majlis" by Kennett Love
  59. Abrahamian p.273-4
  60. Mackey p.205
  61. Abrahamian p.274
  62. Mackey p.204
  63. Gasiorowski, p.248
  64. Abrahamian, p.279
  65. Gasiorowski, p.249
  66. Abrahamian p.279-80
  67. Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.175, 211
  68. 1 2 3 Kinzer, All the Shah's Men (2003) p.170
  69. Gasiorowski, p.253
  70. Behrooz, p.119-120
  71. 1 2 3 Abrahamian, 1982, p.280
  72. Mackey, 207
  73. New York Times,