A new Channel 4 documentary set to air on Sunday 14th June at 9pm will explore how Her Majesty The Queen may have played an unwitting role in a coup against Iran’s Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadeq, in 1953. The coup was allegedly being organised by the Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, after two years previously Mossadeq had secured a unanimous vote in favour of nationalising the country’s oil fields which had been built through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company later known as British Petroleum.
Anthony Eden wanted to restore British control and so planned to replace Mossadeq with the Shah who was an ally to Western powers such as France, USA and, of course, the United Kingdom. The Shah was not keen on the idea and preferred to spend his life in exile having already spent time in Italy. Eden had other ideas and sought to convince the Shah by other means. Aboard the RMS Queen Elizabeth, Eden sent a telegram to Washington D.C urging them to put pressure on the Shah to remain in Iran so that the coup could be carried out.
Following receipt of the telegram from Eden, a telegram is then sent from Washington to their Ambassador in Tehran saying, “Foreign Office this afternoon informed us of receipt message from Eden from Queen Elizabeth expressing concern at latest developments re Shah and strong hope we can find some means of dissuading him from leaving the country.”
So how was Queen Elizabeth II involved?
She wasn’t. However, communications found in archives in Washington D.C show that U.S officials had told the Shah of Iran that Her Majesty The Queen had urged him to stay in Iran to successfully carry out the coup. The Queen had no involvement whatsoever. It is believed that the message was so terribly misunderstood by American officials, they thought Eden was speaking on behalf of Queen Elizabeth rather than the fact he was writing the telegram from RMS Queen Elizabeth.
Speaking to The Times, Richard Aldrich, a historian, said, “In 40 years as a historian this is the most astonishing collection of documents I have ever seen.”
Consequently, the Shah remained in Iran and the coup was carried out successfully. In August 1953, Mossadeq was overthrown and sentenced to three years in solitary confinement, remaining under house arrest until his death in 1967.
Though the USA quickly realised they had made a huge diplomatic error, they quickly covered up their mistake rather than address it. Officials later revealed that they “deeply regretted the mistake.”