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Tue, 28 Mar 2023 07:01
The CIA recruits Iran’s monarch for the mission, as agency operatives carry out a campaign of psychological warfare.
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Hey, prime members, you can binge all three episodes of American Scandal, America's coup in Iran, add free on Amazon Music. Download the app today. It's June 25th, 1953, in Washington, D.C. In the headquarters of the State Department, America's top foreign policy officials have gathered for a secret meeting. The group includes the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Director of the CIA, and senior officials from the State Department. Standing at the front of the room is Kermit Roosevelt, the chief of the CIA's Near East and Asia Division, and the leader of a mission that could reshape the Middle East. The officials finish settling in, and as the meeting kicks off, Roosevelt begins circling the room, handing out copies of a dossier, outlining the plan. In a mission known as Operation Ajax, Britain and America are planning to orchestrate a political coup in Iran. For Britain, the operation is about oil. The UK is trying to reclaim their monopoly of Iran's oil industry after Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosadek nationalized the industry, bringing the lucrative business under Iran's control. The UK has never been willing to walk away from the country's vast reserves of petroleum, but staging a coup appeared to be the best way to deal with the issue, a chance to install a more friendly leader in Iran. But for the US, the operation is about much more than natural resources or the money they provide. The American officials supporting the coup believe that with Mosadek in power, communists could soon take over in Iran, and the Middle East could find itself dominated by the Soviet Union, America's top opponent on the world stage. As the leader of this mission, Kermit Roosevelt is well aware that staging a coup is a dangerous task with any number of moral complications. It's a dirty business, leading a regime change in a foreign country. But Roosevelt believes there's no better way to prevent the spread of communism in the Middle East and advance freedom around the world. So Roosevelt is going to lay out a blueprint for the coup. There may still be a couple of holdouts in the administration, and before the mission goes forward, Roosevelt is going to have to convince them that Operation Ajax is the best path forward for America. Roosevelt finishes handing out copies of the dossier, then returns to the front of the room and begins his presentation. All right, gentlemen, as you're all aware, we've already begun taking some steps to remove Mosadek from power. Some of the recent chaos in Tehran has been our doing, and that was necessary to convince President Eisenhower it was time to take action. But now we have the cooperation of General Fazlolo Zaheddi, an ideal candidate to be Iran's next Prime Minister. But still, all of that was just laying the groundwork. So now I'm going to walk you through the larger plan, make sure we're all on board. So please, go ahead and open up your folders. The officials flip open their copies of the dossier. So let's start with Part 1, Psychological Warfare. In this phase of Operation Ajax, we're going to fill the Iranian press with stories that Mosadek is a communist, that he's corrupt, and he's hostile to Islam. And that's the most important, because if we're going to stage a coup, we need to win the hearts and minds of the Iranian people. One of the senior state department officials raises a hand. Sorry to interrupt, and I agree with the idea, but I want to remind everyone here that Iran is a democratic country. How do you expect to control a free press? Will you be surprised how little it costs to control a free press? We've already got about 80% of the newspapers in Iran. We can bribe reporters, editors, publishers, everyone. They're willing to run the stories that are meant to put together. But you really think Mosadek is just going to sit around and do nothing while the newspapers print a bunch of lies? Well, look, for all his failings, Mosadek does believe in a free press. And it doesn't matter how outlandish the stories get, the prime minister is not going to intervene. But in any case, that's just one part of the blueprints. So please, go ahead and turn the page. Now Mosadek is a very popular politician. So if we want the country to turn on its prime minister, we're going to need to take a direct approach. The State Department official looks back up at Roosevelt. What do you mean here by staged attacks? Physical violence? Yeah, that's correct. Against members of the clergy, what exactly are you trying to accomplish? Well, it's unfortunate, but crucial for the operation. We have a network of men who are willing to carry out attacks on religious leaders. They'll make it seem like they took their orders from Mosadek. And the idea here is that once you convince the clergy that the prime minister is repressive, you'll have swayed a very important segment of Iran's population. One with the power to influence the rest of the country. Oh, no, this is beyond the pale. Attacking religious leaders? Let me remind you again that Iran is a democratic country. There is a legislature, a military. How are you going to sway their minds? Dress up a bunch of fake soldiers and stage an invasion? Well, don't get ahead of yourself. This is largely going to be non-violent. The plan for these two groups is to bribe officers in the military and key members of parliament. And we'll stage an anti-government demonstration with thousands of paid civilians. This is like the world's biggest and worst Broadway show. It's a mob full of actors. We'll call it what you want, but once people see the country is falling apart, our allies in Iran's parliament will vote to remove Mosadek from power. And if he doesn't step aside, well, we have ourselves military power. As a heady and his men will take over, Mosadek will have no option. All right, Roosevelt. One last question. What happens if this mission fails? Well, it won't fail. We have all the pieces in place. It's just a matter of getting the final go ahead from everyone in this room. As Roosevelt grabs a seat, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles takes command of the conversation and asks the other administration officials what they think. One by one, the official signal that they're on board, leaving that Operation Ajax should move forward. Facing no real descent, Dulles makes the announcement. Let's get going. American scandal is sponsored by Dell Technologies, whose semi-annual sale is on with limited quantity deals on top tech. Save on select PCs powered by the latest 12th Gen Intel Core processors, like Finn and Light XPS 13 laptops, Inspiron laptops and 2-in-1s. Plus get savings on select accessories, free shipping, and monthly payment options with Dell Preferred account. Save today by calling 877-Ask Dell. That's 877-Ask Dell. American scandal is sponsored by sleep number. It's been a question asked since the beginning of time. What happens when we sleep? Modern science is still working on it, but for you, maybe your bed can tell you. Sleep number beds already adjust from soft to supportive on both sides, but sleep numbers sleep IQ technology also tracks how well you're sleeping to improve your sleep and energy and find your ideal schedule. I know my sleep number, it's 45. Why should you discover yours? So you can be at your best for yourself and those you care about most. And now it's sleep numbers lowest price ever. Save $1200 on the sleep number 360 i10 smart bed, plus special financing for a limited time. And at sleep number stores or sleep number dot com slash a s. From wondering, I'm Lindsey Graham and this is American scandal. The United States had never before pulled off a mission like Operation Ajax. Following alongside the British government, federal officials and operatives in the CIA hatched a plan to upend the democratic government in Iran, ousting the country's elected prime minister. From the start, the mission was both risky and dangerous. The leader of Operation Ajax, Kermit Roosevelt, needed to successfully bribe leaders across Iran's government. The CIA had to organize moms to march and protest. In both Washington and Tehran, agents were tasked with leading a campaign of psychological warfare, including manipulating Iran's free press. But the mission also required the cooperation of one of the most powerful men in Iran, the country's monarch, the Shah. Roosevelt knew that to pull off Operation Ajax, the CIA needed some pretext for ousting Iranian prime minister Muhammad Musadek. The Shah seemed to present the best path forward, with his ability to issue a royal decree dismissing Musadek from power. But despite their carefully laid plans, the Shah resisted getting involved in the coup. And with the mission growing more dangerous by the day, Roosevelt and his men had to make a decision whether to keep going and risk a disaster or stop now and walk away. This is episode two, The Decree's. This July 1953 in Tehran, Kermit Roosevelt opens the door of a villa and squins as afternoon sunlight comes pouring into the foyer. Looking across the driveway, he sees a young Iranian man in slacks and a white shirt approaching the house. When the man reaches the front steps, Roosevelt invites him inside and quickly shuts the door. Roosevelt then leads his guest to a back patio and the two men grab a seat at a table that's covered with pastries, nuts, and cured meats. As an opulent spread, designed to make this man feel special and taken care of, all part of Roosevelt's larger effort to gain allies in Tehran, men who can help him pull off this dangerous mission. Roosevelt arrived in Tehran earlier this month, ready to carry out Operation Ajax. And for the last several days, he's been meeting with Orion operatives like this young man, organizing all the work on the ground as America plans to force a regime change. These assets run a network of gang leaders, military officers, politicians, news paper editors, and members of the clergy. They're all key actors who can set in motion the coup. But buying their support is costly. Roosevelt has already doled out tens of thousands of dollars in bribes. And when he talked earlier today with this young Iranian operative, Roosevelt got the sense he was about to be squeezed from more cash, CIA funds that are by no means unlimited. So Roosevelt invited this man to his villa, looking for a chance to talk. He's hoping he can convince the operative to make do with what he's already been paid. Roosevelt gestures to the spread of food and encourages the operative to take anything he desires. Roosevelt says he got the best in town. The Iranian assets smiles, calling Roosevelt by the alias he chose for this mission, James Lockridge, maintaining a friendly tone. The operative says he appreciates the generous gesture of food, but he didn't come here for tea and sweets. His men are demanding more money, and if they don't get it, they're not going to do the CIA's bidding. Roosevelt nods, this is just as he expected. He tells the operative he can't afford to pay anymore, the mission is already over budget. Iranian man shakes his head, and tells Roosevelt he can drop the act. Everyone knows that money is no object in America. This CIA can afford to spend whatever it wants, he's only asking for a few thousand dollars. Roosevelt tries to keep his tone firm, but controlled, and says the US has already been more than generous. They've paid many thousands of dollars in order to secure support from the operatives network. Roosevelt thought they had an agreement. The Iranian operative admits they did have an agreement, but people's demands change, and if the CIA wants buy-in from gangs, members of the military, parliament and the clergy, the Americans are going to have to keep paying. Roosevelt maintains a poker face. He could continue to argue, but Roosevelt knows it's not worth it. So he tells the operative the Americans are willing to pay up, they'll send more cash in the coming days. The operative smiles and says that calls for a celebration. He grabs a pastry from the platter, and lifting it in the air, he gives a cheer. It won't be long before Iran has a new prime minister. Several days later, the Iranian operative who met with Kermit Roosevelt knocks on the door of a small house in Tehran. When the door opens, the operative tightens his grip on a heavy briefcase in his left hand. It's filled with cash. A servant welcomes the operative into the house, and as he walks through a dim entry way, the operative mentally rehearses the lines he's about to deliver. The man is here to meet the religious cleric Ayatollah Sayed Muhammad Bebahani. This cleric is one of the most influential religious leaders in Iran, with a wide-based support, including both preachers and local gang leaders. The Americans want to bribe Bebahani so that he'll instruct his followers to speak out against Muhammad Mosadek and cripple the prime minister's public support. And the briefcase, stuffed with cash, is to be used as a bribe to make sure Bebahani is willing to play ball. With the young Iranian operative is nervous. He knows Bebahani has a history of taking bribes from Western governments, but asking the cleric to take a public stand against Mosadek is a big request. It's possible this meeting could backfire. The operative could find himself in peril. So he's going to have to be careful in how he offers to bribe. Soon the operative is led down a plane hallway into a small room where he finds Bebahani sitting in black robes and a turban. Bebahani's face is buried in a book. And when the operative steps inside the room, the cleric looks up and signals that his servant can leave them, they need some privacy. The operative clutches his briefcase, his hands growing sweaty. And when the servant has disappeared down the hallway, the operative announces that he's here to make a deal. In his hand he has a large sum of money. The cleric can spend the money on his congregation, he can help the poor, or pay for religious schooling. But in exchange, Bebahani must denounce Muhammad Mosadek and demand that his followers do the same. Bebahani narrows his eyes, and he says it's no small request. Mosadek is wildly popular. And even with the money, Bebahani can't see an upside. He could alienate his followers and lose standing in the community. It doesn't seem worth it. The operative understands the cleric's position. It is a big risk. But he says there's another issue Bebahani should consider. Apparently there's evidence that Mosadek sympathizes with communists, a political party that's hostile to Islam. Mosadek poses a direct threat to Iran's religious institutions, and that means there's only one choice for the cleric. He has to take a stand and help get Mosadek removed from office. For a moment, Bebahani wrestles with the decision. But finally, he relents and says he's in. He'll cooperate with the Americans. Iran can't afford to have a prime minister who's willing to attack Islam. The operative nods, and tells Bebahani he's made the right choice for Iran and the country's religious institutions. But he still wants the cleric to take the money. Mosadek is popular, and by speaking out against him, the cleric could lose some followers along with their donations. Some financial support only seems fair. The operative then hands over the briefcase, and he makes his way out of Bebahani's house and onto the streets of Tehran. The operative checks his watch. The meeting with the cleric was a success, but there's a lot more to do today. More men that need to be bribed, and new alliances that need to be formed. It's August 1st, 1953, in northern Tehran. In a meeting room of an Iranian royal palace, H. Norman Schwartzkopf gazes at a pair of crystal chandeliers hanging from the vaulted ceiling. The walls of the palace room are inlaid with what appears to be gold, and the afternoon light is dancing across a row of statues in ancient vases. Schwartzkopf has spent a lot of time hobnobbing with people in power. He's an American general who ran an elite military division in Iran during World War 2. As such, Schwartzkopf has dealt with violence and political strife, and the experiences have taught him had to remain stoic, even under the most extreme circumstances. And today feels different. The general was tasked with playing a key role in America's attempt to lead a coup in Iran. He's about to meet with Muhammad Reza Shah, the current monarch. Schwartzkopf is supposed to convince the Shah to sign a pair of royal decrees known as Far Mons, official orders dismissing Muhammad Mosadek as the current prime minister of Iran, and naming Fazlullah Zahedi as his replacement. The move is almost certainly illegal. The Iranian constitution makes clear that parliament has the ultimate authority over prime ministers, not the Shah. But the Americans know that if they're going to succeed with their coup, they're going to need cooperation from the country's monarch. A royal decree would provide an air of legitimacy to the U.S.'s choices for a new prime minister, and the Shah's order could convince the Iranian people that a regime change came from their own leaders, and not a small group of Western operatives. Schwartzkopf stands waiting in the meeting room, looking out at the grounds of the royal palace when he hears a door open behind him. The general turns and finds the Shah standing in the doorway, wearing a dark suit and tie. You imagine it's a pleasure to see you. Schwartzkopf waits for the Shah to respond. But instead, the king squins at Schwartzkopf, his dick eyebrows furrowed with a look of distrust. I'm sorry about your majesty, it's something wrong. Still, the Shah doesn't say a word. Instead he points to his chest and spins his hand like the real of a tape recorder. Schwartzkopf immediately understands that the Shah is worried someone's taping him. Schwartzkopf nods, and then the Shah backends him into another room. Schwartzkopf isn't going to push back against the king's paranoia. So he follows the Shah out of the meeting room and the two walk through the palace, not saying a word. Finally, a few minutes later, the Shah leads them into a large ballroom. There the Shah grabs hold of the table, drags it to the center of the room. He hops up, sitting on the table top, and then waves over Schwartzkopf, and biting him closer. You understand I have to take these precautions. I have enemies everywhere. There could be microphones even inside the chairs. Oh, I understand your majesty. Politics can be a dangerous sport, and certainly can be. So Schwartzkopf, what can I do for you, my old friend? Well it's Mosadek. He's not only a threat to American interests, but he could destabilize the entire region, provide an opening for a Soviet incursion. He could spell disaster for Iran. Oh, I don't need any convincing. I've always seen Mosadek as a threat. So whatever we can do to get rid of him, I support. Well then you're willing to sign the farmlands. The Shah shakes his head. No, I don't know about that. When your majesty, Iran needs the decision to come from you, you alone have the power to dismiss Mosadek, and then install the man we know can lead the country forward. No, no, we both know I don't have that power. I defer to the democratic government. Now, I don't like Mosadek, and I want to see him gone, but I can't dismiss him with a royal order. The citizens of Iran wouldn't stand for it. Except the citizens of Iran aren't steeped in parliamentary procedure. They don't know how the government works. All they know is that you're the king, and the country has a long abiding respect for the monarchy. It is not that easy. If things go wrong, I could be killed. And I have no reason to believe the army will stand behind me. Well your majesty, the army won't turn on you. We're taking steps to guarantee that. If you sign the farmlands, you will be safe. And I can also promise you'll have much greater influence than with Mosadek in power. The Shah slides off the table and straightens his suit jacket. No, I'm sorry, Schwarzkoff. You did good for Iran during the war, and I believe you're a man of your word. But before I take such risk, I'd need greater assurances that I would be safe, no matter what happens. Well, your majesty, I can offer you, I don't want your promise. I need to speak with whoever's running the mission. And until then, I'm not signing anything. Schwarzkoff nods. He had a feeling it might come to this. He and the other operatives have tried to create some space between the work happening on the ground and the men leading the operation. It was a calculated strategy designed to prevent any embarrassing fallout if the mission fell apart. But now it's clear that someone at a higher level is going to have to step forward and convince the Shah to change his mind. This podcast is sponsored by FX's Great Expectations. 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He's driving slowly, just as Roosevelt asked. They can't afford to attract any attention from police or anyone else who might cause a problem. The agent turns the corner and the car begins climbing a steep hill. When Roosevelt looks out the window, he spots a familiar side, Iran's Royal Palace, the home of the Shah. For Roosevelt, this drive has become something of a routine. The last several nights in a row, Roosevelt has been hopping in the backseat of a sedan and making his way to the palace for a series of secret meetings with the Shah. Roosevelt has been trying to get Iran's king to sign a royal decree, dismissing Muhammad Mosadek from power and installing a new prime minister in his place. While the move isn't exactly legal under Iran's democratic constitution, the Americans believe that getting an order from the king is an important first step, one that can win the public support for a regime change. Roosevelt had hoped the Shah would agree with the plan, but the Shah had reservations about the plan and was adamant about meeting with a higher level official, one like Roosevelt. But despite talking night after night into the early morning, so far they haven't made much headway. The monarch is still refusing to sign the royal decrees, and that's left Operation Ajax in Limbo. So tonight Roosevelt is hoping for a breakthrough, even if that means he has to press his case with a little more force. Roosevelt's car slows as it approaches the gate of the Shah's palace, and just like he's done every night, Roosevelt climbs down onto the car floor and pulls a thick wool blanket over himself. He lies completely still, as the sedan passes by a pair of guards, men who can't be trusted to keep a secret. When the car finally comes to a stop, Roosevelt knows he's in the clear. He tosses aside the blanket, retakes his seat in the back, and waits. Soon the Shah opens the car door and slides in the back seat. Roosevelt smiles. Your majesty, good evening. It's good to see you again too, Roosevelt. I've grown to enjoy these nighttime discussions. And so have I. But I have to be candid. We've reached a point where we have to stop talking, and have to start taking action. We need you to sign the royal decrees. My position hasn't changed. I want most of the decon, but I can't take any chances. If I sign the farmons, I could be killed as a traitor. But if we do nothing, most of the deck stays in power. We'll face a catastrophe. Iran will go calm in us and so could the whole region. It's not something I want to see from my country. But I'm not like you, Americans. I don't enjoy risk. So I'm sorry. I have to decline. Roosevelt nods. He expected it to come to this. Well your majesty, let me be blunt. The west is unwilling to accept the possibility of a Soviet takeover in Iran. We're going to remove most of the deck. The only question is whether you're involved, whether we range some other plan, on that might not be to your advantage. I understand. Tell me then. What assurance do I have that this operation will be a success? Well, let me explain the four lines of attack. We're going to sway the press, the public, and the clergy. We'll see that Mosadek is no hero. And at the same time, we'll have several extremely competent professional organizers, so a bit of chaos. Everyone will see Iran as spiraling out of control and under Mosadek's leadership. We're also gaining influence with the military and several key legislators. And when you issue the decree, General Zaheddi will come forward and take the mantle of Prime Minister. No one will defend Mosadek and the coup will be over. That's your plan, but not an assurance. What about me? What happens if this plan fails? It won't fail. You have my word. Your word is not good enough. I need a concrete promise that my family and I will be safe. Roosevelt takes a moment to consider the options. What about your lodge on the casping coast? There's an airstrip nearby. If things go south, we'll help you escape. You're giving me a promise. I am. The United States doesn't go back on its word. All right, then. Send an envoy and I'll give you my signature. The Shaw steps out of the car and returns to his palace. And when Roosevelt looks out the window, he notices the early dawn light beginning to peek through the clouds. Roosevelt can't remember the last time he had a good night's sleep. His eyes are burning in his body aches from all the long days and nights. But despite the physical exhaustion, Roosevelt feels invigorated. Roosevelt took a bit of hand-ringing and subtle threats, but he managed to sway the Shaw. And with Ron's monarch now on board, the coup can enter its final stage. It's August 1953 in Washington, D.C. Richard Codham finishes typing the last sentence of a news story and lifts the page from his typewriter. He stands and walks across the office, past rows of men pounding away at their own typewriters. Codham opens the door to a corner office where he finds his ball sitting behind his desk smoking a cigarette. He appears to be busy marking up someone else's news story. But without looking up, he gestures for Codham to come in and wants to see what he's turned out. Codham takes a seat and hands over the story. As his ball begins reading through it, Codham turns back and looks out at the office, which is both cramped and conspicuously plain. Codham knows this is a strange operation. He and his colleagues crank out news stories day and night, just like professional journalists. But Codham, his boss and his colleagues have nothing to do with the legitimate news organization. They're all officers with the CIA in charge of writing propaganda that the agency places in Iranian publications. Pieces that look like real news stories, but which are meant to discredit Iran's prime minister, Mohammad Mosadek. The idea is to convince Iranian citizens that their elected leader should be kicked out of office. The CIA believes this kind of psychological warfare is necessary to guarantee the public support as America carries out a political coup. Still, for officers like Codham, the work has any number of moral complexities. Codham is only 28 years old. He just finished a full bright fellowship at the University of Tehran, and he'll admit he's something of an idealist. Codham believes the US should support democratic movements like the one Mosadek has been leading in Iran. But Codham is also a patriot. And he has to believe that if his country is executing a coup, in the end, the mission will advance democracy and freedom around the world. So Codham has been trying his best to set aside his personal reservations about the mission, and just try to do a good job and make his boss as happy. But when Codham's boss looks up from his latest news story, he doesn't seem pleased. He tells Codham that his copy is clean and readable, but no one reads a story about Mosadek's relationship with the parliament. These two abstract, two steeped and legislative procedure, what they need are stories that inspire fear and anger. That's what motivates people to change their minds. Codham bristles. He believes he wrote a fair and balanced story. It's critical of Mosadek, but it's also responsible, something Codham wouldn't mind seeing printed in an Iranian newspaper. Still Codham takes the criticism and stride, and pitches another story, a piece about Mosadek and his economic policies. Codham says there's a real argument to be made that Mosadek is mismanaging the economy. Codham's boss lights another cigarette and takes a deep track. He says that won't do. It's still too abstract. What they need is something different, something shocking. Then he grins and says he's got an idea. Why don't they go after Mosadek's origin story? They could claim the Prime Minister isn't really a Muslim, that he has Jewish parents. That would rile up the religious groups in Iran. Some races in eyebrow. The claim is patently false. It's ridiculous. What his boss says readers will eat it up. And they'll lose faith the Prime Minister is actually who he says he is. Codham wants to object, but his boss steam rolls past him, saying there's a lot more they can say to hurt Mosadek's reputation. They could claim he has sympathies for the British, whether he's trying to use her power from the legislature or become an authoritarian himself. Codham can't believe what he's hearing. These are all outright lies, but his boss doesn't care. The only thing that matters he says is completing the mission, and in this case the end justifies the means. Codham pleads for another approach, saying that they have a moral responsibility to the truth. The CIA has control of the Iranian press and what they print will shape how the Iranian see themselves in the world. Codham's boss says that's exactly the point. It's propaganda. They're working to change people's minds, and if Codham is uncomfortable with the job, he can always find another role in the US government. He's sure there's some boring, uncontroversial work somewhere for people like him. And with that, Codham knows the discussion is over. He doesn't want to lose his job, so he's just going to have to fall in line. And apparently that means drafting out landish stories about Iran's Prime Minister, and quietly hoping that Iran's free press will look the other way. Several days later, a newspaper publisher steps into his office in Tehran. He's an older Iranian man with thinning hair and dark rings under his eyes. And as he gazes across the office, he bows his head, wishing things looked a bit different around here. The cabinets are covered with crinkled newspaper galley. Because on the wall are coated in dust, the hardwood floor is warped, and all the furniture throughout the office is torn and ragged. And there, sitting on the publisher's desk, his aside, he can't look away from, almost like a scene of carnage. There's a stack of bills from the electric company, the water company, the printers, the photo lab, enough to bankrupt his entire enterprise. The publisher takes a seat and tries to think about something other than all the debts he's accrued. He's always had a deep faith in journalism and the news. And the publisher believes a free press is the most important bulwark against authoritarianism and that the press is a core pillar of democracy. But the business of news has never been especially profitable. And after years operating on razor-thin margins, the publisher's newspaper has found itself in a precarious position. The costs are too high and the revenues too low. Publisher knows they can't keep up like this, not unless they want to invite financial collapse. But he doesn't know how to get out of this mess. Only one thing feels certain. And that's if he dwells on his problems for too long, his fears will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. He could destroy his own business. So the publisher tries to set aside his worries and gets back to work, editing a story. But when he's about halfway through, there's a knock at the door. Publisher looks up. The reporters have all gone home for the day, and he doesn't know who's stopping by at this late an hour. The publisher calls out and fighting his guests to come in. And when the door swings open, a young Iranian man clad in a charcoal-grace suit enters. The publisher doesn't know this man, and so asks what he can do for him. But the man doesn't say a word. Instead, he walks over and sets a brown folder on the publisher's desk. Something about this man seems off. But the publisher carefully takes the folder and opens it. He begins skimming through a number of typewritten pages, and they appear to be newspaper articles. But their headlines are so bizarre, they almost sound like the work of satire. One article says Prime Minister Muhammad Mosadek is not a true Muslim, that he has Jewish parents. Another says Mosadek is a communist, and he wants to make himself the Shah. And from there, the story's only gross stranger, the accusation is more unbelievable. The publisher sets down the folder and asks, what is this all about? The man on the charcoal suit says he'd like these stories to be run in the paper. They're of national importance. The publisher just laughs. This man's series. His stories read like the works of juvenile fiction. He would never run a piece of shawty, something so obviously false. But the man in the suit seemed undeterred, and he says he works for some very powerful people, people who want these stories in the paper. Publisher nods. Now he understands. This man must work for the British or the Americans. Either way, he's not interested. The man doesn't leave, instead he gazes at the stack of bills on the publisher's desk. He says he can see that the newspaper must be experiencing some hard times. Maybe a few thousand dollars could help secure the deal. Publisher takes a deep breath. This is not a good development. These stories aren't even close to meeting his standards of journalistic integrity. But the fact is, the publisher needs the money. His newspaper is living on borrowed time. If it doesn't find some way to shore up the finances, it could collapse. Conflicted, the publisher thinks about it. And publisher realizes that there are worse devils to make deals with. It is only a few bad stories, and the money could save the paper. So with a heavy heart, the publisher says he'll run the articles. Just this one time. But after that, he's done. And he won't take any more money from the Americans or the British, or whoever is funding this campaign. The man nods and says, sure, of course, just this one time. And then he sets a stack of cash on the publisher's desk. He straightens his charcoal suit. And then turns and walks out of the office, stepping back into the streets of downtown Teirón and disappearing into a bustling crowd. Today Hawaii is renowned as America's Pacific Island Paradise. Its journey from independent kingdom to US State was fraught with power struggles, controversy and violence. Hi, I'm Lindsey Graham, the host of Wondrous Podcast American History Tellers. We take you to the events, times, and people that shaped America and Americans, our values, our struggles, and our dreams. In our latest series, we trace the turbulent history of Hawaii from the 1893 coup that deposed its queen to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor that triggered America's entry into World War II. Pearl American History Tellers wherever you get your podcasts. You can listen ad-free on the Amazon Music or Wondri app. Its mid-August 1953 in Teirón, and Kermit Roosevelt is pacing around his rented villa, waiting nervously with a small group of other CIA agents for updates about what should be the final steps in Operation Ajax. As the architect of the mission, Roosevelt always knew that the CIA needed the cooperation of the Shah. Iran's monarch had agreed to sign documents known as Pharmans, royal edicts dismissing Muhammad Misedec as the Prime Minister, and installing Fazlála Zaheddi as his replacement. The decrees are almost certainly illegal. Iran's parliament has constitutional power over the Prime Minister, not the Shah. But the Americans in British are intent on forcing Misedec out of power, and pull off this coup, they need something to lend the operation of semblance of legitimacy. Getting the Shah to sign the orders should have been a straightforward process. But earlier today, a courier arrived at the Royal Palace to get the Shah's signatures and discovered that the monarch and his wife were gone. Without warning, they decided to travel to the city of Rumsar, 145 miles away. This news sent Roosevelt into a panic. The coup has entered its final stage, and if they don't get the royal orders, or if details about the coup somehow leak, the mission could fall apart. So Roosevelt dialed up Colonel Nehma Tola Nasiri, the commander of Iran's Imperial Guard, and one of Roosevelt's allies. Roosevelt told Nasiri that he needed to get to Rumsar and get the Shah's signature, and he had to move fast. Nasiri promised he would get the job done. But that was six hours ago, and still there's been no word from the Colonel. So now, standing in the backyard of his villa, Roosevelt takes a swig of whiskey. This has been a nerve-wracking few hours, and it seems the events are also taking a toll on Roosevelt's fellow agents. Because one of them, a younger agent with light blonde hair, is now saying he thinks it might be time to call it off. Something bad has clearly happened, maybe word got out, or the Shah changes mind. Either way, it's time to admit defeat and get back home before they find themselves surrounded by military police and get hauled off to jail. But Roosevelt doesn't want to hear any more talk of defeat. They've already spent tens of thousands of dollars to push propaganda in Iran's newspapers. The CIA has bribed government officials. They've staged protests, organizing mobs to march against the government. They've come too far to turn back now. But the agent shakes his head, insisting that the mission has taken a turn. Every American and Tehran could soon be in danger. Roosevelt turns away from the agent, choosing to ignore the warning. But suddenly there's a commotion on the other side of the villa. A door slides open and several Iranians in military uniforms come charging into the back yard. Roosevelt set Stanis drink and braces himself. This could be exactly what the other agent was afraid of. But when the leader of the group approaches, Roosevelt can see by the pin on his shirt that he's under the command of Nasiri, Colonel who went to collect the signatures from the Shah. The soldier walks up to Roosevelt and holds out a large envelope, saying he has the items Roosevelt requested. Roosevelt grabs the envelope and tears it open. And inside he finds two sheets of paper covered in text, both with signatures from the Shah. It's August 16th, 1953 in Tehran. It's just after 1 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Colonel Nehmetola Nasiri is writing in the front passenger seat of an armored car. Nasiri, a military officer with a hulking frame and deep set eyes, glances at the rear view mirror. There's a row of headlights trailing his car, a convoy of army trucks filled with men under his command. Nasiri pulls out a piece of paper and inspect it under the pale moonlight. In a few minutes, he's going to present this royal order to Iran's prime minister, Muhammad Mosadek. The decree was issued by the Shah, removing Mosadek from office. Nasiri is well aware that he's about to force an upheaval in Iran, one that could fundamentally change the country. But for him, a political revolution is long overdue. As the leader of the imperial guard, Nasiri is deeply loyal to the Shah. He believes the king should rule Iran, not a democratic legislator or an elected prime minister. So when the colonel was approached by the CIA, he agreed to take part in their plot, doing whatever was necessary to house Muhammad Mosadek from power and increase the influence of the monarch. But there is no guarantee Mosadek is going to follow the orders of the decree, which is why Nasiri assembled a formation of his best soldiers. If the prime minister refuses to acknowledge the royal order and step aside, the colonel and his men are prepared to draw their arms and place Mosadek under arrest. The caravan arrives at Mosadek's house and Nasiri's lieutenant pulls the car off to the side of the road. The rest of the trucks follow suit. Nasiri grabs the decree and steps out of his car. The colonel's men assemble behind him as Nasiri moves to the front gate of Mosadek's property. But before Nasiri can get through the gate, he hears an unmistakable sound. The colonel spins around to find he and his men surrounded by a group of opposing soldiers. The commander of this group steps forward with his gun raised. Hands in the air. And who are you? You're under arrest on charges of treason. You mean treason? We haven't done anything. Not yet you haven't. But you're armed. You're about to storm the home of Iran's prime minister. We were about to have a civil discussion. You weren't storming anything. You were about to stage an armed coup to force him out of power. That's a lie. Colonel Nasiri, I can assure you our intelligence come from a trusted source. Nasiri clears at the row of soldiers surrounding him. They're all making a terrible mistake. You're going to regret this. The stake was trying to do the bidding of the Shah, trying to undermine the will of the people. Now you will be arrested and tried in a court of law. You'll have a chance to defend yourself with legal counsel and all your rights under Iran's constitution. But at this moment, let me give you a piece of advice. It'll be foolish. You're outflanked and outnumbered. Nasiri nods. There's no point in resisting. So he holds his hands forward and waits as the commander lays a cold pair of handcuffs over his wrists. Then Nasiri is led to a camouflage jeep down the block. As Nasiri is driven away to general staff headquarters, he dips his head in shame. The mission is over and the coup has failed. Nasiri believed that by the end of the night, a Hamid Mosadek would be removed from power and the Shah would reemerge as a leader in Iran. But somehow the plan fell apart. Nasiri does not know what comes next, whether the Americans are going to keep trying to remove Mosadek or whether the US is going to quietly skulk away from the Middle East and pretend like they had nothing to do with this failed coup. One thing is certain, someone is going to have to pay for what happened tonight. From Wondry, this is episode two of America's coup in Iran from American scandal. In our next episode, Kermit Roosevelt agonizes over whether or not to proceed with the coup and Muhammad Mosadek makes a fateful decision in response to the unrest that has played his nation. Hey prime members, you can listen to American scandal ad-free on Amazon Music, download the Amazon Music Cap today, or you can listen ad-free with Wondry Plus and Apple Podcasts. Before you go, tell us about yourself by completing a short survey at Wondry.com slash survey. If you'd like to learn more about Operation Ajax and the coup in Iran, we recommend the books All the Shaws Men by Stephen Kinzer and the coup, 1953, the CIA and the roots of modern U.S. Iranian relations by Irvand Abrahamian. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details. And while in most cases we can't know exactly what we said, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American scandal is hosted, edited and executed produced by me, Lindsay Graham for Airship. Audio editing by Molly Bach, sound design by Derek Barrams, music by Lindsay Graham. This episode is written by Hannibal Diaz, edited by Stephen Walters. Our senior producer is Gabe Riven, executive producers of Stephanie Jen's Jenny Lauer Beckman and Marsha Louis for Wondry. Hi, it's Jack Hilmer. I'd like to tell you about my new audio drama series, The Lessor Dead, available ad-free and exclusively on Wondry Plus. I played Joey Peacock, an irreverent, eternally young 19-year-old vampire. Lives with his unconventional family below the streets of 1978, New York City. Many driver plays our fearsome leader, Margaret McManus. She and Joey have some history. You know, Joseph, there's nights I think you might be salvageable. And there's nights I'm convinced you're an Egypt right down to your bones. Can you guess which kind of item I have now? I have. I don't have it, it's terrible. Despite their differences, Margaret has managed to keep Joey in the rest of their group safe for decades, until one night when they find three little kid vampires. And Joey's world is turned upside down forever. You can listen to The Lessor Dead ad-free exclusively on Wondry Plus. Wondry Plus in the Wondry app or on Apple Podcasts.