Foreign Affairs magazine bares CIA covert ops during the Cold War in Iran, Chile, Congo and Pakistan


The August-September issue of the influential Foreign Affairs magazine (published bimonthly by the US Council on Foreign Relations) screams on its cover— WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: SOLVING THE COLD WAR’S COLD CASES: Iran 1953, Congo 1961, Pakistan 1971, Chile 1973.

Before you jump to the conclusion that the magazine has something to disclose about dramatic events in the Philippines (martial law, people power revolution, coup attempts, etc), let me quickly disabuse you of the thought. There is no article (yet?) on overt and covert US meddling in Philippine affairs.

In this issue, and with the promise of more in future issues, the magazine focuses on four analytical pieces by four scholars on events in Iran, Congo, Chile and Pakistan.

Using recently declassified files and documents, the authors strive to piece together what really happened in these countries during the cold War, and what the specific role of the CIA was in effecting regime change in each country.

The four articles and their authors are:

What REALLY HAPPENED IN IRAN –The CIA, the ouster of Mosaddeq, and The restoration of the Shah By Ray Takeyh.

Takeyh, a fellow in the Council of Foreign Relations, tackles the popular belief that the US , through the machinations of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), had a major role in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, and in the restoration and consolidation of the rule of the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Although the US role is much discussed in books and even Hollywood films (Argo, starring and directed by Ben Affleck), Takeyh contends that America’s role has been exaggerated by myth, and that “Mosaddeq’s government was bound to fall and the Shah was bound to retain his throne and expand his power.”

Takeyh traces the process and the missteps leading to Mosaddeq‘s downfall – and how his intransigence brought Iran’s economy to the verge of collapse.

The Shah refused to support a coup.

But in the end, the British intelligence Agency (MI6) and the CIA, joined together with anti-Mosaddeq political figures in the coup that brought down the government and led to the Shah’s accession to power.

What really Happened in Congo
The CIA, the murder of Lumumba, and the rise of Mobutu
By Stephen Weissman
Weissman is the author of American Foreign Policy in the Congo, 1960-64, so he is widely familiar with the events and personalities in the turbulent emergence of Congo as an independent state on June 30, 1960 under a democratically elected government led by Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.

Within days, the new nation drifted into civil war, when Congo troops mutinied against their all-white officer corps. Belgium responded by sending forces. The US threw its support behind the UN peacekeeping mission. But Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba quickly came into conflict with the UN, and turned to Moscow for help.

That’s when Eisenhower sent in the CIA, hoping for a quick, surgical and low-cost operation.

But the Congo conflict became one of attrition. Weissman reports that between 1960 and 1968, the CIA engaged in pervasive political meddling and paramilitary action to ensure that the Congo would retain a pro-Western government and to help its pathetic military on the battlefield.

At the time, the CIA’s covert operation cost an estimated $90-150 million, the largest in the agency ‘s history.

The US avoided direct military confrontation with the Soviet Union and China, and succeeded in foiling the Communists’ takeover of the country. Lumumba was assassinated in January 1961, while under custody.

The US gave its support to Joseph Mobutu, the pro-western chief of staff of Congo’s army.

Weisman’s analysis concludes with these words: “Not only was US involvement extensive; it was also malignant. The CIA’s use of bribery and paramilitary force succeeded in keeping a narrow, politically weak clique in power for most of Congo’s first decade of independence, leaving behind instability that continues to this day.”

What really happened in Chile–The CIA, the Coup against Allende, and the rise of Pinochet, by Jack Devine

Devine has had a 32-year career in the CIA, and he served as both acting director and associate director in the agency’s operations outside the United States.

Chile was his first overseas assignment. He was in the country when the Chilean military mounted its coup against the Socialist Chilean president, Salvador Allende. He knew of the exact time when the coup was to be staged.

Richard Nixon and top policy makers received the following cable: “A coup attempt will be initiated on 11 September. All three branches of the armed foreces and the carabineros (chile’s national police) are involved in this action. A declaration will be read on Radio Agricultura at 7 a.m, on 11 September. The carabineros have the responsibility for seizing President Salvador Allende.”

Divine declares that he can “say with conviction that the CIA did not plot with the Chilean military to overthrow Allende in 1973.”

Earlier in September 1970, after Allende finished first in a three-way presidential election, President Nixon summoned CIA director Richard Helms to the White House and told him in no uncertain terms to foment a preventive coup to prevent Allende from taking office.

In June 1973, a group of 80 soldiers from an army tank unit decided to free an officer who had been arrested for calling for a coup. They obtained the officer’s release from the Ministry of National Defense. And drove a column of 16 armored vehicles to the presidential palace.

But the tank putsch was the prelude to a government takeover. Augusto Pinochet had become commander in chief in August 1973. Less than three weeks after Pinochet’s promotion, the coup took place.

On the night of September 10, the CIA station chief was informed by phone: “The baby will be delivered tomorrow.”

The Chilean military has claimed that its plan was only to capture Allende. But Allende took his own life rather than become a prisoner of the military.

Washingtoin hailed Allende’s demise as a major victory. Pinochet began his regime of brutality and repression. It would last until 1990.

What really happened in bangladesh
Washington, Islamabad, and the Genocide in East Pakistan By Harold Saunders

Saunders is director of international affairs at the Kettering foundation. He served as a member of the US National Security council staff in 1961-74.

On November 13, 1970, a devastating cyclone struck

East Pakistan, a province dominated by the Bengali ethnic group, and physically separated from the rest of Pakistan by India. The cyclone killed an estimated 230,000 people, and its wake, the national government did little to alleviate the suffering of the Bengalis. One year later, the Bengali Muslim people declared their independence.

On December 7, 1970, Pakistan held the first direct elections in its 23-year history. East Pakistan elected Maujibur Rahmnan, head of the Awami League, which was moderately pro-American.

West Pakistan elected another nationalist, ZulficarAli Bhutto.

Because East Pakisytan was more populous than West Pakistan, the Awami League won a substantial majority in the new national parliament, and Muhjibur Rahman stood to become prime minister of the entire country.

However, the people of East Pakistan were denied their electoral victory. Consequently, they launched a general strike.

Yahya retaliated by banning the Awami League and ordering the arrest of Mujib. He then began a massive military crackdown that involved the massacre of some 200,000 defenseless citizens, and sent more than six million Bengalis fleeing across the Indian border.

The crisis would lead to conflict between India and Pakistan. At the end of April 1971, the influx of refugees from East Pakistan was pushing India over the edge. On December 4, 1971, Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian military to invade East Pakistan. But on the eve of December 3, the Pakistanis launched a preeemptive strike of their own, bombing Indian airfields near the border.

China took Pakistan’s side. So did the US.

The Soviet Union signed a treaty of friendship with India.

The conflict ended in an inconclusive stalemate.

But in the end, Bangladesh emerged from the horrible bloodshed as a viable and independent nation.

India and Pakistan remained locked in an uneasy truce, with each nation now possessing nuclear weapons.


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  1. The most significant action of the US in Chile was their undermining of the economy, which paved the way for the coup. A friend of mine worked in Chile for CityBank (usa) and has described the way this operated, including massive engineered devaluation of the Chilean Peso. He supported the coup so had no axe to grind in his account!

  2. Bonifacio Claudio on

    You said, sir, “…in the Philippines (martial law, people power revolution, coup attempts, etc), let me quickly disabuse you of the thought. There is no article (yet?) on overt and covert US meddling in Philippine affairs.” Perhaps it would take the guts of a Wikileaks to uncover top secret confidential files of US-CIA meddling in toppling the then “seating president” of the Philippines. Some years after the 1986 EDSA, disembarking from the airplane at MIA renamed NAIA, I chanced to have a friendly chat with a certain General L… who told me that unlike those in the Philippines OFW with priviledge resident IDs like me were lucky as we could easily get out of the country once another coup d’état happens to be staged by some of the disillusioned military commanders who were told by the stationed CIA agents at every military provincial HQ NOT TO ATTACK CAMP CRAME until the order to act comes from Malacañang whose media communications had already been EARLIER cut off; thus, the provicial HQs waited in vain. How else could the Enrile-Ramos Camp Crame coup d’état been successful against all of the provincial commanders pro-Marcos? Anyhow, let’s wait, hoping against hope, that an investigative report ala-Wikileaks come out of the blue. But until there is money in such endeavour, the truth shall remain the among the top brass of the military officers at the time of the Enrile-Ramos coup d’état.

  3. And not for one moment did the CIA and other intelligence agencies stopped there.
    The cIA played both sides during Marcos time. Marcos bodyguards against the RAM were US Navy Seals. One of whom became Governor of Minnesota. Cory Aquino was being backed by the US Stae Dept and her bodyguards were the US Green Berets.
    Now the son was placed in power via the PCOS machine. No wonder no Filipino worth his peso would go against the CIA installed PCOS ratified Phiilippine President BS Aquino.