Connecting Regions of Asia.

Dhaka Should Demand Declassification of 1975 Bangladesh Coup Documents

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If the US can do it on Iran, why not Bangladesh ? 
It was always well known that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) played a major role in orchestrating both the movement that deposed Iran’s democratic leader Muhammed Mossadegh in 1953 and also the coup in 1975 that annihilated almost the entire family of Bangladesh founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. 
The US has now released for the first time  the details of how the CIA attempted to call off the failing coup — only to be salvaged at the last minute by an insubordinate spy on the ground. The nearly 1000 pages of secret documents relating to the top secret ” Operation Ajax” has now been laid bare in public domain.
It may be a gesture timed to impress Iran’s present government about the sincerity of the Biden government to revive the deal that President Obama signed and successor Donald Trump reneged on. But the disclosure was long overdue and it is about time Bangladesh’s present government takes a cue from it and seeks something similar about the 1975 coup. Washington may not , perhaps will not oblige, because it continues to have an ongoing agenda for regime change in Dhaka. But there is no harm in asking the US to not just the extraditei of coup plotter Rashed Choudhury , who has lived and moved freely on US soil for decades now but also demand that Washington comes clean on the role of its covert agencies in orchestrating the coup that killed Bangabandhu with much of his family including the minor son Sheikh Russel. 
I have detailed in my “Midnight Massacre” the role the US played in mobilizing opponents of the Awami League government including some in the army to lead the coup. Lawrence Lifschultz in his seminal “Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution”  has talked about the CIA involvement in the coup. He even chased down Phillip Cherry, the CIA’s Dhaka Station chief , to Nigeria to confront him with uncomfortable questions regarding the CIA’s role in the 
1975 coup.   A recent book on Indian intelligence agency R&AW also pointed to the CIA’s role.
The book,”RAW:  A History of India’s Covert Operations,” written by investigative journalist Yatish Yadav  claims A.K.Verma who later became R&AW chief in the 1980s had reported to his superiors in 1975 about a role played by CIA in the coup. His note clearly stated that one of the conspirators had taken refuge in the American embassy.
“One of the Major rank officers involved in the coup had taken refuge at the American embassy at Dhaka on 20 August 1975, when he apprehended some danger to himself and the American embassy at Dhaka successfully interceded on his behalf with the army authorities and got certain assurances relating to his safety.

“The Americans have (had) nothing at all to do with Bangladesh armed forces in the past. This sudden linkage between the American embassy in Dhaka and those in authority on the military side and the ease with which the Americans were able to sort out the problems on behalf of one of the conspirators certainly creates suspicions as to whether the role of the American embassy was more than that of an honest broker,” the book claims .
It is fifty years of the birth of Bangladesh and forty-six years when the coup in Bangladesh happened to herald fifteen years of military rule .Now that the Biden administration is raising questions about the state of democracy in Bangladesh and did not invite the country to the Democracy Summit in December, it is time to examine the US role in the coup that ended democracy in Bangladesh and brought about Pakistan style military rule.
But first let us see what the US has revealed on the coup that unseated Iran’s first modern democratic leader Muhammed Mossadegh.
Known as Operation Ajax, the CIA plot was ultimately about oil. Western firms had for decades controlled the region’s oil wealth, whether Arabian-American Oil Company in Saudi Arabia, or the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in Iran. When the U.S. firm in Saudi Arabia bowed to pressure in late 1950 and agreed to share oil revenues evenly with Riyadh, the British concession in Iran came under intense pressure to follow suit. But London adamantly refused.
So in early 1951, amid great popular acclaim, Mossadegh nationalized Iran’s oil industry. A fuming United Kingdom began conspiring with U.S. intelligence services to overthrow Mossadegh and restore the monarchy under the shah. (Though some in the U.S. State Department, the newly released cables show, blamed British intransigence for the tensions and sought to work with Mossadegh.)
The coup attempt began on August 15 ( ironically the same day but was swiftly thwarted. Mossadegh made dozens of arrests. Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi, a top conspirator, went into hiding, and the shah fled the country.
The CIA, believing the coup to have failed, called it off.
“Operation has been tried and failed and we should not participate in any operation against Mossadegh which could be traced back to US,” CIA headquarters wrote to its station chief in Iran in a newly declassified cable sent on Aug. 18, 1953. “Operations against Mossadegh should be discontinued.”
“Operations against Mossadegh should be discontinued.”
That is the cable which Kermit Roosevelt, top CIA officer in Iran, purportedly and famously ignored, according to Malcolm Byrne, who directs the U.S.-Iran Relations Project at the National Security Archive at George Washington University.
At least “one guy was in the room with Kermit Roosevelt when he got this cable,” Byrne told Foreign Policy. “[Roosevelt] said no — we’re not done here.” It was already known that Roosevelt had not carried out an order from Langley to cease and desist. But the cable itself and its contents were not previously published.
The consequences of his decision were momentous. The next day, on August 19, 1953, with the aid of “rented” crowds widely believed to have been arranged with CIA assistance, the coup succeeded. Iran’s nationalist hero was jailed, the monarchy restored under the Western-friendly shah, and Anglo-Iranian oil — renamed British Petroleum — tried to get its fields back. (But didn’t really: Despite the coup, nationalist pushback against a return to foreign control of oil was too much, leaving BP and other majors to share Iran’s oil wealth with Tehran.
Operation Ajax has long been a bogeyman for conservatives in Iran — but also for liberals. The coup fanned the flames of anti-Western sentiment, which reached a crescendo in 1979 with the U.S. hostage crisis, the final overthrow of the shah, and the creation of the Islamic Republic to counter the “Great Satan.”
The coup alienated liberals in Iran as well. Mossadegh is widely considered to be the closest thing Iran has ever had to a democratic leader. He openly championed democratic values and hoped to establish a democracy in Iran. The elected parliament selected him as prime minister, a position he used to reduce the power of the shah, thus bringing Iran closer in line with the political traditions that had developed in Europe. But any further democratic development was stymied on Aug. 19.
The U.S government long denied involvement in the coup. The State Department first released coup-related documents in 1989, but edited out any reference to CIA involvement. Public outrage coaxed a government promise to release a more complete edition, and some material came out in 2013. Two years later, the full installment of declassified material was scheduled — but might have interfered with Iran nuclear talks and were delayed again, Byrne said. They were finally released last week, though numerous original CIA telegrams from that period are known to have disappeared or been destroyed long ago.
Byrne said that the long delay is due to several factors. Intelligence services are always concerned about protecting “sources and methods,” said Byrne, meaning the secret spycraft that enables them to operate on the ground. The CIA also needed to protect its relationship with British intelligence, which may have wished some of the material remain safeguarded.
Beyond final proof of CIA involvement, there’s another very interesting takeaway in the documents, said Abbas Milani, a professor of Iranian studies at Stanford University: New details on the true political leanings of Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani, a cleric and leading political figure in the 1950s.
In the Islamic Republic, clerics are always the good guys. Kashani has long been seen as one of the heroes of nationalism during that period. As recently as January of this year, Iran’s supreme leader praised Kashani’s role in the nationalization of oil.
Kashani’s eventual split from Mossadegh is widely known. Religious leaders in the country feared the growing power of the communist Tudeh Party, and believed that Mossadegh was too weak to save the country from the socialist threat.
But the newly released documents show that Kashani wasn’t just opposed to Mossadegh — he was also in close communication with the Americans throughout the period leading up to the coup, and he actually appears to have requested financial assistance from the United States, though there is no record of him receiving any money. His request was not previously known.
On the make-or-break day of Aug. 19, “Kashani was critical,” said Milani. “On that day Kashani’s forces were out in full force to defeat Mossadegh.”
So if the US was using the mullahs in Iran, what stops them from using them now in Bangladesh ? The danger is the empowerment of the likes of Kashani and the US backed tyranny of Shah’s rule paved the way for the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In Afghanistan, the US backing of mullahs and radicals to fight Soviet rule has paved the way for the Taliban takeover in the country.  Bangladesh was created on the strength of secular linguistic Bengali nationalism , not radical Islam. That retrograde force made its way back into the national body polity during US backed military rule. “Rented crowds” in Iran could be replicated in Bangladesh for regime change , what with the additional force multiplier of social media used in Ukraine so effectively in 2013.  It is time for Hasina to step up vigilance, not panic but pile back the pressure by calling America’s democracy bluff . The sanctions on the seven top security officials including the police chief is a clear ploy to demoralise the security forces who are a bulwark against “rented crowds” to intensify street agitations that the country has seen regularly in the last decade and last year. The Iran disclosures are timely and will come handy.

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