The Hidden Story Behind Iran’s Coup of 1953

In the new documentary “Coup 53,” Taghi Amirani details how the CIA conspired with Britain’s MI6 to overthrow Iran’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. Amirani joins the show alongside his co-writer, legendary Hollywood editor and sound engineer Walter Murch.

Read Transcript EXPAND

TAGHI AMIRANI, DIRECTOR AND CO-WRITER, “COUP 53”: For a lot of people, Iran story really begins with ’79 and nobody knows the back story. And I’m saying, to understand ’79 and what’s happening since then and the kind of a turmoil that we’re dealing with every day, you need to go to the original sin. ’53 is where it’s all at. You need to understand that to know why we’re in the state we are in right now.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: So, Taghi, the CIA’s role in it has been known for a long time, and, in fact, the secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, back in 2000 virtually apologized for the coup. The U.K. has never been publicly acknowledged, the MI6 involvement, right?

AMIRANI: That’s right. For decades, you know, this has been known as a CIA coup in Iran. It’s the Kermit Roosevelt coup in Iran. (INAUDIBLE) shows actually it started around. You know, although, as you say, the Americans have kind of admitted, released documents, Obama is talking about it, Madeleine Albright. Britain has never officially acknowledged a fundamental and leading role in this coup. And (INAUDIBLE) for the first time is really explode that apart in incredible documents, an amazing performance by Ralph Fiennes as the missing MI6 operator who now revealed in detail in his own words from his own interview transcript. So, we are addressing that and we are sort of shedding new light on this pivotal historical event.

AMANPOUR: So, let me turn to you, Walter Merch, then on the issue of Ralph Fiennes and how he played a cameo role in this film. You obviously have an amazing, amazing body of work. “The English Patient, “Apocalypse Now,” “Godfather II,” I think and on and on and on. You were the one, I think, who’s instrumental in getting Ralph Fiennes into this documentary. Is that correct, Walter?

WALTER MURCH, EDITOR AND CO-WRITER, “COUP 53”: That’s correct. We had a transcript of an interview that this mysterious MI6 agent had given to a television program in 1983, but for various reasons, understandable, because it was so inflammatory it was repressed. So, we had the problem of how were we going to flesh this out in something that would have a visual aspect to it. And Taghi and I were walking back from lunch one day, and suddenly Ralph Fiennes popped into my head. He had approached me a couple months earlier about working on a film he was going to direct, and I turned the tables and said, well, why don’t you come and be the character of Norman Derbyshire in our film? And Taghi and I went over to the National Theater and pitched the idea to him and he immediately got the idea and accepted.

About This Episode EXPAND

John Kasich explains why he has crossed the aisle to make his argument for Joe Biden at the DNC. Filmmakers Taghi Amirani and Walter Murch discuss their new documentary on the CIA/MI6-backed 1953 coup in Iran. Anthropologist Wade Davis explains how the COVID-19 pandemic is signaling “the unraveling of America.”