Continuity and Change: Reinterpreting the Policies of the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations toward Iran, 1950-1954

It has long been argued that the Eisenhower administration pursued a more assertive policy toward Iran than the Truman administration did. This interpretative consensus, though, has recently come under challenge. In the Journal of Cold War Studies in 1999, Francis Gavin argued that U.S. policy toward Iran in 1950-1953 became progressively more assertive in response to a gradual shift in the global U.S.-USSR balance of power. This article shares, and develops further, Gavin's revisionist theme of policy continuity, but it explains the continuity by showing that Truman and Eisenhower had the same principal objectives and made the same basic assumptions when devising policy. The more assertive policy was primarily the result of the failure of U.S. policy by early 1952. The Truman administration subsequently adopted a more forceful policy, which Eisenhower simply continued until all perceived options for saving Iran from Communism were foreclosed other than that of instigating a coup to bring about a more pliable government.