In the aftermath of the 1953 coup, America decided to increase economic and military aid as well as technical assistance to Iran. This added to the widespread belief that the US had manipulated Iran’s domestic politics for its own benefit.
The superpower almost immediately offered a $45 million emergency loan and, between 1953 and 1957, the US provided $501 million in loans and grants. More than 26% of this aid was earmarked for the military.
Kashani sharply criticized US assistance stating:
the US aid program was useless because it emphasized military priorities rather than the improvement of the deprived masses . . . . What good could a well-equipped and well-trained army of even 250,000 do against 18 million hungry people in Iran?
So far as the future was concerned, the US had ensured the opposition of the religious right while, at the same time, eroding the support of the liberal, but nationalist center.
When the oil dispute was finally settled in 1954, American oil companies ended up with 40% of Iran’s oil.
President Eisenhower commented to the shah:
Your Majesty must take great satisfaction at the success of this significant phase in the negotiations to which you personally have made a valuable contribution. I am confident that the implementation of this agreement, under your Majesty’s leadership, will mark the beginning of a new era of economic progress and stability for your country.
The United States maintained its support for the shah for the next quarter century, continuing to train and equip the Iranian army which was quickly transformed into one of the most sophisticated militaries in the world.
In addition, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) helped to establish the shah’s secret police (SAVAK).
In the end, the 1953 CIA induced de facto constitutional change would, in the 1970s, combine with the Nixon Doctrine and Iran’s expanding oil revenues to provide the shah with the necessary means to purchase the most state-of-the-art weapons on the world market.
Photograph by Lisa Reynolds Wolfe