Col. Stephen J. Meade

Filmed Interview Transcript

Col. Stephen J. Meade, 1983

Darbyshire’s CIA counterpart told End of Empire: Iran about his secret mission in support of the 1953 coup

In 1983, the End of Empire team conducted a filmed interview with Colonel Stephen J. Meade, one of the CIA operatives who participated in preparations for the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh. Meade was recruited to work alongside MI6 agent Norman Darbyshire for a special mission to persuade the Shah to back the 1953 coup, and his interview provides details of their covert mission to Paris to recruit the Shah’s twin sister Princess Ashraf Pahlavi to travel to Iran to speak with him. It also provides insight into US security thinking about Iran during the period, as well personal details about Norman Darbyshire.

Stephen Meade was a colonel in the US army. In World War II he participated in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Having an affinity for languages, following the war, Col. Meade was loaned by the US Army to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for a number of the US’s post-war covert operations. Following a diplomatic tour of the Middle East with CIA director Allen W. Dulles, Meade was chosen by the CIA to work with MI6 agent Norman Darbyshire to organise the coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.

Princess Ashraf Pahlavi and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi

Unlike Darbyshire, Meade was filmed on the record, and as a result, he was less inclined to divulge classified information. This is evident in the final page of the transcript where he refuses to go into the details of his subsequent mission in Iran. We now know that in September 1953, Colonel Meade was sent to Iran under- cover as a military attaché to organize, train, and command a new intelligence unit, which later evolved into the Shah’s dreaded security agency SAVAK.

While Meade evaded some questions, he welcomed others. He explained in detail his meeting with Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, the Shah’s sister, in Paris, and how he and Darbyshire were tasked with convincing Princess Ashraf that Mossadegh’s overthrow was in her and her brother’s best interest. This was a vital step in the preparations for the coup in Iran months later.

We were interested in interviewing Stephen Meade because he worked closely with Norman Darbyshire.

The reason we were interested in interviewing Stephen Meade was because he worked closely with Norman Darbyshire. We hoped at that stage (summer 1983) that Darbyshire would agree to provide his testimony on the record so that we could intercut both interviews. But this didn’t happen. As a result, Darbyshire’s name, which would have appeared in this transcript, was redacted when we donated our transcripts to research libraries and Meade’s insights never appeared in our film. This was done to honour our promise of anonymity, the condition upon which Darbyshire agreed to speak to us.

Nevertheless, Meade’s testimony is historically significant. While it never made the final cut, his testimony reveals important details about Britain and the 1953 coup in Iran.


Filmed Interview Transcript

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