(IRANIAN HISTORY) A coup d'etat against the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Muhammed Mossadegh (s.1951-1953). Perpetrators: the US CIA and the UK MI-6. The operation successfully replaced the constitutional monarchy of Iran with a dictatorship by Shah Muhammad Reza (August 1953). The motivation of the operation was to liquidate a genuinely popular nationalist leader who had stood up to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) (whose assets had been nationalized by Mossadegh after it had robbed Iran for 42 years).
The AIOC's reputation was so stained with evil afterward that it changed its name to British Petroleum (or BP, p.l.c.).
Operation Ajax is often blamed for poisoning the relationship between the USA and the Islamic world. It was approved by John Foster Dulles, who also embroiled the USA in the Second Indochina War.
Operation Ajax actually was launched soon after the nationalization of AOIC's assets in Iran (1951). Initially the situation was hopeless, because Mossadegh was far too popular and because the previous arrangement with AOIC made Iran nearly impossible to govern. The UK suffered a balance of payments crisis because the AOIC was the single largest source of overseas payments.
John Foster Dulles, however, was very sympathetic to the oil company's plight.