The United States government has been involved in and assisted in the overthrow of foreign governments (more recently termed “regime change“) without the overt use of U.S. military force. Often, such operations are tasked to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Regime change has been attempted through direct involvement of U.S. operatives, the funding and training of insurgency groups within these countries, anti-regime propaganda campaigns, coup d’états, and other activities usually conducted as operations by the CIA. The U.S. has also accomplished regime change by direct military action, such as following the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 and the U.S.-led military invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Some argue that non-transparent United States government agencies working in secret sometimes mislead or do not fully implement the decisions of elected civilian leaders and that this has been an important component of many such operations.
 See Plausible deniability. Some contend that the U.S. has supported more coups against democracies that it perceived as communist, or becoming communist.
The U.S. has also covertly supported opposition groups in various countries without necessarily attempting to overthrow the government. For example, the CIA funded anti-communist political parties in countries such as Italy and Chile; it also armed Kurdish rebels fighting the Ba’athist government of Iraq in the Second Kurdish-Iraqi War prior to the Algiers Agreement.
During the Cold War
Communist states 1944-1989
The United States supported resistance movements and dissidents in the communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. One example is the counterespionage operations following the discovery of the Farewell dossier which some argue contributed to the fall of the Soviet regime. The National Endowment for Democracy supported pro-capitalist movements in the communist states and has been accused of secretly supporting regime change, which it denies.
 Many of the Eastern European states later turned to capitalism and joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In addition, the perceived threat of worldwide (sometimes Soviet-sponsored) revolutionary guerrilla movements—often involved in wars of national liberation—defined much of U.S. foreign policy in the Third World with regard to covert action and led to what could be considered as proxy wars between the United States and Soviet Union.
Main article: March 1949 Syrian coup d’état
Syria became an independent republic in 1946, but the March 1949 Syrian coup d’état, led by Army Chief of Staff Husni al-Za’im, ended the initial period of civilian rule. Za’im met at least six times with CIA operatives in the months prior to the coup to discuss his plan to seize power. Za’im requested American funding or personnel, but it is not known whether this assistance was provided. Once in power, Za’im made several key decisions that benefitted the United States. He approved the Trans-Arabian Pipeline (TAPLINE), an American project designed to transport Saudi Arabian oil to Mediterranean ports.
Construction of TAPLINE had been delayed due to Syrian intransigence. Za’im also improved relations with two American allies in the region: Israel and Turkey. He signed an armistice with Israel, formally ending the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and he renounced Syrian claims to Hatay Province, a major source of dispute between Syria and Turkey. Za’im also cracked down on local communists. However, Za’im’s regime was short-lived. He was overthrown in August, just four and a half months after seizing power.
Main article: 1953 Iranian coup d’état
See also: Tudeh Party and Iran hostage crisis
In 1953, the CIA worked with the United Kingdom to overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran led by Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh who had attempted to nationalize Iran’s petroleum industry, threatening the profits of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.
Declassified CIA documents show that Britain was fearful of Iran’s plans to nationalize its oil industry and pressed the U.S. to mount a joint operation to depose the prime minister and install a puppet regime. In 1951 the Iranian parliament voted to nationalize the petroleum fields of the country.
The coup was led by CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. (grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt). With help from British intelligence, the CIA planned, funded and implemented Operation Ajax. In the months before the coup, the UK and U.S. imposed a boycott of the country, exerted other political pressures, and conducted a massive covert propaganda campaign to create the environment necessary for the coup. The CIA hired Iranian agents provocateurs who posed as communists, harassed religious leaders and staged the bombing of one cleric’s home to turn the Islamic religious community against the government. For the U.S. audience, the CIA hoped to plant articles in U.S. newspapers saying that Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi‘s return to govern Iran resulted from a homegrown revolt against what was being represented to the U.S. public as a communist-leaning government. The CIA successfully used its contacts at the Associated Press to put on the newswire in the U.S. a statement from Tehran about royal decrees that the CIA itself had written.
The coup initially failed and the Shah fled the country. After four days of rioting, Shi’ite-sparked street protests backed by pro-Shah army units defeated Mossadeq’s forces and the Shah returned to power.
Supporters of the coup have argued that Mossadegh had become the de facto dictator of Iran, citing his dissolution of the Parliament and the Supreme Court, and his abolishment of free elections with a secret ballot, after he declared victory in a referendum where he claimed 99.9% of the vote.Darioush Bayandor has argued that the CIA botched their coup attempt and that a popular uprising, instigated by top Shi’ite clerics such as Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Hossein Borujerdi and Abol-Ghasem Kashani (who were certain that Mosaddegh was taking the nation toward religious indifference, and worried that he had banished the Shah), instigated street riots to return the Shah to power four days after the failed coup. After the coup, the Shah introduced electoral reforms extending suffrage to all members of society, including women. This was part of a broader series of reforms dubbed the White Revolution. However, the Shah also carried out at least 300 political executions, according to Amnesty International.
The CIA subsequently used the apparent success of their Iranian coup project to bolster their image in American government circles. They expanded their reach into other countries, taking a greater portion of American intelligence assets based on their record in Iran.
Main article: 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état
The CIA supported the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Guatemala led by Jacobo Arbenz. Arbenz was elected without a secret ballot. His land reform was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, which he then purged. He also received arms from the Soviet bloc. The CIA claimed it intervened because it feared that a communist government would become “a Soviet beachhead in the Western Hemisphere;” however, it was also protecting, among others, four hundred thousand acres of land the United Fruit Company had acquired. Guatemala’s official 1999 truth commission accused Arbenz of being involved in the deaths of several hundred political opponents. Although the CIA’s operations were a failure, the Arbenz regime suddenly collapsed without any significant violence when the Guatemalan military turned against it. In the eleven days after the resignation of President Arbenz, five successive military junta governments occupied the Guatemalan presidential palace; each junta was successively more amenable to the political demands of the U.S., after which, Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas assumed the Presidency of Guatemala.
Main article: Western support for Tibetan independence
Tibet (1950)” href=”http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_Tibet_%281950%29″>invasion of Tibet by Chinese forces and the subsequent control of Tibet by China. The program had a record of almost unmitigated failure.
See also: Guided Democracy in Indonesia, Transition to the New Order, Non-Aligned Movement, and 30 September Movement
The autocratic Indonesian government of Sukarno was faced with a major threat to its legitimacy beginning in 1956, when several regional commanders began to demand autonomy from Jakarta. After mediation failed, Sukarno took action to remove the dissident commanders. In February 1958, dissident military commanders in Central Sumatera (Colonel Ahmad Hussein) and North Sulawesi (Colonel Ventje Sumual) declared the Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia–Permesta Movement aimed at overthrowing the Sukarno regime. They were joined by many civilian politicians from the Masyumi Party, such as Sjafruddin Prawiranegara, who were opposed to the growing influence of the communist Partai Komunis Indonesia party. Due to their anti-communist rhetoric, the rebels received arms, funding, and other covert aid from the CIA until Allen Lawrence Pope, an American pilot, was shot down after a bombing raid on government-held Ambon in April 1958. The central government responded by launching airborne and seaborne military invasions of rebel strongholds Padang and Manado. By the end of 1958, the rebels were militarily defeated, and the last remaining rebel guerilla bands surrendered by August 1961. To make amends for CIA involvement in the rebellion, President Kennedy invited Sukarno to Washington, and provided Indonesia with billions of dollars in civilian and military aid.
Main articles: Bay of Pigs Invasion, The Cuban Project, Operation Northwoods, and Cuba–United States relations
Under initiatives by the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations, CIA-trained Cuban anti-communist exiles and refugees to land in Cuba and attempt to overthrow the government of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Plans originally formed under Eisenhower were scaled back under Kennedy. The largest and most complicated coup effort, approved at White House level, was the Bay of Pigs operation.
The CIA made a number of attempts to assassinate Castro, often with White House approval, as in Operation Mongoose.
Democratic Republic of the Congo 1960-65
Main articles: Congo Crisis and Mobutu Seizes Power
In 1960, Belgium granted independence to its most prized territory, the Belgian Congo. A leader of the successful anti-colonial struggle, Patrice Émery Lumumba was elected to be the first prime minister of the country that following its independence from colonial rule had become known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
On 11 July 1960, with the support of Belgian business interests and over 6000 Belgian troops, the province of Katanga in the southeast declared independence as the State of Katanga under the leadership of Moise Tshombe, leader of the local CONAKAT party. At the core of the Katangese forces were several hundred European mercenaries, many of which were recruited in Belgium. Almost from the beginning, the new state faced a rebellion in the north in Luba areas. This was led by a political party called Association of the Luba People of Katanga (BALUBAKAT). In January 1961, Katanga faced a secession crisis of its own when BALUBAKAT leaders declared independence from Katanga. The South Kasai region sought independence in similar circumstances to neighboring Katanga during the crisis. Ethnic conflicts and political tensions between leaders of the central government and local leaders plagued the diamond-rich region. On 8 August 1960, the autonomous Mining State of South Kasai was proclaimed with its capital at Bakwanga. Albert Kalonji, a Luba chief, was named president of South Kasai and Joseph Ngalula was appointed head of government.
Lumumba was determined to quickly subdue the renegade provinces of Kasai and Katanga. Dissatisfied with the United Nations response, on August 17, 1960 Lumumba followed through on his threat to request military assistance from the Soviet Union. The USSR quickly responded with an airlift of ANC troops into Kasai and a supply of military trucks. A bloody campaign ensued causing the deaths of hundreds of Baluba tribesmen and the flight of a quarter of a million refugees. Lumumba’s decision to accept Soviet help angered the administration of President Eisenhower in the United States. Referring to the Communist takeover in Cuba in 1959, the CIA station chief in Leopoldville cabled the director, saying “Congo [is] experiencing [a] classic communist effort [to] takeover government… there may be little time to take action to avoid another Cuba”. Eisenhower authorized the CIA to initiate a plan to assassinate Lumumba using poison to be placed in his food or toothpaste, although this plan was aborted.
In early 1964, a new crisis broke out as Congolese rebels calling themselves “Simbas” (Swahili for “Lions”) rebelled against the government. They were led by Pierre Mulele, Gaston Soumialot and Christophe Gbenye who were former members of Gizenga’s Parti Solidaire Africain (PSA). Mulele was an avowed Maoist, and for this reason his insurgency was supported by communist China. The rebellion affected Kivu and Eastern (Orientale) provinces. By August they had captured Stanleyville and set up a rebel government there. As the rebel movement spread, discipline became more difficult to maintain, and acts of violence and terror increased. Thousands of Congolese were executed, including government officials, political leaders of opposition parties, provincial and local police, school teachers, and others believed to have been Westernized. Many of the executions were carried out with extreme cruelty, in front of a monument to Lumumba in Stanleyville.
In early 1965 Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara travelled to Congo to offer his knowledge and experience as a guerrilla to the insurgents. Guevara led the Cuban operation in support of the Marxist Simba movement. Guevara, his second-in-command Victor Dreke, and 12 other Cuban expeditionaries arrived in the Congo on 24 April 1965 and a contingent of approximately 100 Afro-Cubans joined them soon afterward. They collaborated for a time with guerrilla leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who had previously helped supporters of Lumumba lead an unsuccessful revolt months earlier. White South African mercenaries, led by Mike Hoare in concert with Cuban exiles and the CIA, worked with the Congo National Army to thwart Guevara in the mountains near the village of Fizi on Lake Tanganyika. They were able to monitor his communications and so pre-empted his attacks and interdicted his supply lines. Despite the fact that Guevara sought to conceal his presence in the Congo, the U.S. government was aware of his location and activities. The CIA assisted the operation, carried out by U.S. and Belgian forces, to rescue hundreds of European hostages held by the Simba cannibals.
On 25 November 1965, just five days after Guevara’s departure, Joseph Mobutu seized power with the help of the political and military support of Western countries, including the U.S.
See also: CIA transnational human rights actions#Qasim
In February 1960, the United States planned a coup against the government of Iraq headed by dictator Abd al-Karim Qasim, who two years earlier had deposed the Western-allied Iraqi monarchy. The U.S. was concerned about the growing influence of Iraqi Communist Party government officials under his administration, as well as his threats to invade Kuwait, which almost caused a war between Iraq and Britain.
According to the Church Committee, the CIA planned a “special operation” to “incapacitate” an Iraqi Colonel believed to be “promoting Soviet bloc political interests in Iraq.” The aim was to send Qasim a poisoned handkerchief, “which, while not likely to result in total disablement, would be certain to prevent the target from pursuing his usual activities for a minimum of three months.” During the course of the Committee’s investigation, the CIA stated that the handkerchief was “in fact never received (if, indeed, sent).” It added that the colonel: “Suffered a terminal illness before a firing squad in Baghdad (an event we had nothing to do with) after our handkerchief proposal was considered.”
Qasim was killed on 8 February 1963 by a firing squad of the Ba’ath party in collaboration with Iraqi nationalists and members of the Arab Socialist Union, in what came to be known as the Ramadan Revolution. Of the 16 members of Qasim’s cabinet, 12 of them were Ba’ath Party members; however, the party turned against Qasim due to his refusal to join Gamel Abdel Nasser‘s United Arab Republic. Washington immediately befriended the successor regime. “Almost certainly a gain for our side,” Robert Komer, a National Security Council aide, wrote to President Kennedy on the day of the takeover. The Ba’ath Party was subsequently purged from the government in the November 1963 Iraqi coup d’état.
Writing in his memoirs of the 1963 coup, long time OSS and CIA intelligence analyst Harry Rositzke presented it as an example of one on which they had good intelligence in contrast to others that caught the agency by surprise. The overthrow “was forecast in exact detail by CIA agents.” “Agents in the Ba’th Party headquarters in Baghdad had for years kept Washington au courant on the party’s personnel and organization, its secret communications and sources of funds, and its penetrations of military and civilian hierarchies in several countries….CIA sources were in a perfect position to follow each step of Ba’th preparations for the Iraqi coup, which focused on making contacts with military and civilian leaders in Baghdad. The CIA’s major source, in an ideal catbird seat, reported the exact time of the coup and provided a list of the new cabinet members….To call an upcoming coup requires the CIA to have sources within the group of plotters. Yet, from a diplomatic point of view, having secret contacts with plotters implies at least unofficial complicity in the plot.”
Qasim was aware of U.S. complicity in the plot and continually denounced the U.S. in public. The Department of State was worried that Qasim would harass American diplomats in Iraq because of this. The CIA was aware of many plots in Iraq in 1962, not just the one that succeeded.
The best direct evidence that the U.S. was complicit is the memo from Komer to President Kennedy on February 8, 1963. The last paragraph reads:
“We will make informal friendly noises as soon as we can find out whom to talk with, and ought to recognize as soon as we’re sure these guys are firmly in the saddle. CIA had excellent reports on the plotting, but I doubt either they or UK should claim much credit for it.”
Dominican Republic 1961
See also: CIA transnational human rights actions#Trujillo
The CIA supported the overthrow of Rafael Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic, on 30 May 1961. In a report to the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, CIA officials described the agency as having “no active part” in the assassination and only a “faint connection” with the groups that planned the killing, but the internal CIA investigation, by its Inspector General, “disclosed quite extensive Agency involvement with the plotters.”
South Vietnam 1963
Main articles: Cable 243, 1963 South Vietnamese coup, and Arrest and assassination of Ngô Đình Diệm
The CIA backed a coup against dictator Ngô Đình Diệm of South Vietnam. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., the American ambassador to South Vietnam, refused to meet with Diệm. Upon hearing that a coup d’état was being designed by ARVN generals led by General Dương Văn Minh, Lodge gave secret assurances to the generals that the U.S. would not interfere. Lucien Conein, a CIA operative, provided a group of South Vietnamese generals with $40,000 to carry out the coup with the promise that US forces would make no attempt to protect Diệm. Dương Văn Minh and his co-conspirators overthrew the government on 1 November 1963 in a swift coup. On 1 November, with only the palace guard remaining to defend Diệm and his younger brother, Nhu, the generals called the palace offering Diệm exile if he surrendered. However, that evening, Diệm and his entourage escaped via an underground passage to Cholon, where they were captured the following morning, 2 November. The brothers were assassinated together in the back of an armoured personnel carrier with a bayonet and revolver by Captain Nguyễn Văn Nhung while en route to the Vietnamese Joint General Staff headquarters. Diệm was buried in an unmarked grave in a cemetery next to the house of the U.S. ambassador. Upon learning of Diệm’s ouster and death, Hồ Chí Minh reportedly said, “I can scarcely believe the Americans would be so stupid.”
Main article: 1964 Brazilian coup d’état
The democratically-elected government of Brazil, headed by President João Goulart, was successfully overthrown in a coup in March 1964. On March 30, the American military attaché in Brazil, Colonel Vernon A. Walters, telegraphed the State Department. In that telegraph, he confirmed that Brazilian army generals, independently of the US, had committed themselves to acting against Goulart within a week of the meeting, but no date was set.
Declassified transcripts of communications between U.S. ambassador to Brazil Lincoln Gordon and the U.S. government show that, predicting an all-out civil war, President Johnson authorized logistical materials to be in place to support the coup-side of the rebellion as part of U.S. Operation Brother Sam.
In the telegraphs, Gordon also acknowledges U.S. involvement in “covert support for pro-democracy street rallies…and encouragement [of] democratic and anti-communist sentiment in Congress, armed forces, friendly labor and student groups, church, and business” and that he “may be requesting modest supplementary funds for other covert action programs in the near future.”
In 2001, Gordon published a book, Brazil’s Second Chance: En Route Toward the First World, on Brazilian history since the military coup. In it, he denied a role in the coup. However, James N. Green, an American historian of Brazil, argued: “[Gordon] changed Brazil’s history, for he….made it clear that, if the coup was advanced, the United States was going to recognize it immediately, which was fundamental [to the plotters].”
Kwame Nkrumah, the first democratically elected president of Ghana, helped Ghana gain its independence from British colonial rule and advocated a non-aligned Marxist economic perspective. In February 1966, while he was on a state visit, his government was overthrown in a military coup led by Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka. Several commentators, including former CIA officer John Stockwell, have confirmed the CIA’s extensive involvement in the coup.
Main articles: 1973 Chilean coup d’état and United States intervention in Chile
The U.S. Government’s hostility to the election of Socialist President Salvador Allende in Chile was substantiated in documents declassified during the Clinton administration; involving the CIA, which show that covert operatives were inserted in Chile, in order to prevent a Marxist government from arising and for the purpose of spreading anti-Allende propaganda.
The CIA, as recounted in the Church Committee report, was involved in various plots designed to remove Allende and then let the Chileans vote in a new election where he would not be a candidate: It tried to buy off the Chilean Congress to prevent his appointment, worked to sway public opinion against him to prevent his election, and financed protests designed to bring the country to a stand-still and make him resign. The CIA, acting with the approval of the 40 Committee—the body charged with overseeing covert actions abroad—devised what in effect was a constitutional coup. The most expeditious way to prevent Allende from assuming office was somehow to convince the Chilean congress to confirm Jorge Alessandri as the winner of the election. Once elected by the congress, Alessandri—a party to the plot through intermediaries—was prepared to resign his presidency within a matter of days so that new elections could be held. This first, nonmilitary, approach to stopping Allende was called the Track I approach.
The CIA’s second approach, the Track II approach, was designed to encourage a military overthrow, by creating an atmosphere of crisis and disaster (a “coup climate”) in the country. False flag operatives approached senior Chilean military officers, in “some two dozen contacts”, with the message that “the United States intended to cut military assistance to Chile unless they moved against Allende, and that the U.S. desired, and would actively support, a coup.”
The CIA provided extensive support for black propaganda against Allende, funneled largely through El Mercurio, but also using other media outlets. Propaganda targeted both the people and the military. Financial support was also provided for anti-Allende political opponents and for organized strikes and unrest to destabilize his government.
“The key is the psych war within Chile,” CIA officials stressed. “We cannot endeavor to ignite the world if Chile itself is a placid lake. The fuel for the fire must come from within Chile. Therefore, the Station should employ every stratagem, every ploy, however bizarre, to create this internal resistance.” The tactics of CIA-instigated psychological warfare ranged from the superfluous to the sinister. On October 7, Phillips and Broe directed the station to “begin at once a rumor campaign, based whenever possible on tangible peg, which will help create this [coup] climate.”…In another, and far more sinister, cable dated the same day the Station was ordered to consider instigating “terrorist” activities that might provoke Allende’s followers.
Two Chilean air force jets fire 18 rockets into the presidential palace La Moneda, setting it on fire, in the 1973 Chilean coup d’état on September 11th, 1973.
The first attempt to engineer a military overthrow of Allende occurred in 1970. The CIA had been in contact with two groups of coup plotters, one group run by retired General Roberto Viaux and a second by active-duty General Camilo Valenzuela. The CIA had attempted to stop Viaux’s group from moving forward until it had joined forces with Valenzuela’s group. Both groups were attempting to remove Chilean general René Schneider, due to his support for military non-intervention in politics, and thus the appointment of Allende. The Church hearings found that the CIA gave weapons to a group of men who it knew had attacked him twice before, ostensibly as a test of loyalty so that the CIA would remain privy to their information, but that the weapons provided and the group thereby armed (Valenzuela’s group) were not the ones who actually killed him (Viaux’s group). Altogether, the CIA had provided “$50,000 cash, three submachine guns, and a satchel of tear gas, all approved at headquarters…” The CIA, with some difficulty, recovered both the weapons and money, and the weapons were discarded in the Pacific Ocean.
On June 11, 1971, Kissinger and Nixon said the following in a private conversation:
- Kissinger: —when they did try to assassinate somebody, it took three attempts—
- Nixon: Yeah.
- Kissinger: —and he lived for three weeks afterwards.
There are two possible interpretations of these remarks: a) Kissinger was telling the President that a military coup could not succeed in Chile because there were no officers both willing and able to carry one out; or b) the two men were mocking the CIA’s squeamishness about killing Schneider.
The Senate Intelligence Committee, in its investigation of the matter, concluded that since the machine guns supplied to Valenzuela had not actually been employed in the killing, and since General Viaux had been officially discouraged by the CIA a few days before the murder, there was therefore “no evidence of a plan to kill Schneider or that United States officials specifically anticipated that Schneider would be shot during the abduction.” This view has been disputed by writer Christopher Hitchens.
A Chilean Supreme Court investigation accused Allende of support of armed groups, torture, illegal arrests, muzzling the press, confiscating private property, and not allowing people to leave the country.
Historian Mark Falcoff credits the CIA with preserving democratic opposition to Allende and preventing the “consolidation” of his supposed “totalitarian project”. However, Peter Kornbluh asserts that the CIA destabilized Chile and helped create the conditions for the 1973 Chilean coup d’état, which led to years of dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet.
Main articles: 1976 Argentine coup d’état and Dirty War
The democratically elected government of Argentina headed by Isabel Martínez de Perón was successfully overthrown by a military putsch in March 1976. The Nunca Mas (“Never Again”) report released in 1984 by the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons recorded 600 disappearances and 500 assassinations under the Peronist governments from 1973 to 1976.
Eight days before the coup, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera, Chief of the Argentine Navy and a major coup plotter, turned to Ambassador Robert Hill, U.S. ambassador to Argentina, for help in getting a recommendation for an American public relations firm that would manage the Argentine coup leaders’ propaganda campaign for the coup and for the crackdown against democracy and human rights activists that was to follow. Ambassador Hill stated that the United States government cannot interfere in such affairs and provided Admiral Massera with a list of reputable public relations firms maintained by the Embassy. Also, more than two months before the coup, senior coup plotters consulted with American officials in Argentina about the coup, and Ambassador Hill reported to Washington that the military coup plotters were “aware of the problem” that their killings might cause and “are already focusing on ways to avoid letting human rights issues become an irritant in U.S.-Argentine relations” by being pro-active with the preparation of the public relations operation.
Main articles: Operation Cyclone, Reagan Doctrine, Soviet war in Afghanistan, and Civil war in Afghanistan
See also: Charlie Wilson’s War and Badaber Uprising
“To watch the courageous Afghan freedom fighters battle modern arsenals with simple hand-held weapons is an inspiration to those who love freedom.”
President Carter reacted with “open-mouthed shock” to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and began promptly arming the Afghan insurgents. Vice-President Walter Mondale famously declared: “I cannot understand – it just baffles me – why the Soviets these last few years have behaved as they have. Maybe we have made some mistakes with them. Why did they have to build up all these arms? Why did they have to go into Afghanistan? Why can’t they relax just a little bit about Eastern Europe? Why do they try every door to see if it is locked?” The Soviets, several times shortly before the invasion, had staged conversations with the Afghan leadership suggesting that they had no desire to intervene, even as the Politburo was—with much hesitation—considering such an intervention. After the invasion, Afghan President Hafizullah Amin was executed and replaced with Babrak Karmal, a less recalcitrant premier.
A 2002 article by Michael Rubin stated that in the wake of the Iranian Revolution, the United States sought rapprochement with the Afghan government—a prospect that the USSR found unacceptable due to the weakening Soviet leverage over the regime. Thus, the Soviets intervened to preserve their influence in the country. In February 1979, U.S. Ambassador Adolph “Spike” Dubs was murdered in Kabul after Afghan security forces burst in on his kidnappers. The U.S. then reduced bilateral assistance and terminated a small military training program. All remaining assistance agreements were ended after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Following the Soviet invasion, the United States supported diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet withdrawal. In addition, generous U.S. contributions to the refugee program in Pakistan played a major part in efforts to assist Afghan refugees.
One of the CIA’s longest and most expensive covert operations was the supplying of billions of dollars in arms to the Afghan mujahideen militants. The CIA provided assistance to the fundamentalist insurgents through the Pakistani ISI in a program called Operation Cyclone. Somewhere between $2–$20 billion in U.S. funds were funneled into the country to equip troops with weapons. No Americans trained or had direct contact with the mujahideen. The skittish CIA had fewer than 10 operatives in the region because it “feared it would be blamed, like in Guatemala.”
According to Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, an NSC working group on Afghanistan wrote several reports on the deteriorating situation in 1979, but President Carter ignored them until the Soviet intervention destroyed his illusions. Brzezinski has stated that the U.S. provided communications equipment and limited financial aid to the mujahideen prior to the “formal” invasion, but only in response to the Soviet deployment of forces to Afghanistan and the 1978 coup, and with the intention of preventing further Soviet encroachment in the region. Two declassified documents signed by Carter shortly before the invasion authorize the provision “unilaterally or through third countries as appropriate support to the Afghan insurgents either in the form of cash or non-military supplies” and the “worldwide” distribution of “non-attributable propaganda” to “expose” the leftist Afghan government as “despotic and subservient to the Soviet Union” and to “publicize the efforts of the Afghan insurgents to regain their country’s sovereignty”. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 significantly damaged the already tenuous relationship between Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Brzezinski. Vance felt that Brzezinski’s linkage of SALT to other Soviet activities and the proposed MX ballistic missile system, together with the growing domestic criticisms in the United States of the SALT II Accord, convinced Leonid Brezhnev to decide on military intervention in Afghanistan. Brzezinski, however, later recounted that he repeatedly advanced proposals on how to maintain Afghanistan’s “independence” and deter a Soviet invasion but was frustrated by the Department of State’s opposition. According to Eric Alterman of The Nation, Vance’s close aide Marshall Shulman “insists that the State Department worked hard to dissuade the Soviets from invading”.Bob Gates, in his book Out Of The Shadows, wrote that Pakistan had been “pressuring” the United States for arms to aid the rebels for months, but that the Carter administration refused in the hope of finding a diplomatic solution to avoid war. Brzezinski seems to have been in favor of the provision of arms to the rebels, while Vance’s State Department, seeking a peaceful settlement, publicly accused Brzezinski of seeking to “revive” the Cold War.
The Soviet invasion and occupation resulted in the deaths of as many as 2 million Afghans. In 2010, Brzezinski defended the arming of the rebels in response, saying that it “was quite important in hastening the end of the conflict”, thereby saving the lives of thousands of Afghans, but “not in deciding the conflict, because….even though we helped the mujaheddin, they would have continued fighting without our help, because they were also getting a lot of money from the Persian Gulf and the Arab states, and they weren’t going to quit. They didn’t decide to fight because we urged them to. They’re fighters, and they prefer to be independent. They just happen to have a curious complex: they don’t like foreigners with guns in their country. And they were going to fight the Soviets. Giving them weapons was a very important forward step in defeating the Soviets, and that’s all to the good as far as I’m concerned.” When he was asked if he thought it was the right decision in retrospect (given the Taliban‘s subsequent rise to power), he said: “Which decision? For the Soviets to go in? The decision was the Soviets’, and they went in. The Afghans would have resisted anyway, and they were resisting. I just told you: in my view, the Afghans would have prevailed in the end anyway, ’cause they had access to money, they had access to weapons, and they had the will to fight.” Likewise, Charlie Wilson said: “The U.S. had nothing whatsoever to do with these people’s decision to fight … but we’ll be damned by history if we let them fight with stones.” The 2007 movie Charlie Wilson’s War depicted Charlie Wilson‘s and the CIA’s involvement in the repulsion of the USSR troops from Afghanistan. Representative Wilson was awarded the Honored College Award by the CIA for his involvement.
With U.S. and other funding, the ISI armed and trained over 100,000 insurgents. On July 20, 1987, the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country was announced pursuant to the negotiations that led to the Geneva Accords of 1988, with the last Soviets leaving on February 15, 1989.
The early foundations of al-Qaida were allegedly built in part on relationships and weaponry that came from the billions of dollars in U.S. support for the Afghan mujahadin during the war to expel Soviet forces from that country. However, scholars such as Jason Burke, Steve Coll, Peter Bergen, Christopher Andrew, and Vasily Mitrokhin have argued that Osama Bin Laden was “outside of CIA eyesight” and that there is “no support” in any “reliable source” for “the claim that the CIA funded bin Laden or any of the other Arab volunteers who came to support the mujahideen.”
See also: 1980 Turkish coup d’état
One day before the military coup of 12 September 1980 some 3,000 American troops of the RDF started a maneuver Anvil Express on Turkish soil. At the end of 1981 a Turkish-American Defense Council (Turkish: Türk-Amerikan Savunma Konseyi) was founded. Defense Minister Ümit Haluk and Richard Perle, then US Assistant Secretary of Defense international security policy of the new Reagan administration, and the deputy Chief of Staff Necdet Öztorun participated in its first meeting on 27 April 1982.
U.S. support of the coup was acknowledged by the CIA’s Ankara station chief, Paul Henze. After the government was overthrown, Henze cabled Washington, saying, “our boys [in Ankara] did it.” This has created the impression that the US stood behind the coup. Henze denied this during a June 2003 interview on CNN Türk‘s Manşet, but two days later Birand presented an interview with Henze recorded in 1997 in which he basically confirmed Mehmet Ali Birand’s story. The US State Department announced the coup during the night between 11 and 12 September: the military had phoned the US embassy in Ankara to alert them of the coup an hour in advance.
After the coup, State Security Courts were set up, as prescribed in U.S. Army Field Manual 31-15: Operations Against Irregular Forces (translated into Turkish in 1965 as ST 31-15: Ayaklanmaları Bastırma Harekâtı).
Based on incidents such as the aforementioned, a growing number of people are reaching the conclusion that the United States, acting through the “Counter-Guerrilla“, directed the coup.
The U.S. supported the Solidarity movement in Poland, and—based on CIA intelligence—waged a public relations campaign to deter what the Carter administration felt was “an imminent move by large Soviet military forces into Poland.” When the Polish government launched a crackdown of its own in 1981, however, Solidarity was not alerted. Potential explanations for this vary; some believe that the CIA was caught off guard, while others suggest that American policy-makers viewed an internal crackdown as preferable to an “inevitable Soviet intervention.”
Destablization through CIA Assets
In 1983, the CIA created a group of “Unilaterally Controlled Latino Assets” (UCLAs), whose task was to “sabotage ports, refineries, boats and bridges, and try to make it look like the contras had done it.” In January 1984, these UCLA’s carried out the operation for which they would be best known, the last straw that led to the ratifying of the Boland Amendment, the mining of several Nicaraguan harbors, which sank several Nicaraguan boats, damaged at least five foreign vessels, and brought an avalanche of international condemnation down on the United States.
Arming the Contras
The Contras, based in neighboring Honduras, waged a guerrilla war insurgency in an effort to topple the government of Nicaragua.
The Boland Amendment made it illegal under U.S. law to provide arms to the Contra militants. Nevertheless, the Reagan administration continued to arm and fund the Contras through the Iran-Contra scandal, pursuant to which the U.S. secretly sold arms to Iran in violation of U.S. law in exchange for cash used by the U.S. to supply arms to the Contras. The U.S. argued that:
The United States initially provided substantial economic assistance to the Sandinista-dominated regime. We were largely instrumental in the OAS action delegitimizing the Somoza regime and laying the groundwork for installation for the new junta. Later, when the Sandinista role in the Salvadoran conflict became clear, we sought through a combination of private diplomatic contacts and suspension of assistance to convince Nicaragua to halt its subversion. Later still, economic measures and further diplomatic efforts were employed to try to effect changes in Sandinista behavior.
Nicaragua’s neighbors have asked for assistance against Nicaraguan aggression, and the United States has responded. Those countries have repeatedly and publicly made clear that they consider themselves to be the victims of aggression from Nicaragua, and that they desire United States assistance in meeting both subversive attacks and the conventional threat posed by the relatively immense Nicaraguan Armed Forces.
The Sandinista government headed by Daniel Ortega won decisively in the 1984 Nicaraguan elections. The national elections of 1984 were conducted during a state of emergency officially justified by the war fought against the Contras insurgents and the CIA-orchestrated bombings. Many political prisoners were still held as it took place, and none of the main opposition parties participated due to what they claimed were threats and persecution from the government. The 1984 election was for posts subordinate to the Sandinista Directorate, a body “no more subject to approval by vote than the Central Committee of the Communist Party is in countries of the East Bloc,” and there was no secret ballot. The U.S. continued to pressure the government by illegally arming the Contras insurgency. On October 5, 1985 the Sandinistas broadened the state of emergency begun in 1982 and suspended many more civil rights. A new regulation also forced any organization outside of the government to first submit any statement it wanted to make public to the censorsip bureau for prior censorship.
As the Contras’ insurgency continued with U.S. support, the Sandinistas struggled to maintain power. They were overthrown in 1990, when they ended the SOE and held an election that all the main opposition parties competed in. The Sandinistas have been accused of killing thousands by Nicaragua’s Permanent Commission on Human Rights. The Contras have also been accused of committing war crimes, such as rape, arson, and the killing of civilians.
The New York Times surveyed ordinary Nicaraguans on the 1990 election:
“The longer they [Sandinistas] were in power, the worse things became. It was all lies, what they promised us” (unemployed person); “I thought it was going to be just like 1984, when the vote was not secret and there was not all these observers around” (market vendor); “Don’t you believe those lies [about fraud], I voted my conscience and my principles, and so did everyone else I know” (young mother); “the Sandinistas have mocked and abused the people, and now we have given our vote to [the opposition] UNO” (ex-Sandinista officer).
See also: Sino-Vietnamese War and People’s Republic of Kampuchea
The Reagan Administration sought to apply the Reagan Doctrine of aiding anti-Soviet resistance movements abroad to Cambodia, which was under Vietnamese occupation following the Cambodian genocide carried out by the communist Khmer Rouge. The Vietnamese had installed a communist government led by Khmer Rouge dissident Heng Samrin. According to R. J. Rummel; the Vietnamese invasion, occupation, puppet regime, ongoing guerrilla warfare, and ensuing famine killed 1.2 million Cambodians in addition to the roughly 2 million who had been killed by the Khmer Rouge. The largest resistance movement fighting Cambodia’s communist government was largely made up of members of the former Khmer Rouge regime, whose human rights record was among the worst of the 20th century. Therefore, Reagan authorized the provision of aid to a smaller Cambodian resistance movement, a coalition called the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front, known as the KPNLF and then run by Son Sann; in an effort to force an end to the Vietnamese occupation. Eventually, the Vietnamese withdrew, and Cambodia’s communist regime fell. Then, under United Nations supervision, free elections were held.
See also: Democratic International and Angolan Civil War
War between the Cuban backed MPLA government in Angola and South African backed UNITA forces led to decades of civil war that may have cost as many as 1 million lives. The Reagan administration offered covert aid to the anti-communist UNITA rebels, led by Jonas Savimbi. Dr. Peter Hammond, a Christian missionary who lived in Angola at the time, recalled:
“There were over 50,000 Cuban troops in the country. The communists had attacked and destroyed many churches. MiG-23s and Mi-24 Hind helicopter gun ships were terrorising villagers in Angola. I documented numerous atrocities, including the strafing of villages, schools and churches. In 1986, I remember hearing Ronald Reagan’s speech – carried on the BBC Africa service – by short wave radio: “We are going to send stinger missiles to the UNITA Freedom Fighters in Angola!” Those who were listening to the SW radio with me looked at one another in stunned amazement. After a long silence as we wondered if our ears had actually heard what we thought we heard, one of us said: “That would be nice!” We scarcely dared believe that it would happen. But it did. Not long afterwards the stinger missiles began to arrive in UNITA controlled Free Angola. Soviet aircraft were shot down. The bombing and strafing of villagers, schools and churches came to an end. Without any doubt, Ronald Reagan’s policies saved many tens of thousands of lives in Angola.”
Human rights observers have accused the MPLA of “genocidal atrocities,” “systematic extermination,” “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.” The MPLA held blatantly rigged elections in 1992, which were rejected by eight opposition parties. An official observer wrote that there was little UN supervision, that 500,000 UNITA voters were disenfranchised and that there were 100 clandestine polling stations. UNITA sent peace negotiators to the capital, where the MPLA murdered them, along with 20,000 UNITA members. Savimbi was still ready to continue the elections. The MPLA then massacred tens of thousands of UNITA and FNLA voters nationwide.
Savimbi was strongly supported by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Heritage foreign policy analyst Michael Johns and other conservatives visited regularly with Savimbi in his clandestine camps in Jamba and provided the rebel leader with ongoing political and military guidance in his war against the Angolan government. During a visit to Washington, D.C. in 1986, Reagan invited Savimbi to meet with him at the White House. Following the meeting, Reagan spoke of UNITA winning “a victory that electrifies the world.” Savimbi also met with Reagan’s successor, George H. W. Bush, who promised Savimbi “all appropriate and effective assistance.”
The killing of Savimbi in February 2002 by the Angolan military led to the decline of UNITA’s influence. Savimbi was succeeded by Paulo Lukamba. Six weeks after Savimbi’s death, UNITA agreed to a ceasefire with the MPLA, but even today Angola remains deeply divided politically between MPLA and UNITA supporters. Parliamentary elections in September 2008 resulted in an overwhelming majority for the MPLA, but their legitimacy was questioned by international observers.
See also: Partido Lakas ng Tao and EDSA Shrine
The United States played a significant role in pressuring dictator Ferdinand Marcos to step down and in the peaceful transition to democracy in the Philippines, notwithstanding decades of past American support for his regime. With the People Power Revolution, Corazon Aquino‘s assumption into power marked the restoration of democracy in the country.
Since the end of the Cold War
See also: Iraq Liberation Act
According to former U.S. intelligence officials interviewed by The New York Times, the CIA indirectly supported a bomb and sabotage campaign between 1992 and 1995 in Iraq conducted by the Iraqi National Accord insurgents, led by Iyad Allawi. The campaign had no apparent effect in toppling Saddam Hussein’s rule.
According to former CIA officer Robert Baer, various rebel groups were attempting to oust Hussein at the time. No public records of the CIA campaign are known to exist, and former U.S. officials said their recollections were in many cases sketchy, and in some cases contradictory. “But whether the bombings actually killed any civilians could not be confirmed because, as a former CIA official said, the United States had no significant intelligence sources in Iraq then.” In 1996, Amneh al-Khadami, who described himself as the chief bomb maker for the Iraqi National Accord, recorded a videotape in which he talked of the bombing campaign and complained that he was being shortchanged money and supplies. Two former intelligence officers confirmed the existence of the videotape. Mr. Khadami said that “we blew up a car, and we were supposed to get $2,000” but got only $1,000, as reported in 1997 by the British newspaper The Independent, which had obtained a copy of the videotape.
U.S. and Iraqi sources provided an account of the unsuccessful strategy of deposing Saddam by a coup d’état during the 1990s, an effort reportedly known within CIA by the cryptonym “DBACHILLES”. According to the Washington Post, the CIA appointed a new head of its Near East Division, Stephen Richter, who assumed that large parts of the Iraqi army might support a coup. A team met with Gen. Mohammed Abdullah Shawani, a former commander of Iraqi Special Forces, and a Turkmen from Mosul. As the CIA was drafting its plans, the British encouraged the agency to contact an experienced Iraqi exile named Ayad Alawi, who headed a network of current and former Iraqi military officers and Ba’ath Party operatives known as wifaq, the Arabic word for “trust.”
According to the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, DBACHILLES succeeded in reaching a number of senior Iraqi military officers, but was compromised and collapsed in June 1996. The Iraqis began arresting the coup plotters on June 26. At least 200 officers were seized and more than 80 were executed, including Shawani’s sons.
Main article: War in Afghanistan (2001-present)
Hamid Karzai with Special Forces and CIA Paramilitary in late 2001
In 2001, the CIA’s Special Activities Division units were the first U.S. forces to enter Afghanistan. Their efforts organized the Afghan Northern Alliance for the subsequent arrival of USSOCOM forces. The plan for the invasion of Afghanistan was developed by the CIA, the first time in United States history that such a large-scale military operation was planned by the CIA. SAD, U.S. Army Special Forces and the Northern Alliance combined to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan with minimal loss of U.S. lives. They did this without the need for U.S. military conventional ground forces.
The Washington Post stated in an editorial by John Lehman in 2006:
- “What made the Afghan campaign a landmark in the U.S. Military’s history is that it was prosecuted by Special Operations forces from all the services, along with Navy and Air Force tactical power, operations by the Afghan Northern Alliance and the CIA were equally important and fully integrated. No large Army or Marine force was employed”.
- “The valor exhibited by Afghan and American soldiers, fighting to free Afghanistan from a horribly cruel regime, will inspire even the most jaded reader. The stunning victory of the horse soldiers – 350 Special Forces soldiers, 100 C.I.A. officers and 15,000 Northern Alliance fighters routing a Taliban army 50,000 strong – deserves a hallowed place in American military history”.
Main article: Iraq War
The CIA’s Special Activities Division teams were the first U.S. forces to enter Iraq, in July 2002, before the main invasion. Once on the ground, they prepared for the subsequent arrival of U.S. Army Special Forces to organize the Kurdish Peshmerga. This joint team (called the Northern Iraq Liaison Element (NILE) combined to defeat Ansar al-Islam, a group with ties to al-Qaeda, in Iraqi Kurdistan. This battle was for control of the territory that was occupied by Ansar al-Islam and took place before the invasion. It was carried out by Paramilitary Operations Officers from SAD and the Army’s 10th Special Forces Group. This battle resulted in the defeat of Ansar and the capture of a chemical weapons facility at Sargat. Sargat was the only facility of its type discovered in the Iraq war.
SAD teams also conducted missions behind enemy lines to identify leadership targets. These missions led to the initial air strikes against Hussein and his generals. Although the strike against Hussein was unsuccessful in killing him, it effectively ended his ability to command and control his forces. Strikes against Iraq’s generals were more successful and significantly degraded the Iraqi command’s ability to react to, and maneuver against the US-led invasion force. SAD operations officers were also successful in convincing key Iraqi Army officers into surrendering their units once the fighting started.
NATO member Turkey refused to allow the U.S. forces across its territory into northern Iraq. Therefore, joint SAD and Army Special forces teams and the Peshmerga were the entire Northern force against the Iraqi army. They managed to keep the northern divisions in place rather than allowing them to aid their colleagues against the U.S.-led coalition force coming from the south. Four of these CIA officers were awarded the Intelligence Star for their actions.
Main article: 2002 Venezuelan coup d’état attempt
In 2002, Washington is claimed to have approved and supported a coup against the Venezuelan government. Senior officials, including Special Envoy to Latin America Otto Reich and convicted Iran-contra figure and George W. Bush “democracy ‘czar'” Elliott Abrams, were allegedly part of the plot. Top coup plotters, including Pedro Carmona, the man installed during the coup as the new president, began visits to the White House months before the coup and continued until weeks before the putsch. The plotters were received at the White House by the man President George W. Bush tasked to be his key policy-maker for Latin America, Special Envoy Otto Reich. It has been claimed by Venezuelan news sources that Reich was the U.S. mastermind of the coup.
Former U.S. Navy intelligence officer Wayne Madsen, told the British newspaper the Guardian that American military attaches had been in touch with members of the Venezuelan military to explore the possibility of a coup. “I first heard of Lieutenant Colonel James Rogers [the assistant military attaché now based at the U.S. embassy in Caracas] going down there last June  to set the ground”, Mr. Madsen reported, adding: “Some of our counter-narcotics agents were also involved.” He claims the U.S. Navy assisted with signals intelligence as the coup played out and helped by jamming communications for the Venezuelan military, focusing on jamming communications to and from the diplomatic missions in Caracas. The U.S. embassy dismissed the allegations as “ridiculous”.
Bush Administration officials and anonymous sources acknowledged meeting with some of the planners of the coup in the several weeks prior to April 11, but have strongly denied encouraging the coup itself, saying that they insisted on constitutional means. Because of allegations, Sen. Christopher Dodd requested a review of U.S. activities leading up to and during the coup attempt. A U.S. State Department Office of Inspector General report found no “wrongdoing” by U.S. officials either in the State Department or in the U.S. Embassy.
Palestinian Authority, 2006-present
Main article: Battle of Gaza (2007)
After winning Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, Hamas and Fatah formed the Palestinan authority national unity government in 2007, headed by Ismail Haniya. In June 2007 Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip and removed Fatah officials. The ICRC estimated that at least 118 people were killed and more than 550 wounded during the fighting in the week up to June 15.
In May 2007, U.S. officials promised to continue funding a $84 million aid package aimed at improving the fighting ability of the Abbas Presidential Guard loyal to Fatah. The U.S. insisted that all of its aid to the Presidential Guard is “nonlethal”, consisting of training, uniforms, and supplies, as well as paying for better infrastructure at Gaza’s borders. “The situation has gotten to be quite dire in Gaza, we have a situation of lawlessness and outright chaos”, he said. “This chaotic situation is why the [U.S.] is focused on [helping] the legal, legitimate security forces in our effort to reestablish law and order.”, said Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, who was overseeing the U.S. program.
In the April 2008 the journalist David Rose suggested that the United States collaborated with the Palestinian Authority and Israel to attempt a coup on Hamas, and Hamas pre-empted the coup. Hamas Foreign Minister Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar has echoed this view, and called the arming of Fatah by the United States an “American coup d’état”. Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by many Western nations.
See also: War in Somalia (2006-present)
Although the United States has had an ongoing interest in Somalia for decades, in early 2006 the CIA began a program of funding a coalition of anti-Islamic warlords. This involved CIA case workers funneling payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism against the Islamic Court Union. Although the ICU was locally supported for having restored a relative level of peace, concerns have been expressed about their treatment of women and strict interpretation of Islamic law.
See also: 2009-2010 Iranian election protests
President George W. Bush authorized the CIA to undertake black operations against Iran in an effort to destabilize the Iranian government. A 2005 article in the New York Times stated that the Bush administration was expanding efforts to influence Iran’s internal politics with aid to opposition and pro-democracy groups abroad and longer broadcasts criticizing the Iranian government. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns said the administration was “taking a page from the playbook” on Ukraine and Georgia. Unnamed administration officials were reported as saying the State Department was also studying dozens of proposals for spending $3 million in the coming year “for the benefit of Iranians living inside Iran” including broadcast activities, Internet programs and “working with people inside Iran” on advancing political activities there.
In 2006, the United States congress passed the Iran Freedom and Support Act, which directed $10 million towards groups opposed to the Iranian government. In 2007, ABC news reported that President Bush had authorized a $400 million covert operation to create unrest in Iran. According to the The Daily Telegraph, the CIA has also provided support to a militant Sunni organization called Jundullah, which has launched raids into Iran from its base in Pakistan.Alexis Debat separately claimed that the US encouraged Pakistan to support Jundullah, but his reporting was challenged after he was discovered to have allegedly fabricated numerous interviews.Seymour Hersh, writing in The New Yorker, alleges that the US has provided funding and training to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran and Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, militant groups opposed to the current Iranian government. Since 1997, the U.S. has listed the PMOI as a terrorist organization.
Main article: Libyan civil war
After the Arab Spring movement overthrew the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt, its neighbours to the west and east respectively, Libya had a major revolt beginning in February 2011. In response, the Obama administration sent in CIA Special Activities Division paramilitary operatives to assess the situation and gather information on the opposition forces.
During the early phases of the Libyan air strike offensive, paramilitary operatives assisted in the recovery of a U.S. Air Force pilot who had crashed due to mechanical problems. There was also speculation in The Washington Post that President Obama issued a covert action finding in March 2011 that authorized the CIA to carry out a clandestine effort to provide arms and support to the Libyan opposition.
Muammar Gaddafi was ultimately overthrown in the Libyan civil war.
Main article: Syrian civil war
In 2012, President Barack Obama secretly permitted US government agencies to support forced regime change in Syria.  In July, the Office of Foreign Assets Control authorised channeling financial support for the Free Syrian Army through the Syrian Support Group non-governmental organization.