Studien von Zeitfragen
43. Jahrgang - InternetAusgabe 2009


Why and How
the Shah of Iran was Overthrown

Two Excerpt Passages from "The Last Shah of Iran”
Fatal Countdown of
A Great Patriot betrayed by the Free World
A Great Country whose Fault was Success

As these weeks went on, the true nature of the events the country was living through, at last, began to dawn on the Shah. The orchestration and exploitation, of a wave of domestic discontent, by foreign powers, in order to destabilise and capsize Iran, became apparent to him, and he confessed to having under-estimated its power.

The cries of hostility, from a minority, towards him personally, had already upset him profoundly, but now he began to evaluate the dimensions of what was happening. He still could not believe that he had been betrayed by his foreign "friends and allies", the USA, Britain, Israel and, yes, even France.

The American Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, had told the Shah, some years previously, that, "after the President of the United States," and on that geo-strategic level, where political events and military problems converge, "you are the best-informed man in the world."

Iran's intelligence-services overseas did indeed function very well, and the Shah read the international press, and diplomatic dispatches, attentively. Above all, he had his own network of special correspondents, who kept him informed about what was going on in the USA, Britain and France. Regarding the Eastern Bloc, he placed confidence, not without justification, in the intelligence-services of Iran's allies.

Paradoxically, this man, who knew about the amorous adventures - sometimes the secret ones - of the world's great figures and, in amazing detail, about political intrigues in Paris, London and Washington, who noted every little weakness of the controllers of western governments and media, and often took advantage of his knowledge, in masterly style, to aid his country's diplomatic efforts, gave the impression that he could not take seriously the conspiracy being carried on, against his country and his person, in the world's principal centres of power.

Why not? Were any of the signs lacking? We now know that the idea of deposing the Shah was broached continually, from the mid-seventies on, in the National Security Council in Washington, by Henry Kissinger, whom the Shah thought of as a firm friend and who had often helped him over the years. Did the Shah really not know about this?

Iran's international ambitions, and rise to economic, technological, financial and military influence, were disquieting. Although an ally of Israel, Iran had not hesitated to bring decisive aid to Egypt, during the Yom Kippur War, the only conflict against the Arabs, which the Hebrew state was not able to win. President Sadat would not forget this, which was to his credit; but the Israelis would not forget it either. This switching of alliances, and the ambivalence of Iran - the only country in the region able to match itself against Israel - disquieted the leaders of the Hebrew state, especially those on the Right.

Throughout the years, during which he had been at the head of Iranian diplomacy, Ardeshir Zahedi, formerly the Shah's confidant and son-in-law, had progressively oriented Iranian policy in a less pro-Israeli direction. The ambassador, Hossein Montazem, who was at the Ministry, and in charge of Africa, during my time in government, described to me the directives, which were then being transmitted to Iran's representatives in the Muslim countries of that continent. Iran, I learned, practised a diplomacy of balance, which was, however, influenced by the unjust treatment being meted out to the people of Palestine; so that, after the death of Nasser, Iran easily became a staunch friend and ally of the principal, Arab power, Egypt. When Hossein Montazem had himself been Iran's representative in two of these countries, he had passed on these same directives, bearing the same message.

The Israelis and the Americans could not but have known about this and been inconvenienced by it. Surely the Shah must have realised that there would be repercussions to this policy - and not just covert ones.

From 1975 onwards, even when the Republicans were in power in Washington, highly hostile attitudes proliferated there, towards Iran and her King. When Jimmy Carter came to power - and despite his pronouncements of 31st December 1977 - this hostility reached a climax, and Washington started acting on it, but the Shah hardly paid any attention.

Djamchid Gharib spent a large part of his diplomatic career in Turkey, where he was our ambassador, before he retired. In 1978, while spending his summer holidays there - for he knew the country perfectly and had many, Turkish, personal friends - he was told, by the two highest authorities in the Turkish government, that, according to their information, Washington was preparing a coup, in Iran, involving certain religious leaders; and they begged Djamchid Gharib to tell the Shah "that he ought not to trust the Americans". Secular Turkey was worried about the possibility of a theocratic government being installed in Iran. It was an important message, and, as soon as he returned to Teheran, Gharib asked for an audience with the Shah. He was kept waiting - he no longer had any official position, after all. He confided his information to Hoveyda, who offered to act as an intermediary. Gharib declined this offer, and, after several days, his persistence paid off. He was received, and relayed his message, in detail, to the King, including the identities of his informants. The Shah, annoyed, asked him, "whom have you told about this conversation of yours, in Ankara?"

"The Minister to the Court asked me about my business," replied the former diplomat, "and I declined to reveal it; but I said a word or two, without the least detail, to Nahavandi, and to my son-in-law, Doctor Shirvani," Shirvani was a professor at Teheran University and an elected Deputy.

"Forget this for ever," snapped the Shah commandingly, "and tell them to forget it too, for it is no more than drawing-room chatter!"

George Ball - that guru of American diplomacy and prominento of certain think-tanks and pressure-groups - once paid a long visit to Teheran, where, interestingly, the National Broadcasting Authority placed an office at his disposal. Once installed there, he played host to all the best-known dissidents and gave them encouragement. After he returned to Washington, he made public statements hostile and insulting to the Sovereign; but, for some reason, the Shah didn't seem to notice.

Count Alexandre de Marenches, Head of the French intelligence-services, was greatly admired by the Shah, who also thought of him as a friend. He too warned the Sovereign in no uncertain terms. Later, in his memoirs, the Count wrote, "one day, I mentioned to the Shah the names of those Americans, who had been assigned to plan his deposition and replacement.

"I had myself been present at a meeting, where one of the questions raised was 'how do we get rid of the Shah, and with whom shall we replace him?'

"The Shah was unwilling to believe me," de Marenches continues, "saying, 'I believe you about everything else, but not about this.'

'"But, Sire,' I said, 'why will you not believe me on this point also?'

"'Because,' he said, 'it would be stupid to replace me!'

'"I am the best defender of the west,' he went on, 'in this part of the world; I have the best army and the greatest power: the whole thing is so absurd, that I cannot possibly believe. Further on, Count de Marenches notes: "but the Americans had made their decision."

I mentioned the matter to the Sovereign once. I had no particular information - just an impression, vague but persistent, obtained from reading the international press and listening to recordings of George Ball's Teheran interviews. The Shah's response was clipped and dogmatic: "the Americans," he said, "will never abandon me."

There was a glaring error in his analysis; but what did the Americans have against him really? "Megalomania", they said; but all they meant by that was his country's rapid rise to power, his proposal to de-nuclearise the region - which was anathema to Israel - and his plan for a security-pact linking the countries with coasts on the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, which would allow them to tackle common problems, themselves.

Then there were the big oil-multinationals, who would not forgive him for the role he played in raising OPEC against them, and in which he had the support of King Feisal of Saudi Arabia - another modernising sovereign, and one who was assassinated, in 1975, in circumstances, which are still unclear.

Ever since then, in order to weaken the Shah, the universal propaganda-machine, creator of world-wide lies - and now in constant use - was set running. Domestic discontent was stirred up and amplified, and, a few weeks later, the successor, who, it was thought, would be more malleable, was fabricated. Being insignificant in himself, this person was just what was required to get rid of the troublemaker.

At Cairo, in 1980, a few days before his death, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi told me: "Hussein [of Jordan] was right: at the beginning of that autumn [1978] he rang me and said, 'what the Americans are doing in Iran is what they tried to do to me, five years ago [Black September 1973]' (?)

'"But I held on,' Hussein continued, 'crushed the rebellion and forced the subversives to the negotiating-table.'

"'If,' he went on, 'you find you cannot give the orders, which meet the needs of the time, let me come to Iran, install myself in a little office next to yours, for three days, and speak for you, and in your name, to tell the military chiefs what to do!'

'"You'll see,' he concluded, 'everything will be all right, and the Americans will abandon their plans.'

"I was completely deceived," the Shah resumed, "by the American attitude, but, above all - above all - I did not wish to shed my people's blood: a King cannot act like a dictator, hanging on to power at all costs."


Guadeloupe, January 6, 1979

On 6th January 1979, at Guadeloupe, the four, great Western Powers had been assembled, since the previous evening, at the invitation of Valery Giscard d'Estaing, to discuss the crisis in Iran. That day, Jimmy Carter, Helmut Schmidt, James Callaghan and the French president sealed the fate of Iran. Giscard spoke most passionately, of the four, against the Shah, although he denied this years later. If Mohammad Reza Pahlavi remained, he insisted, Iran would slide into civil war and an immense blood-bath; the Communists were becoming ever stronger; American officers stationed in Iran would be drawn into the conflict, and this would give the Soviets the excuse to intervene: Washington had to accept the prospect of change.

After the catastrophe, each of the participants at Guadeloupe naturally attempted to shift the blame on to each of the others. According to the French president, it was Jimmy Carter, who was the first to affirm: "the Shah cannot stay - the Iranian people don't want him any more - we have nothing to worry about".

One day, the archives will probably reveal the whole truth of this episode. However, cross-checking the subsequent, published, indiscreet references and settling of accounts, permits us to suspect that, although unanimity was reached in favour of Rouhollah Khomeyni's taking power, it was the German Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, who was the least enthusiastic of the four, about it.

An urgent mission was then assigned to General Huyser, the American deputy-Commander-in-Chief of NATO, to speed up the Sovereign's exit. The General flew to Teheran and, to quote the Count de Marenches, "made a tour of the officers' mess-rooms", in order to dissuade the Iranian army from intervening in the crisis. He also met, at considerable length, the revolutionary leaders and, in company with the American ambassador, was granted an audience with the Shah. This interview was short and, it seems, barely polite.

"Both of them were only interested in finding out the date and time, at which I would leave," the Shah said later.

Apparently, the Sovereign had not even been informed of the American general's arrival. Huyser was, however, quite familiar with Iran, and his visit was no secret in the capital. Everyone was talking about it; but no-one told the Shah until the two Americans asked for an audience.

Ardeshir Zahedi, who was still nominally our ambassador to Washington, and who was still in Teheran, partly to organise an eventual transit, for the Shah, to the USA, and partly to find him another destination if that country wouldn't have him, was consulted about Huyser's presence in Iran and the prospect of according him an audience.

He was against the idea: "this chap," he said, "has come here without declared purpose or authorisation, which he has no business to do.

"Have him arrested for illegal entry, or, at least, expel him - that would be a nice, energetic move - for reasons connected with the restoration of order.

"Then we might be able to start negotiating from a position of strength."

Zahedi's courageous proposal was, of course, in total contradiction to the appointment of Bakhtiar, who had been brought in simply to organise the removal of the Shah, and the latter rejected it out of hand.

Some army-officers even put forward the idea of an attack on the American general, and of blaming it on the opposition. Perhaps it was a foolish idea, but anyway, the Shah formally proscribed it.

Huyser met all the revolutionary leaders at least three times. One of these meetings lasted ten hours. I called General Gharabaghi on this subject (he had been promoted to Head of the General Staff, after the military cabinet was dissolved) and told him of my apprehension about the rumours, which were circulating, concerning Huyser's manoeuvers.

"Don't worry," Gharabaghi replied, "General Huyser is my political adviser"!

Now, it has all come out - from the statements of numerous witnesses - that Huyser was "advising", in the name of the USA and the great, western powers, the formation of a Khomeyni-Bazargan government, inspired by Islam and backed firmly by the army. This was to happen, apparently, after the fall of the Shah and the proclamation of a republic, which would bring in democracy!

Huyser stayed in Iran for several days after the Shah had gone, and the officials from the US embassy even participated, during that time, in meetings to prepare for the coming, and the welcoming, of Khomeyni to Teheran. Under these conditions, the dismissal of General Alexander Haig, the Commander-in-Chief of NATO - and therefore Huyser's superior officer - for objecting to his deputy's being assigned this mission, passed almost unnoticed. Reagan's future Secretary of State was indeed hostile to the idea of lending any American, or western, support to the Iranian revolution.

Francois Charles-Roux, sometime French ambassador to Iran - and a man who knew the country well - was consulted by the Elysee Palace, at this time, and heard repeated there an expression of the French President's gratification concerning the judgement passed at Guadeloupe:
"at last, with Khomeyni, we shall get stability in Iran!"

"They were bad ideas, which brought bad consequences," as Jeane Kirkpatrick, the American ambassador and academic, later wrote.




Book Review:
The Last Shah of Iran - By Houchang Nahavandi

What Really Happed to the Shah of Iran

Triangle of Treachery:
New Book Investigates the Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel, and the U.S.

Des-Informationskrieg gegen Iran seit 1978 - Anfänge