The British And U.S. Governments Installed Khomeini Into Power In 1979

By Ian Greenhalgh on June 19, 2017

[Editor’s note: Sadly, I was unable to find the author’s name for this superb essay, but regardless, it is essential reading to understand the geopolitical agenda behind the wars and conflicts of the Middle East in the last half a century and continuing today. This is a follow-on to my earlier post about the 1953 coup that installed the Shah into power in Iran, which everyone knows was a US-British intel operation, but few know the 1979 removal of the Shah was likewise, the work of the US & British. What this article also exposes in detail is the role the British and Americans played in the creation of ‘Islamic Fundamentalism’ and the way this was used to destabilise and control the Middle East. Without understanding these machinations it is impossible to properly understand current events in the region. Ian]

The British And U.S. Governments Installed Khomeini Into Power In 1979

“It is easier to mislead many men than one.” – Herodotus. (As quoted in F.E. Adcock’s 1963 book, ‘Thucydides And His History,’ on pg. 51. Cambridge University Press: London).

“Reality is created by language. But, we don’t realize how true this is, that reality really is created by language, and that we are all imprisoned in somebody else’s language.” – Terence McKenna. (From a talk in New York in 1992 called, ‘Alchemy and the Hermetic Tradition’: Part 3 of 3; 0:13:00 – 0:13:17 in the video).

The thesis that the British and U.S. governments drove out the Shah and replaced him with Khomeini destroys the clash of civilizations myth that has dominated the global conversation between Islam and the West for over a generation.For years I thought this thesis was too “out there,” and a baseless conspiracy theory. I did not want to believe that there was any truth to this. It changes my entire view of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the relationship between Iran and the West, and the history of our times.

The implications of the thesis are too frightening to think about. The level of the treason and betrayal that is taking place against the people of every nation is beyond most people’s imagination.

But I always try to keep an open mind because anything is plausible in this crazy world. So, last month I finally decided to actually look at the evidence that is available on the Internet about this thesis and dig deeper into history.

The first clue that caught my eye was the Shah’s own words. “If you lift up Khomeini’s beard,” he said, “you will find Made In England written under his chin.”

The Shah was at the center of power and he was a very wise man so this statement can’t be dismissed as just another example of a Middle Eastern despot blaming a foreign conspiracy for a revolution that occurred under his watch.

Dr. Ronen Bergman, an Israeli investigative journalist and author of the 2008 book, ‘The Secret War with Iran,’ says that the BBC put Khomeini on a public pedestal and amplified his voice, making his brand of Islamic revolution the only alternative option to the Shah’s rule.

British journalist Ed West interviewed Bergman in June 2009 about his views, and quoted a passage from Bergman’s book in his article, “How the BBC helped bring the Ayatollah to power”:

In the book he writes: “Another propaganda tool for Khomeini was none other than the Persian-language broadcasts of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The channel gave him a platform. His regular broadcasts made him the unchallenged leader of the Iranian revolutionary movement.”

When we met in a west London hotel not far from the notorious Iranian embassy, Bergman pointed out: “The BBC gave free hours of free broadcast to Khomeini from Paris. It is unbelievable. Every time there is a person who is fighting ‘royal’ forces, in the sense of their being autocratic, the BBC gives them a free hand and carte blanche, without trying to understand what their views are.”

Bergman is not some loony conspiracy theorist who is on the margins of Israeli society. He is a “member of the Israeli Bar, holds a M.Phil degree in international relations, and was awarded a Ph. D by University of Cambridge for his dissertation about the Israeli Mossad, the first ever on that subject, written under the supervision of the esteemed Professor Christopher Andrew, chairman of the History Faculty,” (source: Wikipedia).

Bergman’s views about the BBC’s role in stirring up Iran’s Islamic Revolution are well documented.

The Shah also raised the point about the BBC providing its propaganda services to Khomeini and the Islamic fundamentalists in an interview with David Frost while in exile in Panama. He told Frost:

“Do you think that Mr. Khomeini, an uneducated person . . . could have planned all this, masterminded all this, set up all the organizations. I know that one man alone could not have done it. This I know.

I know that tremendous amount of money was spend. This also I know.

I know that top experts in propaganda were used to show us like tyrants and monsters, and the other side as democratic, liberal revolutionaries who wanted to save the country.

I know how mean the BBC, British Broadcasting Corporation, had been towards us. This I know. Because we have all the files. If you monitor the broadcast towards our country you would see that it was full of venom. So it seemed that it was really a very well orchestrated conspiracy.” (Quote is from 3:02 – 4:50 in the video).

The picture that the Shah describes of what happened to him and to Iran in 1978/1979 is eerily similar to how the West took out Gaddafi and put radical Islamic forces into power in Libya this year.

Many of the guerrilla fighters who opposed Gaddafi identified themselves as Al-Qaeda and used terrorist tactics to intimidate the population into submission. These Islamic fundamentalists were funded, trained and backed by England, France, America and NATO to defeat another Middle Eastern leader who was not following their direct orders.

Historian F. William Engdahl says in his 2004 book, “A Century Of War : Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order,” that the Carter administration changed U.S. policy towards Iran in 1978 by bringing in members from the Bilderberg Group to draw up covert plans to remove the Shah and bring Khomeini to the throne. Engdahl wrote:

“In November 1978, President Carter named the Bilderberg group’s George Ball, another member of the Trilateral Commission, to head a special White House Iran task force under the National Security Council’s Brzezinski. Ball recommended that Washington drop support for the Shah of Iran and support the fundamentalistic Islamic opposition of Ayatollah Khomeini. Robert Bowie from the CIA was one of the lead ‘case officers’ in the new CIA-led coup against the man their covert actions had placed into power 25 years earlier.

Their scheme was based on a detailed study of the phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism, as presented by British Islamic expert, Dr. Bernard Lewis, then on assignment at Princeton University in the United States. Lewis’s scheme, which was unveiled at the May 1979 Bilderberg meeting in Austria, endorsed the radical Muslim Brotherhood movement behind Khomeini, in order to promote balkanization of the entire Muslim Near East along tribal and religious lines. Lewis argued that the West should encourage autonomous groups such as the Kurds, Armenians, Lebanese Maronites, Ethiopian Copts, Azerbaijani Turks, and so forth. The chaos would spread in what he termed an ‘Arc of Crisis,’ which would spill over into Muslim regions of the Soviet Union.

The coup against the Shah was run by British and American intelligence, with the bombastic American, Brzezinski, taking public ‘credit’ for getting rid of the ‘corrupt’ Shah, while the British characteristically remained safely in the background.

During 1978, negotiations were under way between the Shah’s government and British Petroleum for renewal of the 25-year old extraction agreement. By October 1978, the talks had collapsed over a British ‘offer’ which demanded exclusive rights to Iran’s future oil output, while refusing to guarantee purchase of the oil. With their dependence on British-controlled export apparently at an end, Iran appeared on the verge of independence in its oil sales policy for the first time since 1953, with eager prospective buyers in Germany, France, Japan and elsewhere.”Engdahl also says that the Arab Spring movement is a creation of the U.S. State Department, so U.S. policy towards the Middle East still consists of provoking revolutions, stirring up troubles, and overthrowing governments. And these sinister actions are presented in the media as “U.S. support for democracy movements.”

In his 1981 book, “Hostage to Khomeini,” journalist Robert Dreyfuss says that the Club of Rome, the Aspen Institute, and other elite think tanks conspired to take out the Shah and undo his modernization plans for Iran which they saw as a threat to their power and control over the region. Dreyfuss wrote:

“The mullahs did not come to rule in Iran on the basis of their own power; they were placed in power by men more evil than they – who would use the depravity of backwardness for their own ends.

In September 1975, the Aspen Institute held a symposium in Persepolis, Iran. The public side of the transactions was published years later under the title of Iran: Past, Present, and Future. In the behind-the-scenes discussion, the plans for reversing the Shah’s industrialization program and for turning Iran into a model dark ages regime were mapped out. It is a bitter twist of history, that the Shah and his wife Empress Farah Diba witlessly provided huge amounts of funding to the Aspen project.

Attending the Persepolis symposium were at least a dozen members of the Club of Rome, including its chairman, Aureho Peccei; Sol Linowitz of Coudert Brothers law firm; Jacques Freymond of the Institute of International Studies in Geneva; and Robert 0. Anderson and Rarlan Cleveland, both Aspen Institute officials and associates of the Club of Rome in the United States. Other luminaries were also on hand: Charles Yost, Catherine Bateson, Richard Gardner, Theo Sommer, Daniel Yankelovitch, John Oakes of the New York Times, and the cream of Anglo-Amencan intelligence specialists on Iran, such as James Bill, Marvin Zonis, Leonard Binder, Rouhollah Ramazani, and Charles Issawi.

The Aspen Institute session stressed a single theme: modernization and industry undermine the “spiritual, nonmaterial” values of ancient Iranian society, and these values must he preserved above all else.”

I have not read Dreyfuss’s entire book, but this little excerpt has broadened my knowledge about what happened to Iran. The involvement of the Club of Rome and Bilderberg Group in orchestrating Iran’s Islamic Revolution convinced me that Khomeini was a traitor who would be under the dirt and a no name in history if he was not supported by the powers whom he identified as “the Great Satan.”

One look at this picture and you immediately realize that this was an evil and manipulative man. I see the Face of Death and the bringer of pain, not a revolutionary who loves his people and country.

There is a theory that Khomeini was a British agent. That is the conclusion I reached after I found out that the BBC broadcasted his messages to the Iranian masses and that a MI6 journalist was on the plane with Khomeini when he landed in Iran after the Shah went into exile.

Many of the “world leaders” that appear in history and lead revolutions are actually puppets and assassins who belong to secret societies and intelligence agencies. According to The Guardian, British Intelligence recruited Benito Mussolini. Who knows how many more world leaders have been the creation of secret societies and powerful conspiracies.

Fritz Springmeier, author of the book, “Blood Lines of the Illuminati,” also believes Khomeini is MI6. He wrote in an article called, “To Love Or Hate – Know Your Enemy,”:

Of course, Islamic fundamentalism is a natural reaction to the modernization, secularization, and corruption that is accelerating in what is termed “the West” (European civilization). Such a strong reaction to the sinfulness of the West has taken place that the Sunni and Shiite fundamentalists are in full collaboration. Devout Christians who hold to wholesome family values, freedom from global corporate tyranny, and the destruction of communities are also having some similar “reactionary” reactions to the New World Order. Christian fundamentalists turn to the Bible and Biblical law, and the Moslem of course turns to the Koran and its Sharia (Islamic law). The trick of the elite is to harness those natural reactions to destroy their opposition. This is why both the Christian Patriot movement and the Islamic fundamentalists are infiltrated with agent provocateurs who will encourage both groups to run to their own destruction.

The fall of the West’s puppet Shah of Iran was actually not a surprise to the elite. They had decided to let him fall. He had been empowered by America’s CIA, and then abandoned when the time was ripe for a strong reaction. The man who replaced him, the Ayatollah Khomeini was British MI6. And tying together Saudi intelligence, Saddam Hussein’s intelligence and Egyptian intelligence (and previously the Shah’s CIA-led SAVAK) is a group called the Safari Club set up by French espionage. When you are aware of these kind of things, then you realize the insidious deceptive nature of this script. Different puppets, one script.

Springmeier’s account of history rings true. There is so much evidence and logic that backs up the thesis that Iran’s Islamic Revolution and Islamic Fundamentalism are both creations of Anglo-American intelligence agencies, elite secret societies, and private global conferences like the Bilderberg.

II. 5 Reasons Why The British and U.S. Governments Put Khomeini in Power

An anonymous author of a 2008 article called, “The Shah of Iran was toppled by the CIA and MI6?” lays out five reasons why the Shah was removed from power by Britain and America:
The Shah’s nationalist policies were making him more popular in Iran and making his country more independent and more powerful. This worried the CIA and MI6.

  1. The Shah bought land from the upper classes and, along with the crown’s own land, sold it back cheaply to tenant farmers. Over one a half million people to became land owners, thus ending the old feudal system.
  2. The Shah allowed women the right to vote. He brought an end to the wearing of the veil.
  3. He developed plans for a $90 billion nuclear power program.
  4. The Shah signed petroleum agreements with ENI, the Italian oil company.
  5. He began to close down the opium industry. This had been created during the days of British influence.Based on the research that is documented in the article above and other articles that are mentioned in this article, I have listed 5 reasons why Britain and America got rid of the Shah and brought Islamic fundamentalists to power in Iran.

1. Nuclear Power. The Shah was modernizing Iran in a significant way, and this had to be stopped. The Bilderberg and Club of Rome elite are notoriously anti-growth, and anti-economic development because keeping nations poor is the best way to control them. The British policy towards her colonies in Africa was based on under-development, keeping the people poor, and putting a tiny elite in power. This policy was also used against Iran.

2. Oil Production. The Shah’s decision to increase Iranian oil production angered U.S. oil companies and others who wanted to maintain artificial scarcity in the international oil market in order to keep prices high and make more profits.

Specifically, the Shah said that a couple of years before the Revolution he “heard from two different sources connected with the oil companies that the regime within Iran will change. . . If just in imagination, we believed that there was a plan that there must be less oil offered to the world market in order to make the price of oil go up, one country should have been the one chosen for this sacrifice.” (This quote is from an article called “Shah Retains Claim to Iranian Throne” that appeared in ‘The Fort Scott Tribute’ on January 18, 1980).

3. Opium Profits. The Shah took serious measures to stop the flow of opium into Iran, which greatly damaged British interests. The Rothschilds and London’s financial empire depend on the world opium trade to retain their power and influence.

4. Economic Threat of a Modern and Independent Iran to Interests of British-U.S. Elite. The Shah was building up Iran into a modern state by enriching the country and strengthening the middle class. He was not a perfect ruler, but he was not the tyrant that the West made him out to be.

The Shah’s original sin was siding with the U.S. and British against Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953. He should have known that if you make a deal with the devil and then spit in his face you will be treated accordingly.

But, this is not about one man or one nation. Nations around the world are treated like colonies by international banks and multinational corporations, including America. America and Iran have lived under puppet leaders for most of the 20th century.

When a true leader acts in the interest of his country and his people the elite secret societies get rid of him. They either kill the patriotic leader, like John F. Kennedy in 1963, or they instigate a revolution against him, like the Shah in 1979.

5. Create A Clash of Civilizations. The destruction of the modern world economy, the nation state, and the current world order are three stated objectives of the Anglo-American power elite. They have created an artificial conflict between Islam and the West to achieve all three objectives.

This global conflict came into being as a result of two world events. The first event was the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution which was the product of the MI6, CIA, Bilderberg Group, Club of Rome and other secret global organizations. The second event was the September 11 terrorist attacks that was orchestrated by the Mossad and the Anglo-American shadow government.

Iran was set up in 1979 as the representative of Islamic Civilization, and ever since then its extremist clerical oligarchy has used the language of Islam to pose as the leader of a resistance bloc to Western powers. Influential Iranian clerics are most likely in the fold of the same Western powers that turned Khomeini into “Time’s Person of the Year,” in 1979.

If we step back and look at history with our third eye we can see the larger global political game that is being played. The Hegelian dialectic is being used in the Middle East to bring about a third world war, a new world order and a global authoritarian government.

Thesis: America, Israel and Western Civilization.
Antithesis: Iran and Islamic Civilization.
Synthesis: Global Government and Global civilization.

III. The Elite’s Creation of Islamic Fundamentalism And The Clash of Civilizations

Radical Islam is used as a tool of Anglo-American-Israeli imperialism to create a new world order and a one world totalitarian state.

Israel provided financial and political support for Hamas in its early days to create an anti-Zionist resistance movement that spoke the language of violence and extremism instead of love and tolerance.

The CIA and MI6 have deep connections with the Muslim Brotherhood and use this alliance to silence democratic voices in Muslim countries and scare the people of the West about Islam’s agenda.

The fundamentalist Mullahs in Iran were used by the CIA and MI6 throughout the post-World War II years as attack dogs against the central government. By 1979 the clerical traitors proved themselves worthy and were given supreme power over the minds of the Iranian people.

The Taliban in Afghanistan were funded and trained by the CIA and Pakistani ISI. Osama Bin Laden was created by the CIA-MI6 network.

What is the basis of this intriguing relationship? Both the Islamic radicals and the anti-growth Western elite share the same goals: demodernization and war. Khomeini was told to turn back the clock, transform Iran into a medieval country, and brainwash a generation of youth into sacrificing themselves for Islam.

The Western elite love Islamic radicals who will sacrifice themselves for “Jihad” because they want depopulation. This sinister and cunning elite has created a fictional clash of civilizations to fire up the spirits of blind Muslim martyrs who falsely believe that they are resisting the masters of the world but they are playing right into their hands.

IV. Changing The Narrative About The Iranian Islamic Revolution

The narrative about the Iranian Islamic Revolution is that the Shah was a cruel despot who was taking orders from Washington and Khomeini was a transcendent revolutionary who liberated Iran from foreign rule. But this is a false narrative.

The historical record shows that the Shah was becoming more independent, and was acting in the national interest of Iran. His policies and disagreements over the opium trade, oil production and nuclear power angered the British and U.S. elite.

So the powerful forces began to get busy. They plotted not just a revolution, but a clash of civilizations. The BBC was a major tool that was used to create division in Iranian society, popularize anti-government protests, and give Khomeini a national voice.

Khomeini was a false prophet and an Islamic demon who was handed the throne of an ancient nation by foreign powers. He turned out to be more cruel and despotic than the Shah ever was in his 26-year rule.

I always wondered why the U.S. and other Western powers delivered arms to Iran in the 1980s if they considered the regime to be its enemy. Or why Khomeini decided to release the American hostages on the day that Reagan was declared the new president of America. Why give a victory to your enemy? It didn’t make any sense.

But, now I see that Khomeini was not an enemy, but a willful pawn of the U.S. and British elite. Like all tyrants, he wanted power, blood and war. And he wasn’t even a legitimate Ayatollah. A superior Ayatollah granted him Ayatollah status in 1963 to prevent his execution. He returned the favor in 1979 by putting him under house arrest and erasing the evidence of his gracious deed.

Khomeini was a mass hypnotist much like Barack Obama, George Bush, Adolf Hitler, Bibi Netanyahu and other modern political personalities who rise to the top in politics by brainwashing the masses.

Once the masses come under their hypnotic control they create false conflicts and wage wars in which millions of good men are misled and sacrificed.

Modern wars are fought as a means to build a global totalitarian state, make obscene profits for the military-industrial complex, put governments into debt to international banksters, and reduce the population.



US had extensive contact with Ayatollah Khomeini before Iran revolution

Documents seen by BBC suggest Carter administration paved way for Khomeini to return to Iran by holding the army back from launching a military coup

The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is welcomed at Tehran airport on 1 February 1979 on his return from exile in France.
The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is welcomed at Tehran airport on 1 February 1979 on his return from exile in France. Photograph: Gabriel Duval/AFP/Getty Images

This article is 1 year old





Saeed Kamali Dehghan in London and David Smith in Washington

Saturday 11 June 2016 04.25 AEST Last modified on Wednesday 1 February 2017 02.54 AEDT

Iranian leaders have reacted with fury to reports that newly declassified US diplomatic cables revealed extensive contacts between Ayatollah Khomeini and the Carter administration just weeks ahead of Iran’s Islamic revolution.

It was previously known that Ruhollah Khomeini, the charismatic leader of the Iranian revolution, had exchanged some messages with the US through an intermediary while living in exile in Paris. But new documents seen by the BBC’s Persian service show he went to a great lengths to ensure the Americans would not jeopardise his plans to return to Iran – and even personally wrote to US officials.

The BBC’s reporting suggests that the Carter administration took heed of Khomeini’s pledges, and in effect paved the way for his return by holding the Iranian army back from launching a military coup.

The BBC Persian service obtained a draft message Washington had prepared as a response to Khomeini, which welcomed the ayatollah’s direct communications, but was never sent.

The corporation also published a previously released but unnoticed declassified 1980 CIA analysis titled Islam in Iran, which shows Khomeini’s initial attempts to reach out to the US dated back to 1963, 16 years before the revolution.

The BBC’s reports have created a huge row in Iran: if true they would undermine the myth that Khomenei staunchly resisted any direct links with the US, which remained taboo for three decades until the recent nuclear negotiations.

Earlier this month, Khomeini’s successor, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, denied the report, saying it was based on “fabricated” documents.

Other Iranian politicians have also questioned the BBC’s revelations, including Ebrahim Yazdi, Khomeini’s spokesman and adviser at the time of the revolution, and Saeed Hajjarian, a reformist figure.

A declassified 1980 CIA analysis titled Islam in Iran, published by the BBC, says Ayatollah Khomeini had reached out to the US in 1963.
A declassified 1980 CIA analysis titled Islam in Iran, published by the BBC, says Ayatollah Khomeini had reached out to the US in 1963. Photograph: US Government

Two former White House advisers to Jimmy Carter, speaking to the Guardian, did not question the authenticity of the documents but denied that the US had abandoned the shah.

In contrast to his later tirades against the “Great Satan”, Khomeini’s messages to US officials just weeks before his return to Tehran appear to have been strikingly conciliatory.

“It is advisable that you recommend to the army not to follow [Shah’s prime minister Shapour] Bakhtiar,” Khomeini said in one message, according to the BBC. “You will see we are not in any particular animosity with the Americans.”

In another message sent via a US emissary written in the same month, he attempted to assuage American fears that their economic interests would be affected by a change of power in Iran: “There should be no fear about oil. It is not true that we wouldn’t sell to the US.”

Khomeini returned to Tehran on 1 February 1979, two weeks after the shah had fled Iran. The Iranian military, which was under US influence, soon surrendered, and within months Khomenei was declared the supreme leader of a new Islamic republic.

From hostage crisis to nuclear deal: prisoner and captor look back at the Iran-US cold war

Read more

Relations with the US were wary from the start, because America was closely identified with the shah’s regime, and links with Washington broke down completely in November 1979 when a group of students stormed the US embassy and took 52 diplomats hostage for 444 days.

But despite confrontational rhetoric on both sides, the revolution did not mark an end to direct talks between Iran and the US. The current president, Hassan Rouhani, is believed to have been involved in covert negotiations in which the US agreed to covertly ship arms to Tehran to secure the release of American hostages.

The 1980 CIA study says “in November 1963 Ayatollah Khomeini sent a message to the United States Government through [Tehran University professor] Haj Mirza Khalil Kamarei”, in which he explained “that he was not opposed to American interests in Iran” and that “on the contrary, he thought the American presence was necessary as a counterbalance to Soviet and possibly British influence”. Iranian leaders have vehemently denied that Khomeini ever sent such a message.

The Guardian did not have access to the newly declassified documents and was not able to independently verify them. The BBC published the CIA document, but has not published further documents. Most of them appear to be diplomatic cables from Paris and Tehran embassies containing Khomeini’s first-person messages, which the corporation said were in the public domain.

A billboard shows the founder of the Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
A billboard shows the founder of the Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Photograph: Behrouz Mehri/EPA

BBC Persian has not explained its decision not to publish those documents, which has not helped the scepticism among Iranian critics, but the reporter who broke the story, Kambiz Fattahi, answered questions by email.

“The documents clearly show that Khomeini was less heroic, and far craftier, behind the scenes,” Fattahi said. “He quietly courted the US government, making all kinds of promises about the future of core US interests in Iran.”

“The documents are significant because they show Khomeini’s legacy is complicated, as it involves the ayatollah courting two US presidents behind the scenes. They illustrate a pattern of behaviour – that Khomeini at critical moments during his long struggle for an Islamic republic, secretly engaged what he would call ‘the Great Satan’.”

Gary Sick, a member of the National Security Council staff during the period of the Iranian revolution, said “the documents are genuine” but to the best of his knowledge he never saw the CIA study about the 1963 contact, and had no knowledge of the alleged communication.

“As far as I can tell, assuming the report is accurate, the message from Khomeini to the US government had no effect on actual policy – either in the Kennedy administration or later. So I regard this as an anomaly,” he told the Guardian.

Sick said the US wanted to preserve the Iranian military as an institution and ensure that the transition would be orderly and not collapse into bloodshed and civil war, but said the talks with an American emissary in 1979 had little significance.

“The Khomeini forces were concerned that the Iranian military would launch a coup, which they definitely wanted to avoid at all costs. The US side tried to preserve the threat of a coup as a bargaining lever.”

Stuart Eizenstat, a former chief White House domestic policy adviser to Carter, said talks of the US abandoning the shah was “not historically accurate”. He said: “We did everything we could to keep the shah in power. There was no notion that we were trying to facilitate the Ayatollah coming into power.”

He also commented: “Ebrahim Yadzi, the first foreign minister under Khomeini, was making regular public statements on behalf of Ayatollah Khomeini saying this will be a tolerant democracy, nothing about an Islamic revolution. I believe that Yadzi believed that.”

Mark Toner, deputy spokesperson at the state department, was asked about Khomeini making contact with the Carter administration. “I apologise. I’m not – I’m not aware of that and I don’t have any updates to offer,” he said.

The Guardian also approached Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to Carter from 1977 to 1981. He declined an interview on the subject, but said “there were a lot of maneuvers by people at that time and I do not have any special information particularly on the Ayatollah and his role in it. Probably in some fashion there was some involvement but nothing specific that I can recall.”

Two Weeks in January: America’s secret engagement with Khomeini

By Kambiz Fattahi BBC Persian Service

On 27 January, 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – founder of Iran’s Islamic Republic, the man who called the United States “the Great Satan” – sent a secret message to Washington.

From his home in exile outside Paris, the defiant leader of the Iranian revolution effectively offered the Carter administration a deal: Iranian military leaders listen to you, he said, but the Iranian people follow my orders.

If President Jimmy Carter could use his influence on the military to clear the way for his takeover, Khomeini suggested, he would calm the nation. Stability could be restored, America’s interests and citizens in Iran would be protected.

At the time, the Iranian scene was chaotic. Protesters clashed with troops, shops were closed, public services suspended. Meanwhile, labour strikes had all but halted the flow of oil, jeopardising a vital Western interest.

Persuaded by Carter, Iran’s autocratic ruler, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, known as the Shah, had finally departed on a “vacation” abroad, leaving behind an unpopular prime minister and a military in disarray – a force of 400,000 men with heavy dependence on American arms and advice.

Khomeini feared the nervous military: its royalist top brass hated him. Even more worrying, they were having daily meetings with a US Air Force General by the name of Robert E Huyser, whom President Carter had sent on a mysterious mission to Tehran.

The ayatollah was determined to return to Iran after 15 years in exile and make the Shah’s “vacation” permanent. So he made a personal appeal. Image copyright Getty Images

In a first-person message, Khomeini told the White House not to panic at the prospect of losing a strategic ally of 37 years and assured them that he, too, would be a friend.

“You will see we are not in any particular animosity with the Americans,” said Khomeini, pledging his Islamic Republic will be “a humanitarian one, which will benefit the cause of peace and tranquillity for all mankind”.

Khomeini’s message is part of a trove of newly declassified US government documents – diplomatic cables, policy memos, meeting records – that tell the largely unknown story of America’s secret engagement with Khomeini, an enigmatic cleric who would soon inspire Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Americanism worldwide.

This story is a detailed account of how Khomeini brokered his return to Iran using a tone of deference and amenability towards the US that has never before been revealed.

The ayatollah’s message was, in fact, the culmination of two weeks of direct talks between his de facto chief of staff and a representative of the US government in France – a quiet process that helped pave the way for Khomeini’s safe return to Iran and rapid rise to power – and decades of high-stakes tension between Iran and America.

In the official Iranian narrative of the revolution, Khomeini bravely defied the United States and defeated “the Great Satan” in its desperate efforts to keep the Shah in power.

But the documents reveal that Khomeini was far more engaged with the US than either government has ever admitted. Far from defying America, the ayatollah courted the Carter administration, sending quiet signals that he wanted a dialogue and then portraying a potential Islamic Republic as amenable to US interests. Media captionKhomeini’s secret dialogue with ‘The Great Satan’

To this day, former Carter administration officials maintain that Washington – despite being sharply divided over the course of action – stood firm behind the Shah and his government.

But the documents show more nuanced US behaviour behind the scenes. Only two days after the Shah departed Tehran, the US told a Khomeini envoy that they were – in principle – open to the idea of changing the Iranian constitution, effectively abolishing the monarchy. And they gave the ayatollah a key piece of information – Iranian military leaders were flexible about their political future.

What transpired four decades ago between America and Khomeini is not just diplomatic history. The US desire to make deals with what it considers pragmatic elements within the Islamic Republic continues to this day. So does the staunchly anti-American legacy that Khomeini left for Iran.

Message to Kennedy

It wasn’t the first time Khomeini had reached out to Washington.

In 1963, the ayatollah was just emerging as a vocal critic of the Shah. In June, he gave a blistering speech, furious that the Shah, pressed hard by the Kennedy administration, had launched a “White Revolution” – a major land reform programme and granted women the vote. Image caption Iranian newspaper covering land reforms of the Shah and opponents being arrested

Khomeini was arrested. Immediately, three days of violent protests broke out, which the military put down swiftly.

A recently declassified CIA document reveals that, in November 1963, Khomeini sent a rare message of support to the Kennedy administration while being held under house arrest in Tehran.

It was a few days after a military firing squad executed two alleged organisers of the protests and ahead of a landmark visit by the Soviet head of state to Iran, which played into US fears of Iran tilting towards a friendlier relationship with the USSR. Image copyright National Archives Image caption President Kennedy (centre) and the Shah (left)

Khomeini wanted the Shah’s chief benefactor to understand that he had no quarrel with America.

“Khomeini explained he was not opposed to American interests in Iran,” according to a 1980 CIA analysis titled Islam in Iran, partially released to the public in 2008.

To the contrary, an American presence was necessary to counter the Soviet and British influence, Khomeini told the US.

The embassy cable containing the full text of Khomeini’s message remains classified.

It’s not clear if President Kennedy ever saw the message. Two weeks later, he would be assassinated in Texas.

A year later, Khomeini was expelled from Iran. He had launched a new attack on the Shah, this time over extending judicial immunity to US military personnel in Iran.

“The American president should know that he is the most hated person among our nation,” Khomeini declared, shortly before going into exile.

Fifteen years later, Khomeini would end up in Paris. He was now the leader of a movement on the verge of ridding Iran of its monarchy. So close to victory, the ayatollah still needed America.

Key players


Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – Shia Muslim religious leader, living in exile in Paris in early 1979

Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti – Khomeini’s second-in-command in Iran, a Shia cleric seen by the US as a pragmatist

Ebrahim Yazdi – Iranian-American physician living in Houston, Texas, who became a spokesman and advisor to Khomeini

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi – the last king of Iran, formerly backed by the US government

Shapour Bakhtiar – the Shah’s last prime minister

Carter administration

William Sullivan – the US ambassador to Iran

Cyrus Vance – US Secretary of State

Warren Zimmermann – a political counsellor with the US embassy in France, used as a messenger for the US to Khomeini

Robert E Huyser – an US Air Force general sent by Carter on a secretive mission to Tehran in January 1979

By January 1979, Khomeini had the momentum, but he also deeply feared a last-minute American intervention – a repetition of the 1953 coup, when the CIA had helped put the Shah back in power.

The situation became explosive after the Shah’s new prime minister, Shapour Bakhtiar, deployed troops and tanks to close the airport, disrupting Khomeini’s planned return in late January.

It seemed Iran was on the brink of a civil war: the elite Imperial Guard divisions were ready to fight to the death for their king; the die-hard followers of the Imam were ready for armed struggle and martyrdom.

The White House feared an Iranian civil war that would have major implications for US strategic interests. At stake were the lives of thousands of US military advisors; the security of sophisticated American weapons systems in Iran, such as F-14 jets; a vital flow of oil; and the future of the most important institution of power in Iran, the military.

It was less alarmed by the rise of Khomeini, and the downfall of the Shah. Image copyright National Archives Image caption President Carter and the Shah – before the Iranian revolution

But President Carter had previously rejected a proposal to cut a deal between Khomeini and the military.

On 9 November 1978, in a now-famous cable, “Thinking the Unthinkable,” the US ambassador to Iran, William Sullivan, warned that the Shah was doomed. He argued that Washington should get the Shah and his top generals out of Iran, and then make a deal between junior commanders and Khomeini.

Sullivan’s bold proposal caught President Carter off-guard, and caused their relationship to go sour.

But by early January, the reluctant president concluded that the Shah’s departure was necessary to calm the opposition.

Amid reports of an impending military coup, the president summoned his top advisors on 3 January. After a brief discussion, they decided to subtly encourage the Shah to leave, ostensibly for a vacation in California.

“A genuinely non-aligned Iran need not be viewed as a US setback,” the president said, according to minutes of the meeting. Image copyright National Archives Image caption Sullivan’s (right) attempt to get the US to consider removing support from the Shah in November 1978 soured his relationship with Carter

That day, Carter dispatched General Robert E Huyser, Deputy Commander of US Forces in Europe, to Tehran to tell the Shah’s generals to sit tight and “not jump into a coup” against Prime Minister Bakhtiar.

But Bakhtiar had no real support among the opposition, who called him the Shah’s agent.

Sullivan praised Bakhtiar’s courage to his face, but behind his back, told Washington that the man was “quixotic”, playing for high stakes, and would not take “guidance” from the US.

The state department saw his government as “not viable”. The White House strongly backed him in public, but in private, explored ousting him in a coup.

“The best that can result, in my view, is a military coup against Bakhtiar and then a deal struck between the military and Khomeini that finally pushes the Shah out of power,” wrote Deputy National Security Advisor David Aaron to his boss Zbigniew Brzezinski on 9 January 1979.

“Conceivably this deal could be struck without the military acting against Bakhtiar first,” he added.

Two days later, President Carter finally told the depressed and cancer-stricken Shah to “leave promptly”.

By then, a broad consensus had emerged within the US national security bureaucracy that they could do business with the ayatollah and his inner circle after all.

Khomeini had sent his own signals to Washington.

“There should be no fear about oil. It is not true that we wouldn’t sell to the US,” Khomeini told an American visitor in France on 5 January, urging him to convey his message to Washington. The visitor did, sharing the notes of the conversation with the US embassy.

In a key meeting at the White House Situation Room on 11 January, the CIA predicted that Khomeini would sit back and let his moderate, Western-educated followers and his second-in-command, Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, run the government.

Beheshti was considered by US officials to be a rare bird: a pragmatic, English-speaking cleric with a university education, experience of living in the West, and close ties to Khomeini. In short, he was someone with whom the Americans could reason.

“We would do a disservice to Khomeini to consider him simply as a symbol of segregated education and an opponent to women’s rights,” said the then-head of the State Department Intelligence Bureau, Philip Stoddard.

President Carter was relieved that General Huyser had now arrived in Tehran. Huyser was good at following orders, and had the confidence of the Iranian military leaders.

Once there, Huyser was tasked with taking the temperature of the military’s top brass and convincing them to “swallow their prestige” and go to a meeting with Beheshti. The US believed such a meeting would lead to a military “accommodation” with Khomeini.

To help break the stalemate, President Carter swallowed his own prestige. On the evening of 14 January, US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance sent a cable to US embassies in Paris and Tehran: “We have decided that it is desirable to establish a direct American channel to Khomeini’s entourage.” Image copyright National Archives Image caption Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and President Jimmy Carter

Secret meetings

Around noon on 15 January, political counsellor Warren Zimmermann of the US embassy in France arrived at a quiet inn at the small town of Neauphle-le-Château, outside Paris, where Khomeini lived. Zimmermann had borrowed his boss’s private Peugeot, which didn’t have diplomatic plates, to avoid being tracked.

“I go in and there was this large dining room empty except for this one guy sitting at a table, and that was Yazdi,” recalled Zimmermann years later in his oral history.

This was Khomeini’s de facto chief of staff, Ebrahim Yazdi, an Iranian-American physician.

A resident of Houston, Texas, Yazdi had already established ties with US officials in Washington through a former CIA operative who had turned into a liberal, anti-Shah scholar, Richard Cottam.

Establishing a direct link with Khomeini was a highly sensitive matter; if revealed, it would be interpreted as a shift in US policy, a clear signal to the entire world that Washington was dumping its old friend, the Shah.


Image caption A celebratory headline marking the Shah’s exit from Iran

1953: Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (the Shah) is restored to power after a US and British-backed coup overthrows the prime minister of Iran

1963: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini rises to prominence for denouncing the Shah

1964: Khomeini is arrested and expelled from Iran. He spends the next 15 years in Turkey and Iraq preaching against the Shah

15 January1979: Khomeini enters into a two-week dialogue from exile in France with the Carter administration

16 January 1979: The Shah flees Iran as the country inches towards civil war

1 February 1979: Khomeini returns to Tehran, where millions line the streets to welcome him as the leader of the Iranian revolution

Earlier in the day, Secretary Vance informed the French government that Washington urgently needed to be in direct contact with Khomeini’s group. The reason: to obtain Khomeini’s support for secret talks in Tehran between Beheshti, and the Shah’s military and intelligence chiefs.

Beheshti had met Sullivan, but out of security concerns, refused to meet with the Iranian generals. So, Washington finally appealed to Khomeini to tell his deputy to show some flexibility “in working out a site for the meeting”, wrote Vance.

A second meeting was quickly scheduled, and Zimmermann was told to pass along that the military had seriously discussed a coup plan upon the Shah’s departure, but General Huyser talked them out of it. The army would “remain calm during that period, provided troops are not provoked,” a cable from the US embassy in Tehran said.

On 17 January, President Carter wrote in his diary that he was pushing hard to keep Khomeini out of Iran. But the next day, his administration told Khomeini that it had no problem with his “orderly” homecoming.

The Carter administration began secret talks with Khomeini with the primary objective of making an elusive deal between the ayatollah and the military. It’s also possible that they wanted to slow down Khomeini’s momentum or read his intentions. But they ended up achieving none of those goals.

Khomeini wanted a decisive victory, not a deal. But a tactical engagement with Washington suited him well. Khomeini, in fact, had a set of key questions to determine Carter’s commitment to the Shah’s regime and the orientation of the Iranian military.

The ayatollah didn’t have to try very hard. America would easily reveal its hand.

‘Protect the constitution’?

By the third time Zimmermann and Yazdi met, they had good news for each other. It was the morning of 18 January 1979. The venue: the same quiet inn near Khomeini’s compound outside Paris.

Khomeini had authorized Beheshti to meet with the generals, Yazdi confirmed. And Zimmermann had an important clarification for the ayatollah.

During their second meeting, Washington had warned Khomeini that his “sudden return” would lead to a disaster, as the Iranian military might react “to protect the constitution” which stated in no uncertain terms that the constitutional monarchy was “unchangeable for eternity”.

But what did “to protect the constitution” mean? Did it mean preserving the institution of monarchy? Or saving the integrity of the military? Khomeini wanted a straight answer.

Put frankly, did the US think the Iranian military had given up on the Pahlavi regime and was “willing to work within the framework of a new democratic republic”?

It took two days for Washington to clarify. The answer, which was kept secret for 35 years, made clear to Khomeini that America was “flexible” about the Iranian political system.

Like most official statements, it began with generalities. The main point was put at the end.

“We do not say that the constitution cannot be changed, but we do believe that the established, orderly procedures for making changes should be followed.

“If the integrity of the army can be preserved, we believe there is every prospect the leadership will support whatever political form is selected for Iran in the future.”

In other words, Washington, in principle, was open to the idea of abolishing the monarchy, and the Shah’s military, whose top brass met daily with General Huyser, would be willing to accept such an outcome provided the process was gradual and controlled.

Khomeini’s biggest fear was that the all-powerful America was on the verge of staging a last-minute coup to save the Shah. Instead, he had just received a clear signal that the US considered the Shah finished, and in fact was looking for a face-saving way to protect the military and avoid a communist takeover.

As usual, Khomeini’s chief of staff “took copious notes” in Persian to be delivered to the ayatollah.

The American diplomat wanted to make sure that the Iranian envoy understood what exactly the message entailed.

“While Zimmermann did cite the points on the constitution in the paragraph, he called Yazdi’s primary attention to the last two sentences of it, which hopefully conveyed to Yazdi a sense of US flexibility on the constitution,” said the US ambassador in France to Washington in a separate cable.

The US had effectively told Khomeini that the military had lost its nerve. “These officers fear the unknown; they fear an uncharted future,” Zimmermann told Yazdi during the same meeting.

To Washington’s relief, the ayatollah pledged not to destroy the military. His emissary urged America not to pull its sophisticated weapons systems out of Iran.

Yazdi also clarified an Islamic Republic would make a distinction between Israel and its own Jewish residents – which had begun fleeing Iran in droves.

“You can tell the American Jews not to worry about the Jewish future in Iran,” he said.

Khomeini and Carter both wished to avoid a violent clash between the military and the opposition. But their aims were fundamentally different.

Carter wanted to preserve the military – which Sullivan once described as an unpredictable “wounded animal” – in order to use it as powerful leverage in the future.

But Khomeini wanted to trap the beast and finish it. The military was a long-term threat to his regime. Its decapitation and destruction was a top priority.

Washington had answered Khomeini’s questions about the future of the monarchy and the orientation of the military. Now, it was the ayatollah’s turn. The Carter administration wanted to know about the future of US core interests in Iran: American investments, oil flow, political-military relations, and views on the Soviet Union.

Khomeini answered the questions in writing the next day – sent back with Yazdi. Image caption Khomeini calls on Iranians to expand their protests – on the same day Zimmermann told Yazdi the military was flexible about its future

It was an artfully-crafted portrait of an Islamic Republic, mirroring what Carter had sketched at a conference of world leaders on Guadeloupe Island earlier that month: an Iran free of Soviet domination, neutral, if not friendly to America, one that would not export revolution, or cut oil flow to the West.

“We will sell our oil to whoever purchases it at a just price,” Khomeini wrote.

“The oil flow will continue after the establishment of the Islamic Republic, except for two countries: South Africa and Israel,” he added.

To develop the country, Iran needed the assistance of others, “in particular the Americans”, Khomeini wrote.

As for foreign investments, the US was likely to have a role. He implied that the Islamic Republic would be interested in buying tractors, not tanks, making it also clear that he had no “particular affinity” for the Russians.

“The Russian government is atheistic and anti-religion. We will definitely find it more difficult to have a deep understanding with the Russians,” Yazdi added to Zimmermann as he delivered the answers.

“You are Christians and believe in God and they don’t. We feel it easier to be closer to you than to Russians,” Yazdi said.

Khomeini also vowed not to destabilise the region.

“Non-interference in other people’s affairs”, he wrote, would be the policy of the future government.

The Islamic Republic, unlike the Shah’s regime, would not act as the policeman of the Gulf, but it would not get into the business of exporting the revolution either.

“We will not ask the people of Saudi, Kuwait, or Iraq to kick the foreigners out,” Khomeini wrote.

The chaos in Iran had alarmed most of Iran’s Arab neighbours, who feared that after the Shah’s downfall armed Marxist groups would take over. A CIA assessment concluded Arab conservatives found it hard to believe Khomeini or a regime associated with his ideas could be a lasting government in Iran.

But the ayatollah would soon eliminate all the Marxist groups that had supported his struggle. Before liquidating the left, Khomeini and his radical followers would push out the moderates, including Yazdi, on the grounds that they were pro-American and not real revolutionaries. Media caption‘He was the calmest person I’d ever met’: What the US knew about Iran’s Khomeini in early 1979

On 24 January, key members of the secret Islamic Revolutionary Council, including a cleric by the name of Ayatollah Mousavi Ardebili – the future Chief Justice of the Islamic Republic who would play a major role in the executions of thousands of political opponents – met with the US ambassador, William Sullivan.

The cleric seemed reasonable. He was a more forceful type, reported Sullivan to Washington, but “no fanatic”.

Three days later, Khomeini himself made a direct appeal to the White House.

“It is advisable that you recommend to the army not to follow Bakhtiar,” wrote Khomeini in his “first first-person” message on 27 January.

Khomeini, in effect, had three requests: smooth the way for his return, press the constitutional government to resign, and force the military to capitulate.

The ayatollah also included a subtle warning that if the army cracked down, his followers would direct their violence against US citizens in Iran.

Still, he made sure to end on a positive note, emphasising the urgent need for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

Cabled from the US embassy in France after being delivered by Yazdi, the message reached the highest levels of the US government.

In a phone conversation on 27 January, Defence Secretary Harold Brown told General Huyser about Khomeini’s secret message and his discussion with President Carter about it. Brown made it clear to Huyser that Khomeini’s return was a “tactical” matter that had to be left to the Iranian authorities.

The administration was pleased that the ayatollah had agreed to direct methods of communication and wished to continue the talks, according to the newly declassified version of Washington’s draft response to Khomeini.

The proposed response warned Khomeini against setting up his own government, stressing the crisis should be resolved through dialogue with the Iranian authorities.

The text was sent to the US embassy in Tehran for feedback, where it ended up on the shelf, never making it to Khomeini in France.

But it didn’t matter. Soon, the ayatollah would be on his way back to Iran.

Option C

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Khomeini aboard the plane that brought him back to Tehran in triumph

Washington had already tacitly agreed to a key part of Khomeini’s requests by telling the military leaders to stay put. General Huyser had told the military that Khomeini’s return alone did not itself constitute a sufficient cause for implementing “Option C”, a direct reference to the coup option.

On 29 January, Prime Minister Bakhtiar, under enormous domestic pressure, opened the Iranian airspace to Khomeini. Bakhtiar had fallen back to his plan B: Khomeini “should be drowned in mullahs” in the religious city of Qom near Tehran.

“This might make him more reasonable or at least less involved in political affairs,” he told the American ambassador, two weeks before being swept away by the Khomeini wave.

Two days before the ayatollah’s arrival, the Shah’s top commander had given specific assurances to Khomeini representatives that the military in principle was no longer opposed to political changes, including in “the cabinet”.

“Even changes in the constitution would be acceptable if done in accordance with constitutional law,” the US embassy was told by a reliable source in the Khomeini camp, according to a cable declassified in November 2013.

The American ambassador was pleased. “Sounds like military have come around to accepting Khomeini arrival and are prepared to cooperate with Islamic movement as long as constitutional norms be respected,” reported Sullivan to Washington. Image copyright Getty Images

Khomeini arrived at Tehran airport on the morning of 1 February, mobbed by thousands of supporters. In a few days, he had appointed a rival prime minister.

By then, the military had no fundamental problems with a change in the form of government, so long as change was done “legally and gradually”, a CIA report, only declassified in 2016, concluded on 5 February, 1979.

At this point, the army’s cohesion had significantly eroded. Many junior officers and conscript soldiers were now with Khomeini.

Soon a mutiny occurred in the air force. The opposition armed itself, and led by radical Marxist groups, attacked army bases and police stations across the capital.

The military leadership had no stomach for an all-out civil war. Behind the back of Bakhtiar, they convened an emergency meeting and declared neutrality. In effect, they surrendered. The Shah’s prime minister ran for his life.

The day Khomeini won his first revolution, President Carter wasn’t in Washington. Over the weekend, he had hit the slopes around Camp David. In the morning of Sunday, 11 February, Mr Carter and his Secretary of State were at a church, temporarily out of reach.

In their absence, the President’s National Security Advisor convened an emergency meeting at the White House Situation Room.

The once-powerful Iranian armed forces had disintegrated, but Brzezinski, who had been among the most pro-Shah voices in the Carter administration, was thinking of Option C, but he was told it wouldn’t be possible, given the state of the military. Image copyright National Archives Image caption Zbignew Brzezinski was among the staunchest Shah supporters in the Carter administration

Soon, General Huyser was connected to the Situation Room via a secure phone line from Europe. The general would soon face a barrage of public accusations that he went to Tehran to help neutralise the Shah’s military and pave the way for Khomeini’s victory, a charge that he strongly rejected. Most of his reports back to Washington remain classified.

But on 11 February, Huyser’s tone was slightly different, expressing no surprise that the military had taken themselves out of the equation.

“We have always urged the military to make deals,” said Huyser, according to the record of the phone conversation.

“They must have gone to [Mehdi] Bazargan directly,” he said, a moderate Islamist who had already been named Khomeini’s PM.

But all the concessions made by the military weren’t enough for Khomeini. On 15 February four senior military generals were summarily executed on the rooftop of a high school. It was just the beginning of a slew of executions.

Many have come to believe that that the Carter administration – plagued by intelligence failures and internal division – was by and large a passive observer to the rapid demise of the Shah.

But it’s now clear that, in the final stages of the crisis, America had in effect hedged its bet by keeping a firm foot in both camps in the hopes of a soft landing after the fall of the Shah’s regime.

But Carter’s gambit proved to be a massive blunder. The real danger was overlooked, Khomeini’s ambitions were underestimated, and his moves were misread.

Unlike Carter, Khomeini pursued a consistent strategy and played his hand masterfully. Guided by a clear vision of establishing an Islamic republic, the ayatollah engaged America with empty promises, understood its intentions, and marched toward victory.

Less than a year later, Khomeini – while holding the US Charge d’Affaires and dozens of other Americans during the Iranian hostage crisis – declared: “America can’t do a damn thing.”

He then celebrated the first anniversary of his victory with a major proclamation: Iran was going to fight American Imperialism worldwide.

“We will export our revolution to the entire world,” he said, once again asserting: “This is an Islamic revolution.”

A British assessment

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Sir Anthony Parsons in 1979

British ambassador to Iran Anthony Parsons wrote on 20 January 1979, that he had no doubt that the masses of people in Iran wanted “Khomeini’s prescription of an Islamic Republic”.

The problem was, Parsons explained, the military was not psychologically ready for the Khomeini package.

“The generals agreed to the Shah’s withdrawal and to support Bakhtiar on condition that the 1906 constitution including the monarchy was retained,” said Parsons in a cable declassified in November 2013.

“If a transition to a Khomeini dominated republic takes place within days of their attempting the Bakhtiar package, military might well try to react.”

The British Ambassador thought that the sooner Khomeini and the generals got together, and the military transferred their allegiance, the better the chances of saving the country.

Parsons’ frank assessment was also shared with the Carter administration.

US documents show that the cable was in fact on Vice President Walter Mondale’s desk on 27 January 1979 – the same day that Khomeini’s first-person message reached the White House.

Production, editing and additional research by Taylor Kate Brown, Jessica Lussenhop, Bill McKenna and Mat Morrison