Just did a refresher study on the exile and last year of the (second) shah of Iran. Was specifically interested in it’s effects on U.S. relations and global stability then and now.
As we already know, Great Britain and the the United States through the CIA with a little help from France perpetrate a coup d’etat in 1953 to topple the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, who had run on a platform of not giving away Iranian oil to Great Britain at below market costs anymore. These three western powers then reinstall the Shah of Iran’s son into power and reinstate monarchic rule in iran. Just what the Iranian people wanted. NOT. Great Britain, France and the US form a new big oil conglomerate from all this free oil they’re about to come into and call it BP, British Petroleum. In exchange they will prop up and support the monarchy in Iran militarily against the wishes of the people and keep down any revolts.
And so begins a renewed relatively stable alliance between Iran and western nations. Iran becomes more and more westernized. Brits move there in droves to run the oil plants. Iranian kids go to British schools and learn English. Highways and streets in Tehran are renamed Eisenhower Boulevard and Kennedy Street.
After a few decades of watching the so called “royals”, elites and western nations blow through all their wealth and natural resources the Iranian people begin to get angry. Like revolution angry. It’s the 1970s. The situation is not helped by the fact that a well educated and well spoken radical Islamic cleric named Khomeini is constantly preaching revolution from exile in France, encouraging the people to rise up against western domination. Protests in the streets begin, calling for an “end to control by America”.
In the late 70s, the presidents of the United States, Great Britain, France and Germany secretly meet in Guadalupe to discuss what they’re going to do about the Shah because their oil contracts are soon to expire and they don’t want to start paying more. Do they depose the Shah? Take him out? Support him and squash the protests and use their support to bargain their prices low for another 50 years? Before they can decide they’re informed that the Shah has cancer from one of their informants. Ah hah! Perfect! Let’s not support him during these turbulent times, we’ll force him into exile and put someone else in power who will give us even more control and lower oil prices.
It’s getting dangerous for the Shah now. He calls his US and British allies to ask for help and they inform him they won’t be able to help him. He should leave if he has to. So he does. First to Egypt. Then Morocco. Then the Bahamas. Then Mexico. By now Khomeini has returned to Iran as a revolutionary hero. Promising an end to monarchy, western rule and a return to democracy. He very quickly kills everyone ever employed by the shah’s government and names himself Supreme Leader for Life. He obviously had watched Star Wars one too many times.
By now the Shah is very sick. In his defense, US president Carter, though he ruthlessly betrayed his ally for his country’s selfish gain, did want to help the Shah in his illness. But the Iranian people were not going to tolerate the US harboring the Shah, healing his illness and then reinstating him again in a year or two. So they stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took a bunch of American hostages and demanded the Shah return to face trial and a return of all the Iranian assets that the Federal Reserve, the US Treasury, American banks and American corporations had seized during the protests. (Some of this money was eventually returned to Iran by US president Barack Obama 40 years later, who also acknowledged and apologized for the 1953 coup, which is what created the current mess the Iranian people are still in today.)
President Carter at this point just wants those American hostages back. He realizes he made a huge mistake by ousting the Shah and allowing this Islamic cleric Khomeini to waltz in and take over Iran. But he cant get enough of his colleagues to agree to give Iran all their assets back. So the hostages are stuck as pawns there in a dangerous political game. The Rockefellers, who are holding billions of Iranian assets in their banks, don’t want to let go of all that money but they do offer to provide doctors and medical support to try to save the Shah’s life. So they secretly fly him to New York. An operation is performed. It’s botched. He gets sicker. They then become fearful the American hostages will be endangered if they continue to help the Shah. So they fly him to Texas and then force him on Panama, using the recently completed Panama Canal deal as a bargaining chip. But Panama too is afraid of retaliation by this crazy mad Khomeini. So they cut a secret deal with Khomeini to extradite the Shah back to Iran to stand trial and be executed.
But Egypt’s Sadat swoops In to rescue his old friend and offers him sanctuary in Egypt. So off they fly to Egypt. The Carter administration calls Khomeini and says “we’ve put the Shah on a CIA plane to Egypt. We’ll trade you the Shah for our hostages. Do what you want with him.” Obviously getting cheap oil is no longer a priority. And neither is loyalty to longtime allies.
The US suddenly brings the plane down on some Portuguese islands in order to secretly hand the Shah over to Iran without telling him (they tell him they have to refuel. They dont), but Khomeini doesn’t trust the U.S. so the deal gets broken at the last minute. The Shah ends up back in Egypt. He very soon dies from complications from his botched American surgeries. The Ayatollah Khomeini does eventually release the American hostages but waits to do it until Carter is ousted from Washington just to twist the knife a little and make his point clear.
He believes he may have found at least a frenemy in new US president Ronald Reagan, who very soon will militarily and financially support a newly American installed ruthless dictator in Iraq named Hussein who is immediately and secretly ordered by the US to attack and overtake Iran. Which he does. In the 8 year Iran-Iraq war. Of course, Reagan, not wanting to play favorites also secretly supports Iran by supplying them with weapons of war to kill the Iraqis, assuming that no matter who wins they’ll just become their ally and help them get rid of the other guy. They both have plenty of oil after all.
Eventually this plan backfires as both countries begin to realize that neither of them want to be subservient lapdogs of the wicked western imperialists. The US eventually takes Iraq out 20 years later. Along with a few other pesky Muslim nations. Only Iran remains, steadfast in their desire for self deterministic rule and autonomy, albeit under excruciatingly unhappy circumstances under a brutal authoritarian rule.
There’s more to the story. There always is. But it all goes back to ‘53 and ‘79. American greed, selfishness,
very poor judgment and ill advised strategy. And here we all are. Happy days.