January 16th 1979 is the day the Shah escaped Iran; a scape which ended the Pahlavi’s dominion and released the people of Iran from the control of the world’s colonizing authorities. This was not the first time the Shah fled but if in 195, the US returned his puppet back to ruling...
Interview: Zahra Chizari
January 16th 1979 is the day the Shah escaped Iran; a scape which ended the Pahlavi’s dominion and released the people of Iran from the control of the world’s colonizing authorities. This was not the first time the Shah fled but if in 195, the US returned his puppet back to ruling the country, in 1979; neither the society accepted monarchy nor the Shah was able to confront the clamorous wave of the revolutionists who demanded the establishment of a modern political system with regard to Islamic laws and regulations and with the guidance of Imam Khomeini. The shah’s escape was a new beginning in the political, social, cultural life of the Iranian society. In an interview with Mozafar Shahedi, an expert in the field from the Iran contemporary history studies organization, we survey the Shah’s escape and the underlying events and the consequences of this incident in the revolution and its victory.
□Departure and in other words, escape of Mohammad Reza Shah on 16th January 1979, was his second escape from Iran; why did he return to his place after the first with the august 19th coup but that didn’t happen the second time and he was deprived of the supporting countries’ and governments’ patronage?
The reality is that there was great differences between the nature of events and Iran political and social incidents during the last years of 1940’s and the beginning of 1950’s which led to the august 19th coup and what happened in the final years of the Pahlavi regime’s life. It is true that we consider Mohammad Reza Shah among the internal and especially external enemies of the Iran nation in both periods, but in each of these two important and vital periods the nation of Iran pursued two different goals. In the last two or three years leading to the august 19th coup, the people of Iran pursued the oil nationalization plan and opposing the foreign colonizers. But the people’s uprising in 1977-1978, pursued a more major, bigger and more crucial goal of destructing the Pahlavi regime and establishing a new political system. Therefore in the first period, despite overt opposition of Shah against the people’s requests and his collaboration with the foreign countries which violated the Iranian people’s rights and interests (the US and England), all of the movements leaders (who had gradually arrived at a difference of opinion) did not follow a plan or goal towards possible eradication of the Pahlavi monarchy system.Not to mention that there was vast and serious disagreements with and criticisms of the Shah’s performance among various classes of society and there was even a relative tendency towards eradication of the current regime, but there was no clear or pre-determined plan or strategy regarding this matter. In fact if the coup leaders did not succeed in overthrowing Mosadegh’s government, it was not certain what would have happened to Mohammad Reza Shah who had fled abroad following the failure in the first coup (august 14th 1953), because basically the aim of the Iran national Front at that time was not to overthrow the Pahlavi regime and replace it with a new political system. But during the years 1978-1979, the Islamic Revolution of Iran nation (guided by Imam Khomeini) openly aimed at ruining the Pahlavi Royal System and establishment of a new political system based on Islamic laws and regulations. So from the beginning it was clear that the Iran Nation’s all increasing revolution has a more important role of eradicating the oppressing, reclusive, illegal and submissive regime of Pahlavi and also to confront the invasive countries supporting that dominion. Apart from all this, in both periods, of course the foreign supporters of the Pahlavi regime system did not spare any effort towards opposing Iran nation’s requests and supporting Mohammad Reza Shah’s dominion. But because of many reasons, Iran National movement was ill-fated during the first years of the 1950’s but the Islamic Revolution of Iran nation in 1977 and 1978 succeeded and despite complete support of the foreign countries, which also continued years after the definite overthrow of the Pahlavi regime, this time the conspiracies of the internal opponents and the foreign enemies to return the Shah failed.
□What were the people and Imam Khomeini’s role in the Shah’s not returning to the country after the second escape?
Without a doubt, the people of Iran and the leadership of the ever increasing Islamic revolution had a definitive and irreplaceable role in the Shah’s flee (on January 16th 1979) and prevention of his return to the country. When the Shah left the country there were many documents and reasons that showed Iran Islamic Revolution would succeed in the near future and the internal and especially the externalsupporters of the Shah and the whole Pahlavi Imperial System were not able to save the regime from destruction despite all the overt and covert preventive efforts. In that sensitive and crucial period, in addition to the people’s increasing resistance and tolerance against final efforts of the dominion and its foreign supporters, Iran Revolution benefitted from smart, brave and much decisive and irreconcilable guidance of Imam Khomeini who followed and guided all the changes and events of the revolution and adopted distinct, explanatory, flawless positions regarding advancement of its goals and made exact and multilateral decisions. Having faith, trust, submission and abidance in the leader’s orders and his political and social views, in addition to guide the revolution’s movement in a determined framework, also prevented the success of efforts of internal supporters and agents of the dominion and also the foreign countries’ plans for controlling the revolution and finding ways to save the Shah from definite falling and returning him to the country. We must not forget that especially the Americans and their English allies searched for a way to return the Shah until its final and definite plunge. In between the American government still planned a military coup in Iran like what happened in 1953from long before the Shah’s departure until days after the Islamic Revolution’s success which was defeated by the leader’s intimate and close alertness, resistance and tolerance and all the Iran nation.
□Can we say that the US and the West did not support the Shah because his time was up and that he wasn’t of much use to them as an agent in Iran and the Middle East?
No, as I mentioned in the previous question, the US and the west never stopped supporting the Pahlavi regime and Mohammad Reza Shah and even long after his final collapse and the Islamic revolution’svictory continued their plots against Iran Nation’s revolution. The Shah was always the most valuable and efficient ally for the US and the West in the region until the end of his reign and played an important, singular role in providing the political, military, economic, intelligence and security interests and requests and so the West and the US, who clearly realized the fall of this useful, valued ally will cause devastation for their interests and desires, did not spare any illegal and interfering effort in preventing the occurrence of the Islamic Revolution. In this way the Shah never expired for the US and the West until the end of his time and accordingly these countries supported their ally in an ever increasing way.
□What incidents led to this escape?
Many people who knew the Shah have emphasized that he was a coward man and was not able to confront the political and social hardships and crises. Even months before his escape of no return he had told his associates that if the conditions persist and the revolution is not managed he would leave the country. So unlike his appearance he was a timid, cowardly person. The continuance ofincreasing revolutionary actions during summer and fall of 1978 had left him discouraged and in despair regarding the conversions in the country such that despite being supported by the US and England, he doubted the leaders of these countries regarding the future of his presence at the peak of power. It was said that the Shah who had lost the power to logically decide and was severely confused, had prepared himself to flee the country in the first possible chance and leave the political and social chaotic condition of the country and if it wasn’t for his associates’ persistence and request and also his foreign supporters, he would have started his escape-like departure long before that. Because it was assumed that whenever the hah leaves the country his supporters in the army and security forces would lose their power of resistance against the revolutionists. In addition, from the middle of fall 1978 onwards when the subject of premiership of some of the loyal critical figures of the regime was raised and in the meantime among some pro-government circles spoke of the necessity of the Shah’s departure which could, in their opinion, provide more freedom for the authorities in controlling the revolution crisis and strengthen the Pahlavi regime’s position; but Shah’s suspicion towards the people who could facilitate his eradication in his absence prevented the thought of his leaving the country. Even though with further expansion of the revolution crisis and despair of the internal and foreign supporters regarding marshal Gholamreza Azhari’s government, the plan of establishing Shapour Bakhtiar’s government strengthened and quite hastily the Shah was forced to accept Bakhtiar’s condition’s for statesmanship. This time he seriously prepared for departure which of course was requested by the new prime minister. Of course this escape-like departure may have had more important reasons too.
□What important reasons?
From long before, the Americans were investigating the plan for a military coup in Iran, like what happened in 1953 and that was the reason why the American General Huyser had secretly entered Iran and was investigating and evaluating ways to manage and employ the US government which could have been the last solution against Iran nation’s revolution. The evidence available show that the Shah received messages and assurances in this regard from American intelligence-military and political circles and he was probably hopeful that his American supporters would find a way to save the monarchy, even at the last minutes and the experience he had on August 1953 could have elevated his hopes! So the Shah left the country with a kind of fear and concern and maybe hope that his foreign supporters would miraculously save his throne.
□According to the atmosphere in the society and spread of revolutionary air among people, what would have happened to the Shah if he did not escape?
Although we don’t have an exact answer to this question but according to evidence and documents, the Shah’s presence could not have saved the Pahlavi regime from his doom brought upon him by the revolutionists guided by Imam Khomeini although it may have postponed the victory of the Islamic Revolution. Even though, the political and social events at the time of his presence in the country was indicative of the fact that the more time goes on the dominion’s status against the opposition becomes more vulnerable and unstable but for sure it could not prevent the downfall of the Pahlavi regime. Even so, with regard to the Shah’s background and his characteristic and mental features there is no evidence to prove that he was brave enough to resist the definite downfall of the regime against the revolutionists and stay in the country.
□How did the Shah’s escape facilitate the process of Islamic Revolution’s victory?
Although the Shah’s foreign supporters still continued their extensive protection and patronage of the Pahlavi regime and especially the Americans were determined to save the Shah even through a coup which meant the loss of political, security economic and military interests in Iran and the region but in fact the Shah’s departure facilitated and accelerated the process of the Pahlavi regime’s breakup and the victory of the Islamic Revolution. Also in the camp of internal supporters of the dominion an increasing instability had occurred which had doubled hopelessness and despair towards the future of the dying power. But the many revolutionists became more hopeful under Imam Khomeini’s control,especially that Imam Khomeini announced he will leave France and return to Iran following the Shah’s escape. In such circumstances, despite all efforts to calm the political and social atmosphere of the country Bakhtiar’s government soon disappointed the supporters of the Pahlavi regime and it became more clear that the revolutionists do not consider his vows, threats, fuss and boasts and brags and are quickly preparing to welcome the legendary leader of the revolution. Although during Bakhtiar’s reign, suppression and the number of victims among the revolutionists had increased but the events during the thirty-something days leading to victory of the revolution passed so quickly and the revolutionists (guided by Imam Khomeini) took control of the current and transmittable events and transformations such that not Bakhtiar’s government nor the other supporters of the regime in the country and not even the foreign supporters were able to act on anything and so inevitably surrendered against the Iran nation’s willpower.
□Why wasn’t Bakhtiar able to extinguish the revolution’s fever as the Shah’s last resort and why did the people not accept Bakhtiar although he was from the members of the National Front and apparently opposed the Shah?
Actually when Bakhtiar became prime minister (on the verge of Shah’s departure) the people who closely followed Iran’s events and transformations had no hope of the possibility of the Pahlavi regime’s redemption and control of the current revolutionary movements. So at the beginning of Bakhtiar’s premiership, the Pahlavi regime was faced with a dead end and the presence of Bakhtiar at the peak of power was somehow a wild shot for the Shah’s supporters. Meanwhile, Imam Khomeini quickly reacted to Bakhtiar’s premiership and warned the nation to not be indifferent towards the dominion and its foreign supporters’ new trick and resist the regime more strongly and conquer the last barracks of oppression and their foreign allies. In fact the intelligent leadership of Imam Khomeini had a decisive role in faster breakup process of the present system. In addition, at that time Bakhtiar had no place among the nation and even the leaders and members of the National Front (who were not notable among the revolutionists and were only accepted among people due to their obedience from Imam Khomeini) expelled him from the National Front due to his acceptance of premiership. Explaining that Bakhtiar was among the faithful critics of the Pahlavi regime and intended to save the regime from definite downfall and victory of the Islamic Revolution through accepting premiership. Therefore, the irreconcilable revolutionists, guided by Imam Khomeini, who did not follow any goal other than swiping the tyrannous, inhumane, illegal and submissive regime of Pahlavi and replace it with a modern system based on Islamic-Shiite rules, regulations and doctrines. So it was obvious that they could not agree to Bakhtiar’s premiership. As we all know, Imam Khomeini entered the country only 16 days after Shah’s departure and on February 1st 1979 and after ten days on 11th February 1979 the Islamic Revolution of Iran nation succeeded and the Pahlavi regime capsized and a new era in the Iranian society’s political, social and cultural life began…