Once Upon a Time In Iran

When I was a teenager, Iran was a moderate country where women had equal rights. It was the most modern and developed country in the Islamic world. And a powerful ally of the United States. Which is something the leftists hated because it allowed us to have military bases on the doorstep of Russia. The Soviets and their useful idiot allies in the US wanted that to end. And Islamists were nothing but background noise in those days, but a radical cleric named Ayatollah Seyyed Ruhollah Khomeini was living in exile in Paris and wanted to come home and start a revolution. What kept him from doing that was a payoff he was getting every year from the US Government. A mere $75 grand. But he continued to send out messages to his followers back home and a movement was building to over throw the Shah of Iran, whom the US helped install in power decades before.

The Shah has been vilified by the left as well as the Islamists, but when he ran the country it was prosperous and the people were much freer than they are now. The kind of barbaric stoning of adulterers and the executions of homosexuals weren’t happening. Women didn’t have to wear veils or head scarves. In fact, when I was in the Air Force, Iranians trained their pilots at Lackland Air Force base in Texas, where the USAF trains its people. I used to watch them marching on the base. Rather surreal considering what happened a few years later.

President Carter cut off the money that went to Khomeini, and Khomeini was soon causing trouble in Iran. Carter betrayed the Shah and even told his generals not to fight the Islamists who were taking over. So they didn’t and were soon executed.

The new regime wanted to show the world they meant business, so they had students (who were a major part of the revolutionary force) capture the American embassy and hold everyone hostage inside. 52 Americans were held for 444 days. They were released in the very hour that the next president, Ronald Reagan, was sworn in.

But in the time between we saw a vacillating, weak president in Jimmy Carter who helped make America feel impotent and powerless. His act of betraying the Shah and cutting off the payoff to Khomeini was the start of what has now become the war on terror. It is unlikely we would have so many problems with the middle east, the Iraq war and so on, if not for Carter and his weak and foolish presidency. He betrayed one of America’s important allies and we are still feeling the repercussions today.

But, for those of you were are too young to remember, or who weren’t even alive then, yes, America once had a good ally in Iran. They were a moderate, “progressive” nation. And thanks to America’s left, we have a nightmare in its place. This is what happens when you have presidents who don’t know what they’re doing.

UPDATE: You can find interviews with the Shah on Youtube, like this clip from 60 Minutes. Man, is Wallace a creepy asshole or what? He tries to provoke the Shah with some bureaucrats assessment of him. The Shah was not a perfect man by any means, but he was ten times the man most leaders of today are. And certainly Carter and his modern imitator. I like the bogus arguments like when Iran runs out of it’s oil in two decades. Three decades later, they are still a major oil producer with no signs of running out

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  1. Wow. Excellent historical analysis James. Thank you for sharing this for those too young to remember or know much about the pertinent details. I was just telling my 10 year old son this very story in my own words and recollection last night at the dinner table. I was 9 years old when it happened. I didn’t understand much about what my father was ranting and raving about at the time but I remember the images on TV of the hostage crisis and remember distinctly my father’s reaction of adulation when Reagan stepped in and immediately handled the situation with impeccable leadership and seemingly the Hand of God by his side.

  2. A good friend of my family was a directional drilling engineer at that time, one of the few in the world. So he got flown all over to do training and solve problems. He was stationed in Tehran in the middle 70s and it was the favorite place he ever stayed. He described it as the “Paris of the Middle East.” He said there was a wide boulevard running through the city with universities, cafes, bookstores and such all along both sides, and flocks of gorgeous Persian coeds everywhere, in miniskirts. English fluency was widespread and high, and he participated in plenty of late-night bull sessions that changed into parties, with the (technically banned, but tolerated) alcohol flowing.
    He said the down side was the Shah vacuuming up a lot of the GDP, but he was shrewd enough to leave enough to keep the economy growing. And as long as you kept you opinion of the Shah to yourself, the notorious secret police let most things slide. Unquestionably, the Shah was a monarch/dictator, but the country was slowly moving in the right direction.
    He also told me that he (along with others from Schlumberger who were stationed there) was surprised to discover Persians aren’t Arabs, but Caucasians. He said about 1 in 2 of the single guys stationed there went back to Canada with a Iranian wife – generally highly educated and with the looks of a model.
    But I guess the Iranians are better off now, huh?

  3. The Shah was the way he was because he had Marxists trying to over throw the government, funded by the Soviets and Mullahs who wanted him out because they said he was a European puppet. His big problems started when the CIA deposed his prime minister,m who nationalized the oil industry and kicked the British out. He was a socialist. The Shah didn’t allow any more prime ministers after that.

    I remember all the rhetoric about him at the time, and it’s obvious in hindsight that was all from the communists and Mullahs who each wanted to take the place over. It was a jewel to be plucked. And Carter threw him under the bus.

    The Shah did things like take land away from the Mullahs who had lots and gave it to the peasants. Must have made him rally popular with the Islamists.

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