It was in February 1979 that Shah Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi was ousted by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran. It was the beginning of the Islamic revolution, wherein Britain played a great role in bringing Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in power.
Pahlavi had reigned for 38 years and when he was ousted, he raged “If you lift up Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s beard, you’ll find ‘MADE IN ENGLAND’ written on his chin.”
Oddly, Pahlavi had become the leader of Iran in 1953 by an Anglo-American Coup. Allegedly, he too might have ‘Made in Britain’ written under his long beard. Pahlavi was also a strong ally of the United Kingdom, supporting many British regimes in the Gulf, supplying them with arms and crude oil. Margaret Thatcher, then-British opposition leader, supported Pahlavi, calling him far-sighted and saying his transformation of an ‘ancient land’ was impressive.
It may well have been about business interests, money and power play. After Pahlavi was put into power by the Anglos, David Owen, the Labour Foreign Secretary signed off a huge shipment of arms, supplying SAVAK – Pahlavi’s internal security force.
This huge shipment helped the brutal crackdown of protests, those that led to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini gaining power. Britain had a history of backing and supporting extreme Islamic factions, to protect their own business and regional interests and if you follow the route of arms and ammunition, it very often leads to personal interests.
Looking back at Sayyed Kashani, another Iranian Ayatollah, who helped get Pahlavi into power. This was funded and organized by M16. And it also appears in a 1978 memo that although then British PM James Callaghan publicly said ‘he didn’t think the Shah had a big chance’, privately there was plotting to help him gain power.
Britain was keen to see leaders into power that worked for them. By 1978 it was clear their money was on Khomeini. And while there is no actual documentation to say Britain was supporting Khomeini, they were clearly pro-leader. BBC dubbed their Persian service, the Ayatollah BBC.
The Ayatollah BBC was the only radio station to cover Iranian politics and events as even the Iranian networks were shut down. The service was certainly partial in reporting, often overstepping the line, a platform given to the pro-Shah supporters.