Iran–United States Relations - The 1979 Revolution

The 1979 Revolution

The 1979 Iranian Revolution, which ousted the pro-American Shah and replaced him with the anti-American Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, surprised the United States government, its State Department and intelligence services, which "consistently underestimated the magnitude and long-term implications of this unrest". Six months before the revolution culminated, the CIA had produced a report, stating that "Persia is not in a revolutionary or even a "prerevolutionary" situation"

Khomeini, who called America the "Great Satan", instantly got rid of the Shah’s prime minister and replaced him with a moderate politician called Mehdi Bazargan. Until this point, the Carter Administration was still hoping to renormalize its relationship with Iran, sending its National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, whilst not recognizing the new regime. Unfortunately, this idea was unconceivable towards the ordinary Iranians, resulting in massive anti-American and anti-Bazargan demonstrations and forcing him to resign.

The Islamic revolutionaries wished to extradite and execute the ousted Shah, and Carter refused to give him any further support or help return him to power. The Shah, suffering from cancer, requested entry into the United States for treatment. The American embassy in Tehran opposed the request, as they were intent on stabilizing relations between the new interim revolutionary government of Iran and the United States. However, President Carter agreed to let the Shah in, after pressure from Kissinger, Rockefeller and other pro-Shah political figures. Iranians’ suspicion that the Shah was actually trying to conspire against the Iranian Revolution grew; thus, this incident was often used by the Iranian revolutionaries to justify their claims that the former monarch was an American puppet, and this led to the storming of the American embassy by radical students allied with the Khomeini faction.

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