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In April , then Conservative opposition leader, Margaret Thatcher, visited Tehran, and gave a speech to the Iran—British chamber of commerce. She said of the shah:. No other leader has given his country more dynamic leadership. But the record shows that Britain dropped its support for the shah before the revolution and sought to insure itself with the Iranian opposition, led by Khomeini. Once the latter was in power, Whitehall initially sought good relations with the Islamic regime, and connived with it, seeing it as a counter to the Soviet Union.

On 29 September the British ambassador, Anthony Parsons, met the shah and urged him to promise that elections would take place. Shariatmadari was in contact with the shah during most of through his private financial adviser; it appears that the British thought he would have some influence over the shah. Qotbzadeh was not a cleric but a member of the revolutionary Liberation Movement of Iran then allied with the religious forces in their task of overthrowing the shah.

On 10 October, Anthony Parsons had another long audience with the shah, emphasising British support for his regime, saying: By now, however, popular opposition to the regime was mounting, involving various nationalist and communist groups but whose most powerful element was the Islamic clergy. After a dispatch from Parsons in late October describing the unrest in Tehran, James Callaghan wrote: I think Dr Owen should start thinking about reinsuring! A little over a week later, however, Owen told a Cabinet meeting: By December, however, officials were saying that the survival of the shah was unlikely and that Iran seemed on the verge of a revolution.

Later that month, Foreign Office officials went further in arguing for Britain to switch its support to the Iranian opposition. Thus the British removed their support for the regime they had placed in power in On December 29, Foreign Office officials further proposed that Owen ask the Americans to press the shah not to impose a military crack down in the country which, Owen says, he refused — a further sign that officials, at least, were no longer prepared to back the shah.

I had taken a firm decision months earlier not to interfere with the BBC and was happy with this and felt we had this problem in its proper perspective. Along with the Americans, London refused to allow its onetime placeman political asylum in Britain. Khomeini appointed Mehdi Bazargan, a scholar jailed by the shah and the leader of the secular Liberation Movement of Iran, as prime minister in an interim government, but real power was concentrated in the Islamic Revolutionary Council dominated by fundamentalists loyal to Khomeini.

However, that month the new Iranian government cancelled some of the arms orders. But this did not stop the British from seeking to curry favour with the new regime.

The following month, an Islamic Republic was declared with a new constitution reflecting the ideals of the theocracy. Wright travelled under a false name to avoid any British public association with the deposed leader.

For his part, the shah later wrote in his autobiography: Britain vehemently protested against the embassy seizure, but two weeks into the crisis, when Thatcher was asked in parliament whether she would congratulate Egyptian President Sadat on offering the shah asylum, the prime minister failed to respond.

Moreover, Britain continued to arm and train the new Iranian regime: We wish the Iranians well in their search for the political system best suited to their needs.

By this time, it should be said, the nature of the Iranian regime was already apparent, not only in the taking of American hostages, but also in the numerous executions that were now taking place. Britain also saw radical Islam as a counter to the Soviets in Afghanistan, and British covert action against the Russian occupation had already been launched, as we see in the next chapter. Brzezinski met Prime Minister Bazargan in Algiers a few months later to advance the policy, but it was completely halted once the hostage crisis began in November.

Thatcher, however, continued to evoke the idea of Islamic Iran being a counter to the Soviets after the hostage crisis had begun. After initially collaborating with the Islamic regime, Tudeh withdrew its support in , criticising it for continuing the war with Iraq, which had begun in The regime then sought to suppress the Tudeh, imprisoning its leaders.

In October, MI6 and the CIA jointly decided to pass this list to the Iranians, in order to curry favour with the Iranian regime and reduce Soviet influence in a strategically important country. Dozens of alleged agents were subsequently executed and more than a thousand members of the Tudeh arrested, while the party was banned.

The Tudeh was effectively crushed, though later managed to reconstitute itself and operate as an underground movement. This episode showed that Britain was prepared to secretly collaborate with a ruthless Shia Islamist regime in pursuit of specific common interests — the repression of the Left — even though Iran was by now considered a strategic threat and overall anti-Western force.

This was also in line with long-standing British policy, reflecting British collaboration with Ayatollah Kashani in the coup planning against Musaddiq thirty years before.

Soon, Britain even re-started the export of major weapons to the Khomeini regime. Whitehall was clearly arming all sides against each other, another long-standing feature of policy in the region.

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