John R. Houk
© January 6, 2010
The deposed Shah Reza Pahlavi of Iran was a brutal ruler that did use secret police and torture in engaging critics and potential rivals to his reign as the Shah of Iran. So I started with the bad news. Here was the good news about the Shah.
The Shah was a staunch supporter of America in the Middle East. The Shah made great inroads in secularizing Iran moving toward a scale similar to secular Turkey. The Shah was intensely anti-Communist and therefore anti-Soviet Union which borders Iran to the north. The Shah had a very competent military well supplied by the USA. The Shah’s Iran traded in petroleum with the USA generously. The Shah’s military was a regional power to reckon with in the Middle East. Did I mention the Shah’s Iran was extremely committed in alliance to the USA?
So why did the USA allow the Shah to get the boot from his nation and replaced by an immensely anti-American radical Shi’ite Muslim leader who sought his interpretation of a return to the tenets of Mohammed and Sharia Law?
There are some considerations to think of. The Shah was deposed in 1979. In the early ‘70’s America was disengaging from the war in Vietnam. The Vietnamese War, from America’s perspective, was a domino stacked next to other dominoes threatened by Communist China, North Vietnam and to some extant North Korea. One could call the three nations the triumvirate of evil in East Asia. The Communist ideology of the day was still to bring Communist Revolution to the world to terminate Capitalism, individual Liberty and individual Freedom. Although Communism called for a Stateless society the reality was a handful people ascended to power with perhaps one of them being a demagogue. This oligarchical collection of leaders ostensibly were leading the proletariat to Communist utopia via a transformation of society that if need be must be reshaped by violent purging. The reality was this oligarchical leadership was brutal, genocidal and was only concerned in making the people fear the State government to aggregate personal power.
South Vietnam’s collapse toward Ho Chi Minh’s North Vietnam was highly against America’s National Interest in diminishing the tentacles of global Communism which aimed to terminate America. The unfortunate problem for this domino - South Vietnam - was in the snare of a corrupt government interspersed with greedy ruling elites and generals. South Vietnamese people may not have chosen of a life under a Maoist Marxist dictator State; however the South Vietnamese south that the Communist North was not managed by corruption and greed. Rather even with the hand of brutality, society was managed with efficiency and fairness as long as people did not question the directives of the Communist State. The South Vietnamese people by contrast saw their government operate via the operation of corruption, greed and bribery. Unlawful crime operated as if it was a taxed corporation by the South Vietnamese government. People were treated unjustly and so on. Thus only the smart South Vietnamese people that realized that a Communist rule of law was an oppressive State-think regime stood by the South Vietnamese government viewed as the lesser of two evils. On the other hand a significant amount of South Vietnamese people viewed competent governance better than the American propped up corrupt South Vietnamese government.
The result was the only way America could enable South Vietnam to win was to actually take over the operation of its government and employ a WWII type strategy of winner takes all. The beginning of political correctness and the unpopularity of the American eligible youth with war placed a strangle hold on an all out winning strategy. Instead, America suffered under the delusion that American training would bring Democratic principles to South Vietnam much as had been the case in South Korea.
The reality of an unpopular and untenable government combined with the lack of the correct strategy to win led to the realization that the lack of the full support of the South Vietnamese people would end badly for America. Enter Kissinger to hammer out a diplomacy in which America would withdraw from the South with a false promise from the North to hold up on any invasion plans of the South.
The South Vietnamese domino fell. Then Cambodia and then Laos both fell to the reign of Communism. I believe there was an effort to bring Communism to Thailand, but there was popular support for the Thai monarchy and the Thai military was competent enough to keep Communist guerillas from gaining a toe hold.
As a side note I have to mention that the Pol Pot Communist regime of Cambodia resulted in what has became known as the Killing Fields genocide in which millions of the educated were murdered to make way for the Communist transformation to a Marxist utopia.
What does all this have to do with America withdrawing support from the Shah?
The Shah was Westernizing Iran. Iranians hated the Shah’s despotism and secret police; however after 30 years of Mullah theocratic rule which has been even more brutal than the Shah’s regime, I am guessing many Iranians are looking to the good old days of a more open society as opposed the current harsh penalties of Sharia Law. Ruhollah Khomeini kind of took the same path as Communist Revolutionaries in eradicating the advances put in place by the Shah. The military and the Western oriented intelligentsia were purged typically by torture and murder. After the purge Khomeini became so high on the Iranian pedestal I would not be surprised if Clerics thought of pushing him into the image of the Mahdi.
What was behind the deposing of the Shah of Iran? American Leftists who viewed the Shah’s reign as despotic and oppressive – which it was. Unfortunately Leftist illusions of utopianism saw an opportunity of an Iranian folk hero in Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini must be a better state of existence for the Iranian people than the Shah’s Western oriented despotism, right? Well, the elapse of history has shown that Leftist utopian thinking is an illusion. Before American Leftists weigh in on a regime change from a stalwart American ally to a person that is/was popular in the mind of Iranians, they should have counted the possible negative consequences for that regime change. Thirty years later the American abandoning of the Shah of Iran in favor of Ayatollah Khomeini resulted in a dangerous enemy to American National Security and the oppressed people of Iran.
Who was the American Leftist that got the ball rolling on deposing the Shah rather than push for reforms in Iran? It was the then President Jimmy Carter the current friend of Islamic terrorists like Hamas.
I have no doubt the Shah would have been ousted no matter the choices of President Carter; however Carter’s total abandonment of the situation in Iran to the favor of a Twelver Shi’ite Ayatollah has set the stage for what well may be WWIII (or WWIV if one counts the Cold War as a global war). Carter could have made numerous choices for Iran that may have resulted in the abdication of Shah Reza Pahlavi and a replacement with an heir under the tutelage of a Regent more sympathetic to the Iranian people in the sense of ending brutal rule. The new ruler could have instituted a rule of law that continued the modernization of Iran toward a similarity of a Turkish Secular Republic rather than succumbing to the theocratic rule of extreme Sharia Law as interpreted by Shi’ite Twelver Sharia Law and directed by the inhuman Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The former ally of America Iran is about to develop a nuclear warhead that could be attached to already Iranian developed Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles capable of long distances. The Iran that recognized Israel as a nation under the Shah has saber rattled that Israel should be wiped off the map. This Iran, formerly on friendly terms with both America and Israel, supplies sophisticated weaponry to Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist organizations to enable Iran’s goal of wiping Israel off the map.
Here is a thank you former President Jimmy Carter for your work toward global peace. NOT!
What has happened to the Pahlavi family since they were exiled from Iran?
Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi died of cancer not long after Carter’s abandonment. His widow and second wife is Farah Pahlavi. A decade ago Leila Pahlavi died of a drug overdose (probably suicide) depressed in exile. The oldest son Reza Pahlavi resides in Virginia still dreaming of a return to Iran as the next Shah. Reza is not just sitting around though; he is actively involved in a political human rights effort in relation to the current abuses of theocratic Iran. Farinas Pahlavi is the eldest daughter of the deceased Shah. Shahnaz Pahlavi is the Shah’s eldest daughter from his first marriage. The youngest sibling Ali-Reza Pahlavi committed suicide via self-inflicted gunshot in Boston January 4, 2011. Ali-Reza Pahlavi’s death is the reason for this walk down memory lane of what could have been if Leftists made better choices.