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IRAN AND BRITAIN
Source: The Independent
It's a weird irony that Iranians know the history of Anglo-Persian relations better than
the Brits. When the newly installed Ministry of Islamic Guidance asked Harvey Morris,
Reuters' man in post-revolutionary Iran, for a history of his news agency, he asked his
London office to send him a biography of Baron von Reuter – and was appalled to
discover the founder of the world's greatest news agency had built Persia's railways at
an immense profit. "How can I show this to the ministry?" he shouted. "It turns out that
the Baron was worse than the fucking Shah!" Of which, of course, the ministry was
Britain staged a joint invasion of Iran with Soviet forces when the Shah's predecessor
got a bit too close to the Nazis in World War Two and then helped the Americans
overthrow the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 after he
nationalised Britain's oil possessions in the country.
This was not a myth but a real, down-to-earth conspiracy. The CIA called it Operation
Ajax; the Brits wisely kept their ambitions in check by calling it Operation Boot. MI6's
agent in Tehran was Colonel Monty Woodhouse, previously our Special Operations
Executive man inside German-occupied Greece. I knew "Monty" well – we co-operated
together when I investigated the grim wartime career of ex-UN Secretary General Kurt
Waldheim – and he was a ruthless man. Woodhouse brought weapons into Iran for a
still non-existent "resistance" movement and he eagerly supported the CIA's project to
fund the "bazaaris" of Tehran to stage demonstrations (in which, of course, hundreds,
perhaps thousands, died) to overthrow Mossadegh.
They were successful. Mossadegh was arrested – by an officer assiduously done to
death in the 1979 revolution – and the young Shah returned in triumph to impose his
rule, reinforced by his faithful SAVAK secret police whose torture of women regime
opponents was duly filmed and – according to the great Egyptian journalist Mohamed
Hassanein Heikal – circulated by CIA officers to America's allies around the world as a
"teaching" manual. How dare the Iranians remember all this?
The mass of US secret documents found after the American embassy was sacked
following the Iranian revolution proved to the Iranians not only Washington's attempts
to subvert the new order of Ayatollah Khomeini but the continued partnership of the
American and British intelligence services.
The British ambassador, almost to the end, remained convinced that the Shah,
though deeply flawed, would survive. And British governments have continued to rage
about the supposedly terrorist nature of the Iranian government. Tony Blair – even at
the official inquiry into the Iraq war – started raving about the necessity of standing up
to Iranian aggression.
Anyway, the Iranians trashed us yesterday and made off, we are told, with a clutch of
UK embassy documents. I cannot wait to read their contents. For be sure, they will
soon be revealed.