Recollections of the fall of the Shah, Iran-US hostages’ saga -
The announcement by US Secretary of State John Kelly that the oil embargo imposed on the Iranian Islamic Republic by Western countries and their allies has been lifted is a welcome development that should go a long way in establishing lasting global peace and security.
For Zambia and other developing countries of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that had for decades been caught up in East-West crossfire, the lifting of the oil embargo against Iran must be good news as their economies suffered irreparable damage while the Superpowers – led by the United States of American on one hand and the Soviet Union on the other – battled to exert their influence and superiority in world affairs.
Although the tug-of-war between the major powers ended in 1989 following the collapse of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the fall of the Berlin Wall, East-West tensions have persisted with the oil-rich Middle East being the principal centre stage.
I have always believed, and am sure, those who where there share the belief, that given their immense wealth oil-rich nations like Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Iraq – all members of OPEC (Organization of Oil Producing and Exporting Countries) – possess the capacity to help curb – if not end widespread poverty particularly in Africa.
But sadly these countries have been at war with each other (or even used as pawns in East-West battles) whose effects – which include the emergence of Jihadists and suicide bombers – have impacted negatively on countries of the poor South.
The current refugee problem in Europe, the conflict in Syria, the blood-letting in Iraq and Libya following the assassinations/killings of former presidents Saddam Hussein and Muammar Kaddafi, are but a tip of the iceberg whose roar has been reverberating across the world over the past 70 years or more.
So when Secretary of State Kelly made the announcement lifting of the global oil embargo against Iran last week because it had abandoned its ambitious plans to become a nuclear power (like North Korea) I was elated because Zambia,
I reckoned, would have – at long last – a viable source of her oil imports to help accelerate industrial development.
With Iran allowed more access to world markets, prices of crude oil can only be expected to come down rather than rocket.
Well, that is my expectation (in case the oil sheikhs have their own ideas).
However, I well remember the fact that some of the problems facing Iran started immediately after the fall of the former Shah of Iran ( real name Mohammed Reza Pahlevi) who, as initially reported, fled the country and was admitted to the United States for medical treatment; the return from exile in France of the Ayatollah Khomeini; the proclamation of the Islamic Republic and the occupation of the US Embassy and taking of hostages by Islamic Revolutionary’ students in Teheran, the Iranian capital.
The former Iranian prince first fled to Morocco but later left for the Bahamas on March 1979 and reached Mexico after the Mexican authorities had granted him a six-month tourist visa. Before that the Iranian government had appealed to European countries ‘not to grant asylum to the shah’, as he was wanted at home for trial on charges involving countless crimes for which he was held responsible.
It was reported then the Shah had shipped the equivalent of 7, 500 million-British pound-sterling abroad before his departure from the country while his sister, Princess Ashraf had sent another 1,500 million pounds, which was why the Iranian ‘revolutionary’ administration decided to nationalize the Shah’s assets estimated at between $15,000 million and $23,000 million.
Explaining circumstances that led to the secret departure of the Shah (something that must have contributed, in my opinion, to the subsequent conflict between Iran and US administration under President Jimmy Carter) the Ayatollah and his clique alleged that the Shah had been forced into fleeing by General Robert Huyser, the Deputy Commander of US forces in Europe who had visited Teheran in January-February, 1979.
But in Washington, the US capital, the Carter administration denied having anything to do with the Shah’s departure and his eventual entry into the United States, the given ‘delicacy’ of US-Iranian relations at the time. It emerged later that the Shah had landed on American soil at the behest of Dr Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of State (foreign affairs minister) and Chase Manhattan Bank president David Rockefeller who had been making efforts to secure him a visa with Mexican authorities.
‘A man who for 37 years was a friend of the United States should not be treated like ‘Flying Dutchman’ who cannot find a port of call,’ the tough-talking Dr Kissinger and one of Zambia’s former foreign affairs minister Vernon Mwaanga’s closest friends, was quoted as saying.
Kissinger said he found it ‘appalling that the Shah had not been able to obtain a visa’ in the US (though official records showed that he (the Shah) had never applied for one).
I do recall the fact that US-Iran ties took a turn for the worst following admission a few months later by the White House – through Mr Hodding Carter, the State Department spokesperson – that the Shah had been admitted to the USA ‘on humanitarian grounds’ after a team of European and US doctors had determined that the Shah needed ‘immediate treatment for lymph cancer.
He claimed the Iranian had been kept informed of such developments.
However, archival records indicate that the Carter administration was repeatedly warned by both the US Embassy in Teheran and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that Shah’s presence in the United States ‘would provide the excuse for sharp ant-Americanism’ and probable action against the embassy in Teheran, which had previously been invaded by left-wing gunmen.
To most followers of current and world affairs at the time, it came as no surprise when on November 4, 1979 it was reported on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World Service and other world news agencies like Associated Press of France (AFP) in Paris and Reuters in London that the ‘Us Embassy in Teheran had been occupied by a group of armed Iranian ‘students’ who seized embassy staff as hostages, ‘for whose release they demanded the extradition of the Shah by the US Government’.
Washington would, however, not be cowed as two days later State Department emphasised that they would not accede to the students’ demand.
In what must have come as no surprise, too, the Iranian charge d’affaires in Washington, Ali Ashgar Agha declared that he supported the scholars’ demand.
Back home, Ayatollah Khomeini declared: ‘In the name of God the Merciful, death to your plots, USA.
The blood of our martyrs is dripping from your claws. The United States is the main enemy of mankind and of the Iranian people. Under the pretext that the Shah is ill they shelter him.’
The students occupying the US Embassy threatened that any attempt by the US to free the hostages would result in their destruction.
Although the Shah died on July 27, 1980 in Cairo Maadi military hospital upon his return to Africa, aged 60.
Reacting to his demise, the British government said in a statement that, ‘Her Majesty’s Government have learned with sorrow of the death of the Shah.
During his long reign successive British Governments enjoyed close relations with the Shah, and his friendship for the country will not be forgotten.’
President Ronald Reagan, then a Republican presidential candidate, stated that ‘the Shah of Iran was a loyal and valued friend of the United States.’
Former president Richard Nixon described the Shah as a ‘loyal friend and ally of the United States and a personal friend as well.’
Meanwhile, rescue operations to free US hostages held in the embassy in Teheran proceeded in two phases, the first of which involved the deployment of US Special Forces based in Cairo with tacit approval president Anwar Sadat, who had replaced president Abdel Nasser who died in 1970.
One of the hostages freed at the instruction of the Ayatollah himself on medical grounds,
Richard Queen told a news conference that their captors were mostly ‘zealous Islamics’ while other hostages were mentally ‘coping well’ despite their long stay in captivity.
As I have indicated earlier, for developing nations like Zambia, which need to diversify their sources of oil supplies to ‘oil’ their struggling economies, the lifting of the oil embargo on Iran must be seen as welcome fillip and in a broader sense as a masterstroke for the easing global tensions that have recently taken on a new dimension particularly in Europe, the Middle East and West Africa where Islamists have been wreaking havoc.
Reader’s Comment: Sir good morning,
Thanks for bringing up articles that are so rich especially to us the young generation. We thank God for your life sir and you should continue giving us this rich history in the life of soccer, a sport every Zambian enjoys.
I have enjoyed the Mr Tom Mtine’s ‘hug’ story, these are statesmen for sure and it’s time us youngsters got closer to them to learn a lot from them.
God bless you and your family. Regards,
Thomas Nkaka (Systems engineer, ERG, Africa)