Two Weeks in January: America’s secret engagement with Khomeini -BBC

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The BBC has published an article detailing direct secret talks between the US, under the Carter administration, and representatives of Ayatollah Khomeini as the Shah’s regime was crumbling. Neither the US or the Iranian government wanted the meetings public, and the Iranian government is dismissing the article as a fabrication.

The talks were initiated by the US in order to establish contacts between the Shah’s military and Khomeini’s representatives so that some sort of transition could be arranged and a full blown civil war avoided.

  • “Secretary Vance informed the French government that Washington urgently needed to be in direct contact with Khomeini’s group. The reason: to obtain Khomeini’s support for secret talks in Tehran between Beheshti, and the Shah’s military and intelligence chiefs.”

The meetings are interesting in and of themselves. However, perhaps more interesting is the perspective the article gives us on how revolutions unfold and the circumstances under which strategic choices are made by key actors. The US was operating with little information and had to make a choice between allies who no longer appeared politically viable, and an opposition they did not understand or trust. This is not just a history lesson. The Shah fell in 1979, but the same type of scenarios played themselves out during the Arab Spring and the same type of calculations had to be made.

For more details see:  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36431160