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Jimmy Carter's engagement with Khomeini

In 2016, the BBC published a report which stated that the administration of United States President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) had extensive contact with Khomeini and his entourage in the prelude to the Iranian Revolution of 1979.[1][2] The report was based on "newly declassified US diplomatic cables".[1][2] According to the report, as mentioned by The Guardian, Khomeini "went to great lengths to ensure the Americans would not jeopardise his plans to return to Iran - and even personally wrote to US officials".[1][2] According to the report, in turn, Carter and his administration helped Khomeini and made sure that the Imperial Iranian army would not launch a military coup.[1][2]

The BBC report also showed a 1980 CIA analysis, which portrays Khomeini's attempts to contact the US as far back as in 1963, during John F. Kennedy's administration.[1][2]

Iran's political élite has dismissed these declassified reports. Ayatollah Khamenei stated that "it was based on fabricated documents". Ebrahim Yazdi (formerly a close associate of Khomeini) and Saeed Hajjarian viewed the BBC report with skepticism.[1][2]

According to the BBC report, Khomeini told the US just weeks before the overthrow of the Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's government:[1][2]

It is advisable that you recommend to the army not to follow [Shah’s prime minister Shapour] Bakhtiar (...) You will see we are not in any particular animosity with the Americans. (...) There should be no fear about oil. It is not true that we wouldn’t sell to the US. (...)

The BBC report also stated that on 9 November 1978, William H. Sullivan, then-US ambassador to Iran alerted the Carter administration that "the Shah was doomed". Sullivan stated that the US should evacuate the Shah and his most senior generals, "and then make a deal between junior commanders and Khomeini".[2] General Robert E. Huyser, dispatched to Iran to promise US support for the Shah, was allegedly sent to prevent the Iranian military from making a coup in order to save the Shah.[2] Huyser was soon faced with accusations of neutralizing the Iranian military and for paving the way for Khomeini's ascension to power.[2] However, Huyser himself always strongly denied these claims. Huyser's reports to Washtington have not yet been published.[2] On 14 January 1979, with the Shah's government still in power, Cyrus Vance sent a message to the US embassies in Paris and Tehran:[2]

We have decided that it is desirable to establish a direct American channel to Khomeini's entourage.

On 15 January 1979, Warren Zimmermann, an official of Carter's government in France, met with Ebrahim Yazdi in Paris.[2] Zimmermann met with Yazdi on two more occasions in Paris, the last meeting being on 18 January 1979.[2] Gary Sick, former member of the U.S. National Security Council during the period of the Islamic revolution has stated to The Guardian that "the documents [shown by the BBC] are genuine".[1][2] However he added that he was unaware of Khomeini's alleged attempts to get into contact with the US back in 1963.[1][2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dehgan, Saeed Kamali; Smith, David (10 June 2016). "US had extensive contact with Ayatollah Khomeini before Iran revolution". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Fattahi, Kambiz (3 June 2016). "Two Weeks in January: America's secret engagement with Khomeini". BBC. Retrieved 25 April 2019.