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Secret Talks With Ayatollah Khomeini - part 2

by Joel Hilliker
(United States)

How dangerously wrong a “broad consensus” can be! These officials completely misread the situation, and they talked themselves into thinking the ayatollah could be trusted. They placed real confidence in their relationship with Khomeini’s second-in-command, Mohammad Beheshti, an English-speaking cleric who had lived in the West, whom they considered a pragmatic man who could be reasoned with.


We have seen a similar disastrous scenario play out in recent years with the current Iranian ayatollah and the “moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The report continued:

The Carter administration began secret talks with Khomeini with the primary objective of making an elusive deal between the ayatollah and the military. It’s also possible that they wanted to slow down Khomeini’s momentum or read his intentions. But they ended up achieving none of those goals.

Khomeini wanted a decisive victory, not a deal. But a tactical engagement with Washington suited him well.

The same script could be written for the nuclear negotiations. Confident Americans enter these discussions with many lofty goals, basing the entire effort on false assumptions and misplaced faith—and come away empty-handed. Canny Iranians find that “tactical engagement with Washington” suits them well, especially considering how easy it is to deceive them!

Ultimately, the ayatollah wanted to know whether the Iranian military leaders—who were allied with America and met with them daily—were willing to turn their back on the shah’s regime. He wanted to make sure they wouldn’t interfere when he came to power, and that the U.S. wouldn’t step in at the last minute to undermine him.

The Americans allayed Khomeini’s concerns completely. America’s official statement was: “If the integrity of the army can be preserved, we believe there is every prospect the leadership will support whatever political form is selected for Iran in the future.”

This was all the assurance Ayatollah Khomeini needed. It was a green light to proceed with the revolution.

Khomeini responded to American officials with a beautifully crafted package of lies.

He pledged to preserve the Iranian military. He promised that Iran would be friendly to America at best or neutral at worst. He said Iranian oil would continue flowing to the West. He spoke of future expanded economic engagement with the U.S., implying that Iran would be more interested in buying tractors than tanks. He said he would respect his neighbors, following a policy of “non-interference in other people’s affairs.” He said that Soviet influence in Iran was dead: “The Russian government is atheistic and anti-religion,” a spokesman for Khomeini explained to American officials. “We will definitely find it more difficult to have a deep understanding with the Russians. … You are Christians and believe in God, and they don’t. We feel it easier to be closer to you than to Russians.”

The BBC wrote:

In a first-person message, Khomeini told the White House not to panic at the prospect of losing a strategic ally of 37 years and assured them that he, too, would be a friend.

“You will see we are not in any particular animosity with the Americans,” said Khomeini, pledging his Islamic Republic will be “a humanitarian one, which will benefit the cause of peace and tranquility for all mankind.”

Clearly, Khomeini read the Americans well. He knew just what they wanted to hear, to the detail. He gave it to them like a skilled con artist, lying through the smile on his face.

Reading that list of promises and assurances in light of the nightmares brought on by the Iranian Revolution makes you shake your head that anyone would have ever believed it. The fact of its being rank deceit would start to become plain within just a few weeks, and one of the ayatollah’s first actions after returning to Iran was to begin executing top military officials. Within a year, the American Embassy in Tehran was besieged, and the anti-American fangs of the revolution were fully bared.

The BBC report concluded:

Many have come to believe that that the Carter administration—plagued by intelligence failures and internal division—was by and large a passive observer to the rapid demise of the shah.

But it’s now clear that, in the final stages of the crisis, America had in effect hedged its bet by keeping a firm foot in both camps in the hopes of a soft landing after the fall of the shah’s regime.

But Carter’s gambit proved to be a massive blunder. The real danger was overlooked, Khomeini’s ambitions were underestimated, and his moves were misread.

Unlike Carter, Khomeini pursued a consistent strategy and played his hand masterfully. Guided by a clear vision of establishing an Islamic republic, the ayatollah engaged America with empty promises, understood its intentions, and marched toward victory.

This history teaches a bitter moral truth about just how catastrophically wrong human judgment can be. The role America played in bringing one of its most virulent enemies to power is stunning to contemplate. As is so often the case, however, these lessons of history are being ignored—and to our shame and peril. The current American administration has no interest in the stinging wisdom of these past events, and—judging by its recent actions—likely wouldn’t even consider Carter’s secret dialogue with Khomeini a mistake.

But a disastrous mistake it was. The effects of that appalling misjudgment in 1979, that naive stupidity, helped to reshape the Middle East into a deadlier, more radical place, and caused untold suffering. The effects of the Islamic Revolution continue to shake the world to this day.

An appreciation of these facts would lead prudent leaders to look askance at any promises from the radicals in Tehran today and to vow, “Never again.”

But America’s leaders today are not prudent. They are heedlessly taking the same course, and the consequences are certain to prove even more dangerous when the day dawns on a nuclear-armed Iran.

In his January 2008 article, Mr. Flurry explained: “Here is the brutal truth: THERE WOULD BE NO STATE-SPONSORED TERRORISM IN THE MIDDLE EAST IF AMERICA HAD THE WILL TO USE ITS POWER! But America’s problem is even worse than a weak will. We even help push our allies into the hands of radical Islam. That is a dangerous kind of ignorance. … America has a much deeper problem than any of our leaders really see. The root of our problem is spiritual.”

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