Skip to comments.November 4, 1979. Iranians take over US Embassy in Tehran.
Posted on 11/03/2004 8:30:11 PM PST by RaceBannon
It happened 25 years ago today.
I was in Connecticut, home on leave. I thought it would be over soon, only a week or two.
I never dreamed I would be a part of history related to that incident.
The actions of the Mullahs were even worse than the Shah's. The Mullahs have murdered more than the Shah did, and that number was greater than 50,000 in the first year of the Ayatollah Khomenie's reign alone, with some people totalling the deaths at greater than 1 million as of 2003. The Mullah's did this for religious reasons, too, not because of threats of overthrow. Also, almost 9000 Iranian Army personnel were killed by the Ayatollah Khomeini in his first year alone.
Here is a website that lists the names of Iranians who were killed by the Ayatollahs since 1979. It is only a list of Iranian Air Force members, and is looking for more people to be remembered.
Iran is ripe for another revolution now, and many now see the Shah's return, the Son of Reza Pahlavi, as something good. I agree.
More about the Shah can be read here: www.rezapahlavi.org
On September 8, 1978, the students of Iran had been holding protests at their universities for some time, but this day, the Shah sent in troops to stop the riots and killed hundreds of students. This day became known as 'Black friday' in Iran. It should come as no surprise that the Iranian students and people were upset at the Shah and wanted his removal.
When the Shah left Iran, he was pretty much ignored by the rest of the world. In fact, most countries refused to have anything to do with him. Egypt's Anwar Sadat allowed the Shah to live there for a short time. It is after the Shah left Iran, that Khomeni returned.
Once the Shah let Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeni returned from exile in France where the Shah had banished him. He was a national hero to the Iranians.
What happened November 4, 1979, was preceded in April of 1979 also. We should have taken it more seriously, but that is 20/20 hindsight. 'Students' of Iran, stormed the American Embassy in Tehran, seizing Americans at gunpoint and holding them as prisoners, or to be technically correct, Hostages, held for a political purpose, and that purpose was to unite Iran as a nation, and to humiliate the United States, Iran's most powerful ally.
When the Shah was allowed into the United States for medical treatment for his cancer, the Iranian people took to the streets.
The United States supported the Shah, and the Iranian people new it. They felt the only response they could give in reaction to the United States not returning the Shah, was to take out their frustration towards the United States by emonstrating against the United States Embassy.
There was more than a demonstration planned for November 4, 1979 than that, though.
The Ayatollah knew all that was happening. Students who lead and mostly organized the uprising brought back information to the Ayatollah Khomeini.
The American Embassy was a large complex, with many buildings. Here are some photos of the Embassy itself. This is the Embassy wall, and some graffiti written on the wall. The English says, "We will make America face a severe defeat"
At left is the closed 'Center for Publication of the Espionage Den's Documents' (it sold copies of reassembled shredder output).
This is main gate #2 in Tehran. This is no longer an embassy, it is a military complex.
Among the many phrases chanted by the Iranian mobs was the phrase: DEATH TO AMERICA.
In Farsi, it sounds similar to . . MARG-BAR AM-RI-KA. It may have been MARG-BAR AMERIKA, but when spoken fast, it sound's like the first to the casual listener.
On November 4, 1979, Iranian "student" militants seized U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took the embassy personnel hostage. They demanded that U.S. return deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who has been admitted to U.S. for medical treatment. Washington refuses. This upheaval in Iran caused Iranian Premier Mendi Bazargan and his cabinet to resign. The U.N. Security Council called on the Iranian militants to free all American hostages, While President Carter ordered all Iranians who do not comply with student visa requirements out of the country. This caused quite a stir both at home and abroad.
One of the most humiliating photos ever taken, is this one, of Americans held as hostages illegally by Iranians in Tehran.
These Americans were not the ones who might have been connected to SAVAK, the Shah's secret Army, nor were they anyone the Iranians had to fear, they were just embassy personnel, and Marines, who traditionally guarded American Embassies.
To be an Embassy Guard, you had to be the cream of the crop, someone with geat maturity for your age, intelligence, and potential to advance in the ranks of the Marine Corps in a diplomatic manner.
These men, the Embassy personnel, and these Marines, were America's finest.
In the United States, we did not sit idly by while Iranian students siezed our people. We here did not know of the abuses of the Shah, but that did not excuse away the Iranian's criminal actions.
We responded as a nation in anger. I was off the coast of Iran for these demonstrations, and it was heartwarming to hear of these things.
We knew we would not be abandoned like our men in Vietnam were abandoned back home.
HOSTAGES RECOUNT EVENTS
Some personal accounts of the capture of the embassy.
American Hostages in Iran, 1979
From Tim Wells, editor. 444 Days: The Hostages Remember. San Diego, Calif.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985. 36-41, 44, 54-56, 62-63, 68-69.
Victor Tomseth (chief political officer): That day [November 4] was a double anniversary. I think it was the anniversary of the day that Khomeini had gone off into exile in Turkey back in 1964, and also the first anniversary of a major riot in Tehran during which people had been killed at Tehran University. So there was a demonstration scheduled for that day. We had our staff meeting the first thing in the morning, and I remember the main debate was whether we should lower our flag to half-mast in recognition of the anniversary on which these three our four people had been killed at Tehran University. It was decided that we would not lower the flag. . . .
John Limbert (political officer): November 4 had been proclaimed Student Day, and there was going to be a march and rally at the University of Tehran. The university is in the western part of the city. The routes of march for people going to the rally from the east or northeast would lead in front of the embassy. It was quite normal for marchers to pass the embassy on their way to some kind of gathering at the university, and as they went by, to shout some anti-American slogans. That morning groups started going by, and occasionally we would hear their anti-American slogans. There was not anything unusual about this. . . .
Joe Hall (warrant officer, at the chancery): We had a radio in our office so we could hear what the marines and security officers were saying to one another. That way we could keep up with what the hell was going on. "Bulldog" was the code name for the security officer, Al Golancinski. Suddenly I heard on the radio, "Bulldog, someone's cut the chain on the gate and there are two or three Iranians inside." It was said in a very relaxed manner. . . .
John Graves (public affairs officer): I happened to be at the window of the press office where I could actually see the gate, the main gate. I don't know quite how it opened; normally there's a big chain around it. But all of a sudden the gates opened and the first flood of students came in. They were mostly women carrying signs like: "Don't be afraid. We just want to set in." Set, not sit. No sign of weapons or anything like that. It didn't look at all serious. . . .
John Limbert (political officer): I was down on the ground floor of the embassy near the marine station right at the front door. It must've been about 10:30, perhaps 10:40, when the students started coming over the wall. There were some closed-circuit television cameras around the embassy, and I could see it on the television monitor. We had very heavy iron doors at the south and main entrances, which were immediately shut. They were very heavy doors. They could resist almost anything short of a bazooka. I can't remember there being any panic. The marines clearly knew what they were doing. . . .
Lee Schatz (agricultural attache, at his office across the street from the embassy compound: When they entered the compound, they split and went off in two different directions. Which seemed odd. you'd think that if a crowd was hyped up and ready to . . . take the embassy, the normal impulse would have been for everyone to rush straight up to the chancery. But they took off in two different directions, with one group heading back toward the consulate. Instead of a mad rush at the chancery, it appeared that some people were stationed at strategic observation points, where they were close enough to holler from one person to the other. You know, someone would stop and stand by the corner of a building where he had a clear view of the courtyard or the motor pool. It had the appearance of something that was well planned. . . .
Sgt. William Quarles (marine security guard, at the Bijon Apartments): I was just trying to be cool. I said, "I can't believe this. I don't believe these little knuckleheads think they're going to take over the embassy." You know, I was really pissed. I kept saying, "What in the hell do they think they're doing? They can't do this. They think they're going to take over the American embassy with all these marines around?" I was really eager to go over there and kick somebody's ass. I really was. I just wanted to bang a few heads." . . .
Joe Hall (warrant officer, at the chancery): The Iranians got into the basement real quick. At the time, I was in the defense attache office on the main floor, and we were wondering what the hell to do with our classified stuff. We'd actually been pulling documents out of the files in order to destroy them, when the word came through that the militants had managed to get into the basement. Everybody was immediately ordered upstairs to the second floor. We thought, well shit, we can't carry our classified stuff with us. If the militants did get through, we'd meet them in the hallway with our hands full. So Colonel Schaefer said, "Let's lock it up." We put all the classified documents in the safes and spun the dials. . . .
Malcolm Kalp (economics officer, at the chancery): Gradually everybody filtered upstairs. We cleaned out the basement . . . and the first floor, and got everybody up there--the Americans as well as the Iranian workers. Everybody sat along the walls on either side of the hall. The marines came around and started giving out gas masks. . . .
The Iranians came up to the second floor and tried to burn the door down. Now how you burn down a steel door, I don't know. But they tried to burn it down. A couple of the marines got excited and started yelling, "They're burning the door! They're burning the door!" They kept feeling the back of it with their hands, and spraying with fire extinguishers. I felt the door and couldn't feel any heat, but figured if it made the marines happy to spray, let them spray. . . .
Col. Charles Scott (chief of the Defense Liaison Office, at the chancery): When the time came to surrender, everyone conducted themselves in an exemplary manner. There was a feeling of genuine fear among all of us, but there wasn't any panic. No one was yelling or screaming or falling apart. A couple of our Iranian employees were hysterical, but all of the Americans took it calmly, and did what they were supposed to do in order to avoid any unnecessary violence.
John Limbert (political officer, in the stairwell):The militants took me downstairs and out the front door. I was very relieved to get out of that gas and smoke. It was rainy and cold. It was good to be in the fresh air. I was feeling relieved to be alive. At that point, I remember thinking, being alive was a pretty good thing.
Bill Belk (communications officer, at the chancery): When we opened that door we were taken over immediately. The Iranians swarmed in. One guy looked at me and said, "Walk out the door." So I walked out the door. Two guys grabbed me, one on either side, put my hands behind my back, and tied my hands. They had a long nylon rope that they used to tie us up. After my hands were tied, this guy tried to cut the rope with a knife. The rope slipped and he gouged me, stabbed me in the back. I said, "Ouch!" And he said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you." Which amazed me. They were much more gentle than I'd expected.
They blindfolded me, and I didn'tknow what to do. I'd never experienced a blindfold before.Ithought maybe they were going to take us out and shoot us. I just didn't know what to expect.
Skeletons in the Closet
17 Years Ago This Week
By Sue Schuurman
On Jan. 20, 1981, Iranian militants released 52 American hostages held captive for 444 days at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Although no one was killed, the media and newly-elected President Reagan painted Iran as the latest "evil empire," a stigma that still sticks today. But do American conservatives, especially the Religious Right, realize just how much they have in common with the Iranian theocracy? Don't they want the United States to be a Christian nation, guided by biblical principles, often cloaked in the term "family values?" ...
"Hostages Reveal Iran Torture.
"The emancipated hostages told of beatings and other atrocities at the hands of the Iranian captors today as they telephoned their loved ones back home.
"One said ... he was told by Iranian interrogators ... that his mother had died. He didn't learn that she was still alive until the freed captives reached Germany this morning.
"As they began a stay of several days at a U.S. military hospital in Wiesbaden, Germany, most of the 52 hostages talked with their families for the first time in 445 days. ...
"Col. Leland Holland, 53, security chief of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran ... 'spent a month in what he called the "dungeon" and said his captors were S.O.B.s,' said the colonel's mother. 'He said his house was ransacked and everything taken, including his watch and rings. They took all the furniture and clothes.'
"A spokesman for the family (of Duane 'Sam' Gillette) said: 'His treatment was at times disgusting. I think President Reagan was polite when he termed the Iranians barbarians. We know that his letters were covering up what the real situation was. There was no physical torture, but there was psychological pressure. The food wasn't good and the conditions were very poor.'
"And the family of Malcolm Kalp said ... 'He told us he was beaten by them and placed in solitary confinement because of his escape attempts.' He served from 150 to 170 days in solitary. ...
"Returnee David Roeder, 40, of Washington, D.C., said, 'I've never been so proud to be an American in all my life.' ...
"Outside the hospital ... the crowd ... broke into a chant of 'U.S.A., U.S.A.' Only 12 hours and nine minutes earlier, the two women and 50 men hostages flew out of Iran on an Algerian jet to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards' jeers of 'Down with America' and 'Down with Reagan.' ... "
Source: The Albuquerque Tribune; Jan. 21, 1981
The following account is from this website:
Marine Maj. Steve Kirtley was one of 52 Americans taken hostage in Iran in 1979. Todayas the 20-year anniversary of his release approachesKIrtley is stationed at Quantico. Suzanne Carr / The Free LanceStar
Marine looks back 20 years after Iran hostage crisis
Background historical perspective
The Hostage Rescue Attempt In Iran, April 24-25, 1980
Who is the Ayatollah Khomeini?
This page is under construction.
Interesting informationhas come forth, something that the Iranian people have known for years, but the west is only finding out now.
I am reprinting this article in full, with the full permissin of the author.
The world must know, the man behind the Islamic revolution in Iran, was not even an Iranian!
The Clerics Lash Back as Iranians question their legitimacy
DEFENSE & FOREIGN AFFAIRS STRATEGIC POLICY 3, 2004
Iran By Alan Peters, Contributing Editor
TheClerics Lash Back as Iranians Question Their Legitimacy
VIGOROUS ATTACKS ON THE CREDIBILITY and legitimacy of the clerical leadership in Iran have continued to mount since the February 20, 2004, Majlis (Parliament) elections which, despite the removal of so-called reformists from the ballot, still failed to attract a meaningful voter turn-out. The elections showed the extent of electoral fraud to which the clerics were forced to turn, highlighting their tenuous hold on power.
There are now signs that the underpinnings of the clerics will be attacked still further, especially as evidence is now available showing even that their claims to religious authority are open to question.
The late Soviet leader Joseph Stalin once said: Its not who votes, but who counts the votes, a maxim which has found resonance in the February 20, 2004, Iranian national elections. A substantial cadre of ballot officials, directly answerable to the hard-line clerical leadership of Supreme Leader Ali Hoseini-Khamenei, counted the votes and issued results which almost nobody in Iran or abroad really believed to be accurate. 2
The credibility of the February 20, 2004, elections was essentially further undermined when observers saw already half-filled ballot boxes stuffed with fake votes transferred into polling stations on election day, and artificial crowds created by reducing the number of available ballot boxes at each location to create long lines and the appearance of a large turnout.
This deception was bolstered by rent-a-crowd groups of black chadored women who were called into action when any one of the 300 foreign journalists, covering the elections, appeared at a polling station.
Tehran sources report that 54 full ballot boxes disappeared and that initially the Interior Ministry offered correct voter turnout figures showing an attendance of about 11 percent in Tehran. This task was taken away from the Interior Ministry and the tally given as more than 30 percent for the capital and a touch more than 50 percent for the nation.Missing from all statistics are the huge number of blank votes cast by Government employees and students forced to vote to receive a voted stamp in their ID cards, without which they could face future difficulties.
Reformers and opposition groups of all kinds, including the leftist Iran Mujahedin Organization calculated that the hardliners only truly had the support of about 10 to 15 percent of Irans voters. What bears watching more than the struggle between the hardliners and the so-called reformers is the turmoil, rising from the political depths, which threatens to destabilize the status quo in Iran far beyond the earlier student unrest and which now targets the legitimacy of the Islamic coup itself.
Reformers, with nothing left to lose and outraged by the disqualification of their candidates and the resultant takeover by the hardliners of the only nationally- elected government body, have begun to poise an attack at disqualifying the ruling clerics claim to any legitimacy; to even be in power, let alone rule. Diplomatic sources speculate that a significant nudge in this direction could well result in a speedy downfall of the Iranian clerics.
Supreme Ruler Ali Khameneis authority and ability to govern has been publicly and directly questioned in an unprecedented open letter written by members of the Majlis (parliament) and widely publicized outside Iran. Two Iranian newspapers, Yaass Noh and Shargh, which reprinted the letter within the country, were immediately closed down. This essentially unprecedented confrontation against the clerical leadership of Iran signaled an attempt to cut the clerics off at the knees rather than dispute election details or the misuse of existing power structures.
Nor are the hardliners still a monolithic group, sharing the same religious and ideological aims and opinions as was the casewhen AyatollahRuhollah Khomeini was alive and in charge after the 1979 collapse of the Imperial Government. Khomeini had demonstrated an unbending, single-minded resolve and capability to hold all institutions and individuals in line, but now, previously concealed dissent among the major players has sprung to the fore.When the veil of democratic and fair elections was torn away by the hardliners, it revealed more than was intended.
Significantly, the former President of Iran and head of the Expediency Council and international businessman Ayatollah Abbas Hashemi Rafsanjani has also openly announced his policy disagreement with Ali Khamenei over talks with the US, citing sorrow that Khameneis clinging to Khomeinis anti-US edicts rather than to pragmatic policy, had stifled Irans ability to advance politically.
Religious scholars can find no basis for Ali Khameneis self-awarded ayatollah title nor of Rafsanjanis use of that appellation. Nor Khomeinis, though he was artificially elevated and granted use of Ayatollah to save his life.
With all bets off, the reformers have now struck at the heart of the revolution and are insisting on an inquiry into the disappearance of Grand Ayatollah Mussa Sadr, some 25-years ago, during a visit to Libya.3
The Iranian born leader of the Lebanese Shia was revered and respected above all others in the Shia world. He refused to accept Ruhollah Khomeini as an ayatollah and with the influence Mussa Sadr enjoyed, he became an insurmountable obstacle to Khomeinis political plans, and of those who supported the overthrow of the Shah and needed a despot like Khomeini to be their cats paw.
Grand Ayatollah Sadrs mysterious disappearance in Libya his body was never found opened the way for Khomeini to invade Iran, which accurately describes the action of a foreign national taking over a country in which he was neither born nor had any Persian blood in his veins at all, paternally or maternally.While one devout Iranian in California speaks of Khomeini reverently as a great man, similar to Hitler, other less friendly Persians liken him to an invader like Genghis Khan, 12. the Mongol scourge.
Unable to strike at the hardliners on an uneven playing field, the reformers have now begun an all-out assault on their former clerical allies. The cornerstone and founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, from which the present leaders draw their legitimacy to govern, was Khomeini and the structure which he put in place. However, there is compelling evidence that Ruhollah Khomeini was never an Iranian in the first place and had no right to inflict his policies on the Iranian people.
Nor was his elevation to the title of ayatollah anything more than a political, face-saving expediency to prevent his being hanged for treason in 1964. Considerable effort was made in 1979 to eradicate evidence of any record of either Khomeinis non-Iranian origins and the source of his use of the title of ayatollah, and one of the first actions which Khomeini took,within hours of his return to Iran after the Shah left, was to execute two prominent men who were living proof of his origin and also of his false ayatollah status.
One of these was Gen. Hassan Pakravan, Head of SAVAK, the Imperial Iranian national intelligence and security organization. Furthermore he immediately tried to assassinate the highly-respected Ayatollah Shariatmadari, who, with Ayatollah Golpayegani, had in 1964 granted Khomeini the false title. They had agreed to allow Khomeinithen literally awaiting death on charges of treason to be called an ayatollah to save his life: it was forbidden to execute an ayatollah. This took place in 1964 at the urging of the British Ambassador to Iran and Gen. Pakravan, when a face-saving legal reason had to be found not to hang Khomeini for treason. It is known that Pakravan had fought hard to avoid Khomeinis execution at that time.
Later, when the 1979 assassination attempt failed against Shariatmadari, Shariatmadari, far higher in the religious hierarchy than Khomeini, was placed, incommunicado and under house arrest, without the right to preach or receive visitors other than a handful of close relatives, whose anti-Khomeini statements could be easily impugned as biased.
Recent reports from Tehran showed the death fatwa (religious edict or opinion) issued against British author Salman Rushdi by Khomeini for writing an anti-Islamic book and cancelled a few years ago, had been reinstated to warn journalists or writers the clerics cannot directly control, that they risked death at the hands of devout Moslem fanatics if they uttered a word against the rulers in Iran or weakened their standing by revealing the illegitimate provenance of their power and thus contest their right to impose their theocratic despotism on a reluctant people.
Few contest that Khomeinis mother was a Kashmiri Indian, but even fewer Iranians or otherwiseknow his fathers origins or his real name. The late Iranian Senator Moussavi, who represented Khuzestan Province in Southern Iran, at the time of the monarchy, knew Khomeinis father and his four sons well, looked after their needs, used his influence to obtain their Iranian identity cards with fictitious dates and places of birth to avoid military service. Sen. Moussavi died for this help, on Khomeinis personal orders, immediately on this mullahs return from France after the 1979 coup.
SAVAK chief Gen. Pakravan, the man who saved Khomeinis life in 1964, was taken that same night onto the roof of his house and shot to death for having compiled a complete background file on Khomeini. The SAVAK background file still exists, as a senior SAVAK official, who defected and joined SAVAMA (the clerics equivalent of the SAVAK) took possession of it. This same man was reportedly head of SAVAMA in the US for quite some time, and sources indicate that he has kept the file for a rainy day.
Why did Khomeini return to Iran with such a bloodthirsty mind set? It seems clear that it was to exact the revenge which he said he would have. Prior to his return to Iran in 1979, Khomeini openly stated that he would kill as many Iranians he considered everyone in Iran guilty in advance as there were hairs on the head of his son, killed in a car accident, but in his mind killed by Iranian authorities.
Unable to provide an acceptable paternal background for Khomeini, a story was concocted to link his paternal heritage to that of his Kashmiri Indian mother and introduced an Indian-born father (also from Kashmir) but of Iranian heritage. In fact, no such person existed. But someone with similar and misleading characteristics certainly did, which could lend credence to this fiction of an Indian father.
Khomeinis real father,William Richard Williamson, was born in Bristol, England, in 1872 of British parents and lineage. This detail is based on first-hand evidence from a former Iranian employee of the Anglo- Iranian OilCompany (later British Petroleum: BP), who worked with and met the key players of this saga. This fact was supported by the lack of a denial in 1979 by Col. Archie Chisholm, a BP political officer and former editor at The Financial Times, when interviewed on the subject at his home in County Cork, Ireland, by a British newspaper.
The then-78-year old Chisholm stated: I knew Haji [as Williamson was later known] well; he worked for me. He certainly went native but whether he is Khomeinis father I could not say. Would not an outright, ridiculing denial have been the natural response, were there no truth to the British paternity? From someone who knew Haji [and thus the truth] well?
Chisholm obviously wished to avoid a statement leading to political controversy or possible personal retribution in the very year Khomeini took over in Iran. Nor as a former, experienced political officer himself would he be willing to drag Britain into the new Middle East conflict. But neither was he prepared to provide an outright lie instead of his no comment.
How it all happened:
A stocky, handsome, dark-haired Bristol boy, Richard Williamson ran away to sea at the age of 13 as a cabin boy, on a ship bound for Australia. However, he jumped ship before he got there. Little is known about him until he showed up, at the age of 20, in Aden at the Southern end of the Arabian Peninsula in South Yemen, where hejoined the local police force.
His good looks soon had Sultan Fazl bin-Ali, ruler of Lahej, persuading him to quit the police force to live with him. Richard later left him for another Sheikh, Youssef Ebrahim, a relative of the Al- Sabah family, which rules Kuwait today.
A few points should be remembered about the PersianGulf and Arabian Peninsula area at that time. Regional countries like Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and so forth did not exist as sovereign entities and were artificially created about 70 years ago by the British and French governments when they partitioned the area. Iran, or Persia as it was called, was soon to be controlled by Russian Cossacks in the North and the British Army in the South, although technically it remained an independent monarchy under the largely absentee Qajar dynasty.
British military presence in Iran was under Lt.-Col. Sykes (later Sir Percy Sykes), based in Shiraz, but politically controlled by Sir Arnold Wilson in Khorramshahr (then called Mohammareh) with assistance from E. Elking- ton in Masjid-Suleiman and Dr Young, based in Ahwaz. All three were cities in Khuzestan Province, which was later represented by Senator Moussavi. Col. T.E. Lawrence, who gained fame as Lawrence of Arabia, operated out of Basra in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Khorramshahr during this same period.
Oilfields, far beyond the technological capability of the Arab tribes (or Persia) to develop or appreciate as a valuable commodity, were being discovered and exploited by the British, including via the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, formed to siphon off oil from Khuzestan Province in Southern Iran.
Kuwait, on the other side of the Persian Gulf was still not a country at the time. As the major player in the Middle East oil industry, Britain had to exert influence and control through its political and oil personnel. Haji Abdollah Williamson became one of these in 1924 when he joined British Petroleum as political officer. He retired under that same name in 1937, at the age of 65. Earlier, in what is now Kuwait, Richard Williamson had very quickly converted to Islam and adopted the first name of Abdollah. Family names were still unusual and son of the son ofor son of a type of worker or craftsman was still commonly used to identify people. For 14 years he had lived among the Bedouin tribes on the Arabian Peninsula and in 1895 and 1898 he went on pilgrimages to Mecca, took on the rightful title of Haji and took on his first benefactors name of Fazl, adding Zobeiri to it as a distin- guisher. ThusWilliam Richard Williamson became Haji Abdollah Fazl Zobeiri.
During his service with British Petroleum in the Persian Gulf, Haji Abdollah took his vacations in Indian Kashmir, to rest from the relentless Gulf heat and in this timeframe married at least seven times to Arab and Indian women each under Muslim marriage rituals. He sired 13 children of whom seven were boys and the rest girls with most of the children dying in early childhood. His repeated Kashmir excursions and Indian wives and use of the name Abdollah Fazl Zobeiri probably give rise to the Kashmir Indian father misconception.
With dark-haired Haji Abdol- lah a fanatically devoutMuslim, a characteristic he imposed on his children, this fervent religious attitude and Arab nomenclature would not normally be an expected combination for a foreigner, especially an Englishman. He insisted his four surviving sons attend religious school in Najaf (in Iraq) under the tutelage of Ayatollahs Yazdi (meaning of the city of Yazd) and Shirazi (of the city of Shiraz). Two of them, Hindizadeh (meaning Indian born) and Passandideh (meaning pleasing or approved) studied well and eventually became ayatollahs in their own right.
The third boy, a troublesome young man, failed to make his mark in Najaf and went to the Iranian holy city of Qom, where he studied under Ayatollah Boroujerdi. When family names became a requirement by law under His Majesty Reza Shah, the young man chose the city of his residenceKhomeinas the designator and took on the name Khomeini (meaning of Khomein).
The fourth son hated theology and went across the Persian Gulf to Kuwait and opened up two gas (petrol) stations using the paternal family name of Haji Ali Williamson, though it is unclear if he ever performed the Haj pilgrimage. This in itself links Khomeini through that brother with Haji Williamson. Why, otherwise, would Rouhallah Khomeinis undisputed brother use the Williamson family name? The patriarch of this brood, Haji Abdollah Fazl Zobeiri (aka Haji Abdollah Williamson in BP), was thrown out of Iran by Reza Shah along with three other British political officers for anti-Iranian activity and joined his son in Kuwait. Here he took on the duties of Oil Distribution for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.
With his longstanding contacts in the Arab world and his Muslim religion, he forced a 50/50 agreement between US oil interests in Kuwait and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company as well as in 1932 pursuing the exclusive exploration rights for British Petroleum in Abu Dhabi.
His lack of a formal education forced British Petroleum to send out Archie H. T. Chisholm (see above), a senior executive, to conclude the Abu Dhabi contract and together with Haji Abdollahs political influence they overcame competition from Major Frank Holmes, Sheikh Hussein and Mohammad Yateen to successfully land the exclusive contract. Chisholm, as he said, got to know Khomeinis father well. Back in Iran again in 1960, Khomeini saw an opportunity to exact revenge for his father having been thrown out of Iran and to impose his Islamic fundamentalist philosophy onto an Iran struggling with budget problems, caused mostly by its oil being in the control of foreign oil companies, which decided not Iran how much oil the country was allowed to produce and at what price it had to be sold.
With his own and his familys theological background, he began to foment an anti-monarchy revolt through the mosques,which by 1964 resulted in imposition of martial law and finally with his arrest and his being sentenced to death by hanging. And consequently being given the life-saving ayatollah title which he had not earned.
After formally being exiled to Turkey, he ended up in Iraq where he wrote some philosophical and social behavior dissertations which were so bizarre by religious standards that, where possible, the tracts were bought up and destroyed by the Iranian Government when he took over in 1979. The most damning were in Arabic language versions and then later, cleaner texts appeared as edited translations in Farsi.
Some linguists, who studied his public speeches in 1979 and 1980, concluded his Farsi vocabulary to be less than 200 words, so not only did he not have Persian blood, he did not even speak the language. With the number of Iranians who have died because of him and his successors over the past 25 years going into the hundreds of thousands, if not well over a million if the death toll from the eight-year Iran-Iraq war is included, this Anglo-Indian with Arab Sunni Muslim theological and philosophical roots may have had no love or compassion for Iranians either.
In the Iran Air aircraft flying Khomeini back from France to Tehran in early 1979, with cameras rolling, a journalist asked: What do you feel about returning to Iran? He replied: Nothing! The question was repeated, and again he replied: Nothing!H
1. Alan Peters is the nom de plume of a correspondent who spent many years engaged in security and intelligence issues in Iran. This report is copyright © 2004 by Alan Peters.
2. See Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily February 23, 2004: Iranian Elections Reinforce Short- Term Clerical Grip; Heighten Political Instability.
3. Editors note: See Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily March 1, 2004: Iranian Leadership Seeks Ways to Circumvent IAEA, and to Suppress Possible Libyan Revelations About Iranian Involvement in PA103 and WMD. Significantly, while this report deals with the concern of the Iranian clerics over the possibility of launching terrorist or insurgent attacks against Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi of Libya over matters related to Irans involvement in WMD programs and the PA103 terrorist bombing, it is possible that the clerics also feel concern that the transformation of Libyas relations with the US could also reveal unpalatable truths about the disappearance of Lebanese Grand Ayatollah Mussa Sadr.
DEFENSE & FOREIGN AFFAIRS STRATEGIC POLICY 3, 2004