HAVE BEEN SAVED?
In these troubled times for Iran,
it may be that your time has come.
— Letter to Ardeshir Zahedi,
Ambassador of Iran
Most of the Iranians I knew believed that there still was enough time after Black Friday to avoid a revolution. The monarchy was still popular among the mass of rural people. The army, police and most of Iran’s bureaucrats were loyal.
Pressure mounted for the Shah to declare martial law and appoint a military government which would enforce law and order and begin a “national dialogue,” offering concessions to his critics from a position of strength. The chiefs of staff crafted a plan, Operation Kach to take control of Teheran and intern 400 of the opposition leaders at a camp in the Baluchistan desert. The Shah meanwhile would move temporarily to a military base. “Anywhere among your troops your Majesty will be safe,” they assured him.
But the Shah was a broken reed. He did not know which way to turn. Like Sharif Emami, he confused his troops by giving them contradictory orders. “Uphold the law … but no blood must be shed … Maintain public order … but no wounded and no dead …”
As the crisis mounted I kept in close touch with Ardeshir Zahedi. He was commuting between his embassy in Washington and the palace in Teheran. Some of the letters that passed between us illustrate the growing concern I felt about the lack of a firm hand on the tiller.