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Lecture 6


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Peter King

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HIS343 Lecture 6 - 2/12/13 - Iran, Intelligence, and the Failure of the Shah ● 1980 - failed US intelligence operation, Operation Eagle Claw, to rescue the Americans from the Iranian Hostage Crisis ● Canadians become the eyes and ears for the US intelligence - ongoing developments with the protests at the embassy - Canadian embassy also shelters 6 Americans, Canadian Capers ● Iran affair that includes the hostage crisis destroys Jimmy Carter’s presidency, leads to the election of Reagan ● US is left unprepared for when the Shah leaves Iran in 1979 - no sense of new government’s attitude, not prepared for popular anger against USA ● full year after Shah leaves the US still does not fully understand Iranian animosity ● did US suffer an intelligence failure in 2011 in Egypt like Iran in 1978-79? US again is target of popular animosity ● difficulty of intelligence trying to predict the future in a revolutionary atmosphere ● the Shah - Mohammad Rezah Shah rose to power in 1941 after death of his father - Mossadeq (PM) left (US enemy), Shah emerges as one of US’ principal Middle Eastern allies ● Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel were the allies of US, pro-American regimes ● the Baghdad Pact (becomes Central Treaty Organization, BENTO), pro-American ● up until fall of 1978 US policymakers weren’t too concerned with Iran - believed Iran was reasonably stable at the time - no serious domestic threat ● August 1978 - CIA report, slightly more pessimistic - some problems in Iran, but enough satisfied Iranians, government is not threatened ● Iran was presumed to have economic stability, America depended on Iran ● SAVAK - the Shah’s Secret Police - problem was not that SAVAK wasn’t giving US good enough information, but US limited their sources ● to avoid upsetting the Shah, the US decided to limit collection capabilities in Iran - didn’t collect info from opposition groups, just from the SAVAK - wasn’t able to critically assess the Shah’s information because didn’t have other sources to compare it with - belief that you don’t spy on your allies ● self-imposed blindness on the part of the US intelligence in Iran ● little information from outside the Iranian elite (the Shah’s group, only people US had relationship with) - very late in the game US develops contacts with middle class, secular group known as National Front (doesn’t too much) - US should have spent time speaking to opposition forces, this would’ve revealed the country’s hatred of the Shah ● US didn’t have enough collections staff with language skills - hardly any CIA could speak Farsi (not at the top of US priorities) ● even if the Shah had given US freer access to opposition groups, US wouldn’t even be able to because lack of adequate staff with language skills ● key assumptions - Iran was on path to development and modernization and would remain pro-western ally, many observers were convinced there were large group of satisfied moderate Iranian citizens - assumption that opposition group did not represent large population (extremist and violent) - also assumption that even if protests continued, Shah’s government had power and will to crack down and repress the opposition forces ● intermixing of these assumptions were key to intelligence failure ● “Iran was on path to be a stable, modern nation-state” - assumption based on relationship between US and Iran since the 50s - US depended on Iran as an ally, had to believe these assumptions - US analysts were affected by this ● Iran could choose to follow Marxist-style beliefs of Soviet Union, or free world, capitalist- style of the US - US officials believed they could nudge this process to their side - American guidance would push developing states to these traditional states to modern states (2 groups of countries, traditional, or moving to modernity) ● US officials viewed Shah as choosing the right path, civil change for pro-American
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