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February 18, 1991

Memorandum of Telephone Conversation: Telcon with Chancellor Kohl of Germany, February 18, 1991, 12:04-12:32 p.m.

Kohl briefs Bush on a conversation he recently had with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati concerning the Gulf War. Bush and Kohl also discuss Soviet views on the conflict, as also recent exchanges between France and Germany on GATT negotiations.

January 28, 1991

Memorandum of Telephone Conversation: Telcon with Chancellor Kohl of Germany, January 28, 1991, 11:08-11:28 a.m.

On a phone call, Bush and Kohl discuss the Gulf War, including the evacuation of Iraqi planes to Iran, Saddam Hussein's state of mind, the role of Turkey, and German's financial contribution.

February 1, 1979

Imam Khomeini, 'Declaration Upon Arrival at Tehran'

February 1, 1979, is a key date in the history of modern Iran in general and of the Iranian revolution in particular. On that day, two weeks after Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (1919-1980) left Iran, Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini (1900-1989) returned after 14 years in exile—part of a life told in Vanessa Martin’s Creating an Islamic State: Khomeini and the Making of a New Iran (2014).

On that day, the Shi‘i Ayatollah whom many called Imam assumed Iran’s leadership, as shown in the below speech he gave upon deplaning in Tehran. But that day was not a cut; it was not simply the end of the shah and of the revolution and the start of Khomeini’s rule. Rather, it was a day suspended in mid-air. It was a day where the just-past overthrow of the shah touched the uncertain future of the revolution: a liminality and vulnerability that shines through Khomeini’s speech.

It is for that reason that I have chosen this text, not simply because Khomeini here as in virtually all his pronouncements stressed the need to rid Iran of foreign agents led by the United States. Yes: the revolution had an ultimately clear end, the Islamic Republic, which became official following a referendum in December 1979. And yes: Khomeini was an influential maker of this hybrid theocratic-republican governmental system that came out of the revolution. First emerging in 1963 in the clerical city of Qom as an outspoken critic of the shah surrounding a raft of social reforms, he doubled down on his critique over the US-Iranian status of force agreement of late 1964. As a result, the shah had him expelled to Turkey, from where he in 1965 was able to move to a transnational Shi’i clerical center: the Iraqi city of Najaf. There, he by the early 1970s expanded his critique of the shah’s person to a critique of the very institution of the Iranian monarchy, and began to talk of a clerically led government.

This was a far-reaching change in Shi‘i religious thought, as Hamid Dabashi showed in Theology of Discontent: The Ideological Foundations of the Islamic Republic of Iran (1993). However, those ideas took their final form not before but during and in interaction with the revolution, when Khomeini resided in Najaf until October 1978, then in Neauphle-le-Château, near Paris, and from February 1979 in Tehran. Moreover, Dabashi’s work showed how other intellectuals shaped the revolution, too. And Khomeini adapted certain Third-World leftist populist ideas and terms—a process analyzed in Ervand Abrahamian’s Khomeinism, which exemplified secular scholars’ emphasis on how non-clerical ideas and groups like the Mujahedin-e Khalq or Fada’iyin-e Khalq helped bring about and shape the revolution.

Finally, recent works that open a new generational-historiographic chapter, like Arang Keshavarzian and Ali Mirsepassi’s edited volume Global 1979: Geographies and Histories of the Iranian Revolution (2021) and Naghmeh Sohrabi’s “The ‘problem space’ of the historiography of the 1979 Iranian Revolution” (2018), are moving beyond a scholarly focus on revolutionary causes and outcomes and on distinctive actors and their failure and success. Instead, they probe the fundamental imprevisibility and contingency of an unfolding revolution; they stress overlaps and contacts between actors and ideas; and they tease out transnational relationships and global contexts without creating a clear a priori distinction between the domestic and the global, perhaps especially regarding the question of the place and role of Iran’s 1970s in the longer arch of decolonization.

February 1973

A Declaration of the Cherikha-ye Fedai-ye Khalq about the Plan of Imperialism, Zionism, and Other Reactionaries and the Need for the [Middle Eastern] Region’s Revolutionary Forces to Unite (Excerpts)

Iranian leftists like the Constitutional Revolution’s Social Democrats, in 1905-1909, and proper Marxists like the members of the Iranian Communist Party—one of the earliest in the Middle East, founded in 1920, and enjoying considerable standing in the Comintern—never succeeded to capture the state in modern Iran. But as works like Maziar Behrooz’ Rebels with a Cause: The Failure of the Left in Iran (2000) and Stephanie Cronin’s edited volume Reformers and Revolutionaries in Modern Iran (2004) remind us, Marxism was an influential sociopolitical and ideological force in Iran in the 1920s and especially from the 1940s to the 1980s.

Thus, from its birth as a general leftist party in 1941 via its transformation into a properly Marxist party—memorably analyzed in Ervand Abrahamian’s Iran between Two Revolutions (1982)—to its repression after the CIA-led coup d’Etat of 1953, the Tudeh was the most powerful party of mid-century Iran and the biggest of its kind in the Middle East.

Moreover, from the 1950s to the 1960s Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (1919-1980; r. 1941-1979) and his regime saw the remaining Tudehis and 1960s Maoist splinter groups in Iran and in exile as a threat. It was against this political backdrop, too, that some socioeconomic policies like the 1963 land reform picked up long-standing communist demands, though that reform had other roots, too, and sought to neutralize Iran’s land-holding urban upper class. And in early 1971, it was a new Marxist group, the Sazman-e cherikha-ye fada’i-ye khalq-e Iran,The Organization of the Iranian People’s Fada’i Guerillas (OIPFG), that launched an armed struggle against the shah’s regime, a history told in Peyman Vahabzadeh’s A Guerilla Odyssey: Modernization, Secularism, Democracy, and the Fadai Period of National Liberation in Iran, 1971-1979 (2010). The Fada’i-ye Khalq denounced the Tudeh for sitting on its hands, excoriated the Soviet Union and soon also China for accommodating the shah, and forced competitors like the Islamo-Marxist Mujahedin-e Khalq to spring to action as well. Many fada’iyin died an early violent death.

Even so, several ones wrote influential theoretical texts while in prison, like Bizhan Jazani (1937-1975), or in the underground, like Amir Parviz Puyan (1947-1971) and Mas‘ud Ahmadzadeh (1947-1972). Although hailing from two different groups that had been active before early 1971 and then joined to form the Fada’i-ye Khalq, they had much in common. Thus, they welcomed Cuban, Chinese, and Vietnamese armed revolutionary experiences, but never saw them as simple models to emulate. They had contacts with the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a story and whose long aftermath is analyzed in Naghmeh Sohrabi’s “Remembering the Palestine Group: Friendship, Global Activism, and the Iranian Revolution” (2019). And partly drawing on Regis Debray and Latin American urban guerilla theorists, they most crucially stressed the need for a self-sacrificing vanguard that attacks the state to shatter workers’ lethargy. (As this did not happen, by 1975 some fada’is split and turned to political agitation; some even joined the Tudeh.)

At the same time, there were disagreements, too. Perhaps key was the nature of the US-Iranian relationship. Ahmadzadeh saw the shah as a US puppet pure and simple, whereas Jazani though he had considerable autonomy while under US control. In this regard, the text produced here hews closely to the Ahmadzadeh line, which was dominant at the time of publication, in 1973. The text is an English translation of a Persian text published in the (obviously prohibited) fada’i publication Nabard-e Khalq; it did not have a byline. The text is of interest in this collection not only because of its systemic reference to US imperialism but also because of its region-wide perspective.

August 12, 1985

Cable No. 4138, Foreign Minister to the Ambassador to the United States, 'Problem of the Release of the American Hostages'

In a telegram to the Ambassador to the United States, the Foreign Minister of Japan instructed the Ambassador to inform the United States on Special Envoy Nakayama’s meetings with the leaders of Syria and Iran about the American hostages held in Lebanon.

August 5, 1985

Cable No. 394, Foreign Minister to the Ambassador to Syria, 'Problem of the Release of the American Hostages (Main Points of Remarks, Questions and Answers for Prime Minister’s Special Envoy)'

A draft telegram from the Foreign Minister of Japan to the Ambassador to Syria that discusses the main points for discussion regarding the Special Envoy Nakayama’s visit to Syria. The document discusses the release of the American hostages in Lebanon and the TWA Flight 847 hijacking incident of 1985.

August 5, 1985

Cable No. 394, Foreign Minister to the Ambassador to Syria, 'Problem of the Release of the American Hostages (Main Points of Remarks, Questions and Answers for Prime Minister’s Special Envoy)'

A telegram from the Foreign Minister of Japan to the Ambassador to Syria preparing for Special Envoy Nakayama’s visit to Syria.

August 5, 1985

Problem of the Release of the American Hostages (Main Points of Questions and Answers)

This document is the main points of questions and answers in preparation for Japanese Special Envoy Nakayama’s visit to Syria to persuade the Syrian government to assist in the release of the American hostages in Lebanon.

August 5, 1985

Problem of the Release of the American Hostages (Main Points of Remarks)

A document summarizing the main points of remarks regarding Japan’s attempt to persuade Syria and Iran to assist in the release of the American hostages held in Lebanon.

August 8, 1985

Second Middle East Division, 'Problem of the Release of the American Hostages (Problem of Public Announcement in Iran)'

A report from the Second Middle East Division in Japan. After Special Envoy Nakayama’s visit to Iran to discuss the problem of the American hostages held in Lebanon, Iran expressed desire to announce the meeting to the public, despite Japan’s request otherwise. Japan convinced Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani not to make the meeting public.

Pagination