The Crash of 79
I was at the U.N. when this article in the now defunct "New York" came out.
It is dated dated December 2, 1974 and was part of a campaign against
my brother the Shah of Iran that began following the increase in oil prices.
Judge for Yourself.
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6
It was a day perfectly set against the background of tranquil,
moral Switzerland—the perfect place to plan a war...
First, he bought himself $1.1-billion worth of nuclear reactors from France; not for the plutonium, but for the energy, he said, which seemed a bit peculiar to some observers at the time, since if there was anything that Iran definitely did not need—holding, as it did,the fourth-largest known oil reserves in the world—it was more energy. Then, in a great act of generosity, he lent Britain $2 billion to keep that island afloat financially, and promised that more would be available if the need arose.And, under the leadership of Harold Wilson, of course that need arose. With the result that Her Majesty’s government in London suddenly found itself in hock to His Majesty’s government in Teheran. England, the protector of the peace in the Middle East for two centuries, now suddenly found itself a client state of Iran. Then the shahanshah bought 25 per cent of that grand old company of the Ruhr, Fried Krupp Hflttenwerk. It was only a matter of time before he took over complete control. Old Hitler buffs thought they had spotted a trend developing, but nobody paid attention to them, even when the shah, in a further act of generosity, offered to bail out a little company in the United States that made the type of toys that Reza Pahlavi liked to play with warplanes. It seemed that, next to the Pentagon, the shah was Grumman’s largest customer. It further seemed that he was very worried about getting delivery of 80-odd F-l4 interceptors on time from Grumman. Because he needed them for the War of 1976.
As it turned out, he got them right on schedule, plus 70 more Phantoms from McDonnell Douglas, a number of which were equipped with nuclear bomb racks. Now he was in a position to make the Persian Gulf an Iranian lake, and have the entire world at his mercy thereafter. But first he had to convince his big brother to the north, the Soviet Union, that all this was a great idea — and also attend to a few other details. That’s why he went to Switzerland.
On February 13, 1976, the shah of Iran arrived quietly in Zurich. As usual, he moved into the Dolder Grand Hotel; it was close to the clinic where he had his annual medical checkup. His entourage was not large: his young wife, Farah Diba, their children, her lady-in-waiting, his aide-de-camp, and about twenty security men. Few people took notice of them. It was, after all, the shah’s twelfth consecutive winter visit to Switzerland. On February 18, apparently in good health, he and his family left by private jet for St. Moritz. Just before takeoff, two men, who had arrived at Kloten airport from Teheran just an hour earlier, joined the flight. The shah was at the controls of the jet most of the way, but turned the plane over to the Swiss pilot before landing. The shah knew the small airport at Samedan: it was squeezed between the mountains behind Pontresina to the south and those of St. Moritz to the north, and averaged 1.6 fatal crashes a year. Most of the security men had gone on ahead the day before in three Mercedes 600’s. All three were on the tarmac when the Lear’s engines were turned off.
About twenty minutes later, the shah’s party moved through the gates leading onto the grounds of the Suvretta House on the eastern outskirts of St. Moritz. In this city, the nouveaux riches stayed at the Palace; those who inherited wealth or title, or succeeded to both through marriage, stayed at the Suvretta. The shah, while still married to Soraya in the 1950’s, had learned to love skiing in the Swiss Alps, and also to appreciate the setting of this particular Swiss hotel with its pine forests and the towering Piz Nair beyond. But he especially enjoyed the solitude, beyond the rude stares of German tourists with knapsacks full of leberwurst sandwiches and sauergurken. In 1968 or 1969, the shah had purchased a villa on the grounds of the Suvretta. It made things easier for the security men, and it added a further dimension of privacy. Yet it did not involve sacrificing the superb service and cuisine offered by one of Europe’s finest hostelries. The manager of the Suvretta, Herr R. F. Mueller, flanked by two assistants standing well to his rear, was waiting outside the main entrance to the hotel. The welcome was brief. The window at the back of the first Mercedes was open not more than one minute while the pleasantries were exchanged. Then theconvoy of three limousines moved on. Both the windows and the curtains on the windows at the rear of the second limo remained closed. The third car was wide open, much to the discomfort of the shah’s six bodyguards inside, who were not used to the air of the Engadin Valley in February, which hovered around the freezing level even at noon.
The shah and his family had a brief lunch, and by 1:30 were out on the small practice slope, about 75 meters from the villa. Herr Mueller had discreetly arranged that they have exclusive use of the tow lift for the afternoon. Two veteran ski guides were there to assist. A good dozen security men, half on skis, posted themselves along the slope. The children, of course, protested the need for spending any warm-up time on what the Swiss term an “idiot hill”; they preferred to move right up to the main slopes of the Piz Nair. But papa remained firm. At 3:30, as the temperature began to dip radically and patches of ice started to appear, everyone returned to the lodge. They all had cheese fondue that evening. Thus ended a typical day in the life of His Imperial Majesty, the shahanshah of Iran—devoted husband, dutiful father, sportsman. A day perfectly set against the background of tranquil, neutral, clean, moral Switzerland. It was, in fact, the perfect place to plan a war. Which was exactly what the two men who had remained so secluded in the back seat of the second limousine had been doing in the south wing of the shah’s villa, while the Pahlavi family cavorted in the snow. They were General Mohammed Khatami, head of Iran’s air force, and Commander Fereydoun Shahandeh, the Iranian air-sea strike chief for the western part of the Persian Gulf. As military men are prone to do, one of their first acts upon settling into their St. Moritz billet had been to pin a huge map to the wall. Its dimensions were illuminating, stretching from India in the east to the Mediterranean in the West; from the southern perimeters of Russia to the north to as far south as Yemen and the Sudan.
Both the general and the commander had the appearance of happy men. And why not? They controlled the biggest and best-trained army in the Middle East; the largest and most sophisticated air force; a flexible, modern navy. In addition, Iran possessed the world’s most extensive operational military Hovercraft fleet (British-built SR.N-6’s and BH.7’s), and an awesome arsenal of missiles, ranging from the U.S.-built Hawks to the British Rapier to the French Crotale, but its most dangerous weapon was, of course, the American Phoenix stand-off missile.
Downhill all the way:
On the first day of his stay in St. Moritz, His Imperial Majesty, accompanied by his wife, Farah Diba, hotdogs on a practice slope.
Two of his security men observe from a near distance.
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