Senator Byrd on Iran's Inevitable Revolution

Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) Senator Robert Byrd (1917-2010), Democrat from West Virginia, served in the Senate for 51 years—longer than any other representative in its history.

In November 1955, Senator Byrd visited Iran and met with the Shah as part of his travels for the House Subcommittee on the Far East and the Pacific; and later in 1978, just shortly before the Islamic Revolution. Byrd recalls discussions with Shah Reza Pahlavi shortly before the revolution in which Pahlavi admitted to him that he had not paid enough attention to public opinion.

Byrd says the White House, too, "clearly did not understand the gravity of the situation", nor did it "understand the strength of Muslim religious fundamentalism or how hated the U.S.-backed Shah had become."

Senator Byrd also happens to have an Iranian son-in-law, Mohammad Fatemi, who is married to his daughter Mona Byrd (one of their kids is named Darius, the name of the ancient Persian king who appears in the Bible).

On June 28, 2010, Robert C. Byrd died at the age of 92. Former President Jimmy Carter called Byrd "my closest and most valuable adviser". Senator Jay Rockefeller remembered, "I looked up to him, I fought next to him, and I am deeply saddened that he is gone." Of Byrd's passing, President Barack Obama said, "America has lost a voice of principle and reason".

Excerpt on Iran from Robert Byrd's 2004 book about the Bush administration, Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency:

"In Tehran in 1955, our congressional delegation lodged in a facility with no toilets in the rooms—no soap, either—and the waiters in the restaurant wore shirts in need of laundering. The embassy people warned us about the dangers of hepatitis, dysentery and contaminated water. The thirty-six-year-old shah had been installed in his marble palace in 1953 by a CIA-backed coup against Iran's nationalist leader Mohammad Mossadegh, who planned to nationalize Iran's oil resources. That could have meant prosperity for the Iranian people. But in 1955, U.S. companies were pumping over 50 percent of the oil from the Mideast and providing Europe with over 90 percent of its oil imports. One could well see why Mossadegh was not in US plans for the region.

In 1978, as I met with the shah for a second time, Iran was again torn by civil disorder and open rebellion. Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi had turned to a military government to keep order. A curfew was in effect during my visit and security was extremely tight. Troops lined the streets on our ride from the airport and there was no other traffic. Near the American embassy entrance, a car lay on its side, burning. My wife and I, and members of my staff, were forced to stay in the embassy—not a usual arrangement—because of security concerns. In this same embassy, within months, Americans would be held hostage."

Related links:

Senator Jay Rockefeller on US Meddling in Iran

Senator Jim Webb on US - Iran Relations

Congressman Ron Paul on Iran, the CIA and Blowback

Congressman Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Iran

Fomer Senator Gary Hart (D-CO) on Iran and the Lessons of History

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