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The Story of the Revolution

The comments
of The Joint Chief of Staff,
General Qarabaghi.

Find out more about
General Qarabaghi.

(These comments are extracts from The Story of the Revolution produced by the BBC Persian Service.)

Chapter One: 1st comment.
"My resignation served its purpose of preventing Khomeini's return to Iran and when all the airports in the country were closed, I summoned the army commanders and officers on the same afternoon. Addressing them, I said; `Gentlemen, praise be to God. We have succeeded. Our plan was to stop Khomeini returning and now that the airports are closed, we can have peace of mind. We are in harmony with the government and together we are trying to find a political solution.` All the army officers were pleased as their morale had been boosted"

Chapter One: 2nd comment.
"Lt.-General Rabi'i was instructed to work under a man named Sabbaghian, who was the head of the committee in charge of welcoming Mr Khomeini. Mr Bakhtiar sent him to go and sit on that committee. That is, the commander of the imperial Air Force was ordered to go and work under a man named Sabbaghian, someone whose name no-one had ever heard of, nor knew from which hellhole he had crawled. The commander was supposed to sit as a subordinate to him and carry out his orders to welcome Khomeini. After Khomeini's return, I heard that he had been taken by helicopter, I inquired about the circumstances surrounding this. I asked: `Where did the helicopter come from , and who issued the orders for it to be used?` I later realized that the order had been given by this Sabbaghian. I was very angry to see that country's air force, the imperial air force was treating Khomeini as if he were His Imperial Majesty himself. I blamed Bakhtiar for all this. He provided the security for Khomeini's plane to land safely and then Khomeini stepped out and walked down the steps. I remember when I submitted my resignation and we managed to close airports, Bakhtiar telephoned me at a meeting to say: `You know many foreign journalists have come here in the anticipation of His Eminence's return. they are saying that if he is not returning, they will go home, because their hotel bills are mounting.` I said: `Let them all go home.` He replied: `The journalists want us to open the airport.` I said: `They are talking nonsense. No way!` Unbeknown to me, Bakhtiar had ordered the opening of the airport. When I came out of the meeting, I received a phone call to inform me that the radio had announced the re-opening of the airport. What on earth possessed you to open the airport? I later found out that Mr Bakhtiar had organized a welcoming team to go to the airport. the opposition could not agree among themselves on the composition of such a team, so they asked the prime minister to do so. Mr Bakhtiar himself wanted to go to the airport, but did not go. I have mentioned in my book that the speaker of the Majlis telephoned me to say: that he intends to go to the airport. Would you like to go too?` I replied that I had no job to do at the airport. He said that the prime minister was going. I said that I was not certain, but that I did not think that the prime minister would be going. I replied: `My dear man, you are the speaker of the Majlis. You have no business at the airport.` He said that Bakhtiar was going. I said that I did not know, but I would wait and see. However, I had no intention of going. He hung up and Bakhtiar telephoned ten minutes later to say: `Yes, the gentlemen around me are asking me to go to the airport, but I am not going. Dr Sa'id was trying to persuade him to go, but I said sharply: `Sir, it would be meaningless for you to go.'"

Chapter Two: 1st comment
"We should always prepare for the worst and plan to deal with it. Of course, the situation was not that bad yet, but we were discussing our alternatives if the prime minister were forced to resign for certain reasons. Our guess had proved correct, because he had been in touch with the Revolution Council. He had, in fact, been negotiating his own resignation. We used to hear such rumours all the time, but according to Lt.-General Moqaddam, Chief of Savak, these rumours intensified every time the prime minister met members of the opposition. He himself mentioned that he had contacted Taleqani, Motahhari and Beheshti. Once he organized a meeting with us and said that Mr Bazargan was supposed to come and attend the meeting. I said that I had nothing to do with Mr Bazargan. Bakhtiar said: `No, I would like you to attend and stress that you will continue your support for the government. I have also asked Lt.-General Moqaddam to attend the meeting.` We all went to the meeting, but Mr Bazargan did not turn up, because he had just been chosen as the prime minister of the provisional government. Instead, Dr Sahabi and Mr Amir-Entezam came on his behalf. The point of my saying all this is that what General Moqaddam said was true. That is, this man [Shapour Bakhtiar] always intended to resign. I pointed this out to him and said: `You invited us to come and talk to these people and listen to their demands and all the time you have considering your resignation.` He replied: `No, I am not going to resign, because I have been officially appointed by the same man, who appointed Dr Mosaddeq.` I said: `But my dear man, you said you did not accept the Shah's authority.` He replied that he had received a vote of confidence from the Majlis. I added: `Until recently you were saying that the nation did not accept the Shah and that all Majlis deputies were chosen by Savak. How come you have now changed so much?` Anyway, I saw that it was pointless discussing the issue with him and we thought that he would resign one of these days. We were concerned about the army's position under such circumstances."

Chapter Three: 1st comment.
"In view of the circumstances of those days, a coup d'√ątat would have been pointless. His Majesty had also ordered us to avoid bloodshed at all costs. Furthermore, what is the meaning of a coup d'√ątat anyway? It is an action against a legitimate government, in an attempt to topple it and seize power. But at that time we kept saying that we were backing a legal government and it would have been meaningless to stage a coup against the government, which we were backing. The only remaining objective of such a coup would have been strict implementation of marshal law against demonstrators. This meant shooting, or other heavy-handed tactics. Who should have issued such orders? The military governors, who performed their duties and the prime minister. The general staff command did not interfere in the affairs of military governors. Even Lt.-General Najimi gave an example to demonstrate our plight. He said that we were like pawns caught in a game of chess and the checkmate situation was approaching. We could move neither this way nor that. There was nothing we could do. Could we kill our own people, and what for? And if we were not going to kill them, how could we stop them? This was beautifully explained by the hapless Lt.-General Rabi'i in his interview afterwards. He was a very courageous officer and in this interview says: `I saw that Bakhtiar wanted to declare a republic and Bazargan also wanted to declare a republic. Bakhtiar had no supporters and his ministers were prevented from entering their offices by ministry staff, but Bazargan enjoyed the support of the entire nation. I thought to myself that in effect these two men are doing the same thing. Why should I become involved in the pointless killing of my compatriots."

Chapter Three: 2nd comment.
We were supposed to inspect the third Brigade of the Imperial Guard at Doshan Tappeh garrison early on the morning of 21st Bahman. I was woken up in the middle of the night by a telephone call from Lt.-General Rabi'i. He said: `General, they have shown the video here of Khomeini's return from Paris, and as a result several personnel of the Imperial Guard have started a quarrel with the air force personnel here. I asked what the Imperial Guard was doing there. It became clear that these people did not trust their own personnel and had therefore dispatched several tanks and armoured personnel carriers from the Imperial Guard to the air force base. When the guards went into the officers' mess, they saw that the video of Khomeini's return was being shown in the common room of the officers' mess, and , when some of the cadets and air force personnel kept chanting slogans and salutations in praise of Khomeini, the guards protested and demanded to know why they were doing so and a quarrel developed. I asked why such a film was being shown there. it appeared that the prime minister had personally ordered its showing and I wanted to know what his objective was. Rabi'i said that the objective was for the officers to see that Khomeini, on returning after fifteen years in exile, in reply to a question about his feelings, said he felt nothing. I said: `No-one is paying attention to such things now.` Bakhtiar thought that Iran was like France, that such things would be considered important. He had created all that trouble just to make the officers hear Khomeini utter the word `nothing`. Anyway, in the morning we went to Doshan Tappeh and after the morning ceremonies, I boarded the helicopter to return to the city. From the helicopter I could see that the city was in turmoil and fires were raging. When I arrived at the general staff command headquarters, I studied the reports, which indicated that massive demonstrations were in progress everywhere in the city. I later realized that, as a result of collusion between the mullas and the Air Force cadets, the cadets opened the gates of the armoury and the complete arsenal of weapons were looted by the mullas and their supporters. The cadets themselves picked up rifles and took up positions on the roof tops of the air force headquarters. I telephoned Rahimi to find out what was happening. Rahimi said: `General, we have had the place surrounded since five o'clock yesterday evening and we are making certain that they cannot escape. I ordered someone to contact Bakhtiar for me by telephone and I then told him: `Mr Bakhtiar, there are demonstrations all over the city and Doshan Tappeh garrison is surrounded.` Bakhtiar replied: `Oh yes, today the Mojahedin-e Khalq and the Fada'ian [Guerrilla groups] are celebrating the anniversary of Siahkal incident and are looking for an excuse to demonstrate. He said that if he tried to stop them, they might create chaos and endanger the country and therefore they must somehow be allowed to carry on.A short while later, I received a report that weapons were being distributed across the city. I remember very well that they said that army lorries had stopped outside several mosques and the Pepsi Cola building to distribute weapons. I telephoned Rahimi and said: `Rahimi, I hear they are distributing weapons all over the city. What are you up to?` He said:` General, you know the weapons are going into mosques and we cannot enter the mosques to search, because they say it will violate the sanctity of the mosques.` I said: `So you are going to allow weapons to be distributed across the city. What sort of military governor are you?` He himself then replied that there was nothing he could do and asked me to ring the prime minister. I did so and said; `Prime minister, sir, weapons are being distributed in the city and there will be chaos and anarchy.` He said: `I think we had better call a meeting of the National Security Council this evening.` A few minutes later, Rahimi phoned me back to say that the prime minister had ordered him to impose a curfew from four o'clock in the afternoon. Much later, I read somewhere that, when Khomeini was informed that a curfew was going to be declared earlier than usual at four o'clock in the afternoon, he had ordered the people to pour into the streets in defiance of the curfew."

Chapter Three: 3rd comment.
"At twelve midnight on 21st Bahman, we received a report that the people had poured into the machine-gun factory near Zhaleh Square and had surrounded the plant. The guards of the factory defended the place until seven o'clock in the morning to stop the people from getting in, but at eight o'clock, the people fetched pick axes and shovels and opened up a hole in the factory's wall, through which the Air Force cadets and the people entered the factory building."

Chapter Three: 4th comment.
"The soldiers were returning to their barracks, dumping their rifles and leaving."

Chapter Four: 1st comment.
"We ordered them all together that morning to attend a meeting, which we military men call an army staff council. I wanted the council to report to me about the situation, because no-one was answering my telephone calls to ground forces headquarters. Lt.-General Sane'i had telephoned earlier from the ground forces headquarters to say: `General, in view of the fact that I have served as your subordinate and am very fond of you, I wanted to let you know that you can no longer count on the ground forces. This was the result of our talks with other officers of this force from last night until morning.` I told him: `I do not understand. If I am not going to count on the ground forces, what am I going to count on?` He replied: `This is it. There is nothing we can do.` I said: `This is highly regrettable.` The general quite agreed with me. I proposed that in that case, the best alternative was to summon all the military commanders to convene a council of commanders and find out what is happening. During that meeting, each commander described the situation of his own units. The ground force commander said that there was nothing he could do. The air force commander said the same thing and added: `The airborne cadets are there and I cannot take them on.` The navy did not have any representative in Tehran but there was nothing it could do in any case. The military governor was not at the meeting that day to let us know what he could do. I presented the reports, which I had received, to the council. We had a lengthy discussion. Some of the commanders were in favour of declaring solidarity [with the revolution], whereas others were in favour of neutrality. At that point, I said: `If you remember His Majesty has ordered us to keep the army intact and we need the army to safeguard the country's independence. His Majesty did not want to see division and discord among the ranks of various army units. You can therefore discuss the matter for as long as you wish, but I think it is in our interest to adopt a unanimous decision.` The discussion continued and eventually the minority, who were in favour of declaring solidarity, agreed that we should declare neutrality. As soon as we ended our session, the gentlemen wanted the results of our discussion to be broadcast immediately. I ordered the public relations officer of the general staff to contact Tehran Radio and I told them that I would ring the prime minister myself. I did so, and informed the prime minister about the decision taken at the council of commanders. Lt.-General Vafa telephoned me back to say: `General, the radio announced the army's neutrality just a moment ago.` The time then was one fifteen in the afternoon.In fact, in this way, the army's unity and integrity were maintained. Firstly this was His Majesty's order to stop bloodshed and fratricide. Secondly, this is what everyone wanted. In view of the circumstances at the time, the declaration of neutrality was in the interest of the country."

Chapter Four: 2nd comment.
I went to Lavizan at four o'clock in the afternoon and Mr Jafroudi telephoned me there. He said: `General, because of the chaos in the city, Dr Bakhtiar and Mr Bazargan have not yet managed to get here. As soon as they arrive, I shall ring you again so that you can join us. Shortly afterwards, at about five minutes past four, he telephoned me again to say that the gentlemen had arrived and were waiting for me. He also asked me not to go there in my uniform. I asked: `What has uniform got to do with the meeting?` He said that he would explain later, but insisted that for my own safety I should go in civilian clothes. I was very distressed and hung up. Lt.-General Hatam, who was sitting next to me, asked me what had happened, and when I told him I was supposed to attend the meeting in civilian clothes, he said: `Well, General, does it matter so much?` I said that I had no civilian clothes with me. He said: `then send someone to fetch your civilian clothes.` After one hour they arrived with my civilian clothes and I went to a room and changed. My civilian clothes saved my life. I left for Mr Jafroudi's house. He opened the gates himself and let me in. He led me to a room first and said: `General, I wanted to make a request before taking you into the meeting room.` I agreed, but had he not told me, I would have assumed that the room we were in was the meeting room. He told me that Prime Minister Bakhtiar had submitted his resignation. I was astonished and added that I had not gone there to submit mine. I asked whether the prime minister was there and he told me that he was not at the house but was somewhere in the vicinity, and had not been brought to the house fro reasons of security. I said: `But you did not tell me that the prime minister was not going to be here.` His reply was:` The prime minister is not far away and he is in touch with us. The other gentlemen are waiting for us next door so that we can reach an agreement.` I asked who the other gentlemen were. At this point he asked me to follow him to another room. When I entered, I saw seven or eight people were sitting there, who were introduced as Messrs. Dr Siassi, Engineer Bazargan, Dr Sahabi, Amir-Entezam, Engineer Khalili, and someone else, whose name I cannot remember now, but I have mentioned it in my book. After I sat down, one of them began praising the army for its decision and said that the army and the nation belonged to each other and they asked me to help them to establish security. I said: `Security would be maintained if you were to issue a statement to this effect. You have been appointed prime minister by Khomeini, therefore either you or Khomeini should issue a statement ordering the people not to attack army barracks and to respect its dignity and honour. If you were to issue such a statement, security would automatically be established.` He said: `Fine. I shall order such a statement to be issued immediately. Afterwards, Mr Bazargan asked me whether I was going to support them and the provisional government. I replied: `It is not up to me to decide. All the commanders should have a say. For the time being , these commanders have decided to declare neutrality and not support for your government. I cannot act against a decision, which has been taken already by the commanders. As I rose to leave, they re-iterated that they would issue the statement straight away. I bade them farewell and left."

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Part 1:
Ayatollah Khomeini returns
Part 2:
One country - two governments
Part 3:
The last struggle of the army
Part 4:
Revolution Day
Who's who..........
...... what they said...

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