While arguments and analysis continue regarding the causes of the Iranian Revolution and the contribution of external forces to its development, American foreign policy decisions during the 1977 – 1979 time period show no direct causal relationship.
In other words, Carter’s human rights policy and the confusions of US policy making were not the determinant factors. However, it would be simplistic to assume that external forces were without influence.
Tensions were created as a result of Iran’s ongoing socioeconomic transformation.
The revenues of Iran’s oil industry rose from $45 million in 1950 to $20.5 billion in 1976. Concurrently, the United States embarked on a program of arms sales, with the Nixon Doctrine supplying the rationale — an extension of diplomacy that allowed the equipping of reliable allies, along with a quick and easy way to use oil money to redress the US trade balance. (For more click here)
In a one year period the Pentagon more than doubled their foreign arms sales from$3.9 billion in 1973 to $8.3 billion in 1974. Almost half of this total went to one buyer, the shah of Iran.
This recycling of petrodollars for US – supplied weaponry meant that the political and military buildup of the shah’s regime was, in the end, contingent on American foreign policy decision making.
Opponents of the shah were able to combine the regime’s obsession with weapons spending and neglect of human capital, the ramifications of Kennedy’s intervention in Iran’s affairs in 1960 (especially land reform), and America’s covert activities in the Mossadegh era to create a climate where identification with the West — or with the Soviet Union for that matter — was clearly undesirable.
In the end, the Ayatollah Khomeini succeeded in steering his nation away from overt dependence on (or support of) either superpower, an accomplishment that most other Third World leaders had failed to achieve.
After expelling American influence, Khomeini purged the pro – Soviet Tudeh party and offered assistance to anti – Soviet rebels in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the US remained concerned that perceived American weakness in the region would benefit Moscow by providing opportunities for it to extend its influence.