“And what of the Iranian people? What did being “saved from communism” do for them? For the preponderance of the population, life under the Shah was a grim tableau of grinding poverty, police terror, and torture. Thousands were executed in the name of fighting communism. Dissent was crushed from the outset of the new regime with American assistance. Kennett Love wrote that he believed that CIA officer George Carroll, whom he knew personally, worked with General Farhat Dadsetan, the new military governor of Teheran, “on preparations for the very efficient smothering of a potentially dangerous dissident movement emanating from the bazaar area and the Tudeh in the first two weeks of November, 1953”.
The notorious Iranian secret police, SAVAK, created under the guidance of the CIA and Israel, spread its tentacles all over the world to punish Iranian dissidents. According to a former CIA analyst on Iran, SAVAK was instructed in torture techniques by the Agency. Amnesty International summed up the situation in 1976 by noting that Iran had the “highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts and a history of torture which is beyond belief. No country in the world has a worse record in human rights than Iran.”
When to this is added a level of corruption that “startled even the most hardened observers of Middle Eastern thievery”, it is understandable that the Shah needed his huge military and police force, maintained by unusually large US aid and training programs, to keep the lid down for as long as he did. Said Senator Hubert Humphrey, apparently with some surprise:
Do you know what the head of the Iranian Army told one of our people? He said the Army was in good shape, thanks to U.S. aid — it was now capable of coping with the civilian population. That Army isn’t going to fight the Russians. It’s planning to fight the Iranian people.
Where force might fail, the CIA turned to its most trusted weapon — money. To insure support for the Shah, or at least the absence of dissent, the Agency began making payments to Iranian religious leaders, always a capricious bunch. The payments to the ayatollahs and mullahs began in 1953 and continued regularly until 1977 when President Carter abruptly halted them. One “informed intelligence source” estimated that the amount paid reached as much as $400 million a year; others thought that figure too high, which it certainly seems to be. The cut-off of funds to the holy men, it is believed, was one of the elements which precipitated the beginning of the end for the King of Kings.”
-Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II by William Blum