The myth of the 1979 Iranian revolution should not be used to inform revolutionary strategies anywhere else in the world.
Internal documents reveal that ousting the Shah was considered in the US as early as 1975, when it was discovered he was dying of cancer. By 1976, US officials were already discussing the Shah’s removal. The CIA was scripting the transition of power by 1977.
The US correctly assessed that the demise of the Shah was imminent, and wanted to manage the inevitable transfer of power, either to the military, or to a religious leader. The US Ambassador to Iran advised that the US should support installing Khomeini, whom he described as “a Gandhi-like figure”, and whom he believed it would be possible to control, and who could curtail Soviet influence in Iran.
Furthermore, negotiations between the Shah and British Petroleum broke down, denying BP exclusive rights to Iranian oil output. Subsequently, the BBC Persian language service gave Khomeini free hours of broadcasting time as a platform for anti-Shah revolutionary propaganda.
The Iranian revolution is not an exception to the model of exiled revolutionary leaders being backed by foreign intelligence.