Anatomy of a coup
A desperate attempt to save Iran
July 23, 2004
This article is a result of few interviews conducted
last year with some members of the Nojeh coup who managed to leave
Iran before it was suppressed. Published anonymously as requested
by the author.
Overwhelming majority of Iranians are too young
to remember the first and only attempt by Iranian arm forces to
Islamic Republic. On July 11th 1980 a group of high-ranking
and well-trained officers of Iranian arm forces came within
few minutes of executing an ambitious and chaotic plan to topple
the government of Abolhassan Banisadr. The officers, who were
mostly leftovers of Shah's demoralized arm forces, took
part in a coup that was poorly planed, compromised, and easily
defeated. [Also see: "Nice
The core officers who were recruited to start the preliminary
planning of the coup came from various sources: infantry, air
army, ex-Immortal Guards, and former members of the Savak secret
service. The officers were chosen carefully based on their experience
regime. They were picked based on their access to
military facilities, jet fighters, jet fuel, ammunition, maps,
of regime's military bases. The higher ranking officers were
assigned to planning and logistics,
while the lower level officers and pilots were given
the task of implementing all stages of the coup.
The plan was comprised of three stages: stage one was a combination
of twelve-hour air assaults against military, strategic,
government, and religious targets in Tehran and five other
by two dozen low altitude supersonic flights over Tehran,
Mashhad and Qom. The first stage was to be followed immediately
second which consisted of dispatching nine infantry
divisions to tactical locations such as the State Radio and
Television, parliament, headquarters of Revolutionary Guards,
The third stage was the most ambitious. It called for cutting
off Tehran from the rest of the nation
with the help of fifty thousand Balouch, Kurdish, and Turkish
fighters under the leadership of an unknown national figure.
and ruthless part of the third stage was to have the fighters
outfitted as Revolutionary Guardsmen with a green bandana
which had the words "Ya
Vatan" (Oh Motherland) embedded on them. That way the coup
forces could distinguish the coup
fighters from the regime's forces.
The fighters' orders were to create pandemonium and confusion
among Revolutionary Guardsmen and the backers of the
young Islamic Republic by attacking the government forces that
from other cities to defend Tehran.
There were, however, two problems with the last stage
of the plan:
one was the
fact that majority of Balouch, Kurdish, and Turkish fighters
were not familiar with Tehran's landscape, and the
other obstacle was that many of them did not speak Farsi.
There is a serious misconception that the coup intention was
to facilitate the return of the Pahlavi
royal family to power. That is far from the truth.
The majority of high-ranking officers involved with
the Shah a coward who betrayed Iran and Iranians by
fleeing and handing
the country to Ayatollahs in a silver platter. The
actual political leader of the coup was Shapour Bakhtiar who
in spite of being
the last imperial prime minister, did not have good
rapport with the Pahlavi monarchists.
Bakhtiar first explored the possibility of financing
a coup in early 1979 by contacting Brigadier General
abroad and did not wish to participate in any military
action in Iran recommended a flamboyant, middle-aged,
(code-name Ehsan) who was Oveisi's prodigy in the
Ehsan was a perfect choice; he was among the very
few officers of the Shah's regime who had actual
Ehsan rose through the ranks in the early years
of his career by scoring two major points with the regime: as a
down and captured the legendry Kurdish outlaw Mullah
Avareh in the mountains of Kurdistan, and a few
years later he
of the most famous Pakistani drug lords by the
names of Sharif Ali Khan nd Mirza Rasefi who were
responsible for trafficking thousands of tons of
narcotics to and through Iran
Ehsan was also shot in the shoulder while
conducting an operation
near the border with Afghanistan. One more fact
that played in Ehsan's favor was his early retirement
prior to the
birth of the Islamic Republic,
which made him a shadowy figure and unknown to
the revolutionary government.
Oveisi however warned Bakhtiar about Ehsan's flashy lifestyle.
Ehsan had a reputation among military elite as a heavy drinking
womanizer with a big mouth. Nevertheless, Bakhtiar met Ehsan in
1979 and was impressed by the Colonel's personality and military
to Iran, started planning and recruiting for the coup.
It is estimated that the coup cost somewhere in the neighborhood
of a million dollars. The money covered expenses for traveling
from Tehran to Paris and Istanbul and most of the was spent on
hiring Balouch, Kurdish, and Turkish mercenaries.
personally by Bakhtiar and no
one else. It is not clear where the money came from. Some believe
funds were supplied by Israel and the US; some believe
that it came from Iraq, and others say the money came from Bakhtiar's
Bahai friends and supporters.
is a known fact that the coup was no secret to Banisadr's
government and on the night of July 18th, Banisadr's task force,
which consisted mostly of members of the Mojahedin Khalgh
Organization, were ready and waiting for the operation to
start. Many of the pilots were captured hours before the start
of the operation and other officers were arrested on the way
to their bases. However it's not known who snitched and how
the regime uncovered coup.
The circumstances leading to the leak is by far the
fascinating part of this ordeal.
There are many different theories out there making attempts at
explaining the circumstances behind the failure
of the coup and its leaders. But the most intriguing piece comes
from sources who claim that Saddam Hussein's government tipped
the Islamic Republic a month before D-Day. It is said that
Iraq intentionally reported the details of the operation knowing
that the capture and execution of the best pilots and military
commanders would seriously weaken the Iranian forces (Iraq invaded
Iran two months later). Some even go so far as to allege that
the coup was reported to
the U.S. to buy the release of American embassy hostages in Tehran.
Some believe that the success of the
coup would have led Iran on the path of a bloody civil war and
the assassination of Khomeini
have turned him into a mythical figure. These are legitimate
concerns and yet it can not be denied
failed "Nojeh Coup" of 1980 was conducted by servicemen who deeply
cared about their country. No evidence has surfaced so far that
to foreign powers or shows that the officers had illegitimate intentions.
The very fact that the coup's resources were not managed
efficiently and plans were executed poorly, demonstrates the fact
that the movement was most likely homegrown. Many of the officers
believed that the country was heading in a wrong direction and
in a desperate attempt to save Iran, they lost their
Right or wrong, this is their story.
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