The shah of Iran suggested last night that his fall from power was part of an international conspiracy to boost oil prices and said he has indications that two American oil companies may have been involved.
In his first substantive television interview since his ouster a year ago, a gaunt yet vigorous looking Mohammad Reza Pahlavi said his country was "chosen for the sacrifice" to reduce oil production and increase world oil prices.
His remarks revealed a strong sense of betrayal about his final months as Iran's king of kings. Flashington a wry smile, he said it would take a Homer or a Shakespeare to describe what he obviously believes was a net of intrigues involving two close friends and U.S. Air Force Gen. Robert E. Huyser.
The shah did not name the U.S. oil companies and did not give additional details to his already published account of Huyser's alleged mission seeking to reconcile the Iranian armed forces with opposition politicians.
When interviewer David Frost asked him what the Carter administration could have done during 1978 to help him retain the throne, the shah responded initially by saying "Well nothing." But after a pause, he added:
"I think that instead of the U.S. and [Britain] coming out so strongly with words, by saying [things] like 'We are 100 percent behind the shah,' 'We support him' and this and that, if they had just kept quiet from the begining and not mixed into our affairs, that probably would have been best."
The hour-long program, aired on ABS's "20/20" news-magazine program, was filmed at the shah's residence on Contadora Island in Panama. Closeups of the exiled monarch revealed the signs of his recent illness, yet he seemed strong and mentally alert.
He firmly denied allegations by Iran's Islamic leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his Islamic revolutionaries that he was responsible for the death of at least 100,000 Iranians, calling the charges "preposterous, ridiculous, I wouldn't even use the word disgusting."
Without any self-deprecation, he said he could not take responsibility for tortures carried out by his secret police.
"How could I take responsibility for things I didn't know about," he said, adding that the number of peoples tortured was "in the hundreds."
While he would not disclose his personal wealth, he said his assets were "surely much less than those of many, many, many American millionaires." And he dismissed the idea of being tried before an Islamic court by saying, "Who are they to try me?They should be tried first."
But it was his sense of betrayal and his belief that he was the victim of a complex conspiracy that prompted many of his remarks about his final days.
Two years before his ouster, he said, "we heard from two different sources connected with the oil companies that the regime within Iran will change.
"If just in imagination, we believed that there was a plan that there must be less oil offered to the world market in order to make the price of oil go up, one country should have been chosen for this sacrifice. Iran was producing 5.6 million barrels per day. So in order to have a shortage, which I have heard about [from] two people connected with two oil companies, the consortium never really started serious talk about placing an order to buy our oil."
He dismissed as an impossibility that Khomeini could organize the revolution -- calling him "an uneducated person." You ask him if there is protein in -- I don't know -- in oats or not, he could not tell you about it," the shah said.
During the final days, he said, "I had many sleepless nights, just wondering what is happening. Because I still do not understand what has happened."
He said that Huyser, who was deputy NATO commander at the time, came secretly to Iran and "I did not know of his presence there." The shah said that his chief of staff reported to him that Huyser urged him to meet with Mehdi Bazargan, who subsequently became Khomeini's first prime minister.