A number of observers, including the Shah, have written of rumours and allegations that the government of the United Kingdom has secretly supported "mullahs" (Shia clerics) in recent Iranian history, and in particular the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in his successful overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in the Iranian Revolution of 1979. It is alleged that the 1979 Iranian revolution is a Western response to the Pahlavi's White revolution which was intended to bring benefits to Iran and its people, but was unfavorable to the landlords, clergy and the United States and UK that feared that Iran will become independent, thus hampering their further involvement. Khomeini rejected the charges, claiming it was the Shah who was a Western "agent" who had prevented the establishment of Islamic government in Iran until the revolution.
BBC Persian journalist Hossein Shahidi has talked about "the deep-rooted belief" among Iranians "that Britain is behind every move in Iran," and in particular that the BBC radio is "credited with, or accused of, having brought about the downfall of" both Pahlavi kings, Mohammad Reza Shah and his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi whose thirty-seven-year rule was brought to an end by the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79.
A survey of Iranian expatriates in Southern California found the leading explanation for the 1979 revolution to be foreign plots, as did a recent survey in Isfahan. It has been suggested by some Iranian observers (living outside Iran) that Iranians hostile to the revolution appear to feel more comfortable blaming outside forces than their own compatriots. Although these hypotheses stayed a mere fanstasy, according to the elders in Iran who were present at the time of revolution.
A sinister connection between British India, the Iranian flag created after Iranian Islamic revolution, and Khomeini's ancestry, has been put forth by some secular Iranians (generally expatriates) who opposed the revolution, according to Iranian author Hooman Majd. Khomeini's paternal grandfather was an Indian who immigrated to Iran (to the town of Khomeini) in the early nineteenth century when India was a British colony. The stylized `Allah` (الله) on the post-Revolutionary Iranian flag, bears "a remarkable similarity to the symbol of the Sikhs," whose historic homeland is the Punjab. Majd himself is unconvinced by the resemblance, seeing the issue instead as reflective of "my compatriot's love of and insatiable appetite for conspiracy theories." Khomeini has also been accused of having had a British father. According to an article in Persian Journal mentioned in Forbes.com and elsewhere, Khomeini may have been the son of British adventurer William Richard Williamson, a convert to Islam known to Arab Muslims as Haji Abdullah al-Zobair.
According to a book by F. William Engdahl, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, a conspiracy to overthrow the Shah was hatched by the British and Americans in 1978 coinciding with the Iranian Revolution.
When "negotiations ... under way between the Shah's government and British Petroleum for renewal of the 25-year old extraction agreement ... collapsed". According to Engdahl, the end of the agreement meant "Iran appeared on the verge of independence in its oil sales policy for the first time since 1953." To prevent this independence, Engdahl claims "American 'security' advisers to the Shah's SAVAK secret police implemented a policy of ever more brutal repression" against anti-Shah demonstrators, while American President Carter "cynically began protesting abuses of 'human rights'" caused by the American advisers policy. The British Petroleum company "reportedly" organized a "capital flight" from Iran," and so on.
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi himself asserted that, "If you lift up Khomeini's beard, you will find MADE IN ENGLAND written under his chin," in the later days of his reign as monarch. This statement by Pahlavi was an adaptation of another saying, "If you lift a mullah's beard, you will find 'Made in Britain' stamped on his chin."
On 7 January 1978, the state news agency Ettela'at also published an article accusing Khomeini of being a British agent and a "mad Indian poet."
According to the article
These days thoughts turn once again to the colonialism of the black and the red, that is to say, to old and new colonialism.
Black referring to feudal forces and red to communist ones. The two groups allegedly had formed an alliance to sabotage the monarchy's modernization project. The article went on to say that when this alliance went looking for a clerical mouthpiece two decades ago to dupe the devout.
Ruhollah Khomeini was an appropriate agent for this purpose. It was said that he had spent time in India and was in contact there with institutions of English colonialism, and this is how he became known by the name `Seyyed Hindi`
The article further suggested that Khomeini's opposition to the shah was prompted and paid for by British oil interests.
Supporters of the Khomeini, outraged by the article, organized violent demonstrations in response, which eventually snowballed into the Iranian Revolution and led to the flight of the Shah about a year later.
Engdahl quotes Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as blaming not the British but the Americans for his overthrow.
I did not know it then – perhaps I did not want to know – but it is clear to me now that the Americans wanted me out. Clearly this is what the human rights advocates in the State Department wanted … What was I to make of the Administration's sudden decision to call former Under Secretary of State George Ball to the White House as an adviser on Iran? … Ball was among those Americans who wanted to abandon me and ultimately my country.