Secret UK envoy convinced Iran Shah to stay away in 1979

Sir Denis Wright

Sir Denis Wright

The British government sent a former diplomat, disguised as an old friend of the Iranian Shah, to convince the deposed monarch to stay away from the UK, after he was forced to abandon Iran in 1979. The information has been made available in a series of official government documents recently declassified by Britain’s Foreign Office. Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the US-backed Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, abandoned his throne and ended up in the Bahamas, a former British colony which had gained its independence in 1973. But Britain’s Labour government feared that the deposed monarch aimed to live in England, something that Prime Minister James Callaghan considered a potentially damaging decision by “an immensely controversial figure in Iran”. London therefore employed the services of Sir Denis Wright, British ambassador to Persia from (1963-1971), who secretly traveled to the Bahamas, disguised as an old friend of the deposed Shah, to whom he eventually managed to convey the British government’s hesitation to offer him refuge. The move apparently dismayed Tory leader Margaret Thatcher, who became British Prime Minster soon after Sir Denis’ secret mission. She reportedly told one of her Cabinet ministers that she felt “deeply unhappy” that the British government had refused refuge to the Shah, whom she described as “a firm and helpful friend to the UK”.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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