IRDC.IR: Many clerics issued statements and invited Imam Khomeini (RA) to return to Iran. Even Sharif Emami’s government had expressed its willingness towards the return of the leadership of the revolution to the country.
Following his being appointed as prime minister, Bakhtiar, too, invited Imam Khomeini (RA) to return to Iran. Replying to these invitations, Imam Khomeini (RA) pointed out: "I will return to Iran whenever I see as appropriate. My return to Iran is not dependent on being invited by anyone. I will return, whether I am invited or not.”
He just set one precondition for his return: "If I find out that my presence in Iran is more useful, I will return.” Following the Shah’s departure from the country, Imam Khomeini (RA) issued a statement and said: "I will return to Iran at the first appropriate opportunity.” Finally, he decided to return to Iran at the early morning of January 26th, 1979. The Reception Committee issued a statement and announced: "Imam Khomeini will fly towards Iran according to the previously declared program.”
"The plane will arrive to Tehran airport at 8 AM; Imam Khomeini (RA) will move towards Behesht-e Zahra (the Tehran Cemetery) at 9 AM; and the speech will be delivered at 12:00,” the Committee added in its statement. In January 14th, 1979, Imam Khomeini (RA) made a farewell ceremony and expressed his appreciation of all those who had cooperated with him during his residence in France.
While the Iranian people were preparing themselves for receiving Imam Khomeini (RA) back in the country, it was suddenly announced that all the Iranian airports would be closed for three days.
In the same day, Imam Khomeini (RA) attended among the Iranians and journalists and criticized the Bakhtiar government for closing the airports. The Bakhtiar government, the US administration, and Western governments did their best to discourage Imam Khomeini (RA) from returning to Iran. Even Imam Khomeini (RA)’s friends suggested that the return journey should be postponed to a more appropriate time.
The Islamic Revolution Council and the Association of Combatant Clergy were "worried about immediate detention of Imam Khomeini upon his arrival to the Tehran airport.” They were even "concerned that regime forces shoot down Imam Khomeini’s airplane.” Nevertheless, Imam Khomeini (RA) was determined to return to the country.
Very soon, Bakhtiar realized that it is not an easy task to keep airports closed for a long time. He understood that closing the airports for a long time can hasten the downfall of his government. In January 29th, 1979, Bakhtiar announced that airports have been opened. Upon the circulation of this news, it was announced that Imam Khomeini (RA) will definitely return in the morning of February 1st, 1979.
The regime’s horror of Imam Khomeini (RA)’s return
the Army commanders, Bakhtiar, and the US administration were seriously worried about Imam Khomeini (RA)’s return to the country. The Crisis Committee and the Council of Army Commanders concluded that "preventing Mr. Khomeini from returning [to Iran] is the only mechanism for averting chaos and bloodshed and establishing tranquility in the country.”
General Gharabaghi, the commander of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tendered his resignation, because he was seriously horrified about Imam Khomeini (RA)’s return to Iran. Bakhtiar was also worried about Imam Khomeini (RA)’s return. He had realized that his government would be shattered upon Imam Khomeini (RA)’s return. He wrote a letter to Imam Khomeini (RA) and urged the leader of the Islamic Revolution to postpone his return.
Bakhtiar also urged the French government to prevent Imam Khomeini (RA) from returning to Iran. He met the French ambassador and urged him to convey his message to "President Giscard d’Estaing to prevent Ayatollah Khomeini from returning to Iran.”
The United States, too, was severely worried about Imam Khomeini (RA)’s return to Iran. After extensive consultations, Huyzer and Sullivan concluded that "the rapid return of [Ayatollah] Khomeini [to Iran] will have vehemently unpredictable consequences and will lead to total chaos [in the country].” When diplomatic efforts of the US and Iranian officials to postpone Imam Khomeini (RA)’s return led to failure and they witnessed that he is determined to fly to Iran, they plotted a dangerous intrigue against Imam Khomeini (RA).
Intrigue against Imam Khomeini (RA)
Bakhtiar, the US, the Army commanders, and the Court officials were plotting to prevent Imam Khomeini (RA) from returning to Iran. In Egypt, Ardeshir Zahedi was nurturing the idea of diverting Imam Khomeini (RA)’s plane and enforcing it to land in a military base.
In the Council of Military Commanders, General Rabiei "proposed three possible solutions: tracking the airplane and diverting it to another airport; finding out a third country which is ready to track the airplane and shoot it down; and closing the airport. Closing the airport was apparently the easiest solution. However, Huyzer believed that it is impossible to close the airport more than one or two days.” Following the circulation of the news of the intriguing plot against Imam Khomeini (RA) in the press and the disinclination of the French government for cooperating with Iranian authorities in carrying out this plot, Huyzer asked the Army military commanders whether they have been involved in any action against [Ayatollah] Khomeini’s life. Military commanders looked at each other and he received no clear answer from them.
Bakhtiar, too, raised this issue in the security commission of military commanders whose members attended in a session in the prime minister’s office everyday. "The commission believed that Imam [Khomeini]’s plane should be exploded.” Finally, Bakhtiar decided to highjack Imam Khomeini (RA)’s plane in the sky. According to Garry Sick, the US national security advisor, Bakhtiar intended to "guide Ayatollah Khomeini’s plane to the Qeshm Island and detain him and his accompanying individuals in that island.” "At first, President Carter welcomed Bakhtiar’s plan eagerly” and said: "It is excellent!” Nevertheless, other White House officials did not nurture such a superficial and miscalculated attitude. Cyrus Vance, the US Secretary of State, rejected this idea categorically and pointed out: "Such an initiative will hasten current disorders and mayhems. It may result in the death of Ayatollah Khomeini and can have unpredictable and dangerous consequences.” Finally, Bakhtiar concluded that such an intriguing plot would not solve his problem.