Richard Melson

September 2006

SAVAK: Mossad

Ministry of Security SAVAK


Intelligence | World Agencies | Iran

Ministry of Security SAVAK

Shah-an-Shah [King of Kings] Mohammad Reza Pahlevi was restored to the Peacock Throne of Iran with the assistance of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1953.

CIA mounted a coup against the left-leaning government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq, which had planned to nationalize Iran's oil industry. CIA subsequently provided organizational and and training assistance for the establishment of an intelligence organization for the Shah. With training focused on domestic security and interrogation, the primary purpose of the intelligence unit, headed by General Teymur Bakhtiar, was to eliminate threats to Shah.

Formed under the guidance of United States and Israeli intelligence officers in 1957, SAVAK developed into an effective secret agency.

Bakhtiar was appointed its first director, only to be dismissed in 1961, allegedly for organizing a coup; he was assassinated in 1970 under mysterious circumstances, probably on the shah's direct order. His successor, General Hosain Pakravan, was dismissed in 1966, allegedly for having failed to crush the clerical opposition in the early 1960s. The shah turned to his childhood friend and classmate, General Nematollah Nassiri, to rebuild SAVAK and properly "serve" the monarch. Mansur Rafizadeh, the SAVAK director in the United States throughout the 1970s, claimed that General Nassiri's telephone was tapped by SAVAK agents reporting directly to the shah, an example of the level of mistrust pervading the government on the eve of the Revolution.

SAVAK increasingly to symbolized the Shah's rule from 1963-79, a period of corruption in the royal family, one-party rule, the torture and execution of thousands of political prisoners, suppression of dissent, and alienation of the religious masses. The United States reinforced its position as the Shah's protector and supporter, sowing the seeds of the anti-Americanism that later manifested itself in the revolution against the monarchy.

Accurate information concerning SAVAK remains publicly unavailable. A flurry of pamphlets issued by the revolutionary regime after 1979 indicated that SAVAK had been a full-scale intelligence agency with more than 15,000 full-time personnel and thousands of part-time informants. SAVAK was attached to the Office of the Prime Minister, and its director assumed the title of deputy to the prime minister for national security affairs. Although officially a civilian agency, SAVAK had close ties to the military; many of its officers served simultaneously in branches of the armed forces.

Another childhood friend and close confidant of the shah, Major General Hosain Fardust, was deputy director of SAVAK until the early 1970s, when the shah promoted him to the directorship of the Special Intelligence Bureau, which operated inside Niavaran Palace, independently of SAVAK.

Founded to round up members of the outlawed Tudeh, SAVAK expanded its activities to include gathering intelligence and neutralizing the regime's opponents. An elaborate system was created to monitor all facets of political life. For example, a censorship office was established to monitor journalists, literary figures, and academics throughout the country; it took appropriate measures against those who fell out of line. Universities, labor unions, and peasant organizations, among others, were all subjected to intense surveillance by SAVAK agents and paid informants. The agency was also active abroad, especially in monitoring Iranian students who publicly opposed Pahlavi rule.

SAVAK paid Rockwell International to implement a large communications monitoring system called IBEX. The Stanford Technology Corp. [STC, owned by Hakim] had a $5.5 million contract to supply the CIA-promoted IBEX project. STC had another $7.5 million contract with Iran's air force for a telephone monitoring system, operated by SAVAK, to enable the Shah to track his top commanders' communications.

Over the years, SAVAK became a law unto itself, having legal authority to arrest and detain suspected persons indefinitely. SAVAK operated its own prisons in Tehran (the Komiteh and Evin facilities) and, many suspected, throughout the country as well. SAVAK's torture methods included electric shock, whipping, beating, inserting brokon glass and pouring boiling water into the rectum, tying weights to the testicles, and the extraction of teeth and nails. Many of these activities were carried out without any institutional checks.

At the peak its influence under the Shah SAVAK had at least 13 full-time case officers running a network of informers and infiltration covering 30,000 Iranian students on United States college campuses. The head of the SAVAK agents in the United States operated under the cover of an attache at the Iranian Mission to the United Nations, with the FBI, CIA, and State Department fully aware of these activities.

In 1978 the deepening opposition to the Shah errupted in widespread demonstrations and rioting. SAVAK and the military responded with widespread repression that killed thousands of people. Recognizing that even this level of violence had failed to crush the rebellion, the Shah abdicated the Peacock Throne and departed Iran on 16 January 1979. Despite decades of pervasive surveillance by SAVAK, working closely with CIA, the extent of public opposition to the Shah, and his sudden departure, came as a considerable suprise to the US intelligence community and national leadership. As late as September 28, 1978 the US Defense Intelligence Agency reported that the shah "is expected to remain actively in power over the next ten years."

However, it was no surprise that SAVAK was singled out as a primary target for reprisals, its headquarters overrun, and prominent leaders tried and executed by komiteh representatives. High-ranking SAVAK agents were purged between 1979 and 1981; there were 61 SAVAK officials among 248 military personnel executed between February and September 1979. The organization was officially dissolved by Khomeini shortly after he came to power in 1979.

Sources and Resources

Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr.

Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr.

Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf (August 28, 1895November 25, 1958) was the first superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, and had investigated the Lindbergh kidnapping case.

A United States Army officer, he was the father of H. Norman Schwarzkopf,

who became a four-star general in the Army and a notable figure in Operation Desert Storm.

Born in Newark, New Jersey to Julius George Schwarzkopf and Agnes Sarah Schmidt of Germany.

Schwarzkopf attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating in March, 1917, two months early because of the U.S. entry into World War I. After receiving a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the cavalry, Schwarzkopf was sent to Europe to fight in the war as part of the American Expeditionary Forces, during which he was gassed with mustard gas, making him susceptible to respiratory illnesses for the rest of his life. During the occupation, he served as a provost marshal, partially due to his organizational skills, and partially due to his fluency in German.

After returning to the United States with the rank of colonel, Schwarzkopf was appointed, in 1921, by the Governor of New Jersey Edward I. Edwards to head the newly formed New Jersey State Police. Borrowing his skills as a cavalry officer and provost marshal, he personally trained the first 25 State Police Troopers, and organized the State Police department into two troops: a northern troop, utilizing motorcycles, to patrol the Mafia-controlled narcotics, whiskey, rum-running, and gambling rings in the New York City area; and a southern troop, with troopers on horseback, to crack down on moonshiners. He left the force in 1936 after being relieved of his duty by a governor he had frequent clashes with.

He narrated Gang Busters for awhile, then re-entered the army in 1940. [1]

He was posted to Iran in 1942, due to the efforts of Mohammad Vali Mirza Farman Farmaian, and was tasked with organizing the Iranian police after the UK-Soviet intervention that made Iran an Allied protectorate.

His trainees, the Gendarmerie, were active in suppressing

the Soviet-inspired Azerbaijan (the so-called Marshabad Soviet) in 1946.

After World War II, he was promoted to brigadier general, and in the late 1940's, was sent to occupied Germany to serve as Deputy Provost Marshal for the entire U.S. Sector.

Before retiring from the Army in 1953 with the rank of major general, Schwarzkopf was sent by the Central Intelligence Agency as part of Operation Ajax to convince the exiled Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to return and seize power, going so far as to organize the security forces he had trained to support the Shah.

In September 1951, Iranian troops shut BP's British technicians out of the oil installations they had run for four decades. This was unacceptable to Western interests, and set in motion a chain of events that culminated in the 1953 CIA engineered overthrow of Mossadegh's government and the installation of the notorious Shah and his CIA/Israeli Mossad trained SAVAK secret police.

An interesting part of this sordid story, as Time magazine reported on Feb 4th 1991, is that one of the American advisors in Teheran who played a key role in the coup was former army general H Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr., father of 'Friendly Fire' Schwarzkopf.

(The Fifth Estate Spring 1991 p.9).

He was married to Ruth Bowman (1900-1977).

He died in 1958 from complications of lung cancer

and is buried at the U.S. Military Academy cemetery.

Savak: Mossad & Norman Schwarzkopf Sr.

September 2, 2006