Some new revelations on this:How Britain helped Iran’s Islamic regime destroy the left-wing opposition
Britain supported Iran’s new Islamic regime in crushing the last remaining opposition to its rule in 1983 while the UK’s leading official in the country joked about Iran’s torture techniques, declassified files reveal.
The UK’s secret intelligence service, MI6, worked with the CIA to provide a list of alleged Soviet agents in Iran to Ayatollah Khomeini’s theocratic regime, which took power after the overthrow of the UK-backed Shah in 1979. The information was used by the regime to execute leading members of the Iranian communist party, the Tudeh.
The British files also highlight how at least one Foreign Office official considered how the UK might benefit from the forced confessions given by Tudeh members at the time, which were believed to be extracted under torture.
The files suggest British policy was motivated by the desire to curry favour with Iran’s new rulers, rather than concerns over Cold War geopolitics or Soviet influence in Iran, which was recognised to be minimal.
The list of Iranians allegedly working for the Soviet Union in Iran was provided to Britain by Vladimir Kuzichkin, a major in the KGB who defected to the UK in June 1982, as reported by the New York Times and London Times in 1986. The information gleaned by MI6 from Kuzichkin – who was responsible for maintaining contacts with the Tudeh party, the main leftist organisation in Iran established in the 1940s – was also shared with the CIA, and passed on to Tehran.
The Iranian regime proceeded to round up over 1,000 members of the Tudeh party and eventually executed as many as 200. The party was banned and forced underground.
Britain’s senior official in Iran at that time, Nicholas Barrington, states in his memoir that Kuzichkin’s information simply “found its way” to the Iranian authorities after the Russian’s defection, without specifying the British role.
Files from the time – when Barrington was head of the British Interests Section in Tehran since Iran and the UK had cut full diplomatic relations – suggest that British officials supported Iran’s repression of the Tudeh.