Until the overthrow of the shah's regime in 1979, Israel and
Iran had established government missions in both countries although
this relationship was never formalized by an exchange of ambassadors.
Under the shah, from 1953 to 1979, Iran was one of Israel's primary
suppliers of oil and a major commercial partner. In addition,
the intelligence services of the two countries cooperated closely,
and Israel exported military hardware and provided training and
other assistance to Iranian military forces. These close, but
discreet, relations were abruptly terminated in 1979, upon the
coming to power of the regime of Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi
Khomeini and Iran's joining of the anti-Israel camp. Shortly thereafter,
Iran called for the "eradication" of the State of Israel through
armed struggle and its replacement by a Palestinian state. As
a symbolic gesture, the PLO was given the building of the former
Israeli mission in Tehran.
In the 1980s, however, Israeli concern about the fate of the
approximately 30,000 Jews remaining in Iran, interest in assisting
Iran in its war with Iraq, and cooperation with the United States
in its efforts to free American hostages held by Iranian-backed
Shia (see Glossary) extremists in Lebanon, led to a renewal of
contacts between Israeli and Iranian leaders and shipments of
Israeli arms to Tehran. Israel reportedly sent arms to Iran in
exchange for Iran's allowing thousands of Jews to leave the country.
Data as of December 1988