From our friends at the excellent Jihad Watch
The Ayatollah Khomeini was forced to leave Iran by the Shah, but he found refuge in Iraq, and lived there for years until Saddam Hussein booted him out. Saddam considered him a potential threat to the Sunni despotism that, disguised as “Ba’athism,” had reigned, more and less harshly depending on the ruler and the outside circumstances, in Iraq for decades. And when he had to leave Iraq, it was not clear where Ayatollah Khomeini could go. He couldn’t return to Iran. But he also couldn’t or wouldn’t be taken in by any other Muslim Arab state, for they were all ruled by, dominated by, Sunni Arabs. They would not likely give refuge to a fanatical Shi’a Muslim who might hearten local Shi’as (in such countries as Bahrain, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen). In any case, he would be regarded with natural hostility and distrust, not unmingled with contempt, by Sunni Arabs.
But there was one country that was wiling to take the Ayatollah Khomeini in. And that country was not a Muslim state, but France. Famous for offering refuge to all sorts of revolutionaries and dissidents in the nineteenth century, the French government, or some in it, no doubt were moved by the Morality Play that was artfully constructed. According to it, the Shah, being vainglorious (he was that), and his court, being corrupt (it was that), and the regime, being allied to the Americans (it was that), was certifiably on the side of the Devil. And therefore Khomeini must have been a brave, tiers-monde debout-les-damnés-de-la-terre fighter for freedom, with – who could expect otherwise? – a special fondness and interest in Islam. But why not, and what was wrong with Islam anyway?
So he settled down, did this fanatic, into a comfortable existence at Neauphle-le-Chateau. And there he was not prevented from acting, not prevented from receiving visitors, not prevented from recording tapes full of calls for the violent overthrow of the Shah. Those tapes were then smuggled back to Iran, re-recorded by the tens of thousands, and then sent all over Iran to be listened to by others, including the rural poor and the urban bazaris. They were eager to listen to this fiery orator who was also a learned Shi’a theologian, and could appeal without any effort to the texts and tenets of Islam for support as he painted the Shah as an enemy of Islam because the Shah was a friend of, and defender of, Infidels.