The Atlantic reports that the Iranian military created three individual cardboard cut outs of Khomeini for the ceremony.
One giant cardboard cut out was carried from a sitting plane at Tehran Airport to mark the "return" of the Ayatollah to Iran after 14 years in exile. Two uniformed military men then carried the cardboard stand down the tarmac, allowing it to "inspect" a group of Iranian soldiers. The regiment of soldiers actually then salute the cardboard sign.
After the imaginary inspecting, a second cardboard cut out was then placed inside a car and driven away, presumably to retake its place as the leader of the Islamic Cardboard Republic of Iran.
All of this transpired while a third cardboard cut out of the Khomeini observed the proceedings from a distance.
On this day in 1979, Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned home after 14 years in exile. He had been forced out by the secular and U.S.-backed Shah, who rightly feared his popularity. While in exile, he made high-profile sermons, wrote books, and circulated audiotapes explaining his vision for a Shia theocratic state. The revolution began in 1977 and, by the time the Shah fled in January 1979, Khomeini was living in France. When he flew home on February 1 he was joined by U.S. reporter Peter Jennings and others, and was met by millions of cheering Iranians at the airport. He declared his opposition to the interim government, led a popular campaign against it, and by the end of the year had established the Islamic Republic, with himself as Supreme Leader.