Qajar and Pahlavi (History Lesson)

Someone wrote to me yesterday that he thought Iran was a republic at the time of Mossadegh and that the US and Britain had removed the constitutionally elected head of the Iranian Republic and installed a king (the Shah).


Someone else said that Mossadegh was "Premier" not "Prime Minister," i.e., the chief among the Shah’s ministers.  In fact, there is no difference between the two terms and he was the Shah’s Prime Minister, and a politician descended from the previous royal house.  He decided that he would rather run the show than be head of govenrment for a young man from the family that had displaced his own.  Mossadegh knew that the Persian masses were highly xenophobic and very tired of the presence which the Soviet Union and Britain had established in Iran before and during WW2.  Mossadegh was clever enough to wager that he could use anti-Western, and anti-colonial feelings in the country to mobilize opinion to force the constitutional monarch out.  He lost his bet.

Khomeini did much the same thing forty years later.  He won his bet.

Let’s get the facts straight before discussing a present situation which is based on past history.

"To remain in power Mossadegh knew he would have to continue consolidating his power. Since Iran’s monarch was the only person who constitutionally outranked him, he perceived Iran’s 33-year-old king to be his biggest threat. In August of 1953 Mossadegh attempted to convince the Shah to leave the country. The Shah refused, and formally dismissed the Prime Minister, in accordance with the foreign intelligence plan. Mossdegh refused to quit, however, and when it became apparent that he was going to fight, the Shah, as a precautionary measure foreseen by the British/American plan, flew to Baghdad and on from there to Rome, Italy.

Commentators assumed it was only a matter of time before Mossadegh declared Iran a republic and made himself president. This would have made him the full head of state and given him supreme authority over the nation, something Mossadegh had promised he would never do.

Once again, massive protests broke out across the nation. Anti- and pro-monarchy protestors violently clashed in the streets, leaving almost 300 dead. Funded with money from the U.S. CIA and the British MI6, the pro-monarchy forces quickly gained the upper hand. The military intervened as the pro-Shah tank regiments stormed the capital and bombarded the prime minister’s official residence. Mossadegh surrendered, and was arrested on August 19, 1953."  Wikepedia

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6 Responses to Qajar and Pahlavi (History Lesson)

  1. davids says:

    You know a lot more about this than I do so I’d appreciate your views on these questions.
    Could the Shah’s regime lasted longer if it had more American support?
    Was it in America’s long term interest to back the Shah over Mossadegh?
    Thank You

  2. Pat Lang says:

    Islam generally holds anything other than a theocratic state to be lacking in legitimacy. Some essentially secular states have survived that handicap through a ruthless application of police power, self-identification with the ideal of Islamic rule or rule by some personage considered to be “holy” through descent from the prophet. (Morocco and Jordan are examples) In some cases these things combine.
    In Iran, 12er Shiism has just about always been deprived of power through the rule of monarchies unbounded in their willingness to suppress any expression of the idea that the monarchy’s rule was illegitimate. They were all like that.
    Naturally, a certain tension always existed between the monarchies and the mullahs.
    In the case of the Pahlavis, there was little doubt that their claim to legitimacy was shaky. The dynasty was founded in the 20s by a cavalryman who had no particular reason to think he should be a king other than he could make himself one. Of course, he overthrew a dynasty that had little other than “time in grade” to recommend them.
    The Pahlavis, like Ataturk in Turkey, considered themselves to be “armed apostles of westernization. This made the mullahs hate and distrust them even more than they might have otherwise.
    Mossadegh skifully used this to advance his own cause. Britain and the US considered the rule of Mossadegh in an Iran unfettered by the Pahlavis to be a “risk.” Eisenhower decided to do something about it and felt justified because the Shah was, in fact, legal ruler of the country.
    In one of their few demonstrations of effective covert action, CIA organized anti-Mossadegh forces to bring the Shah back. He promptly fired Mossadegh.
    Essentially the same scenario was acted out in 1979. Khomeini sensed weakness in the Shah. The Shah was always weak and stricken with self doubt. The difference in 1979 was that Jimmy Carter was no Eisenhower and whoever was in charge at CIA were not Dulles and Kermit Roosevelt.
    Would the Pahlavis have remained in power with real support from Carter? Very likely.
    I think it was no more in our interest for there to be an anti-Western government in 1953 than it turned out to be after 1979.
    One final word. The mullahcracy in Iran is every bit as inhumane as the Pahlavi government ever was.
    The late Shah had a lot of personal faults but he never threw hundreds of thousands of his subjects lives away in suicidal attacks in a war against anyone. The mullahs did that. pl

  3. RJJ says:

    “The late Shah had a lot of personal faults but he never threw hundreds of thousands of his subjects lives away in suicidal attacks in a war against anyone.”
    Because of his personal merit or his powerful ally? With US support was there ever any occasion to do so?

  4. Pat Lang says:

    His “personal merit?” You sound like a priest.
    There were no wars during his reign, get it? pl

  5. RJJ says:

    Your words: “he had a lot of PERSONAL faults, but he never [dispatched human waves]”
    There were no wars during his reign because people don’t cross the borders of US client states with armies.
    Deterrence is a good thing.
    Powerful allies are powerful deterrents.
    Credit where credit is due.

  6. Pat Lang says:

    Winning counts. Ask any Southerner. pl

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