The Iranian Revolution

After nearly two years of demonstrations against the Shah and his subsequent exile, on April 1st 1979 Iran elected by referendum Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as the Supreme Leader of a new Islamic republic, thus ending the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who had held power since WWII. To Western eyes, the Iranian Revolution may appear to have come out of nowhere, considering economic progress in Iran and the good relations the Western powers had with the Shah. However, the conflict between modernism and traditionalism stretch back as far as the 12th century as Iran observed economic and scientific progress in Europe, compounded later by the military and territorial gains of European colonialism, it struggled to reconcile its own traditions dating back to Persian empire and Zoroastrianism prior to Islam’s rise in 7th century. After being exiled in 1964, Ruhollah Khomeini had become a symbol for many in Iran seeking a return to traditionalism, and a voice for many in the country as they listened to his widely distributed audio tapes who were frustrated with what they saw as corruption in the Shah’s regime and illegitimacy of authority stemming from his backing by the US and the UK after the 1953 coup of the Mossadegh government. As the price of oil collapsed in 1976, and with the election of Jimmy Carter in the United States and liberal media and NGOs such as Amnesty International openly criticizing the Shah’s human rights record, Khomeini and his followers were able to instigate a revolution that overturned the weakened and discredited Shah. Since then, the theocratic government of Iran has in many ways become more autocratic than its predecessor, and has counterposed itself explicitly against the Unites States and Israel, most notably with the former during the 444 days of holding 52 of its citizens hostage in the American embassy in Tehran at the outbreak of the revolution. After fighting a bloody war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988, and the subsequent destruction of its Iraqi rival over the next three decades, Iran has emerged as a regional power that continues to project influence through the Shia Muslim world with sponsorship of groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, and notable efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.

Timeline:

1901- D’arcy concession
1907- Partition between UK and USSR
1908- Oil struck in Abadan
1917- Russian Revolution
1919- Ango-Iranian takes over D’arcy concession
1921- Reza Khan operation against Qajars
1926- Reza Shah Pahlavi is anointed
1933- Shah renegotiates the D’arcy concession
1941- UK and USSR invade Iran and Reza abdicates, son Mohammad Reza assumes throne
1944- Reza dies in Johannesburg, attempt on Mohammad Reza’s life
1951- Mossadegh nationalizes oil
1952- Gamal Abdel Nasser installed as President of Egypt
1953- Mossadegh overthrown
1961- White Revolution
1963- June 5th uprising
1964- Khomeini exiled from Iran
1973-74- oil price triples
1976- Jimmy Carter elected President of the United States
1976- oil price collapses
1978-79- Islamic Revolution

References:

– The Anglo American Establishment, Quigley (1981)
– All the Shah’s Men, Kinzer (2003)
– The Shah and the Ayatollah, Hoveyda (2003)
– Devil’s Game, Dreyfuss (2006)
– Khomeini’s Ghost, Coughlin (2010)
– Why Intelligence Fails, Jervis (2010)
– The Brothers, Kinzer (2013)
– US Foreign Policy and the Iranian Revolution, Emery (2013)
– Pepe Escobar: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Others/Escobar.html
– Iranian historian Abdollah Shahbazi

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