Iranian Revolutions of 20th Century

Iranians had some main revolutions or movements in the past 100 years, that the last unsuccessful one was in 2009. These revolutions/uprisings, i.e. uprising of 1906 (Constitutional Revolution), uprising of 1951 (The Oil Nationalization Movement), uprising of 1979 (Islamic Revolution), and uprising of 1997 (Islamic Reform Movement), were different but they had one common characteristic: incompleteness, i.e. all of them were incomplete. It would be very helpful if have a look at them. Now we want to take a look at two of them, that happened in the first half of 20th century.

During the early 1900s an idea gradually spread among Persians that the only effective way to save the country from government corruption and foreign manipulation was to make the Shah accountable to a written code of laws. The corrupt Qajar dynasty had disgraced Persia a lot and Persians were really angry. But the majority of them, i.e. more than 99% of 10 million Iranians, were illiterate religious fanatics. More than 90% of Iranians lived in the rural area. Just 1% of Iranians were literate; And just some of them had gone to the outside world or “Farang”, i.e. France. These tiny educated minority, were the leader of Constitutional movement. By 1905 this sentiment had grown into a popular movement, the Constitutional Revolution. Following a year of demonstrations and strikes, Muzaffar al-Din Shah was forced to agree to the creation of an elected parliament (the Majlis) and a constitution that limited royal power, established a parliamentary system of government, and outlined the powers of the legislature. But Britain and Russia, apparently fearing that a strong Iranian government might act too independently and threaten their interests in the region, agreed in 1907 to divide Iran into spheres in which each would exercise exclusive influence. Russia then encouraged Mohammad Ali Shah, Muzaffars successor who resented the constitutional limits on his authority, to dissolve the Majlis. In 1908 the shah attempted a coup against the elected government, bombing the Majlis building and dissolving the assembly. The main supporters of Mohammad Ali Shah were Mullahs. But it’s very interesting that some of the main leader of oppositions were Mullah, too. After a year of fighting between supporters of the constitution and forces loyal to the shah, the constitutionalists prevailed and deposed Mohammad Ali, who fled to Russia. The constitutionalists brought a senior Mullah, Ayatollah Fazlollah Nouri, to trial and hanged him in Tehran. It was quit unprecedented, and was the first serious clash between Mullahs and the people. Nowadays many Iranians call Seid Ali Khamenei and the ruling Mullah, the second Mohammad Ali Shah!, and followers of Fazlollah Nouri !, respectively. The restoration of the Majlis and constitutional government failed to end foreign influence in Iran. In 1901 a British subject had been granted an exclusive 60-year concession to explore Iran for oil. Commercially valuable quantities of oil were discovered in southwestern Iran in 1908, and exports began in 1911. In 1914 the British government purchased 51 percent of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (formed in 1909; renamed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, or AIOC, in 1935 ), and from then on the UK behaved increasingly like a sovereign power in southwestern Iran . Meanwhile, in 1910 Russia assisted Mohammad Ali Shah in an invasion of Iran and an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government. The following year, Russia occupied Tabriz and forced the Majlis to dismiss American financial advisor William Morgan Shuster, whom the Majlis had invited to Iran to reorganize the national finances; Shusters reforms strengthened Iran but threatened Russian and British interests. In 1919 Britain induced the Iranian prime minister to sign a treaty giving Britain substantial political, economic, and military control over Iran. This agreement would have made Iran a virtual protectorate of Britain, and it aroused the anger of Iranian nationalists. The other main cause of Constitutional movement’s failure was World War I. The famine and the banditry were widespread. Then an illiterate military officer, Reza Khan, with the help of an Iranian journalist that worked for Britannia, Seid Zia Tabatabii, launched a military coup against the government . Within four years and with the support of Britannia, Seid Zia and Reza Khan ruled the country, but just Reza Khan had established himself as the most powerful person in the country. In 1925 the last ruler of the Qajar dynasty was deposed and Reza Khan, who earlier had adopted the surname Pahlavi, became the new shah, the new dictator.

In the mid-1940s Mohammad Mosaddeq, an Iranian statesman and a member of the parliament, emerged as the leader of the oil nationalization movement. This movement sought to transfer control over the oil industry from foreign-run companies to the Iranian government Mosaddeq consistently advocated three goals: to free Iran of foreign intervention, to ensure that the shah remained a democratic monarch and not a dictator, and to implement social reforms. To forestall nationalization, the shah appointed military officer Ali Razmara as prime minister in 1950. This move increased the scale of demonstrations in favor of nationalization and against a government that increasingly was denounced as a puppet of foreign interests . Razmara was assassinated in 1951 by a Muslim fanatic, and the more militant supporters of nationalization applauded his death. Sensing the popular mood, the parliament passed a bill nationalizing the AIOC , then took the unprecedented step of appointing Mosaddeq prime minister over the shah’s objections. In response to these events, Britain enforced a blockade on oil exports from Iran, a move that deprived Iran of foreign exchange. Although Iran had not relied on oil revenues prior to 1951, Mosaddeq’s development budget anticipated this income; its absence severely hindered efforts to stimulate the economy and implement social reforms. Attempts to secure foreign financial assistance proved unsuccessful because most countries and international financial institutions feared offending Britain . Mosaddeq, like many other Iranian political leaders, hoped the US would intervene to resolve the crisis. Initially, the US tried to mediate a compromise. But In early 1953, when a new administration came to power in the US, U.S. policy toward Iran began to change. The US now became sympathetic to British arguments that Mosaddeq’s government was causing instability that could be exploited by the USSR to expand its regional influence. Mosaddeq advocated Iranian neutrality in the Cold War conflict, but neither side in the Cold war wanted to lose Iran. Consequently, the US decided to use CIA to help overthrow Mosaddeq. By this time, many conservative politicians in Iran, some senior military officers, and the shah were prepared to work with the CIA to bring down the Mosaddeq government. The coup, carried out in August 1953, failed initially, and the shah was forced to flee the country. After several days of street fighting in Tehran, which were instigated by the CIA, army officers loyal to the shah gained the upper hand. Mosaddeq was arrested, and the shah returned in triumph. The Iranian government restored relations with Britain in 1953 and concluded a new oil agreement the following year. Mossadegh had long sought to curb and, perhaps, to abolish the monarchy. In 1951, the Iran population was near 20 million, and more than 90% of them were illiterate religious fanatics. And more than 75% of Iranians lived in the rural areas. Prior to 1953 Mohammad Reza Shah had been seemed destined to remain a constitutional monarch. Following the coup, however, he moved to consolidate power in his own hands. With the help of the military and later a secret police, the Savak, the shah created a centralized, authoritarian regime. He suppressed opposition by former National Front supporters and the Iranian Left, tightly controlled legislative elections, and appointed a succession of prime ministers loyal to him.

(The references that we used are: Iranica Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Britannica and Encarta Encyclopedia)

One Response to Iranian Revolutions of 20th Century

  1. Victoria says:

    I know this would have taken a while to write up, thanks for that.

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