Theocracy vs. Democracy

What is the Best Form of Government for Iran?


Theocracy vs. Democracy
by Fariba Amini

Some months ago, on a bus ride from Edinburgh airport to St. Andrews in Scotland, I was sitting with a British gentleman who was going to the same conference as I was -on the historiography of Iran.  I started talking to him about Iran. He is a historian who teaches in one of the U.S. universities.  His field of study is the Middle East, in particular Iran.  He told me that in a few months he would be organizing an event in honor of the late Ann Lambton, a well-known British scholar of Iran, a woman who traveled Iran by foot and who wrote voluminously about many aspects of the country, ranging from a study on Persian grammar to the history of the Qajar period to land reform under the Pahlavis.

Tall and rugged, Lambton was an intimidating teacher who suffered no fools—as some of her former students told me. She was also a close advisor to the British government and a good friend of Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden. She had told her government not to compromise in any way with the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq.  Dr. Mosaddeq was a secular politician who had studied Law in France and Switzerland. What he saw in the West, the workings of a democracy, impressed him so much so that he wanted to apply it to his homeland.  Mosaddeq had written his Ph.D. thesis on the law of inheritance in the Shi’a religion. He knew the ins and outs of religion and government.  Of Qajar descent, he had grown up in nobility only to reject it. Highly influenced by his philanthropic mother, and raised in a liberal family, he came to realize that democracy was the best form of government for Iran.  He had been imprisoned by Reza Shah for denouncing the latter’s dictatorial decrees, and at the age of 67, he was one of the oldest members of the Majlis. Soon after, by a majority vote, he became the Prime Minister of Iran.

Mosaddeq of course opposed British influence in Iran and in an act of insubordination, nationalized Iran’s oil to the outrage of the British. The subsequent history is well known. Mosaddeq was toppled; the Shah was brought back, giving years of lip service to those who helped regain his throne. But in 1979, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, like his father before him, was forced to leave the throne. The Iranian Revolution took place and the Imam came back from years of exile in Najaf by way of Neauphle-le-Chateau on an Air France jet.  Millions were cheering while waiting for his arrival in the streets of Tehran. On the plane, the late ABC anchor, Peter Jennings, asked Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini how he felt returning to Iran after such a long absence. His reply was, “nothing,” showing a man with no emotions.
Why is looking back at history at this juncture so important not just for Iran but the entire Middle East?  Why is it that the past always comes back to haunt us? Why is it that personalities like Ann Lambton and the role they played so vital in shaping the history of nations like Iran?  Ann Lambton believed that for the British government to make any deals with Mosaddeq was a kiss of death. Like many of her friends in the British foreign office, she was short-sighted and only saw the immediate gains.  She also advised her government to ally with the clergy. The American historian Roger Louis wrote, “While Ann Lambton did not write the blueprint for theocracy in Iran, she did suggest in 1951 that covert means be used to oust Muhammad Musaddiq.  Her first choice as the replacement for the then-still-constitutionally-mandated Prime Minister, being Sayyid Zia Tabataba’i [the original owner of the compound which is now home to the notorious Evin prison],  a pro-British conservative politician.”  
 Ann Lambton never returned to Iran after 1970; she did not like the Shah’s White Revolution or the outcome of the land reform. In many ways, the government she helped to bring to power disappointed her.  In her obituary, after praising her work as unmatched by anyone of her peers, a scholar who knew the language and the people of Iran, David Morgan writes of his mentor: “The outcome was that Mossadeq was forced out of office by the royalists, with the support of the US and Britain, and imprisoned. Nevertheless, she [Lambton] had little time for the Shah, a disdain that was fully reciprocated; and she was initially sympathetic to the revolutionaries of 1979, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, though soon disillusioned.” In a briefing to the foreign office, Miss Lambton as she was called, had concluded that Americans "lack our experience or the psychological insight" on Iran. Was she right?
Why is Iran going through so much suffering and turmoil? Did foreign politicians and their advisors make mistakes in their judgment or did they know what they were doing? Even though PM Mosaddeq tactically allied with Ayatollah Kashani--the spiritual leader of many of today’s clergymen who later decided to support the Shah--he was a firm believer in the separation of state and religion.  He knew the devastating impact religion could have if it is incorporated into daily life and politics.  He knew that when given power and authority, the clerical establishment, especially the Shi’a, will be the worst kind of statesmen.  When someone proposed Mehdi Bazargan (who later became the provisional Prime Minister after 1979) as his Minister of Culture, he rejected the idea, saying that if Bazargan, because of his religiosity was put in this position, he would put a scarf on every Iranian girl and woman. He respected the late Bazargan who was a man of integrity, but not for that post.  His vision was correct. He had read and lived the history of Iran.  
Today, there is a serious discourse among Iranian intellectuals, secularists as well as religiously minded ones, about whether Iran should have a secular government or continue on a more moderate path of religious democracy.  This discussion is even more relevant after the rise of the Green movement. Should a semi- religious state evolve if and when the concept of Velayat-e- Faqih is gone?   I think that advocates of the idea of a religious state, members of Washington think-tanks or scholars, are mistaken to advise their governments that Iran is better off under religious rule. I believe that today, many Iranians, with the exception of the supporters of the hardliners- Ahmadi Nejad, Bassij and the Revolutionary Guards -have lost their love affair with an Islamic state, if they ever had one.
The question we face is what went wrong in Iran? Could the rule of the clerics have been avoided?  And how can we arrive at a consensus on the best form of government for Iran? These questions are pressing both from the perspective of leftist and liberal intellectuals as well as of those religious scholars who believed or still believe that a theocracy or even a semi-progressive religious state can be a viable model of governance.  But more importantly, the impasse remains with the West, notably America and Britain, who have interfered in Iranian politics in various capacities by ignoring and undermining nationalist/ secular forces. They, more than any other Western power, should take the blame for helping Khomeini come to power and throttle an entire society under his reactionary idea of an “Islamic government.”

That is not a conspiracy theory as many of us Middle Easterners are accustomed to believe in but the stuff of reality: if the West had cooperated with nationalist and secular forces in Iran, this tragedy in Iran could possibly have been avoided. But the West was shortsighted; Reagan called the Mujahedin freedom fighters and allied with them against the atheist Soviet Union; today’s Taliban might have never come to power and the Afghan nation might have been spared much mayhem and misery if the Americans had not supported these reactionary forces. In Iran too, in its greed for profit and in its drive to stop the influence of the “left,” the West turned its back on its real and potential partners.  Today, the Iranian saga continues.

Ann Lambton said that she would never go to Iran if she had to wear the hejab.  “I have never worn a chador in my life, and I do not intend to start now”, she said. Lambton maybe resting in peace in her grave somewhere in the English countryside,  but today, the children of Iran are paying the price; most of the times, their graves are not even marked and their women have had to wear the hejab since 1979.


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more from Fariba Amini


by fozolie on

You are repeating yourself. Please stop lecturing. Try listening. Try reacting a bit less. You keep repeating his services to the country and conditions which were not disputed by me. But he made mistakes which he realized and later admitted himself, why are you kasse dagh tar az aash? The more you carry on with your silly defence the more you justify the use of the term shahallahie.

Mr. Fozolie


Little tweet

by KouroshS on

are vallah... manam nafasam dare dar miad be vallahe...

let's set a limit or something ...

Little Tweet

vaaaay khasteh shodam!

by Little Tweet on

so much to read and so little time...



by Spear on

The "cult of personality" is not just a disease inherent to Iranians -- the Americans recently elected an amatuer senator to the White House solely based on the cult of his personality.

This is a symptom of the human condition, not a particular stain on the Iranian mentality. I would hope that we all have a modicum of appreciation for what  Reza Shah was able to achieve in such a short time in Iran, even though he may have had some excesses in monopolizing power. But please put yourself in that time and in that Iran before you judge the man and his achievements.

The Iran of the 1920's was a helpless, diseased, sickly nation, bankrupt in every way. He had to put the nation on his huge shoulders and do the things he did in a dictatorial way so as to change the debilitating status quo. Moreover, I forgive the man's excesses because I know his heart was in the right place -- to modernize Iran and bring it out of the utter abyss of Qajar/mullah darkness.

One cannot say that about the current rapists ruling Iran. Presently, Iran is not in their heart -- if it were, they wouldn't sacrifice the interests of the nation and its people in order to pursue bombastic, anti-Iranian policies so as to enrich themselves, so obscenely.

IRI represents political Islam, not Iran



by fozolie on


There is really no hope with Iranians and culture of personality worship. The thinking becomes purely one dimensional as gheriat takes over. You presume incorrectly that I don't know my history and what a disaster the Qajars were and the dire state of the country and his achievements as the facilitator for modernization, yet he did not stop there.  So he was not a symbol which he admitted himself (since yhou know the history so well I need not explain further).

Any chance we can get away from the personality cults?

Mr. Fozolie

Marjan Zahed Kindersley


by Marjan Zahed Kindersley on




by Spear on

 "as though an illiterate Mir Panj... single handedly achieved all that."

Have you heard of a thing called symbolism? You know, Churchill didn't "single-handedly" lift the British people out of the hellhole of Nazi bombardment either, but he's almost universally credited with bringing London and Britain back from the dead of Nazi assault (even though the Americans were largely responsible for England's resurrection).

No one has ever said that Reza Shah "single-handedly" modernized Iran, but if you knew your Iranian history, specially Qajar history and what humiliation and havoc Iran was experiencing under Ahmad Shah, you would know that Reza Shah was a major player in the re-birth of Iran as a modern entity. Just like Churchill, it was Reza Shah who provided the "leadership" at a critical time in our history - the spark, that is.

In 1919, at the Paris Peace Conference, as the British colonial pen was carving up Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, and even Israel (Balfour Declaration), they also intended to carve Iran into 4 countries (Azarbaijan, Baluchestan, Arabistan, and Iran), for they had no confidence in Ahmad Shah and his ability to keep the nation together in the face of the new communist Soviet threat. And but for the emergence of a strong leader like Reza Shah, Iran would have been disintegrated, without a doubt.

Reza Shah used to say something like, "Kar as man, fekr as shoma." So, even he admitted as much (that he didn't do anything "single-handedly") in that the "ideas" for bringing Iran out of the utter abyss of Qajar darkness came from somewhere else = the new class of "roshanfekr-ha," which, when you think about it, is much more valuable to a modern country than brute labor, something that was up the king's alley. 

IRI represents political Islam, not Iran


Farah Rusta

by jamshid on

"let me remind you that  it was you who first cirticized Ms Amini for idolizing Mossadegh..."

Looking back at the comments, you are right! I guess I myself am at fault here. My apologies.


Attacks Ms Amini?

by fozolie on


Aren't you confusing facts with attacks?

Miss Lambton was involved in the most vicious propaganda campains agianst the Iranian government. That is a matter of record. Maybe you are confusing her disdain and contempt for all Iranians. Maybe the lesson to learn  from the Brits, is the ability to set aside differences and pretty sharp divisions when their national interests are at stake.

As for the sentimental claptrap about Dr Mossadegh being the only true democratic and law abiding leader, any dispassionate reader of the history will see the fallacy of that argument. It really is an insult to all the modernists who created what the shahallahies keep calling the golden age of Pahlavis (as though an illiterate Mir Panj and his emotionally retarded son jealous of his father's iron man image single handedly achieved all that). It is an oversimplification of our history and belittles the achievements of many (it can be traced to the propaganda organised by your Miss Lambton and Reader Bullard which has obviously been very effective). 

As someone born long after these events I am sorry to say we are indeed cursed that the fissure caused by a young impatient Shah and a failure and incompetence of an old man have is so deep that is beyond repair. No wonder we are cursed with a "theocracy".


Ms Amini, yu are too stuck in a twilight world that is entirely made up of the Jebhe Gheir e Melli fantasy and too brain washed to see reason. Now that is an attack, and I hope the shock of it wakes you up. 

Mr. Fozolie

Farah Rusta

my last word

by Farah Rusta on

... for the time being !  

I was going to leave the last comment on this blog to the 'Ahuraee' words of Ahura but before I sign off I thought I had to thank those who agreed and even those who disagreed with me. I learned from both of you. Darius, Free and Benross, you all added to my insight and I really appreciate it. Jamshid, I think we agree on quite a few things but on the moderate nature of Ms Amini's article let me remind you that  it was you who first cirticized Ms Amini for idolizing Mossadegh and demonizing the Shah over the cash in pocket issue. Aynak, I think the best way to settle is to agree to disagree. Ahura, reading your comment, ang given your title, I think there is one attribute missing from your list and that is: hubris!

Ms Amini, until our next meeting, Ciao!



Secular Democratic Republic

by Ahura on

Thank you Ms. Fariba Amini for an informative article and an easy question.  Jorge Luis Borges thought that historical truth is not what happened but what we think has happened.  This idea is well verified by Iranians in exile and at home. Something about our nature and nurture piled up with extraordinary neural connections, mixed blood, long history, despotism, compassion, suspicion, pride, omniscience, amnesia, fatalism, conspiracy, certitude, quick-wittedness, humility, mysticism, and spiritual verities drives us to credit others and not ourselves for our stellar present standing in the world community.

Who needs facts which require skills of seeking and obtaining pertinent information, when one can feel the way to conviction with no effort?  No offense to our learned compatriots, this is just introspection. Very much a subject to Borges’ idea I agree with your take of history but hold Iranians totally responsible for advancing the interests of foreigners.

A critical factor that has kept Iran and Iranians from progress is lack of democratic institutions and democratic culture.  Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh saw that clearly and strived to establish the rule of law but Mohammad Reza Pahlavi deemed the autocratic ways more suitable for his goals. The eventual fall came and Iran was lost to mullahs with their archaic sharia laws and long held enmity of Iran’s pre-Islamic culture. So we went from bad to worse and now have the urgent task to help our fellow Iranians at home replace this IRI religious dictatorship with a secular democracy.


Dear Free

by benross on

Yes, it's better to let go. But not for the reason you might have. This blog was vastly beneficial for the opposition. As you mentioned, you didn't get into the politics until age 30. The other participants in this discussion were mostly representing ideas affected by those who actually got involved in politics in younger age. That category, was not very vocal in this discussion. It is listening. And it is closing a dark chapter in opposition politics.

You missed hearing those who didn't comment.


Ms. Rusta

by Free on

I really appreciate your patience and knowledge and dedication to this topic, it's truly impressive, but with some stubborn Iranians it's best to let it go and leave them be. Some of these people are 23 or 24 years old and they think they have all the answers -- wasn't that what got us into this mess in the first place -- idiotic young people searching for utopia, who foamed at the mouth for an illiterate mullah, whose face they swore to have seen on the moon?

You more than aptly made your case, really well indeed, now don't waste any more of your time. Hopefully, some of this crowd will pick up a book or two and educate themselves a little on the history of Iran, monarchy, and how it pertains our cultural heritage, instead of posting comments and spewing opinions. I didn't have a political thought in my bones until I was 30 (had more important things to do, like chasing girls) -- and thank god for it, otherwise I would have really put my foot in it!



Farah Rusta

by jamshid on

If IC could be considered a good "mahak" (measuring stick), then yes, I have noticed that Mossadeghis and Jebehye Melli supporters initiate attacks and therefore divisions more often than monarchists do.

But IC is only a micro world compared to the rest of the world, and so we can't use IC as a true measuring stick.

However, since the June events of last year, they have toned down quite a lot and avoided divisions. This very blog is an example. Compared to the past, Ms. Amini has refrained from unnecessarily attacking the previous regime, and I am sure she has done so, not because her views of the past regime has changed, but solely in observance and respect toward unity and the current movement in Iran. (My apologies to Ms. Amini, for taking the liberty of interpreting things in here!)

Please give them credit when due.

One more note, if for example someone like me whose vote is for a republic, writes a blog about the flaws of Monarchy as a system of government, would that be interpreted as "attacking" the previous regime, or RP? It should not.


Farah Jan, Valee Fagheeh (Vagheeh)is same as Monarchy for Iran

by aynak on


The simple question is do you belive in  regular __ELECTION__ as the deciding factor in Iranian politics for those in charge or do you believe in Valeeh Fagheeh or Monarch with permanent power.

Remember Khomanee came to power saying he will go to Qom and leave the government alone, --Prior-- to taking hold of power.   Now we are stuck with Valeeh Fagheeh, unfortunately it seems until we have ANOTHER REVOLUTION!

We are tired of Revolution every 30 years!   We want a system where ONLY the vote of people every 4 or 5 years decide who will be in charge and boot them if they are not doing their job.   Very Simple.






Farah Rusta

Step by step Aynak jaan

by Farah Rusta on

I am glad to see that you are getting closer to the main point but I don't want you to jump as you may fall :) So you have agreed that "absolute monarchy is bad." At least we have something to agree about! And I suppose you agree that absolute republic is bad too. Remember your new position is different from your previous position that you said: king<--->velayate faghih.

Now the next step. How about constitutional/parliamnetary monacrchy? Is it bad too? If it is bad, then are countries such as Britain, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands calling themselves democracy for fun or would you say there is some truth in it too?

Just being curious!






Message of Iranian people on 22nd was loud and clear

by aynak on


They want:

1-A system of government that is accountable:   The proven method to insure this is through open , fair and continious elections

2-All citizens are EQUAL in the eyes of law:   No citizen is above or below another just by virture of their  lineage.  (Which closes the door for the one with added power to exert influence and ultimately corrupt the whole system).

The problem of people with the "Islamic Republic" appears to be with the "Islamic" part as represented by UNELECTED Velayat Fagheeh.   Interestingly enough, not a single person asked for Valeeh Fagheeh's help to resolve the election issue, instead they asked:   Where is my VOTE and Take back --my VOTE--

Saddam could have called himself Democrat or an Angel.  that would not make him one, nor would it take anything away from the concept of Republic.   If you chose to call yourself Einstein Ms.Rusta, no one will ever call Einstein and idiot on the account of you calling yourself Einstein. The litmus test is not what a system calls itself "Democrat Republic of Korea" and yet the head of the country --inherits-- the power from his father which sounds to anyone with a grain of brain  more like an absolute monarchy than a "democratic republic". Only anignorant person or a charlatan would blame Democracy or Republic for what is going on in Egypt or Syria or N.Korea.   In reality the reason Hossni Mobark/Saddam/Assad/Kim Il-Sungs systems were corrupt is precisely because they involve --inheritence-- of power.  (Hosni is also grooming his son to take the helm of republic after his death).

--elections-- and not just once but on an ongoing basis, for all those in highest position of power is the best deterent against Dictatorship (which all of the named people are, because they want to avoid repeated election).





Farah Rusta

Dear Darius, Free, Jamshid and Aynak

by Farah Rusta on

First I forgot to thank Darius for the very interesting video clip. The hostile commentary of the BBC reporter was nothing new but it was interesting to see that while the Brits regarded the Shah as their ally, he was not “ally enough” (Chieftain tanks were not purchased yet!) to be spared the pointed and biased documentary making machine of their media.

Free, thank you for your follow up comment. I would like to draw your attention to this piece of researched history from the website of Ali Mir-Fetros:// There is a part quoted from the memoirs of Karim Sanjabi, (one time ally and a minister in Mossadegh’s cabinet and later the leader of Jebhe Melli and a minister under Bazargan). Sanjabi recounts an argument with Mossadegh (shortly before Mossadegh’s referendum to dissolve the Majlis) in which he reminds Mossadegh that they (JM) were no longer as popular as they used to be two years earlier. Sanjabi (as well as Sedighi) warn Mossadegh of the illegality of his referendum and dissolution of Majlis which in his opinion could trigger a coup. Mossadegh rudely brushes all these aside and accuses Sanjabi of have smoked drugs (chars) that morning and hence talking nonsense. He (Mossadegh) says that in the absence of Majlis the Shah wouldn’t sack him from premiership and even if he did, we (meaning Mossadegh and his cabinet) would take no notice of the Shah. History proved Mosaddegh wrong.  As for your second point, you are absolutely right in saying that the people need to a have heroic martyr, a symbol of defiance no matter how foolish that defiance may be. This point was referred to by Benross as well. I assure you that if Ahmadinejad is removed/killed by Americans tomorrow, he will attain a status much higher than Mosaddegh could ever dream of.   Jamshid, if you want to pass judgment on other, that is fine, but please try to be a fair judge and please have at least a rough idea about the shear weight of the attacks on the Pahlavis by almost every one who has had a grudge from that era and compare it with the monarchists attack on the leftists, JM, and so on. You are making a very unfair judgement here. Yes, monarchists like me and Darius may comeback with strong rebuttals but I cannot remember an occasion that we have initiated as divisive attack on any of the opposition.  I have no problem with your assertion that “union can be achieved first and foremost by changing attitudes.” But this is the very point. The likes of Ms Amini use every opportunity to glorify their hero Mossadegh at the cost of demonizing the Shah and consequently his son, Reza Pahlavi. They never let go of the past but when they are challenged by the monarchists, the latter come under the hammer. Is this fair?  And Aynak jaan, your Aynak may need changing as you seem have become very short-sighted. The question f democracy and dictatorship is not a question Velayte Faghih vs a king as you see it. How many dictators were produced by the republics and were titled Presidents? From our former neighbour, Saddam Hussein, to Hafez ol Assad of Syria and now  to his son (a hereditary  presidency!) no to forget, Gadhdafi and his heir and most infamously President  Mugabe of  Zimbabwe. Do you want me to name more (like all those South American El Presidente?). You surely need a change of specs. J





Here's my summary of all this great discussions

by aynak on

I think we all have concluded that because we want democracy and we are sick and tired of dictatorship, we want a government of the people and not a ruler over the people.   The difference is,  all people in charge of decision making in a government of people are *ELECTED* and *ACCOUNTABLE*.   The free and open elections is the vehicle that guarantees NO-ONE, be it Valeeh Vagheeh or a king, can cling to power indefinitely and change a

citizen<-->government relationship


slave<---> king/valeeh Safeeh


Looking into future, (rather than focusing on the past)  such democratic system should be acceptable to all democracy seeking Iranian.
One thing the Iranian people said loud and clear on 22nd of Khordad, was: 

Where is my --vote--?    That should shed light on the nature and the form of relationship they (as citizens) want with their government (their representatives).

They do not accept god's representative nor the shadow of god as a substitude.


And thank you Fariba Amini for posing the question and starting this exchange,  more generically the question could have been:   Dictatorship or Democracy.


Farah Rusta

by jamshid on

"you go off the track and suggest that the monarchists are being divisive."

Yes, you monarchists indeed are divisive! But so are other non-monarchist seculars. I have not kept count on who flames division more often. All I know is that neither side can let go of the past.

today after 30 years, both sides have evolved. The monarchists are not the pro-dictator, shah-worship types that they were in the past. They have evolved and today most of them have true democratic principles. But so have evolved the other side as well!

They Mossadeghis are never going to become a useful tool in the hands of the likes of Khomeini. I guarantee you that. They have evolved too.

But both sides focus on their pre-evolution period and bicker about it. While that period and the attitudes attached to it are non-existant today. Instead they should spend time on how to cooporate and organize based on their evolved attitudes and principles of today.

both sides are secular and have more common values than differences. And both sides have a mortal enemy in the IRI.

Also, I did not say that issues of historic importance should not be discussed. All I am saying is that they have been discussed plenty already. Nobody's mind is going to change today by reading these kind of exchanges. In a future free Iran, we can discuss them even further. But today our priority should be something else.

As long as we don't grasp this important issue, we'll continue to waste time as we had in the past 30 years.

Both you, Farah Rustan and Fariba Amini will get older in exile and perhaps die in there too with the envy of a free Iran as your last thoughts.

Or both of you could grow older in a freed Iran and then argue about your differences and the past all you want, but do so in a free Iran.

The choice is yours.

I have said a hundred times that union cannot be accomplished by words, speeches or bullet points we can agree on. Today, union can be achieved first and foremost by correcting our attitudes. It starts with changing our behavior.


Ms. Rusta

by Free on

Very interesting take on the 1951-53 affair, I have to admit. I hear you, and I knew that not only did Mossadegh, who was in the parliament at that time, vote against the accession of Reza Shah to the Peacock Throne in 1925, but he was the SOLE vote against Reza Khan becoming Reza Shah.

If as you say Mossadegh did not have strong popular support in August 1953, and I'm quite open to this theory, then what do you suggest is the reason that he has become such an idol for so many worshippers? Is it just a case that he was a martyr at the hands of the western boogeyman, and leftists used/use him and his susequent removal from power in order to advance their own "anti-imperialist" interests? 

Farah Rusta

Who is being divisive?

by Farah Rusta on


In the first part of your comment, you exposed Ms Amini's hypocrisy very clearly. She is taking pride in her hero's coming from "royal blood" or "born into nobility" as if this is 18th century France and we are going to be spellbound by such attributes. If anything, Mossadeq's blood line is a matter of shame and disgrace. Belonging to a decadent and criminal dynasty as the Qajaris were is not anything to be proud of, particularly these days that history has revealed the extent of their corruption and the irrepairable damage they inflicted on the country in hundred and twenty odd years. Worse than all was this person named Farmanfarma, whose history of service to the British Imperialism (which as a family trend continues to this day) is the most dishonorable family relation one can imagine. If Mossadegh did not pay for his trips abroad it was not out of charity but because he was so loaded that it would have caused outrage for a wealthy landlord that he was to travel at the expense of the Iranian taxpayer - he was cleverer than falling for such things.

But in the second part of your comment you go off the track and suggest that the monarchists are being divisive. I can't vouch for all monarchists on this site but see how many times a monarchist has written an article or a blog attacking Mossadeq and compare it with the number of times that the Mossadiqists, Leftists and Islamists use every opportunity to have a go at the Pahlavis.  I am particu;arly surprised that you seem to justify your point by saying that because we were not born in that era we should not discuss or debate it!!! I this were the criteria then no point of historical importance should ever be discussed. For as long as history is being forged, as is done by the authors of this blog, I can assure you that there is a rebuttal waiting in the wings. Unless you understand teh past, there is no sustainable future there. This is why thirty years ago we as a nation fell for one of the most backward and criminal of the Islamic movements and never paused to ask why do we have to choose that path? Obviously some still want to repeat that mistake.


I fully understand and agree when you say: "HE IS THE EVIL. Exactly the same way that Massadegh is a saint."   This nation needs a saintly figure. For a short while it was the Shah. Then it used to be Mossadegh, and later it became Khomeini. Now we are back to Mossadeq (or god forbid the likes of Ganji, Khatami, Soroush or Mousavi). The days of Angels and Demons are long past. I have no personal animosity towards anyone but I can't sit aside and let the lies go past unchalleneged.

I have many other stories to tell about Mossadeq and his dishonesties but I have never mentioend them because as you say it correctly to the cult worshippers it makes no difference. They need to worship a figure and they continue to do it regardless. Thanks for the input nonetheless.

Darius and Free,

Thanks for your comments. There are common areas in your takes on Mossadeq and mine but there are also areas where I beg to differ.

Lets start with Ann Lambton,. She was in my view, was the shrewdest and the most insightful of Iranologists in the twenteith century. She had correctly predicted the rise of the Islamic fundamentalism some twenty five years before it happened in Iran. She was, from a politcal point of view, a head and shoulder above all her predecessors and those who followed her. Amini gives you incorrect and forged history to suit her agneda. I take no notice of such humbug. Lambton was no friend of Iran and Iranians but her sharp and astute observations were beyond the level that Ms Amini can fathom.

And as for Free's suggestion that Mossadeq was loyal to the constitution of 1906 and that he did not abolish the monarchy I have to draw your attention to his opposition to the Pahlavi monarchy right from the begining when he did not vote for Reza Shah's accession to the throne.  Mossadeq was indeed a monarchist but not a Pahlavi monarchist; Musaddeq was a Qajari monarchist!  Despite his pretentions to being a constitutionalist Mossadeq wantonly destroyed the most fundamental pillar of Iran's democracy by illegally dissolving the Parliament in an illegal referundom.  All the elements of Mussadegh's coup against the Shah were in place except that Mossadeq had already been dismissed by the Shah. In his truely decietful style Mossadeq kept his decree of dismissal secret from his own cabinet. He knw that he had no supprt of the army and no longer support of the public. And this is the point that has been lost on us. In August 1953, Mussadegh had no popular support. (memoirs of Karim Sanjabi and quoted in the book by Mirfetros). The evidence? Total lack of pro Mussadegh demonstrations or clashes with the Shah's forces in the immediate aftermath of his removal. Ask how many pro-Mossadegh supporters were killed or executed after 28 Mordad. Other than Fatemi, None!

The truth is that Mussadegh occupied no moral high ground. And back in 1951-53, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi knew it full well. This is why he did not buy any of those hollier-than-thou pretenstions of Muhammad Musaddiq and his cronies.  


Darius Kadivar

What Iranians Thought at the time (Panorama 1961)

by Darius Kadivar on

Watch this interesting documentary. They freely interview Iranians at Tehran University asking them about how Free the PRess is and about Political freedom :

Go Here ( Go particularly to 2 min 32 sec for the above interview)

Also the Shah is asked if he allowed the formation of political parties ( Non Communist). This was before the 1970's Rastakhiz that put an end to political pluralism and sealed the Shah's Fatal doom.




Dear Darius,

by Free on

I wholeheartedly agree with you, regarding your following statement: "I personally would not even be surprised if Mossadegh would have supported Reza Pahlavi against all odds were he alive today and vice versa."

In fact, I'm firmly of the opinion that Mossadegh believed in a constitutional monarchy (a Qajar prince himself). His advice had always been to the Shah that he should not rule, but reign as a constitutional monarch (saltanat vs. hookoomat).

But there's further proof of his loyalty to the 1906 precepts of constitutional monarchy, and it lies in the events of 28 Mordad 1953. And this is something most people do not consider: the Shah left for Rome, via Baghdad, on August 16, 1953. That chould've by all means been the end of the Pahlavi Dynasty. In fact, Mossadegh "could" have ended the monarchy on the morning of August 17, and declared Iran a "democratic republic" and the masses would undoubtedly have supported him (no doubt about this) -- as he clearly had the support of the masses.

Indeed, Mossadegh could have ended monarchy in Iran the day that the Shah left for Rome. But he didn't. In fact, several days went by and he did nothing, and on August 19, the coup went into effect.

There is also the matter of the Tudeh... Mossadegh did not declare Iran a democratic republic because he was mortally afraid of their influence, and that upon dissolution of the monarchy, Iran would become easy prey to a Tudeh takeover.

But the facts remain -- Mossadegh had a golden opportunity from August 16 thru August 19 to dissolve the institution of monarchy in Iran, and he didn't do it. And I think so long as Reza Pahlavi would agree to abide by the dictates of the 1906 constitution, and not rule, but reign, Mossadegh would be in favor of restoration, but of course that's just my take on this matter.

Darius Kadivar

Don't You think You are all being too hard on Fariba ?

by Darius Kadivar on

Sorry Farah, Free, Jamshid and Benross to get into this conversation. You all in your own right have argumented points regarding Dr. Mossadegh( or Mossadeq or however else you want to spell it) and his political and intellectual legacy.

But in all honesty this article was an honest outlook not without it's own share of criticism for those who even supported Dr. Mossadeq ans this Ann Lambton proving if needed how out of touch some foreign analysts were in regard to the realities of Iran and the events of the time.

Actually Lambton Reminds me of the Leveretts very much to be honest.

Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett on Iran

Also when if comes to history, I don't think it helps to always look at things from a Black and White Perspective.

They say that usually every 30 years ( that is a generation) our knowledge of a given period is enriched and enhanced with the necessary objective and unpassional outlook.

The same is true for the events of 1953, 1979 or even 1906 ...

Both Mossadegh as much as the Shah had qualities and shortcomings and the role of any historian or history amateur with keen interest in a given era should try and understand an era than merely judge it from a moral standpoint.

Looking at new documents and revelations as this should be done with scrutiny and objective interest without always personalizing the debate on why someone shares her views.

Personally I found this article very informative and paradoxically quite comforting for anyone who has sympathies for the Shah and the monarchy as an institution. All the more that it was coming from the viewpoint of a pro mossadegh writer ( with reasons too since Fariba's father was the great man's loyal secretary/lawyer).

After reading it, I found that the Shah and Mossadegh had much more in common that with the thugs that took over since 1979.

I personally would not even be surprised if Mossadegh would have supported Reza Pahlavi against all odds were he alive today and vice versa.

My Humble Opinion,




Fariba Amini

by jamshid on

"What did the Shah and his entourage do??!!! Take money out of the pocket of citizens of Iran, filling their own pockets."

In the same way that Moassadegh's parents or grandparents took money out of the pockets of citizens of Iran?

If no, how else was Mossadegh's wealth accumulated?

If yes, then why Mossadegh didn't give all that wealth back to the people?

Please, for the love of god, don't try to make a saint out of Mossadegh. He was an ordinary man with both flaws and strengths. Please give up this culture of emaam-zadeh parvari.

And lastly, to both Mossadeghis and Monarchists: You are flaming divisions among yourselves, and notice how this is to the delight and laughter of our resident IRI supporters and reformists.

Now go enjoy your divisions. God forbid if you feed freedom and unity, but instead feed your oghdehs steming from 60 years ago when neither of you folks were even born.

Shame. Utter shame.


This is the most believable

by benross on

This is the most believable story I ever read about Masadegh.

And for believing it, I don't need to cross reference with other historical documents. All I need is to rely on my memory. As a kid, seeing my father, his friends and coworkers. Their socializing habits, their 'ta'aarofaat', their habit of smiling at each-other and stabbing on the back of each-other.

And this is what we inherited. As Reza Pahlavi (of my generation) pointed out, we were not even born during the coup and Mossadegh-Shah conflict. We inherited a culture, trying so hard to undo and clean-up for next generation. The degree in which we succeed, depends largely on how much we got rid of that inferiority complex toward modernity. Some who are done with anti-imperialism rhetoric, do better than others.

The only point I should make Farah, is that you take it too personally toward Mosadegh. Yes, he is the object of cult of personality. He is the name under which so much deviant political attitudes were perpetrated. But is it really HIM? or a whole generation? Was there any substantial different between him, carrying the cult of personality, and others, wishing to carry the cult of personality?... and for which the Shah is only one of his generation.

And does it really matter that your story is true or false? Does it affect in any way our perception about Mossadegh, one way or another?

Just look at the post right below your comment Farah. The poor guy is interviewed on TV, is explaining what he thinks. He is questioned by the interviewer regarding some controversial issues. He explains his position toward those issues. You make your own judgment. You may agree or disagree with him... but non of these matters. HE IS THE EVIL. Exactly the same way that Massadegh is a saint. The facts, the reality, even the guy sitting right in front of you in your screen explaining what he stands for, non of them matters. Why your piece of history should matter Farah? Cult of personality goes both way. It needs to have an enemy to have a hero.

If we did not have 30 years of stagnation in political discourse in the opposition, we were far better off by now.


Mirdamadi, your propaganda has nothing to do with this topic!

by Free on

NIAC is against the removal of the IRI -- they rather have a reformed IRI, yes, but not the end of the IRI. The IRI is a confidential underwriter of NIAC propaganda. This amateur video and your propaganda interruptions are asinine, foolish, and a prime example of the double-dealing sort of propaganda NIAC is famous for.

People like to watch a video of this sort and make their own conclusions, without having it interrupted a half-a-dozen times so that you can spoon-feed us your blatant propaganda. This was pathetic beyond pale, and makes me doubt the sencerity (and legitimacy) of the NIAC even more!


Farah Rusta

Musaddiq, "honesty" and a little memory

by Farah Rusta on

To me Mossadegh to honesty is akin to Tiger Woods to marital fidelity. When the name of Mosaddeq is mentioned in relation to honesty and humanity there could be two reasons: (1) the person who says it is honestly unfamiliar with the background of this man and (2) the person is not being honest with you.

Mossadeq's laughable antics from fake fainting when he was cornered into an ugly situation to his chest and head beatings in Majlis (parliament) when he wanted to show his impatience with someone he didn't approve of (like Qavam or General Razm Ara)  were well recorded and remembered by those who had the misfortune of being present. One such person was Hossein Makki, a one time close ally of Mosaddeq, who remembered a telling incident that was recounted to a family friend (I suppose if Ms Amini can quote from her late father, perhaps I should be able to quote from a family friend- sadly not famous enough to be interviewed by the Harvard program):

Hossein Makki: "Shortly after the events that lead to the fall of Qavam and reappointment of Mosaddiq, during which many people were killed due to the clashes between the supporters of Mossadiq and Qavam, Musaddigh was in residence in his house in Kaakh street where he would receive visitors in his bedroom while wrapped in blankets and cushioned by pillows. Mussadegh was in a triumphal mood and in conversation with a few of his aides and ministers  that suddenly the news arrived that a famous Bazaari leader who was a Mosaddiq supporter and had lost two of his sons in the 30th Tir clashes had arrived at Musadegh's residence and together with a group of other pro-Mosadegh Bazaaris were coming to see the prime minister. Mossadeq grumblingly and reluctantly slipped out of his bed as he was in no mood to welcome the Bazaaris. As soon as the poor Bazaari father who had just lost his two sons and naturally was expecting to be comforted and consoled by Mussadegh, appeared at the door of the bedroom, Mosadegh, put on one of his well known acts and feigning to be overwhelmed by sorrow threw himself into the arms of the Bazaari bereaved father. The wretched father who was clearly shocked to see Mosaddiq collapsed in his arms, said: may all my family be sacrificed for our beloved prime minister and placed the fakely fainted Mossadegh in his bed, pulled the blanket over him and immediately with the rest of the group left the room. Less than a minute after he had left, Mussadegh slowly reared his head out of the blanket, opened his eyes and asked the people in the room: have they gone? And when the answer was positive and the coast was clear, he sat up in his bed a rejected an offer of medical help (as there was nothing wrong with him) and asked his entourage: right , where were we?"    

So much for honesty and so much for humanity.




ps - In writing the comment I have followed Churchillian guidelines (on this issue only) in my spelling of the name of the subject:  ""Everybody has a right to pronounce (or spell) foreign names as they choose"


Excellent article Fariba!

by nmirdamadi on

would love to hear your views on the attacks on NIAC by the MKO and the neo-cons. Have you seen these vidoes?


see how the neo-cons are attacking the Iranian-American community through their MKO proxies!