Oil at Heart of Dispute Over Iran
New York Times / JOHN VINOCUR

PARIS — Thirty-one years ago this week — Jan. 16, 1979 — the shah of Iran flew into exile, opening the way to the birth of an Islamic republic and, over time, a country whose leaders have shaken much of world with their apocalyptic threats and drive for nuclear weapons.

For sure, demonstrations, shootings and massive repression brought a picture of chaos and revolution to Tehran and had left Mohammed Riza Pahlevi’s Peacock Throne tottering. But it was a series of strikes, virtually shutting down Iran’s oil fields, imposing rationing on gas, and raising the prospect of shortages of heating oil, that really signaled the shah’s end.

In the space of five days from Dec. 23, 1978, after two months of off-and-on strikes, murders and intimidation in Iran’s oil fields, production fell from 6.5 million barrels a day earlier in the month to roughly 700,000, stopping exports and providing just enough supply to cover national consumption.

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