In 1941, after the forceful abdication of Reza Shah, the angry British government, who saw Reza as a former ally turned into a treacherous enemy, seriously considered the restoration of Qajar dynasty. However, the lead Iranian intellectuals (like Foroughi) could only foresee a major political upheaval, with the return of arrogant Qajars. Although Foroughi was persecuted by Reza Shah, he reasoned that the country had truly democratic laws (constitution) and if the Pahlavi crown prince was ready to respect them, there was no reason for a regime change. That way, Mohammad Reza Shah came to be the new constitutional monarch of Iran, who for nearly a decade respected the democratic institutions of the country.
With the fall of Reza Shah, his surviving political victims were freed from the prison, and angrily started various political parties, secessionist movements and Islamist revivals. Most significantly, the freed communists founded the Tudeh Party, and the Azerbaijan leftists restarted the Democrat Party and its bid for separation. The Tudeh Party soon grew to become the most well organized political entity in Iran, and the Democrat party’s collaboration with the Russian occupation granted them the de-facto governance of Azerbaijan and Kurdistan. In Tehran, many powerless prime ministers came and went, with the real power in the hands of the three foreign embassies (Russian, British and American) whose military forces were occupying Iran. The young Shah’s main contributions were to revive the collapsed Iranian army, and to win the formal agreement of all three powers to evacuate Iran within six months after the end of WWII.
The war ended in summer of 1945, with Germany and Japan devastated and turned into occupied territories; Britain and France wounded and demoted to second rate powers; while the United States and the Soviet Russia rose to the level of New Superpowers. Sadly, the repressive communist regime of Stalin could not cooperate with the capitalist block, and the second half of the twentieth century turned into an all encompassing East-West power struggle (the Cold War). As both superpowers quickly acquired vast nuclear arsenals, their struggle became “Cold” and indirect, with almost all the hot and bloody fighting happening in the third-world countries of Africa, South America and Asia.
In Iran, the struggles started immediately after the end of WWII. As the British and American forces prepared to leave by the six month deadline, but the Russians decided to stay and protect their puppet governments of the Democrat Party in Azerbaijan and Kurdistan. To deal with that treat, Shah and his western allies resorted to a stick-and-carrot policy. US firmly pressed Stalin on the issue, with a threat of retaliatory action; while the reinstated veteran prime minister in Tehran (Ahmad Qavam) awarded three cabinet positions to the Tudeh party and promised a concession of the North Oil resources to Russia. Stalin swallowed the bait and his Red Army evacuated the Northern provinces in the autumn of 1946. Swiftly, the Shah’s resurrected army moved into Azerbaijan and Kurdistan, and finished the secessionist movements with minimum resistance and bloodshed. This victory established the Shah as a national hero, whereas the Tudeh party leftists were tainted with the stigma of being ‘Russian-puppets’.
The Tudeh-Shah struggles came to a climax when in early 1949 an Islamist newspaper’s reporter, who was apparently an undercover Tudeh agent, tried to assassinate the Shah during a ceremony in the TehranUniversity. Miraculously, the five bullets fired by the assassin from close range, only bruised Shah’s face and body! The government declared the Tudeh party illegal; their offices were promptly closed, some of their leaders were arrested; but most of the organization quickly went underground. The Islamists group (Fedaiyan Islam) was also banned and their suspected clerical leader (Ayatollah Kashani) was briefly jailed. Recovery from such a callous terror attempt further increased Shah’s esteem among the general populace, but at the same time made him more paranoid and wary of all opposition!
Suspicious of all the opposition political parties, Shah rigged the 1949 Majles elections through direct influence peddling and vote rigging by the court minister (Hajir) and the various local police and army chiefs. This was done in such an obvious and blatant fashion that some of the opposition candidates did not win a single vote in their own home riding! The moderate opposition leaders were completely outraged by that fiasco and joined in a newly organized union (the National Front) to confront and shame the government into cancelling the rigged vote. The underground Islamists again took to terror and assassinated the court minister (Hajir) in cold blood. The combination of liberal protests and Islamist terror forced the Shah to cancel the elections. The new vote still maintained the rightwing monarchists’ majority, but brought a vibrant nationalist minority to the parliament.
Next year (in 1950) a hardworking and highly decorated military man became prime minister. General Razmara was a top France-educated general with many years of honest and dedicated service to the country. Unfortunately, all those qualifications put him at odds with almost every player in the wretched Iranian politics! He was too honest and too direct for the taste of the corrupt Pahlavi court; too Western minded for the leftists and Islamists; and too strong willed for the liberals who still trembled at the memories of another forceful general (Reza Khan).
Therefore, the liberal National Front joined with the Kashani Islamists to condemn the new prime minister, from day one. The sentimental nationalist leader Mosaddeg screamed during Razmara’s presentation and fainted in the Majles, while the Islamists leader Kashani led demonstrations outside the parliament. Politically, the opposition used the issue of oil contract renewal with the British company (AIOC), as the Achilles heal of the new government.
Razmara was hard at work to obtain more favourable terms from AIOC, perhaps in line with the new American contracts in Saudi Arabia (50/50 profit sharing). But the opposition proposed an outright nationalization of the oil industry, in order to steer the general populace and throw the government into an impossible impasse. During heated debates in the parliament, Mosaddeg and Kashani tried to portray Razmara as a weak and unpatriotic prime minister, who was too scared to nationalize the ‘god-given’ oil treasure. Attempts by Razmara to sway the public opinion based on the factual inability of the government to run the sophisticated oil industry, played into the opposition’s hand to depict him as a non-believer in the ‘incredible Persian capability’! All debates ended with the terror of prime minister by another Islamist murderer in spring of 1951.
Reference: The Persian Puzzle, by Kenneth Pollack.
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