1945-1953 History of Iran Islamic Republic

Rule of Shah Reza Pahlevi, 1953-1979

Administration . In 1953, with the support of the CIA, Shah Reza Pahlevi toppled PM Mohammed Mosaddeq and began a quarter century of autocratic rule. In 1978 Shah Reza Pahlevi became seriously ill (he suffered from cancer); the opposition became active, the secret police lost control of the situation. Early in 1979 the Islamic Revolution took place, on April 1st 1979 the Islamic Republic was proclaimed.

Foreign Policy . Shah Reza Pahlevi, educated in Switzerland, could assume power at the expense of Iran's democratic institutions because of the ousture of PM Mohammed Mosaddeq in 1953. U.S. diplomats regarded him 'our man'.
In 1955, Iran joined the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO; Baghdad Pact), intended to be part of a chain of defensive military alliances containing Communism (the USSR, PR China). In 1959 Turkey, Iran and Pakistan founded RCD (Regional Cooperation for Development). Iran was a founding member of OPEC (1960).
In 1964 the British withdrew from the Persian Gulf; Iran developed plans, as a regional power, to fill the gap. Iran occupied several islands in the Gulf claimed by either the UAE or Iraq. Iran and Israel maintained friendly relations.

The Economy . PM Mosaddeq had been ousted in a coup engineered by MI6 and CIA, but his legacy - increased Iranian share in the revenues generated from the production of Iranian oil, remained. With the industries of Europe, the U.S. and Japan booming, oil exports increased, and so did Iranian revenues. In 1960 Iran joined OPEC. In 1962, Iran Air was launched.
When, in 1973, OPEC decided to reduce oil production and thus drive up the price, Iran, in violation of a 1954 agreement, nationalized the Iranian oil industry and created National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC); the oil revenues increased sharply. Iran spent part of her revenues by investing abroad, for example by buying shares of German steelmaker Krupp.
In 1961-1966 a land reform was implemented; noble landholdings and waqf (landholdings supporting religious institutions) were confiscated, parcelld and handed out as farms to peasants (White Revolution).
In 1955, Iran produced 16.3 million metric tons of crude petroleum, in 1960 52.3 million, in 1970 191.2 million, in 1974 301,2 million, in 1979 171.3 million (IHS pp.362, 364).
In 1953, Iran produced 2.2 million metric tons of wheat, in 1979 6.0 million (IHS p.199).

Domestic Policy . The Shah had succeeded in reducing the authority of the Majlis and PM; the army was loyal to him, and the Iranian government invested heavily in armament. Control over the country was secured by SAVAK, the feared secret police.
The confiscation of waqf (landholdings supporting religious institutions) in the context of land reform alienated Iran's Shiite clergy. Iran's good relations with Israel and the Shah's policy of secularization and modernization of education, his policy of stressing Iran's Achaemenid heritage over its Muslim heritage, contributed to strengthening this antipathy. Ayatollah Khomeini went into exile to Najaf (Iraq, 1965-1978) before being expelled, then to France (1978-1979).
The Shah saw himself as a reformer and modernizer; the White Revolution was to turn dependent tenants into landowning farmers, to emancipate the women, to raise the literacy rate, to improve health care, to provide modern housing, to improve the quality of education, which was mandatory and free of charge. In cities like Tehran, traditional quarters were torn down, replaced by modern houses made of concrete. While the tenants of apartments were provided with basic services such as running water and electricity, the city lost much of its charm (Tehran Disaster).

Social History . In 1955, Iran's Baha'i community experienced pogroms.
The White Revolution abolished feudalism in Iran. The emancipation of Iran's women was similarily successful, as women in Iran vote, have access to education and can enter a professional career.
According to the census of 1956, Iran had a population of 18.9 million; the census of 1977 counted 25.7 million, the census of 1976 33.7 million. The population of Tehran rose from 1.5 million in 1956 to 2.7 million in 1966 and 4.4 million in 1976. Urbanisation progressed at a faster pace than the program of urban renewal could provide modern housing. Slums emerged on the fringes of the growing cities, where people lived in poverty. The Iranian economy benefitted the country's middle class.

Cultural Policy . The old quarter of Tehran was razed in order to make space for a modern city, as envisioned by Shah Reza Pahlavi. The concrete buildings which rose in their place may provide more comfort to their residents, but the city lost much of its charm (Tehran Disaster).
TV broadcasting began in Iran in 1958.
In 1971 Iran celebrated the 2,500th anniversary of continuous monarchy, emphasizing the descent from the (Zoroastrian) Achaemenid Dynasty. Iran used the lion-and-sun emblem instead of the traditional Islamic crescent.
The Shah, and his wives Soraya and Farah Diba were favourite topics of the western tabloid press.
The Iranian national soccer team won the Asian Cup in 1968, 1972 and 1976 and qualified for the World Cup held in Argentina in 1978. Iranian athletes participated in the Summer Olympics in Melbourne 1956, Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964, Mexico City 1968, München 1972 and Montreal 1976. Iranian athletes won 2 gold medals in 1956 and another 2 in 1968. Tehran was selected by the IOC to host the Summer Olympic Games in 1984.

Timeline Iran, from BBC News
Timeline of Iranian History, from Encyclopedia of the Orient
Articles CENTO, Golestan Palace, SAVAK, Pahlavi Dynasty, White Revolution, History of Tehran, History of Iran : the United tates and the Shah, Regional Cooperation for Development, ECO Cup, Iranian Military Industry, Nuclear Programme of Iran, National Iranian Oil Company, The Lion and the Sun, 2500 Year Celebration of Iran's Monarchy, Ruhollah Khomeini, OPEC, Football in Iran, Iran at the 1956 Summer Olympics, Iran at the 1960 Summer Olympics, Iran at the 1964 Summer Olympics, Iran at the 1968 Summer Olympics, Iran at the 1972 Summer Olympics, Iran at the 1976 Summer Olympics, Waqf, from Wikipedia
Iran's Foreign Policy before the Revolution, by Farhad epahbody
Iranian Oil History in Brief, by Iranian Journalist
White Revolution, from Iran Chamber Society
Soviet Foreign Policy in Iran 1945-1979, by Christopher Feld
History Timeline, from Baha'i International Community, UN Office
U.S. Military Involvement in Iran, from Iran Virtual Library
Brief History of the Air Transport Industry in Iran, from Iran Air
Iran : The Party System in 1950-1956 and 1957-1962, in : Kenneth Janda, Political Parties : A Cross-National Survey
Lawrence Ng, The Fall of the Shah of Iran : A Case Study in Crisis Decision-making, in : Pointer, Journal of the Singapore Armed Forces Oct. 2000
DOCUMENTS Iranian Statesmen, from World Statesmen (B. Cahoon)
Historical Population Statistics : Iran, from Population Statistics (J. Lahmeyer)
RCD Pact Tournaments 1965-1974, posted by Piet Veroeveren
REFERENCE IHS : International Historical Statistics : Africa, Asia & Oceania 1750-2000, edited by B.R. Mitchell, Basingstoke : Palgrave MacMillan 4th ed. 2003
F. Kazemdazeh, Ideological Crisis in Iran, pp.196-204; in : Walter Z. Laqueur (ed.), The Middle East in Transition, NY : Praeger 1958 [G]
Article : Iran, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1955 pp.430-431, 1956 pp.367-368, 1957 pp.430-431, 1958 pp.368-369, 1959 p.366-367, 1960 p.360, 1961 pp.365-366, 1962 p.360, 1963 p.478, 1964 pp.465-466, 1965 pp.453-454, 1966 p.426, 1967 p.448, 1968 pp.446-447, 1969 pp.435-437, 1970 pp.438-439, 1971 p.417, 1972 pp.384-386, 1973 pp.379-380, 1974 p.385, 1975 pp.409-410, 1976 pp.435-436, 1977 pp.430-431, 1978 pp.462-463, 1979 pp.456-457 [G]
Article : Iran, in : The World in Figures 1st ed. 1976 pp.172-173, 2nd ed. 1978 pp.172-173 [G]
Article : Iran, in : Americana Annual 1957 pp.400-402, 1961 pp.379-381, 1962 pp.384-385, 1963 pp.346-348, 1964 pp.343-345, 1965 pp.360-361, 1967 pp.368-370, 1968 pp.362-364, 1969 pp.367-368, 1970 pp.372-373, 1971 pp.368-369, 1972 pp.362-364, 1973 pp.367-368, 1974 pp.306-307 [G]
Article : The New Power in the Middle East : Iran Today, in : Americana Annual 1976 pp.36-45; Iran pp.102-103, 308-309 (on events of 1975) [G]
Article : Iran, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1970-1971 pp.1038-1047, 1975-1976 pp.1031-1039, 1976-1977 pp.1038-1047, 1978-1979 pp.674-682 [G]
Article : Iran, in : Yearbook on International Communist Affairs 1976 pp.541-544 (James A. Bill) [G]

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First posted on May 28th 2002, last revised on June 12th 2008

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