Cold War 245 – 246 Notes

  • So Iran had its first draft constitution, based on Belgium’s, considered one of the most progressive in the world at the time, and first democratic assembly to set up the Majlis (MAJ_lees), the parliament, on October 7, 1906. 
  • Two years before the discovery of oil in the country. 
  • And only two months before the Shah, Muzzaffar al-Din Shah, died.
  • The crown prince, Mohammad Ali, was known to be vehemently against democracy, so the Majlis had hurried to get their new parliament established before Muzzy, who was known to be sick, died. 
  • They didn’t have any experience with this kind of thing and many of them were uneducated. 
  • There were no political parties to work out platforms and policies, etc. 
  • It was all rushed and a bit of a mess. 
  • As soon as Mohammed Ali Shah took over, he ridiculed and ignored the new parliament. 
  • There were lots of clashes between the supporters of the Majlis and supporters of the Shah. 
  • Then the Mullahs, who were initially supportive of the reform, began to get worried that it was going too far.
  • There were people suggesting they through out the law of the Prophet and set up their own law instead. 
  • Can you have a free people without freedom of religion? 
  • The new Shah was confident that he had the majority of the religious leaders on his side, and began a campaign of terror and violence against the Majlis. 
  • HE also had the British and the Russians on his side. 
    • Because the last thing they wanted was for the people to have a say in how Iran was run. 
  • They preferred a stable puppet government, which allowed foreign concessions and supported their designs in the region.
  • In August 1907, the British and the Russians got together and signed The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 
  • Aka Convention between the United Kingdom and Russia relating to Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet
  • It enabled the two countries to outflank the Germans, who were threatening to connect Berlin to Baghdad with a new railroad that could potentially align the Ottoman Empire with Imperial Germany.
  • The Convention ended the long dispute over Persia. 
  • For a minute. 
  • Great Britain promised to stay out of northern Persia, and Russia recognized southern Persia as part of the British sphere of influence. 
  • Russia also promised to stay out of Tibet and Afghanistan. 
  • The agreement stipulated that it would “allocate the north, including Isfahan, to Russia; the south-east, especially Kerman, Sistan, and Baluchistan to Britain; and demarcate the remaining land between the two powers as a neutral zone”
  • In exchange, London extended loans and some political support.
  • The Persian government, of course, had not been consulted about the agreement but was informed after it had been signed.
  • Neither the Majlis nor the Shah got any say in the matter. 
  • What had long been informal foreign control of Iran now became an explicit partition, backed by the presence of Russian and British troops. 
  • When the treaty formalizing it came before the British Parliament for ratification, one of the few dissenting members lamented that it left Iran “lying between life and death, parceled out, almost dismembered, helpless and friendless at our feet?”
  • In February 1908 two bombs were thrown at Mohammad ‘Ali Shah’s cavalcade. 
  • At least four were killed, and the royal automobile, one of the earliest in Iran, was damaged, but the shah escaped unharmed 
  • radical constitutionalists, especially in Tabriz, the old capital of Iran and the largest city at the time (today’s it’s the sixth largest), called on the Majles and the public to remove Mohammad ‘Ali Shah from power. 
  • The revolutionary newspapers and preachers were no less shy. 
  • By early 1908, it appeared that an armed confrontation between the parties was inevitable.
  • The Shah’s Russian commander of the Cossack Brigade, Colonel Vladimir Liakhov, convinced him that the only way out was to crush the Majles. 
  • Keep in mind that the Russians were dealing with their own revolutionaries back home. 
  • Russian Revolution of 1905, aka the First Russian Revolution,  or, as Lenin called it, “The Great Dress Rehearsal”.
  • It resulted in the October Manifesto and the Russian Constitution of 1906, but they didn’t achieve much, and 11 years later they had the real revolution. 
  • In June 1908, the Shah’s men put together gangs of thugs and sent them rampaging through Tehran shouting “we want the Koran! We do not want a Constitution!” 
  • Then he ordered his elite Cossack Brigade to bombard and attack the building where the Majlis was meeting. 
  • To intimidate the general public, the troops then embarked on a bloody campaign of rape, pillage, and killing in the neighborhoods adjacent to the Majles. 
  • That wasn’t quite the end of the Majlis – they survived as a rump body, but were under the threat of violence. 
  • but it not the end of the troubles. 
  • Riots broke out, mostly in Tabriz, it looks like it was going to turn into a civil war. 
  • Over the course of the next year, thousands died on conflicts. 
  • In 1908, The Young Turks in Istanbul successfully forced Sultan Abdul Hamid II to reinstate the Ottoman constitution of 1876 and call a parliament.
  • So there is revolutionary inspiration coming from Russia, and from Turkey. 
  • Not to mention Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 and the defeats of the British colonial army in the Second Anglo-Boer War, in 1902. 
  • It showed that these two great imperial powers could be beaten. 
  • Both Russia and Britain saw the democratic movement in Iran as a threat to their interests and encourage the Shah to fight it. 
  • I found this article in The London Daily Telegraph from 25 March 1909 about comments in British parliament: 
  • Mr. LYNCH (L) directed attention to the unrest in Persia. No one, he said, would deny the gravity of the situation, but few recognised how directly it affected British interests.  Persia was our next-door neighbour, and if she fell into the hands of a great military Power like Russia, would have to defend a frontier which offered no natural obstacle.
    • I thought “neighbour”? Iran? How does that work? But then I read on:
  • We would then be face to face with conscription or with the possibility of having to write off the Indian Empire.
    • Ah yes. The Indian Empire. 
  • In April 1909 the Russians, with the tacit approval of Britain, marching into Tabriz. 
  • They were able to shut down the troubles, but it wasn’t a good look for the Shah. 
  • Foreign troops on your soil is never a good look. 
  • In April 1909 a strongly worded Anglo-Russian memorandum warned the shah that unless he restored the constitution and removed its enemies from his court, he stood to lose the two powers’ already-sinking confidence in him — a warning that appeared to the shah’s opposition as a green light to capture Tehran.
  • In July 1909, 3000 pro-Constitution forces marched from Tabriz to Tehran, deposed the Shah, and re-established the constitution. 
  • They had some skirmishes with Russians and government forces, but overcame them. 
  • On 16 July 1909, the parliament voted to place Mohammad Ali Shah’s 11-year-old son, Ahmad Shah on the throne. 
  • Mohammad Ali Shah was forced to abdicate.  
  • Due to Ahmad’s young age, his uncle, Ali-Reza Khan, took charge of his affairs as Regent. 
  • But he died the next year. 
  • He fled to Odesa, Russia, and plotted his return to power. 
  • The discipline of the revolutionary forces was pretty impressive. 
  • There was no looting, revenge killing, or retaliation. 
  • Russia and Britain were shocked and unhappy about the whole thing. 
  • The foreign media, The Times in London and The New York Times, were outraged. 
  • That the Iranians could resist, fight back, and defeat a regime militarily backed and financially buttressed by European imperial powers was something that could not be easily accepted or forgiven.
  • There was a national election and The Second Majlis convened in November 1909. 
  • But it was riddled with factionalism, ideological rifts, and foreign intimidation.
  • Between March 1907 and November 1911 there were eleven changes of prime ministers and additional reshuffling of the cabinets.
  • They tried to bring about reforms. 
  • Which the British and the Russians didn’t like. 
  • Then in 1911 the Majlis hired an American banker, William Morgan Shuster, to be their Treasurer-General. 
  • Up until then, there was a serious reluctance on the side of the Americans to cross into the traditionally recognized Anglo-Russian zones of influence.
  • He had been a customs collector for the U.S. government, serving in the United States Military Government in Cuba in 1899 following the Spanish–American War, and in the Philippines, which was at that time an American colony. 
  • In 1906 he was appointed Secretary of Public Instruction in the Insular Government of the Philippine Islands and a member of the Philippine Commission.
  • The USG recommended him to the Iranian Ambassador in Washington. 
  • He got to work dismantling the elaborate systems of tax exemptions and back-room deals which Russia and Britain had been using to loot Iran. 
  • Both governments complain and demanded he be removed. 
  • The Majlis refused. 
  • So in 1911, with the agreement of the British, the Russians sent in troops to force their will. 
  • WIth the support of the Russians, the young Shah managed to shut down the Majlis. 
  • Check out this example of international bullying – 
  • the ultimatum delivered by Russia and openly backed by Britain –  required Iran to immediately fulfill three conditions or else face Russian military occupation, and in effect an end to its national sovereignty. 
  • It demanded that Morgan Shuster be dismissed from his post of treasurer general together with his American colleagues. 
  • It also demanded that in the future, the Iranian government not engage the service of foreign nationals without the consent of the two powers. 
  • Most outrageous of all, the ultimatum demanded that the Iranian government pay “indemnity” for the “expense of the present dispatch of troops” to Iran, the amount and manner of which was to be determined later. 
  • This demand was made at a time when Russia had landed more troops in Gilan and Azarbaijan provinces to reinforce its so- called zone of influence. 
  • The two powers in effect blatantly required that Iran reimburse the cost of the violation of its own sovereignty to an aggressor who, as it turned out, went on a rampage of massacres and maltreatment of defenseless Iranians. 
  • By early 1912 the Russian army, then twenty thousand strong, had occupied the entirety of Iran’s northern provinces.
  • For the following five years through terror and violence, the occupying Russian army kept a tenuous hold on the northern half of the country.
  • Not to fall behind, Britain also brought in more troops to the south. Under the pretext of securing British interests against tribal unrest, the sepoy detachments of the Indian Army moved up from the Persian Gulf port of Bushehr to Shiraz and Isfahan
  • On December 24, 1911, under enormous Russian and British pressure, and after some twelve thousand Russian troops had amassed in the Caspian port of Anzali, ready to march on Tehran, the Bakhtiyari premier, ordered the newly formed Homayun regiment to occupy the Majles, expel all the deputies from the premises, and close the gates. The deputies were threatened with death if they attempted to meet in the parliament or elsewhere.
  • In January 1912, Morgan Shuster and his party of American associates resigned and left Iran
  • Iran’s first experiment with modern democracy was over. 
  • With the help of foreign powers. 
  • But the people had learned from this experience and wouldn’t forget it. 
  • They increased their hatred of the Shah.
  • And their hatred of foreign powers who wanted to control Iran. 
  • In his 1912 The Strangling of Persia, published just after his forced departure from Iran, Shuster gave a vivid portrayal of the Iranian plight in the face of European aggression. 
  • He dedicated his book to the Persian people, who by “their unwavering belief, under difficult and forbidding circumstances,” employed him to help with the task of the “reorganization of their nation.” 
  • In the foreword to the book, he expressed deep disappointment at “being forcibly deprived of the opportunity to finish [this] intensely interesting task in that ancient land,” where “two powerful and presumably enlightened Christian countries played fast and loose with truth, honor, decency, and law, one at least, hesitating not even at the most barbarous cruelties to accomplish its political designs and to put Persia beyond hope of self reorganization.” 
  • In a passionate plea to his American readers, he then stated: “The Constitutionalists of Modern Persia will not have lived, struggled, and in many instances, died entirely in vain, if the destruction of Persian sovereignty shall have sharpened somewhat the civilized world’s realization of the spirit of international brigandage which is marked the welt-politik of the year 1911.”
  • Congrats that later to the events of 1953.
  • Reflecting on his short experience he further wrote:
  • That the Persians were unskillful in the practical politics and in the technique of representative constitutional government no one could deny; but that they had the full right to develop along particular lines of their customs, character, temperament and tendencies, is equally obvious. Five years is nothing in the life of a nation; it is not even long as a period for individual reform; yet after a bare five years of effort, during which the Persian people, with all their difficulties and harassed by the so-called friendly powers, succeeded in thwarting a despot’s well-planned effort to wrest from them their hard-earned liberties, the world is told by two European nations that these men were unfit, dangerous and incapable of producing a stable and orderly form of government.
  • he concluded that Iran “was the hapless victim of the wretched game of cards which a few European powers, with the skill of centuries of practice, still play with weaker nations as the stake, and the lives, honor and progress of whole races as the forfeit.”
  • And he wasn’t the only Western critic. 
  • the celebrated English scholar of Iran Edward Granville Browne
  • PROFESSOR OF ARABIC, UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
  • He kept up a correspondence with major constitutionalist players and sympathetic British diplomats in Iran
  • His book The Persian Revolution of 1905–1909, published in 1910
  • A street named after him in Tehran, as well as his statue, remained even after the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
  • In the introduction he wrote:
    • Suppose I have a beautiful garden filled with flowers of innumerable kinds which I love and which fills me with gladness and pride, and suppose some utilitarian bids me dig up and cast away these beautiful flowers, and plant the garden with potatoes or cabbages, or even with one kind of beautiful flower only, on the ground that I shall thereby make more money, or produce a more useful crop, I cannot argue with him, I can only oppose him with all my strength. 
    • And when people say (as, unhappily, many people in this country do say) that Persia is a backward country, which, in the hands of its own people cannot be “developed,” or only very slowly, and that the best thing that can happen is that some European Power, whether England or Russia, should step in and ” develop” it, whether its people like it or not, I feel as I do about the flower-garden, that no material prosperity, no amount of railways, mines, gaols, gas, or drainage can compensate the world, spiritually and intellectually, for the loss of Persia. 
    • And this is what the occupation and administration of Persia by foreigners would inevitably mean, if it endured long; and experience shews that “temporary” occupations of the territories of weak peoples by great European Powers can only be called “temporary” in the sense that they will presumably not be eternal. 
  • In July 1911 Mohammaed Ali Shah landed back in Persia, to try to re-take the throne.
  • Aided by a few thousand Turkmen tribesmen, he marched toward Tehran, but his forces were defeated. 
  • Persuaded by Shuster, Tehran also issued a public warrant for Mohammad ‘Ali Shah dead or alive, setting a prize of 100,000 tumans ($237,000). 
  • In a brief engagement the commander of Mohammad ‘Ali Shah’s forces was captured and shot.
  • He returned to Russia, then in 1920 to Constantinople (present day Istanbul) and later to San Remo, Italy, where he died on 5 April 1925. 
  • Every Shah of Persia since Mohammad Ali has died in exile. 
  • After he turned 16, Ahmad Shah was formally crowned on 21 July 1914.
  • 7 days before the outbreak of WWI.
  • Iran declared neutrality but Most Iranians hoped the Germans would win WWI and liberate them from the Russians and the British. 
  • Ever since the 1870s, Iranians had admired Bismarck for unifying Germany through war and diplomacy.
  • After the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917, they renounced most of their rights in Iran and canceled all debts that Iran had owed to Czarist Russia. 
  • Good guys! 
  • The British, on the other hand, were complete cunts. 
  • They were at the peak of their imperial power, and moved quickly to fill the vacuum. 
  • Oil was the new focus of their interest. 
  • The newly formed Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which grew out of the D’Arcy concession, had begun extracting huge quantities of it from beneath Iranian soil. 
  • In 1914 the British government had acquired the majority of APOC stocks, allowing the government full control over exploration, production, and export. 
  • In his role as the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill was the driving force behind the purchase, an accomplishment he later hailed as one of the greatest in his long career (fig. 7.2). 
  • He called the oil concession “a prize from fairyland beyond our wildest dreams.” 
  • Keep that in mind 40 years later when, as PM, he is about to lose it. 
  • If you go back and read the British newspapers from 1914,  Churchill was complaining about how Britain was being squeezed by the oil trusts from around the world, prices had doubled, and the idea of them controlling their own oil fields was happy days. 
  • APOC’s purchase, a rare acquisition by the British government, set Iran not against a private concessionaire, but the British Empire.
  • Realizing the immense value of this new resource, the British in 1919 imposed the harsh Anglo-Persian Agreement on Ahmad Shah’s regime, assuring its approval by bribing the Iranian negotiators. 
  • Under its provisions the British assumed control over Iran’s army, treasury, transport system, and communications network. 
  • To secure their new power, they imposed martial law and began ruling by fiat. 
  • Lord Curzon, who as foreign secretary was one of the agreement’s chief architects, argued its necessity in terms that crystallized a century of British policy toward Iran:
    • If it be asked why we should undertake the task at all, and why Persia should not be left to herself and allowed to rot into picturesque decay, the answer is that her geographical position, the magnitude of our interests in the country, and the future safety of our Eastern Empire render it impossible for us now–just as it would have been impossible for us any time during the last fifty years–to disinherit ourselves from what happens in Persia.  Moreover, now that we are about to assume the mandate for Mesopotamia, which will make us coterminous with the western frontiers of Asia, we cannot permit the existence between the frontiers of our Indian Empire and Baluchistan and those of our new protectorate, a hotbed of misrule, enemy intrigue, financial chaos and political disorder.  Further, if Persia were to be alone, there is every reason to fear that she would be overrun by Bolshevik influence from the north.  Lastly, we possess in the southwestern corner of Persia great assets in the shape of oil fields, which are worked for the British navy and which give us a commanding interest in that part of the world. 
  • So Iran’s sovereignty was completely gone. 
  • Like Vietnam, they hoped Woodrow Wilson’s Paris Peace Conference in 1918, that promised self-determination for all people, would extend to them, too. 
  • They were disappointed to find out that they didn’t quality as “people” in the eyes of the West. 
  • The Iranian delegation was barred from even bringing to the table its demands for mere recognition, let alone compensation, of the foreign occupation and economic and human losses that Iran had sustained during the war.
  • The British delegation argued that the Iranian case could not be heard in the conference since Iran was not a party to the war and thus did not have a place in the postwar settlement.
  • Some of them set up a Community party in the northern provinces. 
  • Cursor saw Persia as a vital but weak link, in a pax britannica that stretched from India and the Persian Gulf to Iraq, Palestine, and Egypt. 
  • The grand strategy appealed to like-minded politicians such as Winston Churchill, who in 1919, as secretary of state for war, underscored the importance of the security of the Iranian oil fields to British postwar supremacy.
  • In 1917, Britain used Iran as the springboard to launch an expedition into Russia as part of their intervention in the Russian Civil War on the side of the White movement. 
  • The Russians then went to Iran and declared the northern provinces an “Iranian Soviet Socialist Republic”.
  • It seemed like the country could become the staging ground for a war between Britain and the USSR. 
  • The people were poorer than they had ever been. 
  • They had a major famine in 1918, the Spanish influenza in 1918-1919, known in Iran as “European common cold”, spread by troops moving through their country. 
  • a conservative estimate of loss of life in Iran due to famine and disease exceeded one million. 
  • This was an enormous loss for a country with a total population of no more than nine million, that did not field a single soldier in the war, and was not allowed to bring its grievances to the table after the war.
  • Foreign occupation no doubt also intensified the Iranian famine. Large consignments of grain and foodstuffs were both purchased and confiscated by Russian and British armies for consumption by their troops.
  • After the war there was massive inflation, Russia’s economy had come to a complete halt because of the revolution and civil war, Germany’s economy was in a recession, the Ottoman market were depressed because of their defeat in the war and their own civil war. 
  • Britain was Iran’s only trading partner and even their economy was in hyperinflation, labor revolts at home and in India. 
  • Made it hard to market Persian rugs, cotton, tobacco and opium. 
  • Britain was also taking over large sections of Iraq, Palestine, Syria, crushing revolts everywhere. 
  • And then, in 1921, a new leader emerged. 
  • Reza. 
  • Reza wasn’t related to the Qajar shahs. 
  • He was born in 1877 to a soldiering family from the remote regions near the Russian border. 
  • Reza Khan’s father and grandfather had served in the Qajar army.
  • Reza’s father died while he was still an infant, so his destitute mother took her son to Tehran, where she lived with her brothers, one of them a soldier in the newly established Cossack Division. 
  • Reza had lost his mother at the age of six, and his childhood and early youth were filled with neglect and virtually no education.
  • Left home as a teenager to join the military. 
  • Instead of joining the private army of a local chief, he joined the Cossack Brigade. 
  • A modern, disciplined, well commanded outfit. 
  • Founded by Russian officers sent by the Czar. 
  • The private guard of the kings and visiting foreign dignitaries.
  • Basically the Imperial guard. 
  • Reza joined as a stable boy but quickly began rising through the ranks. 
  • In 1911, he was promoted to first lieutenant, by 1912 he was elevated to the rank of captain and by 1915 he became a colonel. 
  • On 14 January 1921, the commander of the British Forces in Iran, General Edmund “Tiny” Ironside, promoted Reza, who had been leading the Tabriz battalion, to lead the entire Cossack brigade.
  • He was 43, 6’4”, brave and good with a gun and a sword. 
  • In the Cossacks, he traveled around the country and was involved in lots of operations against gangs, bandits or separatists. 
  • But he quickly began to be disgusted with the Qajars.
  • The British, meanwhile, hatched a plan to take control of the Cossacks, oust the Russian officers, and use them to lead a palace coup. 
  • They needed someone they could control who wasn’t connected to the hated Qajar shahs. 
  • It was apparently the plan of the British minister in Tehran, Herman Norman
  • Their candidate for a new prime minister was an ex-journalist, Sayyed Zia Tabatabai
  • Known for his pro-British sentiments. 
  • about the only Iranian journalist who consistently advocated the ratification of the 1919 agreement and its benefits for Iran in his newspaper 
  • He may well have proposed the idea of the coup to the British legation in Tehran rather than being a mere catalyst for the coup
  • They approached Reza to see if he would be willing to lead an insurrection. 
  • He was up for it. 
  • Especially for the amount of money they were offering. 
  • He’d never even met Sayyed Zia up until that point. 
  • On Feb 20, 1921, he and a few officers marched 2000 men to the outskirts of Tehran where Reza gave a speech. 
  • “Fellow soldiers! You have offered every possible sacrifice in the defense of the land of your fathers. … But we have to confess that our loyalty has served merely to preserve the interests of a handful of traitors in the capital…. These insignificant Men are the same treacherous elements who have sucked the last drop of the nation’s blood.”
  • The next morning they arrested the PM and every member of the cabinet. 
  • To the Shah he made two demands: Zia must be made PM and he, Reza, must be made the commander of the Cossack Brigade and the minster of war. 
  • The Shah didn’t have much choice. 
  • The British had arranged a coup. 
  • Within hours of taking power, the new government immediately declared a new order, which included, “all the residents of the city of Tehran must keep quiet. . . . The state of siege is established . . . all newspapers and prints will be stopped . . . public meetings in the houses and in different places are stopped . . . all shops where wines and spirits are sold, as well as theaters, cinemas and clubs, where gambling goes on, must be closed.” 
  • Zia and Reza Khan arrested some four hundred rich people and aristocrats who had inherited wealth and power over the span of ten to twenty years while the country experienced poverty, corruption, famine, instability and chaos. 
  • Their cabinets changed every six or seven months and could hardly manage the country’s daily affairs. 
  • According to Zia, these “few hundred nobles, who hold the reins of power by inheritance, sucked, leech-like, the blood of the people”.
  • The Cossacks immediately went around the country suppressing any dissent. 
  • Although in 1918 Iran was among the first countries to recognize the Bolshevik regime, the signing of the treaty in Moscow actually took place on February 26, 1921, five days after the coup in Tehran.
  • The twenty-six-article treaty, which remained in effect until the early days of the Islamic Republic, reaffirmed the Soviets’ renunciation of Russian imperial concessions, economic interests, and unpaid loans. It recognized Iran’s full sovereignty, called for nonintervention in internal affairs, recognized existing boundaries, and called for resolving border disputes through negotiation. 
  • In return, the treaty stipulated a unique concession to Soviet Union: the right to intervene militarily in Iran in the case Iran was threatened by a third party, in effect reaffirming the conduct of tsarist Russia since 1909. 
  • In a reference to Britain and its anti-Bolshevik policy, article 6 stipulated the following:
    • If a third party should attempt to carry out a policy of usurpation by means of armed intervention in Persia, or if such power should desire to use Persian territory as a base of operation against Russia, . . . and if the Persian Government should not be able to put a stop to such menace . . . Russia shall have the right to advance her troops into the Persian interior for the purpose of carrying out the military operation necessary for its defiance.
  • This was obviously NOT what the British wanted. 
  • Herman Norman lost his job. 
  • Curzon, who called him back from Tehran after only sixteen months, refused to meet with him and soon after Norman was forced to retired at the age of fifty-two.
  • Within a few months, Reza, who had amassed a huge amount of power, forced Zia into exile. 
  • Sayyed Zia’s political fall happened as fast as his meteoric rise. 
  • Once he had aroused enough resentment among the Qajar elite and lost both the confidence of the British and his usefulness to Reza Khan, he was forced into exile in Palestine under British mandate, where he would remain for two decades. 
  • For the next 20 years, Zia sold Persian rugs in Europe, became the Secretary General of the World Islamic Congress in Jerusalem in 1931, became obsessed with the health benefits of alfalfa, even wrote a cookbook about it. 
  • And then in 1943, he was invited back to Iran. 
  • More on that later. 
  • By 1923, Reza had gotten rid of the Shah as well. 
  • He was sent to Europe for health reasons and never returned. 
  • But Reza wasn’t ready for his final move. 
  • There was still opposition from the Shah’s younger brother and the nobility. 
  • Reza toyed with the idea of setting up a republic like Ataturk had in Turkey, but the religious class insisted he preserve the monarchy. 
  • Reminds me of Napoleon. 
  • Then he pulled a Caesar. 
  • He resigned all of his positions and retired to a small village. 
  • He just wanted to meditate and think about life. 
  • He spent a year in self-imposed exile. 
  • But before he left, he made sure to arrange for certain people to bombard him with demands he return. 
  • He pretended to resist, but then, as hoped, Ahmad Shah announced he would return to take over the country again. 
  • The Majlis, which didn’t have much power, pronounced the Qajar dynasty dead and offered the throne to Reza. 
  • He regretfully accepted. 
  • By October 1923, when Reza Khan formed his first government, with himself as the prime minister, he extended his power base beyond the military and presented a program of reforms. He was backed by a public prepared to see him not as the rough and ready military commander, but as a national savior who had pacified the country, secured its sovereignty, boosted national confidence, and pledged to fulfill Iran’s long-awaited dreams of structural reforms.
  • Less than three months later, the abolition of the Qajar monarchy and the establishment of a republic was the first order on the agenda of the fifth Majles.
  • In October  1925, Reza Pahlavi was appointed as the legal monarch of Iran by the decision of Iran’s constituent assembly. 
  • He declared view new dynasty would be called “Pahlavi”, after a language the Persians spoke before the Muslim conquest. 
  • His son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was proclaimed crown prince.
  • He managed to limit some of the power of Britain, but couldn’t do much, because he knew he was only on the throne because of them. 
  • And if they put HIM on the throne… they could do it again. 
  • He managed the country through terror. 
  • For example: 
  • In 1935 religious leaders called a protest against Reza Shah’s ban of the veil for women and his order that men wear billed caps that would prevent them from touching the floor with their foreheads during prayer. They gathered with several hundred believers in the sacred Khorasan mosque. As soon as Reza Shah learned of their assembly, he ordered soldiers to storm the mosque and massacre them. More than one hundred were killed. There were no further protests against his religious reforms.
  • Another example: During a visit to Hamedan in western Iran, he is said to have learned that people there were going hungry because bakers were hoarding wheat in order to drive up prices. He ordered the first baker he saw thrown into an oven and burned alive. By the next morning, every bakery in town was filled with low-priced bread.
  • But nobody could deny Reza Shah’s achievements. 
  • He began by wiping out gangs of bandits that terrorized many parts of Iran. 
  • He built a ton of new avenues, plazas, highways, factories, ports, hospitals, government buildings, railroad lines, and schools for both boys and girls. 
  • He created the country’s first civil service and the first national army it had known for centuries. 
  • He introduced the metric system, the modern calendar, the use of surnames, and civil marriage and divorce. 
  • He restricted traditional clothing and forbade camel caravans to enter cities.  
  • He established new legal codes and established a network of secular courts to enforce them. 
  • In 1935 he announced that he would no longer tolerate references to his country as Persia, a word used mainly by foreigners, and would insist on Iran, the name by which its own citizens knew it. 
  • He ordered that any mail from abroad addressed to Persia be returned unopened.  
  • Yet for all Reza Shah’s reformist passion, he did not manage a true social transformation. 
  • Under his rule, newspapers were strictly censored, labor organizing forbidden, and opposition figures murdered, jailed, or forced to flee. 
  • He forced nomadic tribes, which he considered relics of the past incompatible with a modern state, into barren settlements where thousands suffered and died. 
  • Commerce was centralized in the hands of the state and small cadre of loyal entrepreneurs. 
  • The Shah himself became enormously wealthy by extracting bribes from foreign businesses and extorting money from tribal leaders. 
  • He confiscated so much land that at the peak of his power, he was the country’s largest landowner.  
  • As one member of the British Parliament observed: “Reza Shah eliminated all the thieves and bandits in Iran, and made his countrymen realize that henceforth there would be only one thief in Iran.”
  • In 1934, he went to Turkey to hang out with Ataturk. 
  • He was depressed at how much more progressive Turkey was, so he returned to Iran with a new determination to transform Iranian society. 
  • He was also inspired by what he saw Hitler, Mussolini and Franco doing. 
  • purifying and uniting weak, undisciplined nations. 
  • He launched an oppressive campaign to obliterate the identity of minority groups, especially Kurds and Azeris, and he established a Society for Public Guidance to glorify his ideas and person. 
  • Baldur von Schirach, head of Hitler Youth, led a stream of Nazi dignitaries who visited Iran and spoke glowingly of the emerging German-Iranian alliance. 
  • one of the Shah’s newspapers declared.  “The cardinal goal of the German nation is to attain its past glories by promoting national pride, creating a hatred of foreigners, and preventing Jews and foreigners from embezzlement and treason. Our goals are certainly the same.”
  • He hated the British and the Russian as much as HItler. 
  • When WWII broke out, Iran declared neutrality but tilted towards Germany. 
  • Western leaders feared that the Nazis were planning to use Iran as a platform for an attack across the Soviet Union’s southern border that would greatly complicate the Allied war effort. 
  • To prevent that, British and Soviet troops entered Iran on August 25, 1941. 
  • Their planes dropped leaflets over Tehran.  
  • “We have decided that the Germans must go,” they said, “and if Iran will not deport them, then the English and the Russians will.”
  • Reza Shah did not wish to work for the Allies, and they had no use for him either. 
  • He abdicated on September 16, 1941. 
  • The next day his eldest son, twenty-one-year-old Mohammad Reza, was sworn in to succeed him. 
  • No more was heard from Reza, who died in Johannesburg three years later. 
  • When World War II ended, Iranians were desperate for a new kind of leader.