Iran: Random Facts and Trivia

Some random facts and trivia for the country of the world Iran, the Shah, nationalization of the oil supply, military in the middle east.



Oil is the essential ingredient of Iran's economy. Without it, Iran would never have been able to undertake its development programs of the last 20 years, nor could it have attracted the interest and capital of the industrial powers. Iran is 2nd only to Saudi Arabia in oil production in the Gulf.

Agri-business interests from California's Imperial Valley participate in Iran in the production of products such as asparagus and strawberries for European and Japanese markets. The list of U.S. corporations is lengthy, including Dow Chemical, John Deere, Transworld Agriculture Development, Bank of America.

The Shah's claim to the Iranian throne is not based upon a long and unbroken dynasty, as his publicity often implies. In fact, the Pahlavi dynasty is very recent. At the end of W.W. I, Britain attempted to make Iran into a virtual protectorate through the proposed Anglo-Persian Treaty of 1919. That effort failed, but in 1921 the British backed a coup by a journalist. The military support for that coup was provided by a colonel in the Cossack Brigade, Reza Khan, the son of a peasant. After the coup, the most important problem for the new Government was assertion of control over the provinces. The Army under the effective command of Reza Khan accomplished this goal. By 1925, rebellious areas had been subdued. In the interim, Reza Khan had been named Prime Minister in 1923, and by 1925 became the reigning Shah. His predecessor (who lived in Europe) was formally deposed by the Parliament. The new Shah took the name Pahlavi for his dynasty-to-be, and designated his son Mohammad Reza as the crown prince. Crown Prince Mohammad Reza became Shah in 1941, and still rules Iran.

The turning point in modern Iranian history was the 2-year struggle over the nationalization of Iran's oil. Nationalist groups in Iran had gained strength enough by 1951 to gain control of the Majlis (Parliament), and force the appointment of the leader of the National Front, Mohammad Mossadeq, as Prime Minister. Upon assuming office, Mossadeq nationalized Iran's oil. Since it was necessary for Iran to import many vital goods, Britain responded with an economic boycott. The U.S. was slow to support Britain, until its own objective was met: the elimination of preferential British treatment in Iran and an "open door" for U.S. participation in Iran's oil resources. The U.S. succeeded in its aims, since Britain was forced to turn to the U.S. for assistance in negotiating with Mossadeq. Then the U.S. realized that Mossadeq and Iran were capable of exploiting the oil resources without U.S. participation. At that point, the Americans turned to the Shah, the leader of the antinationalist forces in Iran. With direct CIA aid, a military coup ousted the nationalists and restored the Shah in August, 1953.

In the 1950s Iran's annual military budget was roughly $10 million a year; in the 1960s it increased to around $150 million a year. After 1968, however, Iran's annual military expenditures soared dramatically to its current $2 billion a year level. According to U.S. Dept of Defense figures, Iran accounts for almost 1/2 ($3.8 billion) of current foreign orders for U.S. made military equipment.

The Shah's military buildup is aimed at giving him the role of guardian of the Gulf. In practice, this has meant that in 1971 Iran seized the island of Abu Musa and the islands of Big and Little Tunb near the strategic mouth of the Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz. These islands were seized from the United Arab Emirates, since the Shah doubted their ability to keep the islands secure, and wanted control of the Gulf in his own hands. In 1972, the Shah seized the island of Um al-Ghanam in the same region from Oman. In late 1972 Iran sent helicopters and commando units to Oman to aid the British and their puppet Sultan in the province of Dhofar in the war there against the rebellion of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman. Iran's intelligence service is aiding Pakistan and North Yemen in intelligence work. Finally, the Shah gave aid to Kurdish rebels in the north of Iraq. When the Shah withdrew aid to the Kurds in 1974, the rebellion collapsed.

The ruling clique depends on the secret police, SAVAK, to repress antigovernment activity. During the 1960s the U.S. spent $1.7 million on a Police Assistance Program to Iran. SAVAK has at least 60,000 agents.

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