Country of the World Iran Part 2

About the country Iran, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.



The enormous wealth of the Pahlavi family today has its roots in the estates and enterprises confiscated by the Reza Shah, the present shah's father, in the 1920s and 30s. The bulk of the estates were eventually sold back to the peasants under the White Revolution's land reform program (the shah retained for himself two million acres in Iran), and the proceeds from the sales were given over to the shah's personal "Pahlavi Foundation," established in 1958. In 1961 the shah managed to legitimize three decades of theft, bribery, and extortion by deeding over to the foundation some $135 million worth of purely personal assets, everything from hotels and merchant ships to banks, factories, and orphanages, the last mentioned providing the excuse for all the rest. There are two Catch-22s in this arrangement. One is that no one knows the true value of the shah's personal assets, then or now, and many believe that the assets turned over to the foundation represented only about 10% of the shah's personal wealth. The other is that distinctions between personal and foundation wealth are largely academic, since the shah has made himself the principal guardian of the endowment. The workings of the Pahlavi Foundation are kept absolutely secret, but it is known that the foundation plays a crucial role in all areas of Iranian public life, and outside of the government, it is the most powerful economic force in the country. Besides enlarging the Pahlavis' wealth, the foundation serves as a conduit for bribes, payoffs, and pensions to the Iranian elite which cannot be handled through regular government channels. In a similar fashion, it is used to make payments to foreign private and government officials in return for special services to the regime.

Although the foundation is quite clearly a branch of the Iranian government as well as a dictator's personal instrument, it is incorporated separately in the U.S. as a tax-exempt educational foundation. This somewhat miraculous status was obtained for the foundation by the prestigious Washington--New York law firm of Rogers and Wells, headed by former Secretary of State William P. Rogers.

According to the international human rights organization Amnesty International, the shah's regime has the "highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts, and a history of torture which is beyond belief." No less than seven distinct security organizations, including the dreaded Israeli- and CIA/AID-trained SAVAK, track down the shah's opponents at home and abroad. Amnesty International states that there are several thousand political prisoners in Iran. However, other estimates run as high as 25,000 to 50,000. Since 1971, a number of guerrilla groups have carried out raids on police stations, effected bank expropriations, executed high-ranking U.S. and Iranian military officials, and bombed government and corporate offices.

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