Famous Rulers in History The Shah of Iran Part 3

About the famous Persian ruler the Shah in Iran, history and biography of his reign and rule after World War II.

THE SHAH OF IRAN

In Power: When the present shah first came to power, he was a virtual puppet of the Allies. At the close of W.W. II, the foreign occupiers withdrew, and Iran's traditional powers, whose influence had waned during Riza Shah's reign, began to assert themselves once more. Tribal chiefs, landlords, and religious leaders all regained some of their lost strength. Political parties took advantage of the lull to organize themselves, especially the Tudeh, the Iranian Communist party. On top of all this, a Russian-backed independence movement had declared the northeastern tip of Iran an autonomous republic. The uprising was eventually quelled.

After the war, the Iranians began to demand more control over their oil, that slimy diamond which has dictated so much of the country's recent history and politics. Since 1905, almost all oil production had been controlled by the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Now the Iranians suggested that they split the profits. The British refused.

The National Front, a coalition of parties including the Tudeh, gained power in the parliament, and Mohammed Mosadegh was appointed prime minister in 1951. Long active in Iranian politics, the 73-year-old Mosadegh was immediately at odds with the shah after the prime minister nationalized the oil fields.

The British reacted by withdrawing their technicians from the huge refinery at Abadan on the Persian Gulf, thus throwing thousands of Iranians out of work. The international oil market began to boycott Iranian oil. Iran's oil exports tumbled to a record low. Iran was in chaos, deprived of its main source of income.

The shah turned to the U.S. for help. Iran had been considered a bulwark against communism, but now this stance seemed threatened by the prime minister's nationalistic policies. In one of its most blatant interventions, the CIA sent in a team of covert operatives to plot Mosadegh's downfall and return full power to the conservative shah.

In the summer of 1953, the situation finally came to a head. At the CIA's urging, the shah dismissed Mosadegh and in his place appointed Gen. Fazollah Zahedi, a Nazi sympathizer. Mosadegh refused to step down. The shah and his wife fled to the safety of Rome. During the next three days, the CIA organized anti-Mosadegh demonstrations and riots. With the help of some Iranian generals, the CIA overthrew Mosadegh. Three days after he had left his kingdom with head bowed. the shah triumphantly returned, now that Mosadegh was safely under arrest.

The shah had learned a lesson. No longer would an opposition be allowed to exist. In 1957, when the shah decided to initiate a two-party system for appearance's sake, he carefully assigned members of Parliament to the "opposing" parties. Today Iran has one party, the Resurgence party.

Massive U.S. aid helped to build up the shah's loyal military machine and SAVAK, the ominous-sounding acronym for his secret police. As oil revenues have increased, so has the shah's viselike grip tightened upon the country.

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