Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

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Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Shah of Iran
Reign September 16, 1941 - February 11, 1979
Born October 16, 1919
Tehran, Iran
Died July 27, 1980 (aged 60)
Cairo, Egypt
Predecessor Reza Shah
Heir-Apparent Reza Pahlavi
Successor Islamic Republic declared
Consort Fawzia bint Fuad (1941–1948)
Soraya Esfandiary (1951–1958)
Farah Diba (1959–1980)
Issue Shahnaz, Reza Cyrus, Farahnaz, Ali Reza, Leila Pahlavi
Royal House Pahlavi dynasty
Father Reza Shah
Mother Tadj ol-Molouk

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran (Persian: محمدرضا پهلویMoḥammad Rez̤ā Pahlavī) (October 26, 1919, TehranJuly 27, 1980, Cairo), styled His Imperial Majesty, and holding the imperial titles of Shahanshah (King of Kings), and Aryamehr (Light of the Aryans), was the monarch of Iran from September 16, 1941 until the Iranian Revolution on February 11, 1979. He was the second monarch of the Pahlavi dynasty and the last Shah of the Iranian monarchy.

The Shah came to power during World War II, after an Anglo-Soviet invasion forced the abdication of his father, Reza Shah. Mohammad Reza Shah's rule oversaw the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry under prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh. During the Shah's reign, Iran celebrated 2,500 years of continuous monarchy since the founding of the Persian Empire by Cyrus the Great. His White Revolution, a series of economic and social reforms intended to transform Iran into a global power, succeeded in modernizing the nation, nationalizing many natural resources and extending suffrage to women, among other things. However, a partial failure of the land reform, the lack of democratization as criticized by some of his opponents, as well as the decline of the traditional power of the Shi'a clergy due to parts of the reforms, increased opposition to his authority.

While a Muslim himself, the Shah gradually lost support with the Shi'a clergy of Iran, particularly due to his strong policy of Westernization and recognition of Israel. Clashes with the religious right, increased communist activity, Western interference in the economy, and a 1953 period of political disagreements with Mohammad Mossadegh (in which each side accused the other of staging a coup, eventually leading to Mossadegh's downfall) would cause an increasingly autocratic rule. Various controversial policies were enacted, including the banning of the Tudeh Party and the oppression of dissent by Iran's intelligence agency, SAVAK; Amnesty International reported that Iran had as many as 2,200 political prisoners in 1978. By 1979, the political unrest had transformed into a revolution which, on January 16, forced the Shah to leave Iran after 37 years of rule. Soon thereafter, the revolutionary forces transformed the government into an Islamic republic.


[edit] Early life

Born in Tehran to Reza Pahlavi and his second wife, Tadj ol-Molouk, Mohammad Reza was the eldest son of the first Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty, and the third of his eleven children. He was born with a twin sister, Ashraf Pahlavi. However, Mohammad Reza, Ashraf, Ali Reza, and their older half-sister, Fatemeh, were born as commoners, as their father did not become Shah until 1925.

On February 21, 1921, Reza Khan staged a successful coup d'état together with Seyyed Zia'eddin Tabatabaee against the fledgling Qajar dynasty of Persia. Eventually, he was declared the Shah by the country's National Assembly, the Majlis of Iran, on December 12, 1925. On April 25, 1926, he received his coronation, where Mohammad Reza was proclaimed the Crown Prince of Persia.

As a child, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi attended Institut Le Rosey, a Swiss boarding school, which he completed in 1935. Around the same time, his father officially asked the international community to refer to Persia as its internal name, "Iran". Upon Mohammad Reza's return to the country, he enrolled in the local military academy in Tehran, until 1938.

[edit] Early reign

[edit] Deposition of his father

During World War II, Reza Shah was forced to abdicate in favor of his son.
During World War II, Reza Shah was forced to abdicate in favor of his son.

In the midst of World War II in 1941, Nazi Germany began Operation Barbarossa and invaded the Soviet Union, breaking the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact. The act had a huge impact on Iran[citation needed] , as the country had declared neutrality in the conflict.[1] However, Iran had maintained good relations with Nazi Germany, and was thus seen by some[attribution needed] as a potential member of the Axis Powers. Thus a preventive invasion was staged by the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union.

During the subsequent military invasion and occupation, the joint Allied and Soviet command forced Reza Shah to abdicate in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. He replaced his father on the throne on September 16, 1941. It was hoped that the younger prince would be more open to influence from the pro-Allied West, which later proved to be the case.

Subsequent to his succession as Shah, Iran became a major conduit for British, and later, American aid to the USSR during the war. This massive supply effort became known as the Persian Corridor, and marked the first large-scale American and Western participation in Iran, an involvement that would continue to grow until the successful revolution against the Iranian monarchy in 1979.

[edit] Oil nationalization and the 1953 coup

Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh was named Prime Minister of Iran following the nationalization of Iran's oil industry in 1951.
Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh was named Prime Minister of Iran following the nationalization of Iran's oil industry in 1951.

In the early 1950s, there was a political crisis centered in Iran that commanded the focused attention of British and American intelligence outfits. In 1951, under the leadership of the nationalist movement of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, the Iranian parliament voted unanimously to nationalize the oil industry. This shut out the immensely profitable Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), which was a pillar of Britain's economy and political clout. A month after that vote, Mossadegh was named Prime Minister of Iran.

In response to nationalization, Britain placed a massive embargo on Iranian oil exports, which only worsened the already fragile economy. Neither the AIOC nor Mossadegh was open to compromise in this period, with Britain insisting on a restoration of the AIOC and Mossadegh only willing to negotiate on the terms of its compensation for lost assets. The U.S. president at the time, Harry S. Truman, was categorically unwilling to join Britain in planning a coup against Mossadegh, and Britain felt unable to act without American cooperation, particularly since Mossadegh had shut down their embassy in 1952.[citation needed] Truman's successor, Dwight Eisenhower, was finally persuaded by arguments that were anti-Communist rather than primarily economic, and focused on the potential for Iran's communist Tudeh Party to capitalize on political instability and assume power, aligning Iran and its immense oil resources with the Soviet Bloc. Though Mossadegh never had a close political alliance with Tudeh, he also failed to act decisively against them in any way, which hardened U.S. policy against him.[citation needed] Coup plans which had stalled under Truman were immediately revived by an eager intelligence corps, with powerful aid from the Dulles brothers, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and CIA Director Allen Welsh Dulles, after Eisenhower's inauguration in 1953.[citation needed]

[edit] Coup

Under the direction of Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., a senior CIA officer and grandson of the former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, the CIA and British intelligence funded and led a covert operation to depose Mossadeq with the help of military forces loyal to the Shah, known as Operation Ajax.[2] The plot hinged on orders signed by the Shah to dismiss Mossadegh as prime minister and replace him with General Fazlollah Zahedi, a choice agreed on by the British and Americans. Despite the high-level coordination and planning, the coup initially failed, causing the Shah to flee to Baghdad, later leaving for Rome. After a brief exile in Italy, the Shah returned to Iran, this time through a successful counter-coup. The deposed Mossadegh was arrested, given a show trial, and condemned to death.[citation needed] The Shah commuted this sentence to solitary confinement for three years in a military prison, followed by house arrest for life.[citation needed] Zahedi was installed to succeed Prime Minister Mossadegh.

There is disagreement among scholars and political analysts as to whether it is correct to call the 1953 plot a coup. The term is commonly used in media and popular culture, though technically the overthrow of Mossadegh neither was purely military in nature nor led to a change in the form of government or the constitution in the country. Technically, in fact, it led to the preservation of the constitution, which Mossadegh had been repeatedly neglecting during his term in office. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

The majority of scholars and newspapers state that the 1953 plot was a coup. Indeed, the declassified record[3] of the very plans of the US and UK, the two actors behind Mossadegh's removal from power, reveals that they themselves regarded it as such. For example, Appendix E[4] of the coup documentation is entitled "Military Critique; Lessons Learned from TPAJAX; re Military Planning Aspects of Coup d'Etat."

On April 28, 1951, Mossadegh, on the Shah's suggestion, was named Prime Minister of Iran by a vote of 79-12 by the democratically elected legislative Iranian body known as the Majlis and the parliament's vote had been accepted by the Shah as legitimate at that time. However, In August of 1953 Mossadegh attempted to convince the Shah to leave the country. The Shah refused and formally dismissed the prime minister. However, the Shah's authority to dismiss Mossadegh has been questioned with some saying that only the Majlis had the formal authority to dismiss the Prime Minister. Mossadegh used this idea after the coup during his trial in November of that year. [9] [10]

Mossadegh refused to resign, however, and when it became apparent that he was going to fight, the Shah, as a precautionary measure called for by the British/American plan, fled to Baghdad and from there on to Rome. Once again, massive protests broke out across the nation. Anti- and pro-monarchy protestors violently clashed in the streets, leaving almost 300 dead. The military intervened as the pro-Shah tank regiments stormed the capital and bombarded the prime minister's official residence. Mossadegh surrendered, and was arrested on August 20, 1953. Mossadegh was tried for treason, and sentenced to three years in prison.

One view is that the forceful ousting of Prime Minister Mossadegh was a counter coup after Mossadegh's dismissal. The other view is that Mossadegh had acted under emergency powers to preserve the sovereignty of Iran against the intervention of the CIA and British Intelligence acting on behalf of western oil companies.

[edit] Assassination attempts

The Shah was the victim of two assassination attempts. On February 4, 1949, the Shah attended an annual ceremony to commemorate the founding of Tehran University.[5] At the ceremony, Fakhr Arai fired five shots at the Shah from a ten foot range. Only one of the shots hit the Shah and his cheek was mildly wounded. Arai was instantly shot by nearby officers. After some investigations, it was found that Arai was a member of the Tudeh party,[6] which was subsequently banned.[7] The second attempt on the Shah's life was on April 10, 1965.[8] A soldier shot his way through the Marble Palace. The assailant was killed before he reached the Shah's quarters. Two civilian guards died protecting the Shah. The Shah was also targeted by Communists who tried to use a TV remote control to detonate a Volkswagen which was turned into an IED. The TV remote failed to function.[citation needed]

[edit] Later years

[edit] Foreign relations

In 1964, Turkish President Cemal Gürsel (right), Mohammad Reza Shah (left) and Pakistani President Ayub Khan jointly announced the creation of the Regional Cooperation for Development.
In 1964, Turkish President Cemal Gürsel (right), Mohammad Reza Shah (left) and Pakistani President Ayub Khan jointly announced the creation of the Regional Cooperation for Development.

The Shah supported the Yemeni royalists against republican forces in the Yemen Civil War (1962-70) and assisted the sultan of Oman in putting down a rebellion in Dhofar (1971). Concerning the fate of Bahrain (which Britain had controlled since the 19th century, but which Iran claimed as its own territory) and three small Persian Gulf islands, the Shah negotiated an agreement with the British, which, by means of a public consensus, ultimately led to the independence of Bahrain (against the wishes of Iranian nationalists). Iran still lays claim to Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa, three (strategically sensitive) islands in the Strait of Hormuz, however, which are claimed by the United Arab Emirates.

During this period, the Shah maintained cordial relations with the Persian Gulf states and established closer diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia. Relations with Iraq, however, were often difficult until 1975 when both countries signed the Algiers Accord, which granted Iraq equal navigation rights in the Arvand/Shatt al-Arab river, with the Shah also agreeing to end his support for Iraqi Kurdish rebels. [11]

The Shah also maintained close relations with King Hussein of Jordan, Anwar Sadat of Egypt, and King Hassan II of Morocco. [12]

In July 1964, Shah Pahlavi, Turkish President Cemal Gürsel and Pakistani President Ayub Khan announced in Istanbul the establishment of the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) organization to promote joint transportation and economic projects also envisioning Afghanistan joining some time in the future. The Shah maintained close relations with Pakistan. During the 1965 war of Pakistan with India the Shah provided free fuel to the Pakistani planes who used to land on Iranian soil, refuel and then take off.

The Shah of Iran was the first Muslim leader to recognize the State of Israel. The relations would deteriorate after the creation of the Islamic Republic.

[edit] Westernization and autocracy

Further information: White Revolution
Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and his wife, Empress Farah, prepare to depart Andrews Air Force Base after a visit to the United States on November 16, 1977.
Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and his wife, Empress Farah, prepare to depart Andrews Air Force Base after a visit to the United States on November 16, 1977.

With Iran's great oil wealth, Mohammad Reza Shah became the pre-eminent leader of the Middle East, and self-styled "Guardian" of the Persian Gulf. In 1975, he abolished the multi-party system of government so that he could rule through a one-party state under the Rastakhiz (Resurrection) Party in autocratic fashion, which he claimed was a response, among other things, to the Soviet Union's support of Iranian Communist militias and parties, particularly the Tudeh Party. In addition, the Shah had decreed that all Iranian citizens and the few remaining political parties must become part of Rastakhiz. [13] The Shah also authorized the creation of the secret police force, SAVAK (National Organization for Information and Security, which was organized with the help of the CIA and Mossad.).This infamous agency operated its own secret prison, used torture extensively, assassinated dissidents, and kept the CIA informed.

He made major changes to curb the power of certain ancient elite factions by expropriating large and medium-sized estates for the benefit of more than four million small farmers. In the White Revolution, he took a number of major modernization measures, including extending suffrage to women, much to the discontent and opposition of the Islamic clergy. He instituted exams for Islamic theologians to become established clerics, which were widely unpopular and broke centuries-old religious traditions. The mullahs were accustomed to having total control over admission to their ranks.

[edit] Revolution

Main article: Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi meeting with Arthur Atherton, William H. Sullivan, Cyrus Vance, President Jimmy Carter, and Zbigniew Brzezinski,1977.
The Iranian Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi meeting with Arthur Atherton, William H. Sullivan, Cyrus Vance, President Jimmy Carter, and Zbigniew Brzezinski,1977.

His policies led to strong economic growth during the 1960s and 1970s but at the same time, opposition to his autocratic pro-Western rule increased. His good relations with Israel and the United States and his active support for women's rights were moreover a reason for Islamic fundamentalist groups to attack his policies.

On January 16, 1979 he and his wife left Iran at the behest of Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar (a long time opposition leader himself), who sought to calm down the situation.[9] Bakhtiar dissolved SAVAK and freed all political prisoners, and allowed Ayatollah Khomeini to return to Iran after years in exile, asking him to create a Vatican-like state in Qom, promised free elections and called upon the opposition to help preserve the constitution proposing a `national unity` including Khomeini's followers. Khomeini fiercely rejected Dr. Bakhtiar's demands and appointed his own interim government, with Mehdi Bazargan as prime minister, demanding `since I have appointed he must be obeyed." In February, pro-Khomeini Revolutionary guerrilla and rebel soldiers gained the upperhand in street fighting and the military announced their neutrality. On the evening of February 11 the dissolution of the monarchy was complete.

[edit] Exile and death

A visibly saddened Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his family leave Iran on January 16, 1979, having been granted asylum in Egypt by Anwar Al Sadat.
A visibly saddened Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his family leave Iran on January 16, 1979, having been granted asylum in Egypt by Anwar Al Sadat.

The exiled monarch had become unpopular in much of the world, especially in the liberal West, ironically his original backers and those who had most to lose from his downfall. He travelled from country to country in his second exile seeking what he hoped would be a temporary residence.

First he went to Egypt, and got an invitation and warm welcome from president Anwar el-Sadat. He later lived in Morocco, the Bahamas, and Mexico. But his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma began to grow worse, and required immediate and sophisticated treatment.

Reluctantly, on October 22, 1979, President Jimmy Carter allowed the Shah to make a brief stopover in the United States to undergo medical treatment. The compromise was extremely unpopular with the revolutionary movement, which were against the United States' years of support of the Shah's rule, and demanded his return to Iran to stand trial.

This resulted in the kidnapping of a number of American diplomats, military personnel and intelligence officers at the American embassy in Tehran, which soon became known as the Iran hostage crisis. Once the Shah's course of treatment had finished, the American government, eager to avoid further controversy, pressed the former monarch to leave the country.

He left the United States on December 15, 1979 and lived for a short time in the Isla Contadora in Panama. Finally he went back to Egypt where he died on July 27, 1980, aged 60. Egyptian President Sadat gave the Shah a state funeral.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is buried in the Al Rifa'i Mosque in Cairo, a mosque of great symbolic value. The last royal rulers of two empires are buried here, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran and King Farouk of Egypt, his former brother-in-law. The tombs lie off to the left of the entrance.

Shortly after his overthrow, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi wrote an autobiographical memoir entitled Answer to History (ISBN 0-8128-2755-4), which was translated from the original French (Réponse à l'histoire) into both English and Persian (Pasukh bih Tarikh) as well as other languages, and was later published posthumously in 1980. The book is his personal account of his reign and accomplishments, as well as his perspective on issues related to the Iranian Revolution and Western foreign policy toward Iran. In the book, the Shah also places blame for the wrongdoings of SAVAK and the failures of various democratic and social reforms (particularly through the White Revolution) upon Amir Abbas Hoveyda and his administration.

[edit] Marriages and children

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, crowning Farah Pahlavi as Empress of Iran.
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, crowning Farah Pahlavi as Empress of Iran.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was married three times. His first wife was Princess Fawzia of Egypt (born November 5, 1921), a daughter of King Fuad I of Egypt and Nazli Sabri; she also was a sister of King Farouk I of Egypt. They married in 1939 and were divorced in 1945 (Egyptian divorce) and 1948 (Iranian divorce). They had one daughter, Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi (born October 27, 1940).

His second wife was Soraya Esfandiary (June 22, 1932-October 26, 2001), the only daughter of Khalil Esfandiary, Ambassador of Iran to the Federal Republic of Germany, and his wife, the former Eva Karl. They married in 1951 and divorced in 1958 when it became apparent that she could not bear children. Soraya later told The New York Times that the Shah had no choice but to divorce her, and that he was heavyhearted about the decision.[10]

After his second divorce, the Shah, who told a reporter who asked about his feelings for the former queen that "nobody can carry a torch longer than me,"[citation needed] indicated his interest in marrying Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy, a daughter of the deposed Italian king Umberto II. Pope John XXIII reportedly vetoed the suggestion. In an editorial about the rumors surrounding the marriage of "a Muslim sovereign and a Catholic princess", the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, considered the match "a grave danger."[11]

Pahlavi eventually found his third and final wife, Farah Diba (born October 14, 1938), the only child of Sohrab Diba, Captain in the Imperial Iranian Army, and his wife, the former Faredeh Ghotbi. They were married in 1959, and Queen Farah was crowned Shahbanu, or Empress, a title created especially for her in 1967. Previous royal consorts had been known as "Malakeh" (Arabic: Malika), or Queen. The couple remained together for twenty years, until the Shah's death. Farah Diba bore him four children:

  1. Reza Pahlavi, the Crown Prince (born October 31, 1960)
  2. Farahnaz Pahlavi (born March 12, 1963)
  3. Ali Reza Pahlavi (born April 28, 1966)
  4. Leila Pahlavi (March 27, 1970June 10, 2001)

[edit] Quotes

[edit] On the revolution

  • The role of the U.S.: I did not know it then – perhaps I did not want to know – but it is clear to me now that the Americans wanted me out. Clearly this is what the human rights advocates in the State Department wanted … What was I to make of the Administration's sudden decision to call former Under Secretary of State George Ball to the White House as an adviser on Iran? … Ball was among those Americans who wanted to abandon me and ultimately my country.[12]
  • Promise to the nation: You, the people of Iran, rose against injustice and corruption… I too, have heard the voice of your revolution. As the Shah of Iran, and as an Iranian, I will support the revolution of my people. I promise that the previous mistakes, unlawful acts and injustice will not be repeated.[13][14]

[edit] On the role of women

  • Women are important in a man’s life only if they’re beautiful and charming and keep their femininity and ... this business of feminism, for instance. What do these feminists want? What do you want? You say equality. Oh! I don’t want to seem rude, but.. you’re equal in the eyes of the law but not, excuse my saying so, in ability ... You've never produced a Michelangelo or a Bach. You've never even produced a great chef. And if you talk to me about opportunity, all I can say is, Are you joking? Have you ever lacked the opportunity to give history a great chef? You've produced nothing great, nothing! … You're schemers, you are evil. All of you.[15][16]

- When later he was asked in an interview by Barbara Walters if he had said this, he answered "Not with the same words, no." [17]

  • ... women- who after all make up half the population- should be treated as equals...[18]
  • I have never believed that women were diabolical creatures if they showed their faces or arms, or went swimming, or skied or played basketball. If some women wish to live veiled, then it is their choice, but why deprive half of our youth of the healthy pleasure of sports?[19]

[edit] See also

[edit] Further reading

[edit] References

  1. ^ Pierre Renouvin, World War II and Its Origins: International Relations, 1929-1945. page 329
  2. ^ Risen, James. "Secrets of History: The C.I.A. in Iran", The New York Times, 2000. Retrieved on March 30, 2007.
  3. ^ National Security Archive "The Secret History of the Iran Coup"
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ 1979: Shah of Iran flees into exile. BBC. Retrieved on January 5, 2007.
  10. ^ "Soraya Arrives for U.S. Holiday" (PDF), The New York Times, 1958-04-23, pp. 35. Retrieved on March 23, 2007.
  11. ^ Paul Hofmann, Pope Bans Marriage of Princess to Shah, The New York Times, 24 February 1959, p. 1.
  12. ^ What Really Happed to the Shah of Iran - [1]
  13. ^ Iranian State Radio, 5 Nov. 1978 - Partial transcript (in Persian)
  14. ^ Audio of Mohammad Reza Shah's televized speech, November 6, 1978
  15. ^ Oriana Fallaci, Interview with History. New York; Liveright Publishing, 1976. pp. 270-272.
  16. ^ Excerpt available in the introduction to an interview with Grand Ayatollah Montazeri by Golbarg Bashi
  17. ^ Barbara Walters interview, cited in Elaine Sciolino, The Last Empress, May 2, 2004
  18. ^ Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Answer to History, Stein & Day Pub, 1980, ISBN 0-8128-2755-4.
  19. ^ Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Answer to History, Stein & Day Pub, 1980, ISBN 0-8128-2755-4.

[edit] External links

Preceded by
Reza Shah
Shah of Iran
1941 – 1979
Succeeded by
Islamic Republic declared
Head of the House of Pahlavi
1941 – 1980
Succeeded by
Reza Pahlavi
Iranian Head of State
1941 – 1979
Succeeded by
Supreme Leader
Ruhollah Khomeini

NAME Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Shahanshah Aryamehr Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
SHORT DESCRIPTION Second Iranian Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty
DATE OF BIRTH October 16, 1919
DATE OF DEATH July 27, 1980