Mohammad. Reza Pahlavi was an individual, who was sincerely concerned by the sorry condition of his country. Conscious of his strengths and extremely self-confident, he was an extraordinary phenomenon in the eyes of his supporters and his enemies. He constantly worked to protect the country from the greatest regional threats that were always overshadowing Iran for many years, such as the Soviet Union (Russia), Great Britain and other Iranian Tribes. M. Reza Shah embarked on a vast program of modernization and development, such as railroad and road improvement, a centralized government and a more westernized country. However, in the later years of his rule, Reza Shah seemed to have become overwhelmed with power and brutality dominated his behavior by utilizing fear to govern the country. Despite this, similar to other great figures in history, he became a builder, restless and ruthless ruler on a large that resulted in positive as long as negative outcomes to Iran as a whole. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Shah fits the mold of a relatively powerful developing world leader, who sought to compel his country to modernize by sheer force of will (his will), without regard for differing views.
Historical and Political Preconditions of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavis Reign
At the beginning of 20th century, Great Britain had a high interest in Iran, as a valuable source of oil. Therefore, there were bilateral, mutually beneficial relations: Iran supplied Great Britain with oil and got political and military assistance in return. However, there were a growing number of Iranian politicians, targeted to provide the policy of nationalism. Under these circumstances, British authorities found a leader, focused on Westernization as the main direction of Iranian development. That was Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Minister of Defense, who replaced Qatar dynasty in 1925 and proclaimed himself to be the main official of Iran. During his political career, Reza Shah Pahlavi had a lot of disputes with Great Britain, as there were different views on further development of Iran. Trying to decrease the influence of Great Britain in Iran, Shah entered into closer cooperation with Germany and the USSR. Especially extensive trade relations with Germany continued even on the verge of the World WAR II. As a result, Iran stated about its neutrality in the war. Such a position could not satisfy the Allies, which took measures to break relations between Germany and Iran. First, the political leaders of the Allies persuasively asked the Shah to break the relations, but after his refusal stricter steps were taken. Great Britain and the USSR penetrated in Iran with the officially claimed mission to prevent the danger of usage Iran as a transitional way for German military supply. Reza Shah Pahlavis unwillingness to cooperate with the invaders lead to his forced liquidation in 1941 with the help of the Allies. That is how the young son of Reza Pahlavi came to the governance of the country. Young Mohammad Pahlavi was raised in the appropriate traditions. As his father supported western ideas of modernization, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was the follower of these views too. He got the education in Switzerland and after that graduated from military school in Iran. Therefore, at the beginning of his political career, young Pahlavi already had necessary level of knowledge. His style of ruling combined both democratic ideas of Iranian development with authoritarian public decisions. Despite all the mistakes and disadvantages in the leadership style, the regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had significant positive influence on the future of Iran.
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Oil Question as the Important Issue at the beginning of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavis Political Life
During the first years of the governance, Pahlavi did not take important political decisions. The situation changed when the oil question became actual in 1950. Mohammad Mossadegh, who was the Prime Minister of Iran at that time, promoted the idea of oil nationalizing. The Parliament supported this decision, which caused significant material losses for the British economy. Therefore, the main aim of the British government was to remove Mossadegh from the political power. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was one of those, who had to facilitate this event. However, the coup, planed for dismissal of Mossadegh, failed. That is why Pahlavi had to flee to Italy. That was a short-period exile for the Shah. After it, the second trial of coup turned out to be successful, Mohammad Mossadegh was arrested, and Pahlavi turned back to his position. That was the breaking point in Pahlavis political career. After his return to Iran in 1953, the historians describe the Shah in such a way: He decided not to forget his father advice anymore: Any person, deserving to be an advisor in the complicated process of country development, will make all possible to take your place as soon as favorable opportunity offers. From that moment, the Shah took all the important decision personally. The Parliament and other governmental bodies were subsidiary ones in comparison to the Shah. Though this system of ruling used to be effective during the last twenty-five years, it was not the best decision in the crisis, as Pahlavi turned out to be solely responsible for all the failures and misfortunes in Iran.
Political Cooperation with the USA instead of Great Britain
The USA replaced Great Britain in the role of the most powerful country. Iran signed up the treaty on strategy partnership with the USA and focused his attention on strengthening and modernization of the military forces, army, and secret services, which were unlimited in their access to the financial resources. Meanwhile, there were also economic problems in Iran, which required quick and effective measures to be taken. The best specialists in the economy with western education were engaged in a process of economic problems solution.
The White Revolution
In 1963, the Shah solemnly declared the beginning of the White revolution of the Shah and the people, targeted to the extension of the education, massive industrialization, implementation of new technologies and land reform. The first ten years of the White revolution turned Iran to the regional superstate with the most progressive temps of economic growth and development. The living standards increased significantly, especially in the cities. Millions of Iranian students entered the best American and European educational establishments. Numerous factors and thousands of new houses were also built in Iran. The Shah managed to find an important political balance between partnership with the USA and friendly political relations with the USSR. After the Arabian-Israeli war in 1973, the price of the oil jumped in the result of the Arabian oil boycott to the West. Meanwhile, Iranian oil production industry got significant profits from this. Its income for oil trade was 25 billion dollars per year. In 1971, the Shah celebrated 2500 years of the Persian Monarchy and statehood on a grand scale. He planned the further building of nuclear electrical power stations to preserve the oil resources of the country for a long time. The experts predicted the start of the golden era in Iran.
Another Side of White Revolution
First, the White revolution weakened the positions of Pahlavis main opponents both left parties and Shiite radicals. With the passing of the time, the situation began to change in favor of the opponents. First, the majority of the population continued to live in the rural regions, where the results of modernization were less evident than in the cities. Second, the economic growth was accompanied by a high level of governmental corruption, including the highest representatives of the state authority and the Shahs family. Third, there was almost no space left for criticism of the government. Mass media was fully under the governmental control. The present political parties were also financially dependent on the will of the government. In 1975, the Shah dismissed them and created the Party of Iranian people Renaissance Rastahiz. Membership in this party was obligatory for all adult citizens. This even occurred simultaneously with the decrease in the world oil market, rushing reduction of economic growth and fall in the peoples living level. All these circumstances inclined to politicization even those Iranians, who remained out of politics for a long time, and even those, who got objective benefits from the Shahs reforms. Thousands of the Iranian citizens, who got the education abroad at the governmental expense and travelled a lot, joined the oppositionists. Some of them were attracted by western democracy, others were attracted by the ideas of left parties, and the others were shocked by western disbelief, preoccupation with material matters and debauchery. The last ones just wanted to return to the source of pure Islamic traditions. The important thing is that all the mentioned groups considered Shah to be the enemy of the State. Information about the corruption pervaded in the society despite the strict laws of censorship and strengthened public dissatisfaction with the authority. Expelled from the country in 1960s Ruhollah Chomeini conducted wide propagandistic war against the Shah. He accused Pahlavi of corruptibility and western dominant influence and dependence. Chomeini called for revolution. The records of his public speeches were illegally imported in Iran and thousands of their copies were spread among the Iranians.
Mohammad Reza failed to understand the roots of public dissatisfaction with his policy. He was a responsible governor, a skilled diplomat and an effective manager. He came at work the first and went home the last. Pahlavi signed all the documents personally, held numerous meetings with the politicians, accepted ambassadors and journalists, travelled around the country with official visits, opened new schools and factories, monuments to his father and himself. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was a religious person and visited the mosque systematically because of his strong belief in God but not because of desire to create an image of the model ruler. Even though he took repressive measures to left parties and extremists, he did it reluctantly.
Mohammad Reza was especially sensitive to the opinion of Western media about his regime. Influence on Western public opinion was an important issue, and Pahlavi spent a lot of money for this. The reason of such a position was Pahlavis conviction that positive public image will help to improve the situation and decrease political pressure. Though the public demonstration of the achievements could not surpass too intensive flow of criticism, directed against the Shah and his followers. Meanwhile, international organizations for the protection of human rights informed about the tortures of oppositionists in Iran, lack of civil rights and freedoms among the population and the prosperity of corruption.There were also other factors, which caused the strengthening of negative attitude to the Shahs policy. The last fifteen years of Pahlavis reign coincided with the increasing popularity of the left ideas and anti-imperialistic thoughts in the world community, and with the last trial of the USSR to fix the position of the superstate through active financing of secret agencies and forcible implementation of client regimes in Africa and Asia. Under these circumstances, the Shahs behavior was described so: Shah was desperate and irritated: he could not protect tortures, but they took place. He could not deprive his colleagues of power and expect them to fight with him against those, who wanted to destroy the results of his perennial work and potential achievements. Finally, the Shah decided not to ask too many questions.
That might be one of the most important mistakes. Unwillingness to ask deprived the Shah of the opportunity to get the answers to the questions, which could prevent him from failure. The Islamic fundamentalists made the majority of political murders in Iran. However, the Iranian special agencies focused their attention on the left powers, as they were connected with the Western world. Shah paid too much attention to his reputation in the West. The Shah could not admit the fact that developed by him the effective system of reforms would turn round against his authority, because the Iranians perceived these reforms as not the ones, created for the sake of their well-being. With the active assistance of Shahs opponents, the regime in Iran got the image of neocolonial one. This image was primarily exaggerated, but it influenced the power of the Shah significantly. All the mentioned above factors led to the final failure of the Shahs regime.
Revolution as the Final Step in Liquidation of Pahlavis Power
In 1978, the first demonstration against Shah took place. There were about two hundred participants in the meeting. In a year, the demonstration was again, but a number of the participants reached the number from six to nine million, which was about 10% of the Iranian population. Soon after this event Pahlavi left the country with his wife at the request of the Iranian Prime-Minister, who hoped to stabilize the situation in the country. All the monuments, erected by the Shah as the signs of his dynasty were ruined by the demonstrates. All the political prisoners, arrested by the Shah were released.
Further Destiny of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
The Shah hoped that the absence in Iran was a temporary difficulty. He traveled from one country to another. Thus, he visited Egypt, New Mexico, and Morocco. At each of these countries, he lived with his family not long. Due to health problems, Pahlavi needed surgery in 1979. Pahlavi insisted on his further medical treatment in the USA, and the American President allowed him to enter the country. Meanwhile, Iranian authorities insisted on Shahs extradition to Iran. Therefore, the Shah accepted the offer of the Egyptian President to get permanent asylum in Egypt. He died in Egypt, in 1980 from complications of Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia.
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Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi became an important person in the history of Iran. He held a number of reforms, targeted to modernize Iran. Despite the high level of education and devotion to his country, Pahlavi made a number of political and strategic failures, which resulted in the fall of his regime. One of these mistakes was authoritarian style of ruling, which created the lack of objectiveness in the perception of the current problems in the country. Moreover, customs and traditions played an important role for many of the Iranians. Therefore, rapid direction to Western ideas in the social policy led to the dissatisfaction of many people. Despite negative factors of the Shahs ruling, the fact is that all his actions were determined to improve the economic, social and cultural situation in Iran. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is a great politician, who made a significant contribution to the development of Iran.