|History of Contemporary Iran
At the turn of the century Iran was the scene of colonial rivalry between the Russians and the British. The Iranian central government was weakened and lost its autocratic control over the nation and, incidentally, the nation took the opportunity to demand and secure a constitutional system of government (1906). However, the weakness of the central government induced the Russians and the British to take full advantage of the situation such that in 1907 an agreement was signed by the two powers according to which Iran was divided into two "spheres of influence", the North being under the "influence" or control of the Russians and the South being practically governed by the British; though officially Iran retained its independence.
With the Russian Revolution and the overthrow of the Czarist regime, the Russian influence diminished, and even for some time vanished altogether, although it soon returned with the coming to power of Stalin. Meanwhile, an Iranian soldier, Reza Khan, had been showing great gift for military leadership and organization, and had risen from the status of a private to that of an officer while the Iranian army was under the super vision and instruction of imperial Russian officers as military advisers. When the Russian officers left the Iranian army following the October Revolution, Reza Khan's value as a soldier became even more evident and appreciated. By then, the British were untroubled by Russian rivalries and favored a strong central government in Iran to protect their interests specially in the oil industry. Ahmad Shah, the last Qajar king, was not willing to cooperate with the British; and the Majlis (the parliament) which at one time the British had favored was now an obstacle in their way.
Thus, Reza Khan whom the British discovered as a man capable of controlling the country and protecting their interests, was supported by them. Gradually Reza Khan gained complete control of the government and the Majlis which finally deposed Ahmad Shah and a constituent assembly elected Reza Khan as the Shah. The Pahlavi dynasty was thus established.
In the Second World War Reza Shah, sympathizing with the Germans, refused to allow the allies to pass Iran to supply the Soviet Union with war materials, and so help the Russians fight against the Germans. So, the Allied forces occupied Iran in 1941 and remained there until the war was over. As soon as Iran was occupied, Reza Shah was "advised" by the British to abdicate in favor of his son Mohammad Reza. From 1941 Mohammad Reza Shah, a young man of 22 years began his reign over the Iranian nation. Naturally he had to maintain a pro Western foreign policy and an internal policy of economic and social development with Western aid and compatible with Western tastes and trends. Mohammad Reza Shah ruled Iran for over 38 years, until the victory of the Islamic Revolution.
In 1978, there were mass demonstrations by the Iranian people in the major cities, notably Tehran,
Qom, Tabriz and Esfahan. There were occasional strikes which gradually became more widespread and frequent. On August 15th 1978, Imam Khomeini, who was on exile in Iraq, was forced to leave that country. He moved to Paris from where he guided and led the Islamic Revolution. There were changes of government, one prime minister being replaced by another. The last, Shapur Bakhtiar, came to power on 6th January I 979. Strikes spread and there were confrontations between the Shah's forces and the revolutionary militia. On January 16th the Shah left Iran. He died in Egypt several months after. On February 1st Imam Khomeini arrived in Tehran. On February 10th Bakhtiar declared martial law but there were bloody street fights and gradually the armed forces joined or surrendered to the people. During this time the American Embassy was captured and 52 American personnel were captured by revolutionaries. The United States placed an embargo on Iranian oil and froze Iranian assets. The hostages were not to be freed until January 20 1981.
On March 31st 1978 there was a general referendum and almost unanimously people chose an Islamic Republic for their country. On 2nd December, the Islamic Republic Constitution was approved by the people through another referendum.
On September 21 1980, Saddam Hussein of Iraq declared war on Iran, armed with American made weapons. Iraq made rapid advances into Iran, but was soon pushed back by Iranian. The war continued for eight years. Meanwhile, many countries and the United Nations intervened and tried bring about peace between the two countries. On 18th July 1988 Iran finally accepted the UN resolution 598 and made peace with Iraq having regained its territories. On 4th July 1989 Imam Khomeini passed away. Immediately the Council of the Experts appointed Ayatollah Khamenei as the new leader. Hojjatoleslam Rafsanjani became the President replacing Ayatollah Khamenei. On July 28th 1989 the Iranian Constitution was changed and all executive powers and duties were given over to the President rather than the prime minister.
1. How did the British and the Russian split Iran in the early part of the 20th century ?
2. What did Reza Khan offer the British that the other Iranian leaders could not ?
3. Why did the Allies occupy Iran during WWII ?
4. How did Mohammed Reza Shah’s rule lead toward his Western Allies ?
5. Who took over for the Shah in 1978 ?
6. What was the American response to the Iranian Revolution ?’
7. When did the war between Iran and Iraq officially end ?
8. How did the plans of the Americans to stop the Iranian Revolution back fire with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 ?