Iran VII: The Revolution in Power

Iran VII: The Revolution in Power

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Hey Folks,

This one’s number twelve, and while we’re not done with Iran yet, number thirteen, Iran VIII and the very last Iran show, come hell or high water, is gonna be here in three weeks or less.

I get into it a bit in the show, but time’s going to be tight over the next ten months or so, and how much I spend with which thing I do is going to depend in part on what I’m getting paid to do each. That sounds pretty mercenary, and it is, but that’s the way things are shaking out right now—law school’s a lock for next August and it looks like I’m going to be taking on a part-time writing job, on top of this thing and the freelancing.

In any case, if you’re on Patreon, I can’t ask you to do more. And if you haven’t got a spare $5 a month, I’m in that boat too, and I get it. But Patreon grows when the audience grows, and everybody but everybody can help out with that. Twitter. Facebook. Tumblr (I don’t really use Tumblr). Rate the show: iTunes, Pocket Casts, Stitcher.


We’re talking this time about the revolution in earnest, the revolution in power, the period of jostling and consolidation that would see the debate over and the formation of the new Iranian state.

This is both my favorite image of what the revolution was and could and might have been, the cover of a foundational book for this and the last couple of episodes, and the first and most readable place you should turn if you’re looking for greater depth.

We’ve got some returning characters this time around.

Khomeini is, of course, ascendant, and his massive popularity with Iranians of all political stripes, along with his adroit maneuvering post-revolution will lead him to rule.

Mehdi Bazargan, lately of the Liberation or Freedom Movement, the political affiliation which most closely followed Ali Shariati’s liberationist Shi’a philosophy, ended the last episode as the head of Khomeini’s interim government, and that’s how he’ll start this one. One of Mossadegh’s boys, a veteran of Iranian politics and a staunch, uncompromised liberal, Bazargan will have all of the heart and none of the mettle needed to go toe-to-toe with Khomeini. He did, however, and at least preside over the referendum on Iran’s future form of government.

Just shy of 90% of the electorate turned out to vote on the referendum, and of that, an internationally-verified 99.31% voted in favor of establishing an Islamic Republic, versus preserving the monarchy. A lonely few political parties, with apparently no more than 11% of the voting public behind them, sat the referendum out.

Returning, of course, is Jimmy Carter, the President who couldn’t forget his friendship with the Shah long enough to remember the American people. When POTUS admitted Mohammad Reza to the US for treatment of his advancing leukemia, student protesters did just what the State Department predicted they would.

They took the embassy in early November, 1979, and the hostage crisis would dominate the nightly news in the United States for a full 444 days, not availing the abortive rescue attempt called Operation Eagle Claw.

This man, Abol Hassan Bani Sadr, would follow Bazargan as the first President of Iran under the new Islamic constitution. Bani Sadr was a little more flamboyant, a little more rough and ready, while being as liberal as Bazargan, but by this point liberals in general had lost so much ground to the Ayatollah, giving away the constitutional question, that there wasn’t much to be done. But bigger questions than just the hostages or their political infighting would soon confront the men and women in Tehran.

The man in the foreground second from the right is Saddam Hussein, midway through his rise in the Baathist party of Iraq. By the late 1970s, as Vice President to President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, Hussein watched as his commander in chief began signing treaties that would unite Iraq and Syria under the also-Baathist Hafez al-Assad, father of the one we in the US know better now. Not wanting his ailing predecessor to sign the country away, Saddam forced him out and took control in Baghdad in 1979. With his own rule secure and a revolution boiling across the border, Hussein turned his eyes to the east.

And last but never least, references.

Abrahamian, Ervand. The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations. New Press, 2013.

Abrahamian, Ervand. A History of Modern Iran. Cambridge, GB: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Abrahamian, Ervand. Iran: Between Two Revolutions.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1974-1975 — Iran. 1 January 1975:

Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1974-1975 — Iran. 1 June 1976:

Axworthy, Michael. Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic. Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Baraheni, Reza. “Terror in Iran.” The New York Review of Books, 28 October 1976.

Byrne, Malcolm. “The Secret CIA History of the Iran Coup.” The National Security Archive, last modified 29 November 2000,

The Cambridge History of Iran: From Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic. Edited by Peter Avery, Gavin Hambly and Charles Melville. Vol. VII. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Fanon, Franz. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Weidenfeld1963.

Fatemi, N. S. 1985. “The Anglo Persian Agreement of 1919.” Encyclopaedia Iranica Vol II: 59.

Filkins, Dexter. “Rex Tillerson at the Breaking Point.” The New Yorker, 6 October, 2017.

Katouzian, Homa. The Political Economy of Modern Iran: Despotism and Pseudo-Modernism, 1926-1979. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1981.

Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. Wiley, 2003.

Roosevelt, Kermit. Countercoup: The Struggle for Control of Iran. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1979.

Rothschild, Emily. “Carter and Arms: No Sale.” The New York Review of Books, 15 September 1977.

Steel, Ronald. “Impossible Dreams.”  The New York Review of Books, 12 September 1968.


Audio Acknowledgements

“100,000 Iranian Women March Against Forced Veiling in 1979.” ITN. YouTube.

“1979 Iranian Revolution.” NBCUniversal Archives, NBC. YouTube.

“1980: President Carter Iran Hostages.” WAVY Archive, WAVY TV 10. YouTube.

Alex Mason/The Minor Emotion, “Soul Breaker.”

“BBC1 North: ‘Potter’ Outtro into Nine O’Clock News—Thursday 29th March 1979.” BBC. YouTube.

“Imam Khomeini—The Man Who Changed the World.” BBC. YouTube.

Krakatoa, “Battalion.” 

Krakatoa, “See My Blue.”

Persian Folk Music.” Traditional Music Channel. YouTube.

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