Tag Archives: SAVAK

Iran VI: Revolution

Iran VI: Revolution

00:00 / 1:26:16

Alright, here we are, finally. The Iranian Revolution of 1979. There’s still some groundwork to be laid, but we’re getting there this episode, full stop. Let’s take a look at some of the folks coming to center stage.

Here we’ve got the two principal players from at least the first half of the episode, both of whom stumble through ’77 and ’78, leading, in a not at all inescapable way, to the events of 1979. Carter spent his campaign and early days in the White House putting out rhetoric right in line with the philosophy of SFD—stop those arms sales, cut off support for unsavory dictator-allies, re-evaluate policy with an eye to places like Cuba. But the Carter White House, for all its promise, largely maintained US commitments to our sinister friends abroad and kept up those arms sales, especially to Iran and even to places like Guatemala, where guns were demonstrably going towards the genocides we heard about way back in episodes four and five.

Despite that ongoing support and despite reciprocal state visits, Carter’s speeches, along with rising international awareness of the worst elements of Iranian repression, convinced the Shah that he needed to liberalize things at home. Those changes, most especially allowing some freedom into politics and the press, led directly, like one-to-one, connect-the-dots to the street protests that eventually brought down the regime.

Ali Shariati, the man in the foreground, passed away in 1977, probably from lingering injuries incurred at the hands of SAVAK. It was too soon to see the Revolution he had a hand in making, but large swathes of Iranian youth, especially religious and secular liberals, subscribed to his philosophical fusion of socialism and Iranian Shi’a Islam. We got into this last episode, but whereas both Shariati and Khomeini saw a role for religion in government, Shariati wanted the ulama, the clergy, on the outside. In a parallel to the thought of Liberation Theology, Shariati saw the role of the clergy and their congregations as a permanent opposition, holding the government to account and pushing it to fulfill what he saw as the truest values of Shi’ism—the defense and uplift of the weak and opposition to oppression and misused authority.

Continue reading Iran VI: Revolution

Iran IV: America’s Dictator

Iran IV: America’s Dictator

00:00 / 1:25:54

Hey folks. We’re getting on with it, but research and length got away from me again, and it’ll be another episode before we’re edging up towards Revolution.

For now, though, we’ve got the reign of the Shah. Here’s our boy at his coronation in ’67 with the incredibly British commentary that Pathé apparently monopolized:

The Shah’s greatest eventual antagonist was already pricking the king in the early 1960s, though. We usually see the Ayatollah Khomeini like this:

But he was a seminary student, once:

And, as soon as he grew the beard out, always bore a striking, striking resemblance to Sean Connery:

But while we’re more-or-less used to Khomeini’s glowering brows and (I’m just noticing now) sensual pout, his more liberal counterparts in the fluid Shi’ism of mid-1960s Iran have pretty much never been on our radar screens.

Here we’ve got Mahmud Talaqani, or Taleghani, depending on who’s doing the spelling, the also-Ayatollah who founded the Liberation Movement of Iran along with Mehdi Barzagan, one of Mossadegh’s proteges.

Talaqani was into liberationist, socialist Islam way before it was cool. Talaqani hammered out the early road with the politician Barzagan, but the guy that (Ervand Abrahamian and Michael Axworthy tell me) was the real ideologue of the Iranian Islamic left and a major part of the ’79 Revolution itself was Ali Shariati Mazinani:

We’ll have a whole host of other figures to get to next time, but for now, listen to the show, share it, tell your friends about it.

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: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/pol10/001/1975/en/

Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1974-1975 — Iran. 1 June 1976: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/pol10/001/1975/en/

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, http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB28/.

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.

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. “The Boom in the Death Business.” The New York Review of Books, 2 October, 1975.

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


Audio Acknowledgements

Doctor Turtle. “Grow Grotesque.”

“Eisenhower Speaks about the Murder of JFK.” YouTube.

“Iran Military Assistance Advisory Group, 1962.” The Big Picture. YouTube.

John Foster Dulles Interview“, Longines Chronoscope, 1951thefilmarchive.org. (YouTube).

Persian Folk Music.” Traditional Music Channel. YouTube.

Premier Ali Amini of Iran in His Office.” CriticalPast. YouTube.

President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address.” CBS. YouTube.

President John F. Kennedy’s ‘Peace Speech’ at American University.” C-SPAN. YouTube.

The Shah of Iran and President Kennedy.” YouTube.