January 22, 2009

TO THE CONTRARY, IT WOULD BE SHOCKING...:

After the revolution: It is 30 years since Ayatollah Khomeini ousted the Shah of Iran, ending 2,000 years of monarchical rule and heralding the age of radical Islamism. Since then, the US has had no diplomatic relations with Iran. But is that about to change with the arrival of Barack Obama? (Dominic Sandbrook, 22 January 2009, New Statesman)

Nothing in history is inevitable, but Iran was heading for crisis at the end of the 1970s. The Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was a corrupt, indecisive man, more weak than wicked, a lover of fine wines and foreign women who dreamed of using his gigantic oil revenues to rebuild the Persian Empire. Elevated to the throne at the age of just 21 after the British ousted his father, he had become increasingly dependent on American aid, especially after he acquiesced, in a CIA-backed coup in 1953, to topple the nationalist prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh. In the aftermath of the 1973 oil shock, he spent more than $12bn on American arms and equipment. He wanted new factories and universities, grand boulevards and gleaming power plants, but the more money he spent, the more prices in the shops of Tehran soared beyond imagining. By the late Seventies, cities were buckling under the weight of thousands of rural peasants in search of his economic miracle. In Tehran's concrete nightmare, the streets were permanently blocked with traffic, overstuffed tower blocks groaned beneath the weight of hundreds of families and the electricity grid regularly broke down for four hours at a time. Amid the squalid shanty towns and the stinking sewers, frustration was inexorably turning to fury.

Looking back, the extraordinary thing is not that Iran slipped towards the last great ideological revolution of ­modern history, but that the Shah's American sponsors - who had installed one of the biggest CIA projects anywhere in the world, largely to monitor movements across the Soviet border - failed to realise what was happening.


...if the CIA had gotten something right.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 22, 2009 5:57 AM
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