July 29, 1980 — The Herald and Review

The Mossadegh Project | March 24, 2020                    

In their lead editorial, The Herald and Review of Decatur, Illinois reviewed the checkered legacy of the Shah of Iran, who died of cancer on July 27, 1980.

In previous years, the newspaper had been complimentary of the Shah.

Also note their reference to the success of Cuba’s literacy program in contrast to Iran’s. As 2020 Presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders was judged harshly by some, including Democrats, for his previous praise for the Cuban program, even though Barack Obama had made similar remarks as President.

Shah’s death solves little

WHETHER THE death of the deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi will end the hostage crisis in Iran is doubtful. With the one-time ruler of Iran now dead, Washington analysts hope an impediment to the release of the hostages will be removed.

Anything is possible. But the conflict between the United States and Iran over seizure of the embassy last November seems long since to have passed beyond a quarrel over possession of the body of a deposed monarch. Still to be resolved is the matter of the national treasury removed by Pahlavi when he fled.

His death is being handled by the White House with circumspection. Saying only that Pahlavi ruled Iran during a “period of transition” is, while true, hardly an enduring historical judgment. As anticipated the judgment from Iran was a harsh recital of sin.

“The bloodsucker of the century is dead,” was the pronouncement of Iran’s official radio network. Clearing away the underbrush and clutter surrounding the deposed shah and his nation’s tortured relationship with the United States over the past quarter of a century will take corps of historians years. Much of the officials’ documentation remains under lock and key in the archives of nations all around the globe.

Could President Jimmy Carter have saved the shah’s throne against a popular uprising? One suspects not. Too many had become disenchanted with him.

Was the shah worth saving? Only if he had been willing to convert his throne into a European style monarchy through which power would have been transferred to a popularly elected parliament with guarantees of civil liberties. This he never was willing to do.

One need not accept a vision of him as a “bloodsucker” to acknowledge his authoritarian excesses. SAVAK torturers were by no means gentle with his political opponents. Whether torture and summary imprisonments and executions in Iran were as widespread as in other nations is beside the point. To the Iranian people, Pahlavi had become intolerable.

Billions were spent on economic development programs and education. Yet only a few benefited. Illiteracy remained high, over 50 percent. By contrast, illiteracy among the Cuban peasantry virtually was eliminated in the years following the overthrow of the Batista regime, [Fulgencio Batista, ousted in 1959] a genuine triumph for the government of Fidel Castro.

Billions were spent for ever more sophisticated military weapons, principally from the United States. Pahlavi and Iran were the lynch pins of the Nixon-Kissinger policy of containment against Soviet expansion into the Persian Gulf. [President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger] Grandiose visions were entertained by Pahlavi of restoring the Peacock Throne to the grandeur of the ancient Persian kings, especially Darius and Cyrus.

Whatever good intentions he might have entertained about the prosperity of the Iranian multitudes were washed away by his own sense of identification with a system of power beyond salvation. One celebration of an anniversary of ascension to the throne cost $300 million. [The Shah hosted a lavish party in Persepolis celebrating 2,500 years of monarchy, October 12-16, 1971]

Like the czar of Russia and the king of France, his fall from power was a result of a growing separation of his concerns from those of his people.

He wasn’t the “bloodsucker of the century.” But neither was he the saviour of his people.

Muslim Brotherhood: Anwar Sadat Rescues the Ailing Shah (1980)

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Related links:

Kermit Roosevelt Eulogizes the Late Shah of Iran | The Los Angeles Times, July 30, 1980

Moving Toward Stability | The Decatur Review, August 14, 1952

Iranian Political Stability Threatened by Shah’s Determination to Rule Supreme (1957)

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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