The Mossadegh Lesson

April 22, 1961 — Edward Wakin

The Mossadegh Project | February 22, 2021                     

A newspaper article on Iran by author, writer, and professor Edward W. Wakin (1928-2009).

Crisis Ahead in Iran


(Edward Wakin, a New York newspaperman and lecturer whose specialty is the Middle East, Africa and the United Nations has covered first-hand most of the major stories in those areas during recent years. His articles have been widely syndicated and have appeared in various national magazines.)

An international crisis, potentially as serious as the Congo and as strategic as Laos, is gaining momentum around the peacock throne of the Shah of Iran.

The Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi In order to maintain the control of the oil-rich country which borders Soviet Russia in the north and stands as a Western bulwark between the Arab Middle East and the Far East, the Shah has purchased the support of his own army with privileges and favoritism.

As the army goes, so goes the Shah, but diplomatic sources report this formula for power is weakening in the face of mounting opposition and is no substitute for the major reforms that must be undertaken.

The National Front, a loose and obstreperous left-wing coalition that rallies around former Premier Mohammed Mossadegh, has grown so strong that two national elections had to be held last year in Iran—both rigged in favor of the Shah’s supporters.

• • •

EVEN THE DOCILE Parliament admitted the sources of unrest in two bills passed before the national elections. One was a “where did you get it” bill which required government employees to give an accounting of their wealth and the other was aimed at stripping powerful landlords of their vast estates. Neither has been enforced.

In annuling the first election held last, year, the Shah in effect admitted the rigging charge, but the second was not much better.

The response of the National Front was to call for an election boycott and in Teheran only 65,000 of the 600,000 eligible voters turned out.

Open governmental corruption, stifling of political freedom, and criminal neglect of the poor for the sake of the rich and powerful ruling oligarchy have caused an almost universal unrest, especially in cities. To keep the lid on, the Shah must concentrate his best troops in the capital city of Teheran.

To give army officers a personal stake in the status quo, the Shah has created a new military elite, even enabling the officers to buy cars and land at ridiculously low prices. Thirty per cent of the budget is used for the army of 200,000 men and the Shah hopes to expand the army to 253,000 by next year.

THIS ARMY, which has received $515 million in U.S. military aid since 1946, does not get a high rating as a fighting unit by the experts. In fact, the standing remark in Teheran is that it has 12 officers for every ten enlisted men.

Although Iran oil revenues of $280 million and has received $554 million in U.S. economic aid since 1946, the government has so mismanaged the country’s affairs that last year the U.S. and the International Monetary Fund warned Iran to stabilize its economy or lose all chances for foreign aid. Any further cut in U.S. aid, which dropped from $146 million in 1959 to $91 million to 1960, would further endanger the Shah’s power.

Wherever he turns, the Shah faces troubles. Cutting back on the army would endanger his source of power; stabilizing the economy by cutting imports and imposing high tariffs would turn the wealthy and merchant classes against him.

Limiting political freedom increases the growing support for the National Front opposition, yet the Shah’s advisers fear the consequences of letting National Front candidates have a chance to gain control of the Parliament.

The Mossadegh lesson is therefore becoming more and more pertinent. The old demagogue came to power as a dramatic and emotionally attractive figure who reaped the harvest of discontent. Since Premier Mossadegh’s overthrow to 1953 and the return to power of the Shah, the clock has been moving backwards in Iran, and the situation only requires another Mossadegh to move out from the wings.

70th Anniversary of TIME’s 1951 Man of the Year


Related links:

Stability of Shah’s Regime Questioned | National Security Council, April 1960

Mossadegh Return In Iran Forecast | June 16, 1961

CIA Weighs Iran’s “Serious Financial Problems” (June 1961)

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

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