Fred Halliday on Iran’s Revolutions
The Politics of Khomeini and his Antipathy Toward Mossadegh

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | May 9, 2010                     

Fred Halliday

Professor Fred Halliday (1946-2010) was a historian, lecturer and author of over twenty books.

Irish born and British educated, Halliday was a Middle East specialist fluent in several languages including Farsi (Persian). His book Iran, Dictatorship and Development (1978), was released soon before the anti-Shah revolution, which he partially witnessed while in Tehran. He contributed numerous articles on Iranian society and history to academic journals, including an interview (published in 1983) with Hedayat Matine-Daftary about the legacy of his grandfather, Dr. Mossadegh.

In 2008, Halliday left the London School of Economics to become research professor at the Barcelona Institute for International Studies.

On April 26, 2010, Halliday passed away in Spain due to cancer at age 64, prompting a flood of tributes from the academic community.

July 17, 2009 — openDemocracy

Iran’s tide of history:
counter-revolution and after

During the post election turmoil in the summer 2009, Halliday predicted more brutality and false prison terms:

In a pattern familiar from earlier phases of the Islamic Republic - as also occurred during the Shah’s regime - opposition members will continue to be brutalised in prison and then forced to engage in televised “confessions”: acts of deliberately preposterous humiliation designed not to reveal the truth (about “foreign conspiracies” or whatever), but to terrorise and break the will of the regime’s opponents.”

Halliday’s article, published by openDemocracy for which he was a regular contributor, also included a link to The Mossadegh Project biography of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh.

The demonstrators of 1978-79 did not want the Shah, but nor did they want a dictatorship of ayatollahs either: they wanted, in the signal slogans of the revolution, “independence” and “freedom”. Many prominent Iranian figures of the time were representatives of this trend: among them the liberal prime minister Shahpur Bakhtiar, who tried to manage a democratic transition after the Shah relinquished power, and was assassinated in Paris in August 1991; Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, Khomeini’s chosen successor, [before he changed his mind and selected Khamenei], who spent the years 1997-2003 under house-arrest in the city of Qom for criticising clerical control of the state; and followers of the ex-prime minister Mohammad Mossadeq, overthrown in the coup of 1953, who organised the 1979 anti-censorship demonstrations.

February 2, 1979 — The New Statesman

Can the army be controlled?

Fred Halliday assessed Iran’s new revolutionary regime in a 1979 article in The New Statesman which examined the historical influence of the mullahs, Shi’ia Islam, and the political agenda of Ayatollah Khomeini.

But the movements of the mullahs at that time also had a strong nationalistic element within them, and some of the revival in Islamic ideas in Iran must be due to a sense that Iran, for all its economic development, has become once again a victim of foreign powers. The presence of thousands of American advisors and the flow of oil revenues out of the country through various forms of what is politely called 'recycling' have over time aroused a latent laid and deeply felt nationalist response.

The irony is that the most noticeable nationalistic movement in Iran, that of Mossadeq in the late 1940s and early 1950s, was secular in character and owed very little to the ideas or institutions of Islam. Indeed the leading Ayatollah of that period, Kashani, broke with Mossadeq and ended up by backing the army and the Shah in the August 1953 coup. The rather simplified notion that Shi’a Islam is inherently anti-monarchical and anti-state does not, therefore, stand up in the face of Kashani’s record.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Khomeini’s attitude to other political forces is one of suspicion. There is bad blood between himself and the National Front, at least partly because he claims the Front did not support him in his clash with the regime in 1963. Khomeini never mentions the name of Mossadeq who until the revival in support for the Ayatollah was the unchallenged symbol of nationalist and anti-Pahlavi feeling. Indeed, whether with Khomeini’s agreement or not, Muslim organisers of the recent demonstrations in Tehran have torn down pictures of Mossadeq, as they have those of urban guerrillas killed in clashes with the regime over recent years. This indicates a consistent policy of obscuring all political traditions that might provide an alternative pole of orientation to Khomeini’s.


Related links:

MOSSADEGH, Islam and Ayatollahs — the rise of fundamentalism in Iran

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Iranian Nationalism

Christopher Hitchens on the 1953 Coup in Iran

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

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