How the Relationship between Iran and America. Led to the Iranian Revolution

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1 Page 1 How the Relationship between Iran and America Led to the Iranian Revolution Writer s Name July 13, 2005 G(5) Advanced Academic Writing

2 Page 2 Thesis This paper discusses U.S.-Iranian relationships between 1925 and It is argued that the Iranian Revolution was not inevitable. Rather, a combination of internal and external factors led to the revolution in Internally, Mohammed Reza Shah s policy to modernize Iran was the main factor in the revolution. Externally, America s foreign policy to support Iran by selling arms and help promoting modernization was critical factors of the revolution. Together, these internal and external factors caused the revolution. In this paper, I examine why this happened. Outline The Iranian revolution A. Pahlavi s rise to power in 1921 B. Public unrest from 1978 to 1979 C. Khomeini s return to Iran and the establishment of an Islamic Republic in 1979 Politics in Iran A. The Pahlavi era B. The Mohammed Reza Shah era C. The White Revolution America s foreign policy against Iran 1. The Eisenhower administration A. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi s return to power B. CIA support for the Shah 2. The Kennedy and the Johnson administration A. Response to The White revolution B. Iran s demand for military equipment

3 Page 3 C. America approval of new arms sales to Iran 3. The Nixon administration A. The Nixon Doctrine B. Key points of America s policy toward Iran C. Iran as a significant partner for America 4. The Carter administration A. America put human rights pressure on Iran and Iran loosened restrictions on censorship, released political prisoners, and reformed the court system. B. The Iranian revolution occurred. C. What happened after the revolution. Similarities and differences in American policy pre-and post-carter A. Before the Carter administration B. During the Carter administration Conclusion A. The Pahlavi state s dependence on America caused public opposition of the public in Iran and that resistance led to the Iranian revolution. B. Iran and America were good partners, but that relationship changed, as a result of growth of anti-american feeling among ordinary people in Iran. C. If the benefits of development had been equally distributed among the Iranian population, the Iranian revolution would not have been possible, and American policy towards Iran would have taken a different course.

4 Page 4 Introduction This paper discusses U.S.-Iranian relationships between 1925 and It is argued that the Iranian Revolution was not inevitable. Rather, a combination of internal and external factors led to the revolution in Internally, Mohammed Reza Shah s policy to modernize Iran was the main factor of the revolution. Externally, America s foreign policy to support Iran by selling arms and help promoting modernization was critical factors of the revolution. Together, these internal and external factors caused the revolution. In this paper, we examine why this happened. I will first explain the Iranian revolution, and next, examine political developments in Iran. After that, I will look at the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Carter administration s foreign policy toward Iran, before analyzing similarities and differences in American policy in the period The Iranian revolution of The Iranian revolution occurred during and led to the collapse of Pahlavi state which had been in power since Mohammad Reza Shah promoted modernization to strengthen his power. He reinforced national unification and established modern armed forces. In the Pahlavi era, Iran became a transitional society. America gave Iran economic and military assistance and Iran became dependent on the support of America. America couldn t oppose Iran s demand to get more arms from America because America needed to preserve its influence in Iran in order to strength the anti-communist monarch during of the Cold War and, substantially, to secure oil that America could get from Iran.

5 Page 5 To protest this external influence, many anti-government demonstrations occurred. In the summer of 1978, demonstrations spread to more cities and became increasingly violent and the cabinet resigned. In late summer, it became clear that an Islamic group called ulema was in the center of opposition. On September 7 th, Black Friday which is clash between troop and demonstrators occurred. The Shah s departure from Iran was the main demand of the opposition. In October 1978, the Iranian government compelled Iraq to expel Khomeini and Khomeini went to France. On January 16 th 1979, the Shah announced that he would leave the country for a vacation. In February 1979, Khomeini and his group of associates returned to Iran. After that, election for deputies to the parliament and national referendum whether to establish Islamic republic was carried out. The result of national referendum to see if the nation in Iran wanted to establish an Islamic regime was 98.2% in favor. On April 11, the Islamic Republic of Iran was established (Kamrava, 1990). Politics in Iran Internal politics in Iran in the Pahlavi era involved political instability and social revolution. Political instability arose from changes of powers and American interference. In 1925, Pahlavi came to power. Reza Khan, a commander of the military, took over the government. In 1949, there was attempted assassination against the second king of Pahlavi state, Mohammed Reza Shah. He got expelled by the nationalist Mussadiq, Dr. Mohammad. However, owing to the support of America, he came back to Iran. Mohammad Reza Shah promoted modernization in 1963 and the social revolution that he achieved is called The White Revolution. These social reforms included land reform, introduced woman suffrage,

6 Page 6 established education corps, distributed benefit of company to workers, and disposed national companies. Because of land reform, upper class of religious circle came to be unable to get revenue because they were landowners substantially. The upper class religious circle couldn t get benefit from the land which they used to own so it made them oppose to reforms that the Shah conducted. Also, universal suffrage was against the Islam way of thinking because it allowed women s right to vote. This is against Muslim s belief. So this also caused objection from the religious group. Political instability and social revolution were connected to other factors. There are two main factors why The White Revolution was carried out. The first factor is that revenue from oil had increased rapidly. In Iran, there were two groups that held power in the country. Those two powers were the throne and religious power. However, because revenue from oil came to flow in the country, the sharing of power between the throne and religious groups could not be maintained. So the throne tried to destroy religious power through westernization. The second factor is that there was oppression from America. The Kennedy administration made Iran take American army advisers and their family diplomatic privilege in return for giving loans to buy weapons. America also required Iran to sustain relationship with Israel in every aspect. This is the main reason why religious groups came to think that the evil that was trying to destroy Islam was America and Israel (Tomita, 1993). America s foreign policy against Iran In this section, I would like to focus on America s foreign policy toward Iran under five American administrations: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Carter.

7 Page 7 1. The Eisenhower administration During the Eisenhower administration, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi returned to power. In 1949, there was an attempted assassination against him. After this incident, the Shah was exiled from Iran by Mohammad Mossadegh in However, the Shah achieved power by overthrowing the democratically elected government of Mossadegh. The overthrow of Mossadegh was carried out with the help of the CIA. America did this for the fear that Mossadegh s nationalist aspirations might lead to an eventual communist takeover (Bell). 2. The Kennedy and the Johnson administrations The Kennedy administration supported Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the support continued through the Johnson administration. The Johnson Administration supported Iran s internal security by encouraging an extensive program of political, social, and economic reform. These reforms were called The White Revolution. In those days, Iran was valued as one of the most dependable U.S. allies in the region because the Shah supported America s policies in Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, and other sensitive Cold War areas. Also, Iran provided oil for America. Therefore, good relations with Iran were a top priority for America s policymakers. The Johnson and the Shah corresponded frequently. The Shah met with Johnson three times during his presidency. The only struggle between the two countries was that the Shah wanted more and newer military equipment, and in contrast, America advocated Iranian economic development and reform. This is because America needed Iran to be a stabled country so that America could get oil from Iran

8 Page 8 constantly. In January 1964, the Shah told the U.S. that the September 1962 U.S. Five-year Military Plan for Iran was adequate. However, America emphasized the importance of assuring that such a program would not hamper Iran s economic development program. Still, the Shah continued to argue that successful economic development was useless unless Iran had adequate military security. In September 1965, Ambassador Armin Meyer cabled that the Shah would begin to buy arms from non-u.s. sources, possibly even from the Soviet Union. Therefore, America approved $200 million in new arms sales to Iran over a four-year period. Because of this policy of America, Iran was able to get new arms and pursue its aim of strengthening its military power (Bell). The arms trade from the military plan allowed America to increase its influence toward Iran. Because of the situation that Iran was so dependent on America, America was able to construct a structure that America can get oil from Iran constantly and permanently. 3. The Nixon administration The Nixon Doctrine stated that the United Stated would furnish military and economic assistance to nations whose freedom was threatened, but would look to these nations to assume primary responsibility for their own defense. (Bell) The key point of America s policy was to assist the modernization of the armed forces of Iran and Saudi Arabia so that these two countries could get their own security and so that the security of the whole region could be fostered. However, this is just the official theory. The real reason why America supported those two countries is because Iran and Saudi Arabia were both America s surrogates for security of the region and America s national interests there. America needed to wield its influence toward that region to secure oil for America. To preserve its influence, America continued to assist the Pahlavi state even if

9 Page 9 Pahlavi didn t deal with the inequalities that his internal policy was causing. Compared to Saudi Arabia, Iran was by far the more significant partner because Iran had the larger population, the relatively more developed economy, and more powerful armed forces. So Iran received the unprecedented large quantity of arms and high technological assistance in weapons from America (Bell). 4. The Carter administration The Carter administration put human rights pressure on the Shah and threatened Iran with cutting arms shipments. However, again, the Carter administration s assertion is just the official theory. This can be proved because the Carter administration didn t argue even though the Shah s reforms were incomplete. The real object of the Carter was not to spread notion of human rights. The Carter administration used different theory but aimed the same thing as the other administrations. However, to respond to the Carter administration s pressure, Iran released more than 300 political prisoners, relaxed censorship, and reformed court system. Because Iran loosened restrictions, more campaigns from the opposition occurred and people began to demonstrate. As a result, the regime s reforms served to cause revolution. This led to the fall of the Shah in In October 1979, America allowed the Shah to enter America in order to obtain treatment for cancer. Because of this, militant students seized the compound of the America embassy in Tehran and demanded that America send the Shah back to Iran so that he could stand trial. This became known as the Iran hostage crisis. Constant negotiation was held for over 400 days, and finally, on January 20, 1981, Iran freed the hostages on Carter s last day in office(bell). It can be said that this affair was what

10 Page 10 expressed the opposition of Iranian population toward America the most. The demonstrations that had been occurring were something that was against the Pahlavi state that got support from America. However, this Iran hostage crisis was something that Iranian attacked America directly by seizing the compound of the embassy of America. This affair showed how much the Iranians hostility against America had grown by that time. Similarities and differences in American policy in the period The first similarity between the four different administrations is that they supported the Shah. The Eisenhower administration started the support for Mohammed Reza Shah. During the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon administrations, all of the administrations supported Iran by selling weapons. Iran always required more weapons, and America responded to the requests. America continued to support the Pahlavi state to sustain its influence toward Iran in order to get oil. Though America insisted on economic development and reform, America couldn t intrude its thinking to Iran for the fear that Iran would get out of control under America. The second similarity is that America also got benefit from the Pahlavi state s action to strengthen its military forces. Those weapons that were transferred to Iran were used to put Iranian population under control of the Pahlavi state. By keeping a regime that was friendly to America, America was able to sustain good relationship with Iran as a country that produced oil for America. Therefore, it can be said that arms expansion of Iran benefited not only the Pahlavi state, but also America. The difference between the Carter administration and the other four administrations is that the Carter administration changed this policy toward Iran on

11 Page 11 the point of theory by putting pressure on human rights. The other four administrations never put pressure to Iran on human rights. To keep with America s new foreign policy against Iran, the Pahlavi state conducted reforms. However, the Carter administration s foreign policy to spread human rights was just the official theory and the aim to get oil from Iran didn t change. So it can be said that the essence of America s foreign policy didn t change through all the five administrations. The consequence of Iran s attitude toward America came into view when the Iranian revolution occurred. The policy of modernization promoted by the Shah gradually planted opposition toward the Pahlavi state that America supported. Conclusion The Pahlavi state s dependence on America led to the public opposition in Iran, and that resistance led to the Iranian revolution. During the Pahlavi era, America and Iran were good partners for each other. However, Iran focused on extensive expansion of armaments expenditures and didn t care about the ordinary people. America supported Iran so that Iran would be the friendly oil-providing country for America. Carter administration s official theory of the foreign policy was to encourage human rights. The Pahlavi state responded to its request and made reforms in the country. However, because of this changes, demonstrations of Iranian people raged and as a result, those loosening of restrictions led to the collapse of Pahlavi state which was a good regime for America. America used Iran for the Cold War and Iran also made good use of America by using conflict between America and the Soviet Union. America also had the intention to secure oil in Iran. With the support from America, Iran was able to promote modernization. The promotion of modernization was possible because each

12 Page 12 country was able to get the interest through it. Yet, it was not what the public in Iran required. Because Iran acted according to America s policy, this nurtured the Iranian public s enmity toward America. The policy of Pahlavi state made public feel that they wanted to change the regime and establish a country ruled by Islamic norms. Why ordinary Iranians came to oppose America is because the poorest section of the Iranian population didn t get any benefits from the Shah s efforts for modernization and progress. For them, what the Shah did was equal to westernization. This is why they came to regard America as an enemy. If the benefits had been equally distributed to the Iranian population, the hatred of America would not have grown into a revolution. [2666 words] References Expansion of America Persian Gulf Policy By Three Presidents ; Major Randy B. Bell, from the World Wide Web < Frontline: Terror and Tehran ; May 2002, from the World Wide Web < Iran of Ayatollah ; Kenji Tomita, Disanshokan (Tokyo), 1993 Revolution in Iran The Roots of Turmoil ; 14-50, Mehran Kamrava, Routledge (New York), 1990 Sources of the Iranian Revolution ; Ted Thornton, October 26, 2003, from the World Wide Web evolutio.htm> Summary: Foreign Relations, from the World Wide Web <

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