THE POST-MOSSADEQ ERA AND THE SHAH'S WHITE REVOLUTION
To help the Zahedi government through a difficult period, the
United States arranged for immediate economic assistance of US$45
million. The Iranian government restored diplomatic relations
with Britain in December 1953, and a new oil agreement was concluded
in the following year (see Concession Agreements , ch. 3). The
shah, fearing both Soviet influence and internal opposition, sought
to bolster his regime by edging closer to Britain and the United
States. In 0ctober 1955, Iran joined the Baghdad Pact, which brought
together the "northern tier" countries of Iraq, Turkey, and Pakistan
in an alliance that included Britain, with the United States serving
as a supporter of the pact but not a full member. (The pact was
renamed the Central Treaty Organization--CENTO--after Iraq's withdrawal
in 1958.) In March 1959, Iran signed a bilateral defense agreement
with the United States (see Foreign Influences in Weapons, Training,
and Support Systems , ch. 5). In the Cold War atmosphere, relations
with the Soviet Union were correct but not cordial. The shah visited
the Soviet Union in 1956, but Soviet propaganda attacks and Iran's
alliance with the West continued. Internally, a period of political
repression followed the overthrow of Mossadeq, as the shah concentrated
power in his own hands. He banned or suppressed the Tudeh, the
National Front, and other parties; muzzled the press; and strengthened
the secret police, SAVAK (Sazman-e Ettelaat va Amniyat-e Keshvar--see
Law Enforcement Agencies , ch. 5). Elections to the Majlis in
1954 and 1956 were closely controlled. The shah appointed Hosain
Ala to replace Zahedi as prime minister in April 1955 and thereafter
named a succession of prime ministers who were willing to do his
Attempts at economic development and political reform were inadequate.
Rising oil revenues allowed the government to launch the Second
Development Plan (1955-62) in 1956 (see The Beginnings of Modernization:
The Post-1925 Period , ch. 3). A number of large-scale industrial
and agricultural projects were initiated, but economic recovery
from the disruptions of the oil nationalization period was slow.
The infusion of oil money led to rapid inflation and spreading
discontent, and strict controls provided no outlets for political
unrest. When martial law, which had been instituted in August
1953 after the coup, ended in 1957, the shah ordered two of his
senior officials to form a majority party and a loyal opposition
as the basis for a two-party system. These became known as the
Melliyun and the Mardom parties. These officially sanctioned parties
did not satisfy demands for wider political representation, however.
During Majlis elections in 1960, contested primarily by the Melliyun
and the Mardom parties, charges of widespread fraud could not
be suppressed, and the shah was forced to cancel the elections.
Jafar Sharif-Emami, a staunch loyalist, became prime minister.
After renewed and more strictly controlled elections, the Majlis
convened in February 1961. But as economic conditions worsened
and political unrest grew, the Sharif-Emami government fell in
Yielding both to domestic demands for change and to pressure
for reform from President John F. Kennedy's administration, the
shah named Ali Amini, a wealthy landlord and senior civil servant,
as prime minister. Amini was known as an advocate of reform. He
received a mandate from the shah to dissolve parliament and rule
for six months by cabinet decree. Amini loosened controls on the
press, permitted the National Front and other political parties
to resume activity, and ordered the arrest of a number of former
senior officials on charges of corruption. Under Amini, the cabinet
approved the Third Development Plan (1962-68) and undertook a
program to reorganize the civil service. In January 1962, in the
single most important measure of the fourteen-month Amini government,
the cabinet approved a law for land distribution.
The Amini government, however, was beset by numerous problems.
Belt-tightening measures ordered by the prime minister were necessary,
but in the short term they intensified recession and unemployment.
This recession caused discontent in the bazaar and business communities.
In addition, the prime minister acted in an independent manner,
and the shah and senior military and civilian officials close
to the court resented this challenge to royal authority. Moreover,
although enjoying limited freedom of activity for the first time
in many years, the National Front and other opposition groups
pressed the prime minister for elections and withheld their cooperation.
Amini was unable to meet a large budget deficit; the shah refused
to cut the military budget, and the United States, which had previously
supported Amini, refused further aid. As a result, Amini resigned
in July 1962.
He was replaced by Asadollah Alam, one of Mohammad Reza Shah's
close confidants. Building on the credit earned in the countryside
and in urban areas by the land distribution program, the shah
in January 1963 submitted six measures to a national referendum.
In addition to land reform, these measures included profit-sharing
for industrial workers in private sector enterprises, nationalization
of forests and pastureland, sale of government factories to finance
land reform, amendment of the electoral law to give more representation
on supervisory councils to workers and farmers, and establishment
of a Literacy Corps to allow young men to satisfy their military
service requirement by working as village literacy teachers. The
shah described the package as his White Revolution (see Glossary),
and when the referendum votes were counted, the government announced
a 99-percent majority in favor of the program. In addition to
these other reforms, the shah announced in February that he was
extending the right to vote to women.
These measures earned the government considerable support among
certain sectors of the population, but they did not deal immediately
with sources of unrest. Economic conditions were still difficult
for the poorer classes. Many clerical leaders opposed land reform
and the extension of suffrage to women. These leaders were also
concerned about the extension of government and royal authority
that the reforms implied. In June 1963, Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah
Musavi Khomeini, a religious leader in Qom, was arrested after
a fiery speech in which he directly attacked the shah. The arrest
sparked three days of the most violent riots the country had witnessed
since the overthrow of Mossadeq a decade earlier. The shah severely
suppressed these riots, and, for the moment, the government appeared
to have triumphed over its opponents.
Data as of December 1987