State and Society, 1964-74
Elections to the twenty-first Majlis in September 1963 led to
the formation of a new political party, the Iran Novin (New Iran)
Party, committed to a program of economic and administrative reform
and renewal. The Alam government had opened talks with the National
Front leaders earlier in the year, but no accommodation had been
reached, and the talks had broken down over such issues as freedom
of activity for the front. As a result, the front was not represented
in the elections, which were limited to the officially sanctioned
parties, and the only candidates on the slate were those presented
by the Union of National Forces, an organization of senior civil
servants and officials and of workers' and farmers' representatives,
put together with government support. After the elections, the
largest bloc in the new Majlis, with forty seats, was a group
called the Progressive Center. The center, an exclusive club of
senior civil servants, had been established by Hasan Ali Mansur
in 1961 to study and make policy recommendations on major economic
and social issues. In June 1963, the shah had designated the center
as his personal research bureau. When the new Majlis convened
in October, 100 more deputies joined the center, giving Mansur
a majority. In December, Mansur converted the Progressive Center
into a political party, the Iran Novin. In March 1964, Alam resigned
and the shah appointed Mansur prime minister, at the head of an
Iran Novin-led government.
The events leading to the establishment of the Iran Novin and
the appointment of Mansur as prime minister represented a renewed
attempt by the shah and his advisers to create a political organization
that would be loyal to the crown, attract the support of the educated
classes and the technocratic elite, and strengthen the administration
and the economy. The Iran Novin drew its membership almost exclusively
from a younger generation of senior civil servants, Western-educated
technocrats, and business leaders. Initially, membership was limited
to 500 hand-picked persons, and it was allowed to grow very slowly.
In time it came to include leading members of the provincial elite
and its bureaucratic, professional, and business classes. Even
in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when trade unions and professional
organizations affiliated themselves with the party, full membership
was reserved for a limited group.
In carrying out economic and administrative reforms, Mansur created
four new ministries and transferred the authority for drawing
up the budget from the Ministry of Finance to the newly created
Budget Bureau. The bureau was attached to the Plan Organization
and was responsible directly to the prime minister. In subsequent
years it introduced greater rationality in planning and budgeting.
Mansur appointed younger technocrats to senior civil service posts,
a policy continued by his successor. He also created the Health
Corps, modeled after the Literacy Corps, to provide primary health
care to rural areas.
In the Majlis the government enjoyed a comfortable majority,
and the nominal opposition, the Mardom Party, generally voted
with the government party. An exception, however, was the general
response to the Status of Forces bill, a measure that granted
diplomatic immunity to United States military personnel serving
in Iran, and to their staffs and families. In effect, the bill
would allow these Americans to be tried by United States rather
than Iranian courts for crimes committed on Iranian soil. For
Iranians the bill recalled the humiliating capitulatory concessions
extracted from Iran by the imperial powers in the nineteenth century.
Feeling against the bill was sufficiently strong that sixty-five
deputies absented themselves from the legislature, and sixty-one
opposed the bill when it was put to a vote in October 1964.
The measure also aroused strong feeling outside the Majlis. Khomeini,
who had been released from house arrest in April 1964, denounced
the measure in a public sermon before a huge congregation in Qom.
Tapes of the sermon and a leaflet based on it were widely circulated
and attracted considerable attention. Khomeini was arrested again
in November, within days of the sermon, and sent into exile in
Turkey. In October 1965, he was permitted to take up residence
in the city of An Najaf, Iraq--the site of numerous Shia shrines--where
he was to remain for the next thirteen years.
Although economic conditions were soon to improve dramatically,
the country had not yet fully recovered from the recession of
the 1959-63 period, which had imposed hardships on the poorer
classes. Mansur attempted to make up a budget deficit of an estimated
US$300 million (at then prevalent rates of exchange) by imposing
heavy new taxes on gasoline and kerosene and on exit permits for
Iranians leaving the country. Because kerosene was the primary
heating fuel for the working classes, the new taxes proved highly
unpopular. Taxicab drivers in Tehran went on strike, and Mansur
was forced to rescind the fuel taxes in January, six weeks after
they had been imposed. An infusion of US$200 million in new revenues
(US$185 million from a cash bonus for five offshore oil concessions
granted to United States and West European firms and US$15 million
from a supplementary oil agreement concluded with the Consortium,
a group of foreign oil companies) helped the government through
its immediate financial difficulties.
With this assistance, Mohammad Reza Shah was able to maintain
political stability despite the assassination of his prime minister
and an attempt on his own life. On January 21, 1965, Mansur was
assassinated by members of a radical Islamic group. Evidence made
available after the Islamic Revolution revealed that the group
had affiliations with clerics close to Khomeini. A military tribunal
sentenced six of those charged to death and the others to long
prison terms. In April there was also an attempt on the shah's
life, organized by a group of Iranian graduates of British universities.
To replace Mansur as prime minister, the shah appointed Amir Abbas
Hoveyda, a former diplomat and an executive of the National Iranian
Oil Company (NIOC--see Oil and Gas Industry, ch. 3). Hoveyda had
helped Mansur found the Progressive Center and the Iran Novin
and had served as his minister of finance.
Hoveyda's appointment marked the beginning of nearly a decade
of impressive economic growth and relative political stability
at home. During this period, the shah also used Iran's enhanced
economic and military strength to secure for the country a more
influential role in the Persian Gulf region, and he improved relations
with Iran's immediate neighbors and the Soviet Union and its allies.
Hoveyda remained in office for the next twelve years, the longest
term of any of Iran's modern prime ministers. During this decade,
the Iran Novin dominated the government and the Majlis. It won
large majorities in both the 1967 and the 1971 elections. These
elections were carefully controlled by the authorities. Only the
Mardom Party and, later, the Pan-Iranist Party, an extreme nationalist
group, were allowed to participate in them. Neither party was
able to secure more than a handful of Majlis seats, and neither
engaged in serious criticism of government programs.
In 1969 and again in 1972, the shah appeared ready to permit
the Mardom Party, under new leadership, to function as a genuine
opposition, i.e., to criticize the government openly and to contest
elections more energetically, but these developments did not occur.
The Iran Novin's domination of the administrative machinery was
further made evident during municipal council elections held in
136 towns throughout the country in 1968. The Iran Novin won control
of a large majority of the councils and every seat in 115 of them.
Only 10 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in Tehran, however,
a demonstration of public indifference that was not confined to
Under Hoveyda the government improved its administrative machinery
and launched what was dubbed "the education revolution." It adopted
a new civil service code and a new tax law and appointed better
qualified personnel to key posts. Hoveyda also created several
additional ministries in 1967, including the Ministry of Science
and Higher Education, which was intended to help meet expanded
and more specialized manpower needs. In mid-1968 the government
began a program that, although it did not resolve problems of
overcrowding and uneven quality, increased the number of institutions
of higher education substantially, brought students from provincial
and lower middle-class backgrounds into the new community colleges,
and created a number of institutions of high academic standing,
such as Tehran's Arya Mehr Technical University (see Education
, ch. 2).
The shah had remarried in 1959, and the new queen, Farah Diba
Pahlavi, had given birth to a male heir, Reza, in 1960. In 1967,
because the crown prince was still very young, steps were taken
to regularize the procedure for the succession. Under the constitution,
if the shah were to die before the crown prince had come of age,
the Majlis would meet to appoint a regent. There might be a delay
in the appointment of a regent, especially if the Majlis was not
in session. A constituent assembly, convened in September 1967,
amended the constitution, providing for the queen automatically
to act as regent unless the shah in his lifetime designated another
individual. In October 1967, believing his achievements finally
justified such a step, the shah celebrated his long-postponed
coronation. Like his father, he placed the crown on his own head.
To mark the occasion, the Majlis conferred on the shah the title
of Arya-Mehr, or "Light of the Aryans." This glorification of
the monarchy and the monarch, however, was not universally popular
with the Iranians. In 1971 celebrations were held to mark what
was presented as 2,500 years of uninterrupted monarchy (there
were actually gaps in the chronological record) and the twenty-fifth
centennial of the founding of the Iranian empire by Cyrus the
Great. The ceremonies were designed primarily to celebrate the
institution of monarchy and to affirm the position of the shah
as the country's absolute and unchallenged ruler. The lavish ceremonies
(which many compared to a Hollywood-style extravaganza), the virtual
exclusion of Iranians from the celebrations in which the honored
guests were foreign heads of state, and the excessive adulation
of the person of the shah in official propaganda generated much
adverse domestic comment. A declaration by Khomeini condemning
the celebrations and the regime received wide circulation. In
1975, when the Majlis, at government instigation, voted to alter
the Iranian calendar so that year one of the calendar coincided
with the first year of the reign of Cyrus rather than with the
beginning of the Islamic era, many Iranians viewed the move as
an unnecessary insult to religious sensibilities.
Iran, meantime, experienced a period of unprecedented and sustained
economic growth. The land distribution program launched in 1962,
along with steadily expanding job opportunities, improved living
standards, and moderate inflation between 1964 and 1973, help
explain the relative lack of serious political unrest during this
In foreign policy, the shah used the relaxation in East-West
tensions to improve relations with the Soviet Union. In an exchange
of notes in 1962, he gave Moscow assurances he would not allow
Iran to become a base for aggression against the Soviet Union
or permit foreign missile bases to be established on Iranian soil.
In 1965 Iran and the Soviet Union signed a series of agreements
under which the Soviets provided credits and technical assistance
to build Iran's first steel mill in exchange for shipments of
Iranian natural gas. This led to the construction of the almost
2,000-kilometer-long trans-Iranian gas pipeline from the southern
fields to the Iranian-Soviet frontier. The shah also bought small
quantities of arms from the Soviet Union and expanded trade with
East European states. Although Soviet officials did not welcome
the increasingly close military and security cooperation between
Iran and the United States, especially after 1971, Moscow did
not allow this to disrupt its own rapprochement with Tehran.
In 1964 the shah joined the heads of state of Turkey and Pakistan
to create an organization, Regional Cooperation for Development
(RCD), for economic, social, and cultural cooperation among the
three countries "outside the framework of the Central Treaty Organization."
The establishment of RCD was seen as a sign of the diminishing
importance of CENTO and, like the rapprochement with the Soviet
Union, of the shah's increasing independence in foreign policy.
The three RCD member states undertook a number of joint economic
and cultural projects, but never on a large scale.
The shah also began to play a larger role in Persian Gulf affairs.
He supported the royalists in the Yemen Civil War (1962-70) and,
beginning in 1971, assisted the sultan of Oman in putting down
a rebellion in Dhofar (see Historical Background , ch. 5). He
also reached an understanding with Britain on the fate of Bahrain
and three smaller islands in the Gulf that Britain had controlled
since the nineteenth century but that Iran continued to claim.
Britain's decision to withdraw from the Gulf by 1971 and to help
organize the Trucial States into a federation of independent states
(eventually known as the United Arab Emirates--UAE) necessitated
resolution of that situation. In 1970 the shah agreed to give
up Iran's long-standing claim to Bahrain and to abide by the desire
of the majority of its inhabitants that Bahrain become an independent
state. The shah, however, continued to press his claim to three
islands, Abu Musa (controlled by the shaykh of Sharjah) and the
Greater and Lesser Tunbs (controlled by the shaykh of Ras al Khaymah).
He secured control of Abu Musa by agreeing to pay the shaykh of
Sharjah an annual subsidy, and he seized the two Tunbs by military
force, immediately following Britain's withdrawal.
This incident offended Iraq, however, which broke diplomatic
relations with Iran as a result. Relations with Iraq remained
strained until 1975, when Iran and Iraq signed the Algiers Agreement,
under which Iraq conceded Iran's long-standing demand for equal
navigation rights in the Shatt al Arab, and the shah agreed to
end support for the Kurdish rebellion in northern Iraq.
With the other Persian Gulf states, Tehran maintained generally
good relations. Iran signed agreements with Saudi Arabia and other
Gulf states delimiting frontiers along the continental shelf in
the Persian Gulf, began cooperation and information-sharing on
security matters with Saudi Arabia, and encouraged closer cooperation
among the newly independent Gulf shaykhdoms through the Gulf Cooperation
To enhance Iran's role in the Gulf, the shah also used oil revenues
to expand and equip the Iranian army, air force, and navy. His
desire that, in the aftermath of the British withdrawal, Iran
would play the primary role in guaranteeing Gulf security coincided
with President Richard M. Nixon's hopes for the region. The Nixon
Doctrine, enunciated in 1969, sought to encourage United States
allies to shoulder greater responsibility for regional security.
Then, during his 1972 visit to Iran, Nixon took the unprecedented
step of allowing the shah to purchase any conventional weapon
in the United States arsenal in the quantities the shah believed
necessary for Iran's defense (see Foreign Influences in Weapons,
Training, and Support Systems , ch. 5). United States-Iranian
military cooperation deepened when the shah allowed the United
States to establish two listening posts in Iran to monitor Soviet
ballistic missile launches and other military activity.
Data as of December 1987