In order to understand Iran, we need some background. Dating to before World War II, Iran has attempted to balance the influences upon it from its neighbors, both Russia and the West. In 1941, Britain and the USSR invaded Iran to use Iranian railroad capacity. During World War II, the Shah (king) was obliged to abdicate in favor of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. At that time a relatively long-lived parliament had been governing Iran. However, its prime minister was assassinated in 1951 and was replaced by Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh whose selection was ratified by Shah Reza Pahlavi. Enormously popular, Mosaddegh nationalized Iran’s petroleum industry, leading to President Eisenhower’s authorization of Operation Ajax in 1953, the first successful open US sponsored overthrow of an elected, civilian government, Cold War Democracy in action!
After Operation Ajax, Shah Reza Pahlavi’s pro-Western rule turned Iran away from the USSR but became increasingly autocratic. With American support, the Shah was able to rapidly modernize Iranian infrastructure, but he simultaneously crushed all forms of political opposition with his intelligence agency, SAVAK. Ayatollah Khomeini became an active critic of the Shah’s White Revolution and publicly denounced the government. In response, the Shah had Khomeini exiled. Those few Iranians who favored communistic principles were also persecuted.
Then, with his health failing and his secret police becoming increasingly unpopular, the Shah abdicated and left the country, leading to the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979.
Perhaps it’s time we Americans left Iran alone and apologized for our attempts to have our way with them, to dominate them, their oil industry and their very culture? We Americans truly have had an ugly past!