"The Past is a Foreign Country, They Do Things Differently There" - L.P. Hartley (The Go Between)
Maziar Bahari's Very interesting Documentary on Mossadegh as well as Jahanshah's challenging Question about our genuine knowledge of History prompted me to offer an alternative constitutionalist perspective and further interrogations as to our genuine understanding of our nation's democratic experience eversince the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 and specifically at the time of the 1953 Crisis.
Bahari's documentary is very interesting but leaves out many details it prefers to ignore and as such raises more questions than it answers.
It is very accurate in Chronological terms but overlooks many aspects of the Iranian Regime prior to Mossadegh's Premiership. The Knowledge of which in my humble opinion is essential to understand why Mossadegh's political behavior doomed him in advance and once again explains much of his miscalculations and Political adventurism which jeapordized an Already Fragile Democracy barely in it's Premise.
Notably the fact that far from being an Ideal Democracy, Iran was very much inflicted by Instabilty and Violence throughout the 12 years during which the Shah reigned but did not rule (Very much like in many Western European Constitutional Monarchies).
The man Mr. Rashidian calls a "Pedar Sookhteh" (and whom Sam Fall equally unfairly calls "Tarsoo") was actually himself subject to several assassination attempts which failed and during which the Shah displayed physical and moral courage in the face of adversity:
Yet despite these regular threats on his life the Shah remained in the country and assumed his responsabilities both on a national and International Scale limited to Representational Functions:
Shah of Iran at the United Nations 1948:
A 'coward' would have taken the easy road and run away given the immense challenges. As such it is unjust and reductive to reduce the Shah's personality to that of an irresponsible coward.
Indeed contrary to popular belief, I am convinced of the contrary.
The Shah's deemed 'weakness', if any, was not of 'character' but of 'leadership' due to being put to power from a position of 'weakness" and not strength. It is very important to understand this distinction if we want to analyze his rule and the challenges he faced as a head of state. As such I believe that the Shah's image as a 'head of state' and legitimate King ( which he was by all accounts given that according to the Constitution of the land he inherited the job LEGALLY upon his father's forced departure) naturally suffered in the public eye for not having succeeded to his father 'naturally' upon his death but instead upon his forced abdication under the dictate of foreign Allied Forces occupying Ira during WWII.
As such not only did he have no other choice but to compromise with an unfortunate situation: That of seeing his country humiliatingly occupied by Invading Forces ( i.e: Russians and the British) during WWII. In addition he had to fill in the vacuum left by his Strong willed and Charismatic father in a land Ruled by Absolute Monarchs for Centuries.
As if Not humiliating a situation enough, the young Monarch had to also cope with an Administration largely dominated by former Qajar Aristocrats and Statesmen who understood the mechanism's of Power in the country but who also viewed his rule and young dynasty as illegitimate.
How else could a 20 year old man upon whose shoulders the destiny of a nation is supposed to depend on, take upon himself entirely and decide what should be done or not done without weighing the consenquences of his actions ?
The Shah's behavior Prior to Mossadegh's Premiership and even during the latter's Premiership does not appear to me as that of an Irresponsible Man ... Far from that ...
Former Diplomat Parviz Rajji, and Historians Mashadollah Ajoudani and Abbas Milani on the Shah's role in the Coup of 1953:
( NOTE: Also See Related BBC Interview of Mashadollah Ajoudani on the Iranian Intellegenstia and the Coup of 53 Here )
However what does seem clear is the fact that Iranian Society was hardly prepared for Democracy and that Mossadegh's Adventurism brought the already fragile democratic institutions to their knees by creating a situation of total chaos and social anarchy ( with the help of the Mullahs and the Left Tudeh) over which he himself had no real control.
Just to give an idea of how unstable Mohamed Reza Shah's first 12 years of more or less democratic rule was, one simply has to look at the Number of Prime Ministers who took office ( often several times the same) during this period of time:
To Read In Chronologically Reverse Order:
Mohamed Mossadegh: Second Term in Office (21 July 1952 – 19 August 1953)
Ahmad Gavam: Third Term in Office under MRP Rule (17 July 1952 – 22 July 1952)
Mohamed Mossadegh: First Term In Office (28 April 1951 – 16 July 1952)
Hossein Ala' : In Office (12 March 1951 – 30 April 1951)
Haj Ali Razmara (Assassinated) : in Office (26 June 1950 – 7 March 1951)
Ali Mansur : In Office (23 March 1950 – 26 June 1950)
Mohammad Sa'ed : Second In Office ( November 1948 – 23 March 1950)
Abdolhossein Hazhir (Assassinated): In Office (13 June 1948 – 9 November 1948)
Ebrahim Hakimi: Third Term In Office (29 December 1947 – 13 June 1948)
Mohammad-Reza Hekmat :Term in Office (18 December 1947 – 29 December 1947)
Ahmad Gavam: Second Term in Office under MRP Rule (28 January 1946 – 18 December 1947)
Ebrahim Hakimi: Second Term in Office (30 October 1945 – 28 January 1946)
Mohsen Sadr : Term in Office (6 June 1945 – 30 October 1945)
Ebrahim Hakimi: First Term in Office (13 May 1945 – 6 June 1945)
Morteza-Qoli Bayat : Term in Office (25 November 1944 – 13 May 1945)
Mohammad Sa'ed : First Term in Office (6 April 1944 – 25 November 1944)
Ali Soheili : Second Term in Office (15 February 1943 – 6 April 1944)
Ahmad Gavam: First Term in Office under MRP Rule (9 August 1942 – 15 February 1943)
Ali Soheili : First Term in Office (9 March 1942 – 9 August 1942)
Mohammad-Ali Foroughi : Term in Office (27 August 1941 – 9 March 1942)
THAT MAKES A TOTAL OF 20 PRIME MINISTERS ( Often the Same) CHASING ONE ANOTHER IN AND OUT OF OFFICE IN 12 YEARS !!!
Making it look more like that of the very Unstable 4th Republic in France after WWII (where the President had merely a symbolic role but where the Prime Ministers chased one another in and out of office in very short periods) prior to Charles De Gaulle's Presidency where he redrafted the V Constitution in 1953 ( the year of the Coup in Iran by the way) giving the head of State stronger powers. De Gaulle actually denounced the 4th Republic as a System crippled by the vast numbers of Political parties which prevented the nation and it's successive governments from implementing their policies for which they were supposed to be elected. The President under the 5th Republic's Constitution which prevails to this day in France is often compared to an 'Elected Monarch'. For he enjoys all the prerogatives that an absolute Monarch could enjoy but only during his term in office ( Including head of the Armed forces and the right to dissolve the Parliament which cannot be done by the Prime Minister).
So now try and imagine a country like Iran in the same situation with a far shorter history of democratic rule having to cope with such an instability ...
In Such Conditions How Can ANYONE Possiblly Claim that when Mossadegh was so called Democratically Elected that he was Running a STABLE DEMOCRACY ?
Who can therefore claim that Iranian Society had experienced Democracy to the Fullest ? merely because Mossadegh had allowed freedom of Press during his Premiership ? All the more that in a country where Democracy was not fully experienced allowing Freedom of Expression as Mossadegh did was more of a political tool to controle his constituency through "populism" and not necessarily through a genuine political discourse as one would expect in a genuine democratic society, where despite a Free Press, laws are not voted by the mob in the Streets but by the elected representatives.
Just for the anecdote I did the Maths in regard to our Constitutional History during which time we can consider that we were experiencing some kind of more or less Full Democracy in our Country which prior to the Constitutional Movement had been run by Absolute Rule for the past 25 Centuries albeit under different dynasties:
1) At the time of the Coup Iran's Constitution was barely 50 years old ( 47 years to be exact).
2) Muzzeferedin Shah was to first monarch to accept the drafted constitution shortly before dying (40 days to be exact).
3) Muzzaferedin Shah's Son Muhamad Ali Shah doesn't really count for he bombarded the Majlis and was never a democratic ruler to begin with since he pushed the country into a civil war and then died in exile.
4) Ahmad Shah Qajar on the otherhand respected the Constitution during his Reign before being Toppled ... which makes 9 years in all.
5) Reza Khan overlooked the Constitution entirely after deposing the Qajars but implemented most of the Constitutionalist's Secular ideals and put Iran on the Road of Modernity if not democracy.
6) Muhamed Reza Shah reigned but did not rule for 12 years which makes him the Only King in Iran's Entire History to have Reigned for the longest Period of Time and Not Ruled according to More or Less Fully Democratic Standards worthy of any Parliametary Democracy in Western Europe at the time.
So that makes in all 40 days under Muzzaferedin Shah, 9 years under Ahmad Shah Qajar and 12 Years under Mohamed Reza Shah which amounts to more or less 21 years and 40 days of democratic practice in Iran according to the Only Democratic Draft we Ever had in our Country and that is the 1906 Constitution.
Conclusion: At Best Iran experienced 21 years and 40 days of democratic practice in all by the time of the Coup of 1953 when the Constitution was barely 47 years old.
So Given this fact and above Figures How Can One Seriously Claim that Mossadegh alone during his two Terms in Office Turned Iran into a Perfect Democracy Overnight ? ...
The Democracy Index is an index compiled by The Economist examining the state of democracy in 167 countries, attempting to quantify this with an Economist Intelligence Unit Index of Democracy which focused on five general categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation and political culture. According to Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index 2008 Sweden scored a total of 9.88 on a scale from zero to ten, which was the highest result, while North Korea scored the lowest with 0.86. The countries are categorized into "Full Democracies", "Flawed Democracies", "Hybrid Regimes" (all considered democracies), and "Authoritarian Regimes" (considered dictatorial. See Here
Recommended Watchings:YES, PRIME MINISTER: A Step By Step Guide To Mossadegh's Premiership and the Coup of '53 ...
Maziar Bahari's documentary on Mossadegh by Shifteh Ansari
What do you know about history? by Jahanshah Javid
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