Thursday, July 29, 2010

All The Shah's Men

Political life after WW II
by Sohrab_Ferdows

Decades after Shah of Iran has been overthrown to accommodate implementation of certain policies in the region of Persian Gulf and Middle East to serve the interests of certain group of people in the world, we are still witness to the same propaganda nonsense that brought our nation to one of the lowest points in the history which is comparable to the times when Iran was overrun by Arab and Mongolian invaders centuries ago. To add more to this, one of the saddest issues of our time is glorification of ignorance under the guise of political correctness to justify and spread misinformation towards our history by some of the people who are expected to have better understanding of the political events but easily fall in the traps of false history which is fed to them through known or covert intelligence channels and propaganda. In fact, this is what paved the way for demise of our nation that was becoming prepared to enter a new era of prosperity and civilization while helping the rest of humanity in the quest for better world. All of that went down the drain and along with that, many other things throughout the world.

At least for the last two centuries, the more advanced nations which had realized the importance and effect of intelligence and propaganda in their own affairs and the relations with other nations, have increasingly invoked these tools to further their own agendas and policies in order to protect and advance their own interests and achieve their desired objectives. The importance of control over information will become more obvious when considering that, more accurate knowledge on any issue can help making better decisions and also, getting better results while avoiding waste of resources in dealing with that. These are the fundamental principles to justify use of intelligence in any situation as much as possible and these are exact same principles to justify spread of counter intelligence and misinformation in order to avoid exposure of certain agendas by confusing a targeted people. One cannot expect that others provide useful and valid information openly about their own hidden agendas in any areas which might be harmful to or against the interest of others. Misinformation has proven to be one of the most valuable tools of propaganda and psychological warfare to mislead others about true intentions regarding any tactical or strategic operation. Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov is a former intelligence agent of Soviet Union who defected to the west during cold war and in his interviews; he has disclosed that only 15% of resources in the field of intelligence were assigned for actual spying activities while 85% were used for brainwashing and demoralization of target societies. This matter is not specific to former Soviets Union or Russians. All advanced nations with strong propaganda tools have been taking advantage of these methods against each other and also against other nations, to achieve their goals and objectives and they continue to do so today. Spread of misinformation to create uncertainty and confusion towards certain matters is an important part of any psychological warfare in order to manipulate and disable the forces of a targeted people which might otherwise pose a threat or create undesired problems.

During the cold war era, Iran, as country which was at the forefront of conflicts between the East and the West, was under immense pressure by both sides of the quarrel and their internal elements. This issue created a lot of problems and restrictions for the nation in the areas of political and economic relations and developments. The problem had started right after end of WW II while Iran did not have enough time to recover from many of the major issues that she was facing as a result of decades (or even centuries) of corruption of ruling aristocracy and interference of greedy foreign powers. Before that, in the year 1941, Iran was forced to enter the war after being unjustly attacked and occupied by Allies, and break its neutrality to take side with the powerful invaders. This matter made it inevitable for Iran to become a field for future political games and manipulations by the great powers of the world and their agents inside the country. Presence of plenty of corrupt politicians among the ruling aristocrats which were all in love with the tribal traditions of hand kissing and servitude of subordinates while themselves would stop at nothing to please their own foreign masters, had made Iran a favorable place for covert or even open activities of colonialist and expansionist powers of the time since over a century earlier.

Reza Shah Pahlavi became the Shah and top political figure in Iran after almost 150 years of Qajar's ruling of the country. His rise from the bottom of society to the top in fact might have been one of the reasons that, despite all his services in development of the country and saving the people from extreme misery of disease and poverty, he was strongly disliked by many among Iranian elite which mainly came from Qajar aristocrats. Neither Reza Shah nor any of his ancestors (as far as history can tell) was part of Iranian aristocracy to link him with one or another foreign powers. His father, Abas-ali, who was an officer of Iranian army during Qajar, died before his birth and his mother, Nushafarin khanum, decided to migrate from the village of Alasht to Tehran where her brother lived. Reza grew in extremely poor condition and experienced poverty and injustice directly, which was imposed on Iranian society by corrupted ruling class, corrupt clerics and their foreign masters. He had to work hard at a very young age to support his mother and himself and that provided him with opportunity to see all the problems in society and experience them directly. During those years, children education was a luxury which was available only to a small portion of society which had all the means of prosperity in their monopoly while majority of Iranians lived a very poor life. This matter in fact became an important element in Reza Shah's plans once he had the opportunity to do something about it when in the position of leadership.

Reza's career in the Persian Cossack Brigade which was organized and run by Russians at that time was result of a lucky incident along his fascination with the marching and ceremonies that this military group carried every day in their barracks. Cossack's barracks was on the path which Reza walked all the time to do his business. He enjoyed watching the performance of organized uniformed Cossacks every day. As a strong and tall teenager, Reza drew the attention of a Cossack’s commander who noticed his interest while watching the ceremony and was asked by the commander if he was interested to join. Reza accepted immediately and started his long journey to change the destiny of his nation by freeing them from the hands of corrupt ruling leaders and putting the nation on the path of modernity and progress. It is true that Reza Khan's ascending to the position of Cossack's leadership after Russians revolution (which resulted in abandoning Cossacks) was with assistance and advice of a British officer named General Ironside whose mission was to find a strong military man to lead the Cossack Brigade. This was in fact to avoid chaos that might have affected the stability of Iran while British were not able to deal with that situation directly, but this matter in no way means that he was bound to follow the agenda of British in Iran. Even some of those who considered Reza Shah as their own enemy could not deny this. Reza Khan (as he was known by that time) was a very intelligent person who had realized the terrible situation that his country was in, and took advantage of the opportunity to put his own agenda to work in order to free his nation from dependency to foreigners (British and Russians in particular) as he continued to expand his control over different elements of power and affairs of the nation.

Reforming the nation with a backward and corrupt system and culture and dragging it into a modern age in a short period of time was an extremely hard task. The material that was available to Reza Khan was none other than remnants of Qajars aristocracy and an extremely poor nation which was ridden with disease and suppressed under local greedy and ruthless rulers who cared for nothing other than holding their own power over miserable people at any price. Later on, when he had become the Shah of Iran, someone told him that he had to either use Qajars statesmen and accept all the consequences of it (which meant continuing injustice and corruption) or start making his own statesmen by training new groups of people. This was an important task and in order to accomplish that, Reza Shah initiated a program to send some of Iranian students to European countries (France in particular) at the expense of government to get trained as new statesmen and experts to run the country for betterment of the nation. Among the first group of students, we see some familiar names like Mehdi Bazargan (who became the first PM after Islamic revolution) and Dr. Taghi Arani who established the first communist movement in Iran that later became Tudeh party. Undoubtedly, most of these people believed that they were serving Iranian people while they were in fact working against the interests of their own nation after getting the education that was intended to make them better statesmen for their country. There were many others who went the same route and some of them even found the opportunity to hold important positions within the system that they helped to break later.

In those days, it was the hardest thing for any leader in Iran, to find the people who could be trusted with any kind of work. Majority of people were poor, illiterate and ignorant and a big portion of limited number of educated people in Iranian society took pride in serving the interest of foreigners rather than their own or were after their own fantasies to save the nation by resorting to unrealistic and impractical ideologies and philosophies. It was under such conditions that Reza Khan had to implement his nationalistic agendas and revive the spirit of nationalism and pride in the heart of Iranians and put the nation on the path of progress and modernization with the help of those who were willing and capable of helping. He took advantage of weakness of Russian and British governments after the war to put his agenda to work and prepare the nation to enter the age of modernity through establishment of unquestionable authority for central Iranian government by suppressing the local rulers who dreamed of disintegrating the nation with the help of British or Russians. Many decades of weak and corrupt governments during Qajars had resulted in loss of big portions of Iranian territory in the north, east and south and Iran was on the verge of further disintegration from north and the south with the help of foreign agents. At this stage of his work, Reza Khan had assistance of some of nationalist Iranian army officers to impose the authority of central government throughout the nation and from those, name of Fazlollah Zahedi as a major army commander who later played another important role in another sensitive part of Iranian history, should be mentioned.

Reza Shah, who had felt the harshness and pain of poverty and injustice in Iran with his own flesh and blood during his childhood and teenage years, realized that he could not rely on taxing poor people for all his ambitious projects to improve the condition of living in the country. Search for other resources of funding drew his attention to oil which was being exploited by British under an unfair agreement that was originally made between William Knox D'Arcy and Mozaffar-odin shah Qajar and was slightly modified later in 1919 to satisfy the financial needs of Qajar king, Ahmad Shah. The need for money to fund development projects in the areas of national health-care, education, military, economy and industrialization, forced Iranian government to ask Anglo-Iranian oil company for renegotiating of the oil contract which was denied quickly. Failure of all efforts to convince the British side to increase Iranian share from oil left no choice for Reza Shah other than canceling the agreement from his own side. Daniel Yergin in his book: "The Prize, epic quest for Oil, Money and Power" describes Reza Shah's reaction to oil issue with following words:

"At the very bottom of the depression, Shah Reza Pahlavi of Persia became infuriated at discovery that, as an observer put it, "oil is not gold in these days." The Shah's country had become an oil state; petroleum royalties from Anglo-Persian provided two-third of its export earnings and a substantial part of government revenues. But, with the Depression, the royalties from Anglo-Persian plummeted to the lowest since 1917. Appalled and outraged, the Shah blamed the company, and he decided to take matters in his own hands. At a Cabinet meeting on November 16, 1932, to surprise of his ministers, he abruptly announced that he was unilaterally canceling Anglo-Persian's concession. It was the thunderbolt that no one had really believed that Shah would dare deliver. His action threatened the very existence of Anglo-Persian."

Reza Shah threw D'Arcy's contract in the fireplace out of frustration and declared it canceled when leader of Iranian negotiating team told him the contract is not negotiable! Some time earlier, in a private meeting with an educated Iranian who had criticized his decision regarding an issue, Reza Shah had told him that he was only a soldier of the nation and needed help of educated and expert people like him to come forward and provide ideas, directions and advice for better outcome of any plan so he could push to implement them. He even participated in manual labor work during construction of a road side by side with other workers to show that he would do anything to help in reconstructing the country. But in the case of oil, nobody seemed to be able to help and no other valuable resources were available to support development projects so Reza Shah decided to nullify the D'Arcy's contract altogether to force the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company into negotiation and it worked. It's worth mentioning here that nationalization of oil industry was once discussed during this period and was rejected by parliament in a realistic move as Iran did not have the skilled manpower and the resources for operating such industries at that time. Late Dr. Mosadegh who was an MP from Tehran and later in 1950's became champion of oil nationalization voted against it (and rightfully so) at that time.

One of the events which happened in the same period that Iranian government was struggling to get a better share of revenue from its oil industry was discovery of a plot to topple Reza Shah. At the top of this plot, a high ranking Qajar aristocrat, Firouz Mirza Nosrat o-dowleh, who continued to hold important government positions while still dreaming of restoring Qajar dynasty with himself at the top. Nosrat o-Dowleh along with a few others were arrested and put in jail. This matter had a negative effect on Reza Shah's trust towards his Court Minister, Abdolhossein Teymourtash, whom he consulted on every matter including oil related discussions. Teymourtash, according to writings of some of Iranian and foreign diplomats who knew him closely, had a lot of influence on Reza Shah at some point as he was the only person who had direct contact with the Shah. This matter had become a reason for jealousy of many who despised him for his power and influence. Some people accused him of taking advantage of his position and influence in financial institution (which he worked with at some point) to gather wealth and support his gambling habits. According to some stories, his womanizing habits resulted in becoming a victim of British espionage activities and losing a briefcase full of documents regarding his secret communications and relations with Soviet officials which ended up in Times of London to intensify suspicion towards him. This event happened when Teymourtash made a stop in Moscow to talk to Soviets on his return from London to Tehran. He was on a mission to convince the British to enter negotiation for a new contract with Iranian government over oil but failed to gain anything from that visit. Another story claims that a Russian who defected to Iran provided some information about Teymourtash being a spy for Soviet Union. Mr. Hassan Taghizadeh who later signed the new oil contract with British; has claimed that Teymourtash was innocent and what happened to him was unfair. But according to some reports, family of Teymourtash consider Taghizadeh the reason for his imprisonment and death in prison. As we can see from this little story, backstabbing, suspicions, espionage, betrayals, trickery and intrigues from every side had made Iranian political environment so intense and so complicated in those days that it was impossible to reach a solid and clear conclusion on any matter with confidence. This was a common issue regarding anything in the politics of Iran which suffered from poisonous relations that existed in our country because of corrupt aristocratic system and influence and propagandas of greedy colonial powers.

The conflict with Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was not settled easily and British side decided to take the matter to Permanent Court of International Justice which Iranian government refused to accept its competence and therefore the matter was taken before the Security Council in the League of Nations. At this time, British accepted to enter talks with Iran for a new concession after the League of Nations advised both parties to go back to negotiating table. Resulting contract after over a year of bargaining by both sides, provided Iranian government with much bigger share from oil while completely canceling the exclusive right of oil transportation for British side (which was very important from Iran's point of view) and reducing the geographical area of the concession that covered about 85% of the whole country earlier, but extending the period of contract till 1979. According to some stories, this matter was brought into discussion in the last days of negotiation by Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Seyed Hassan Taghizadeh was the leader of Iranian negotiating team, who came from a religious background (his father was a mullah named Seyed Taghi) and himself was a mullah during younger age. He later turned into a secular politician and his activities and roles in politics of Iran during Constitutional Revolution and after that was well known to many Iranians. The issue of extending the oil contract was later questioned by some of the members of parliament in an inquiry session from Mr. Taghizadeh, who led the negotiating team for Iran. When he was asked why he agreed with extension of the contract, he blamed Reza Shah indirectly (after Reza Shah's abdication) and claimed that he was afraid for his life if he did not. Regarding the oil dispute with British, Mr. Ismail Raeen in his book "Freemasonry in Iran" says that British had brought their Navy and other military forces around southern Iranian ports of Abadan and Bushehr to influence the outcome of negotiation at that time. British government which had switched all of its naval ships from burning coal to more efficient oil-based fuel in 1914, and had been tied to Iranian oil, was the main shareholder of Anglo-Persian Oil Company and intended to show to Iranians that she was serious in protecting her interests at any price.

Disputes between Iranian government and British over oil, although resolved in principles for the time being but continued over many other details. In the year 1941 presence of a group of German citizens became an excuse for Allies to attack Iran by accusing Iranian government of collaboration with Germans. After the WW I had ended, Germany which was driven out of world's oil market entered into an agreement with Iran to get one million barrel of oil in exchange for construction of two sulfur plants in Masjed Soleyman. In fact, some experts assert that oil was a major reason for Hitler to go to war as Germany was in serious need of oil to follow its industrial development projects. Shortly after Allies invasion of Iran, Reza Shah was forced to abdicate when British positioned their forces near the Capital and threatened that they would attack Tehran if he did not resign. During the days of the few weeks after Invasion of Iran by Anglo-Soviet forces, Reza Shah was target of worst attacks by British propaganda machine. They accused Reza Shah of being a despot and repressive ruler. In one occasion when the price of bread soared because most of the food was taken by occupying forces and created a near famine state in the country, Reza Shah interfered and ordered to reduce the price by 50%. This matter became a subject of negative propaganda by BBC which accused Reza Shah of forcing the poor bakers to pay the difference while in fact; it was Iranian government that subsidized the price of wheat and bread. The amount of false and negative propaganda by British and their supporters in politics of Iran against Reza Shah was so overwhelming that even some of true supporters of Reza Shah like Ali Dashti had turned against him. This matter had effectively disabled any reaction from the public in support of deposed Shah while most of Iranian people were watching as events unfolded, just like impartial bystanders. Daniel Yergin in his book attributes the rise of opposition to Reza Shah after his abdication to his distrustful treatment of even faithful supporters as he was suspicious of everyone. Knowing the history and background of deep corruption which had taken over the elite and higher classes of Iranian society have been definitely a major factor in this regard that Mr. Yergin could not have in dept information about. He mentions that Reza Shah once told a visitor that Iranians were "bigoted and ignorant" and considered Anglo-Iranian Oil Company something like mullahs, an element of power within power, and he was determined to reduce the power and influence of both.

Manuchehr Farmanfarmaian, a member of Qajar family whose ancestral tree reaches to Abbas Mirza and Mozafar-odin Shah Qajar, in his book "Blood and Oil", has written following lines about the time that Reza Shah was forced to leave Iran:

"Reza Shah's ouster was greeted with relief: no more police state, no more arbitrary self-aggrandizement on the part of Crown. We celebrated his fall, quickly forgetting that the most important human right is to live under a government strong enough to maintain law and order-- and that he had delivered such a government. Even the worst tyranny is better than no government at all, since nothing causes human beings so much misery as anarchy. Yet anarchy is what we were in the midst of as we hailed the new king, enthroned by Great Powers as they squatted on our land, while turning our faces from the man who had brought a modicum of cohesion to our country and relief from outside predators."

Mr. Famanfarmaian also mentions in his book that the British ambassador, Reader Bullard, was not happy about replacing Reza Shah with the Crown Prince and was in favor of either a Qajar king or a different member of Pahlavi family. Apparently, he even offered the throne of Iran to a Qajar prince known as Sarameh-doleh which he refused. According to memoirs of Prince Hamid Mirza Qajar who later joined British Navy with the name of David Drumond, the British plan was to install him as King of Persia but this plan did not go through after they realized that Mr. Foroughi had taken the Crown Prince of Reza Shah to the parliament to take the oath of office as the king of Iran. Reading through these lines might help us understand to some degree that what kind of situation Iran had at that time and how close it was to total colonization by British empire which its ambassador allowed himself to intervene in decision making about who should be at the top of the government system in that country even though Iran had a constitution and a parliament and a Crown Prince to keep things in order.

It is obvious that the issue of oil in Iran and dispute over that with British government as the main shareholder was not going to go away easily. This matter continued to affect the politics in Iran and the relations with oil consortium and British government for a very long time. Later on, US government and oil companies which were reluctant earlier to venture into Iranian oil exploration business in the eastern region of the country, were dragged into this story as partners to make things even more complicated. This matter continued throughout the rest of previous century and as we shall see, left its deep marks not only in the politics of Iran but also in the region and possibly the whole world. Mr. Farmanfarmian who worked in ministry of finance at some point, has brought a little story in his book about a meeting with a couple of American "oil consultants" in 1944 who were invited by Prime Minister Sa'ed at that time to bring Americans into oil equation in order to change the situation and take away British monopoly on Iranian oil by giving a new concession to Americans in the north region of the country. These two Americans were Herbert Hoover Jr. and A.A. Curtice who were both involved in negotiation between American oil company (mainly Standard Oil which belonged to Rockefellers) and Mexican government in their dispute during late 1920's. The first 50-50 contract in the oil business was signed with Mexican government at that time which settled the dispute to the satisfactory of both sides and started a new trend that was later applied to the oil concessions in other areas where Americans were involved. British however, were not happy about 50-50 contracts and had no intention to follow American model until they ran into serious problems and confrontations with Iranians.

Mr. Farmanfarmaian says that he told Hoover (the American oil consultant) about dominance of British in the oil business in Persian Gulf region which, as he believed, would drive Americans out of the area but Hoover laughed at him and said that he was overestimating British power. Then Hoover told him that British would have no choice but to share the oil in future which sounded very unbelievable to him. He later shared this information with his cousin, Dr. Mohammad Mosadeq who was an MP from Tehran at that time who expressed his deep appreciation in exchange. From the comments made by Mr. Farmanfarmaian in this regard and also in other parts of his book, it seems very likely that himself has been at least very sympathetic towards British at that point which was not uncharacteristic from a Qajar aristocrat. In some other parts of the book, he mentions another story about his meeting with American representative to complain about the Iranian election fraud which had cost him his seat in the parliament. This indicates that how the typical Iranian politicians were after resolving their problems by resorting to relations with foreign elements and centers of power because otherwise what could be the point of such discussion? This matter was very common in Iran especially in those days that Iran had turned into playground of all major powers of the world. A new trend was unfolding in the political arena of Iran as a new power was expanding its involvement in the political games of this country.

Soon after discussions with American consultants, Iranian communist party of Tudeh organized a massive demonstration in which they shouted "death to Sa'ed" and demanded the oil concession to be given to Soviet Union! Interestingly enough, many units of Soviet Red Army soldiers and armored vehicles and tanks were present in this demonstration alongside with Tudeh party which they could never deny it but tried to downplay that by attributing the presence of Red Army to October Revolution celebration. Some of Tudeh members who have published their memoirs later claimed that Red Army's appearing in that event was unexpected and Tudeh party leaders were not aware of that. Iraj Eskanadri who was a prominent member and later became the party leader, has complained (decades after the fact) about Red Army and Soviets demands in that event which had a huge negative effect on the image of the party. Tudeh party has always tried to present itself as defender of Iranian people's rights but turned out to be a tool in the hands of Iran's enemies to put pressure on Iranian government. In this way, an attempt by PM Sa'ed which was supposed to be carried out secretly in order to keep the British and Soviets of meddling in that affair, was brought to an end with a fiasco without producing any result. The news had somehow leaked to Soviets and Tudeh party in which Maryam Firouz (Mr. Farmanfarmaian's sister) was among its leaders. Now that I mentioned about two members of Farmanfarmaian family, I have to add here that Abdol-Hossein Mirza Farmanfarma (father of Mr. Manouchehr Farmanfarmaian), who had a total of 36 children from his 8 wives, was a known Anglophile. He was considered a friend by Percy Sykes who headed South Persia Riffles army that was established by British to control southern regions of Iran. Farman-Farma had been awarded the Order of St Michael and St George by British for his services and held many different government positions in the south and west parts of the country. He was governor of Fars province when Reza Shah took his troops to Tehran. He was later replaced by his nephew, Dr. Mohammad Mosadeq and was called to Tehran by Reza Khan to be imprisoned upon his arrival along with his son, Nosrat ol-doleh (father of Mozzafar Firouz who played a revengeful part against Pahlavis throughout his political career). Firouz Mirza Nosrat ol-Doleh whose mother was daughter of Mozzafar ol-Din Shah, was minister of foreign affairs of Ahmad Shah and the prime candidate to become the next Qajar king after him. Nosrat ol-Doleh and his sister Maryam later chose the name of their grandfather, Firouz, as their surname.

This was a very brief summary of what founded and shaped the political relations of Iran (internally and externally) during the decades after WW II which I will discuss in next part and that will include some of original and true intelligence reports and documents that despite wide circulation of falsified and fictional stories, have somehow escaped the attention of mainstream media and propaganda systems to mislead the public about the truth and hidden agendas of interested powers.

No comments: