Modern Iran : Roots and Results of Revolution

Modern Iran : Roots and Results of Revolution Keddie, Nikki, Yale University Press, 2003

COMMENT: A more academic book than many of the others I've been reading but it's one of the few listed in the MPL catalog under the subject of "Iranian Revolution." I also had a complaint on the Wikipedia Iran Revolution site that Moin wasn't an academic, so hopefully Yale University Press will impress the would-be editors of my work there.

It's very dry, one fact after another with zero personal stories or anecdotes, but serves my purposes as a sort of reference work.

The Islamic Revolution

Rex Theater fire in Abadan

"... the government tried to blame it on oppositional terrorists but the great majority of Iranians believed it to be a provocation by the shah via SAVAK. Although evidence points to gross incompetence and possible complicity by local authorities, it is highly unlikely that the shah, at a time of relative quiet which he hoped to preserve, would order an act that could only have the opposite effect." (p.231)

American Attempts to save ...

State Dept wanted to work with revolution,
Brzezinski wanted to support Shah

"The State Department seems to have approved a late, abortive plant for a National Front-Clerical ruling alliance with the shah effectively to bow out." But the shah refused to abdicate. "This was the probable context of Ambassador Sullivan's plan to send an American envoy to meet with Khomeini, which was blocked by N.S. Advisor Brzezinski, who opposed the State Department's approach and actively promoted a hard line, which he thought could keep the shah in power.

"Carter followed no clear policy but did send General R. Huyser to Iran in early January 1979 to report on the state of the armed forces and work to keep them unified and intact. ...Huyser worked to unify the generals behind Bakhtiar, with armed force or a coup as final options, but in the end key generals saw the cause was lost and did not fight. ...Neither the embassy nor most of Washington policy makers considered a coup a viable possibility by 1979, given the overwhelming strength of the revolutionaries. By late 1978 many in the embassy and State Department were convinced the shah could not last and were in contact with secular and religious figures who might enter a governmental coalition with which the American government could deal. American military intervention was not a serious possibility given the united strength of Iran's revolutionary movement ..." (p.235)

Government v. revolutionary council

"Khomeinists dominated what could be called the parallel Islamic government, especially the Council of the Islamic Revolution (CIR), which passed laws and competed with the PRG on many matters, though they worked together to defeat rebellious ethnic minorities and to impose financial order by nationalizing major industries and banks.

"Khomeinists came to dominate most new institutions. The komitehs (from the French comite) were at first autonomous organizations dating back to late 1978, when they coordinated strikes and demonstrations and sprang up everywhere. The PRG and many moderates opposed them." (p.245)

Khomeinists Differences With Hojjatiyeh

"the IRP got support from the traditional middle class and from the often-migrant poor. A conservative religious group in the first period who did not support Khomeini's idea of rule by the jurist, velayat-e faqih, was the hojjatiyeh society, which began before 1978 as an anti-Baha’i group. Khomeinist severely criticized it in 1983, after which the term virtually disappeared. Another term current in the early period was maktabi, adopted by Khomeinists to contrast with the hojjatiyeh and other non-Khomeinists." (p.244)

How Veleyat-e Faqih power in the Guardian Council

"The Guardian Council was a 12-member body with 6 ulama appointed by the faqih and six jurists selected by the majles from a list prepared by the supreme judicial council, most whose members were appointed by the faqih.

Based on its view of the sharia, the supreme judicial council prepared bills on all judicial matters and appointed, dismissed, promoted, and demoted all judges." (p.248)

Hostage Crisis

"ON November 4, 1979, the students following the Line of the Imam (SFLI) attacked and seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran. They took embassy personnel hostage and confiscated documents. The takeover, like an earlier one, would have been brief had it not got the support of Khomeini, who saw in it a chance to get rid of the liberal government, radicalize the revolution, and increase his power. After the SFLI refused Bazargan's order to evacuate the embassy, his government resigned."

"The Khomeinists prolonged the crisis in order to weaken moderates and non-Khomeinist senior ulama, pass the constitution, and consolidate power. Debate on the constitution was undermined by claims that such debate was treacherous. A selective release of U.S. embassy documents defamed the moderates, the only ones who were shown as meeting with Americans, though senior Khomeinists had also done so. The left, including the Mojahedin, joined this attack." (p.248-9)

Hostage Crisis - Settlement

In the accord, reached in Algeria, the United States pledged not to intervene in Iran's affairs, promised cooperation in lawsuits in the United States to extradite Pahlavi family wealth, and released Iran's frozen assets, though the amount transferred was smaller than Iran claimed and some of that was used to pay Iran's debts to U.S. banks. A special court was set up in Den Hague, which peacefully adjudicated U.S. claims against Iran. Though Iran presented the agreement as a victory, it was in fact almost wholly favorable to the United States and did not meet any of Iran's original demands. Also, the hostage affair lost Iran international support that it might have had against Iraqi aggression." (p.252)

Iran-U.S. Relations

  • 1998 January - Khatami calls for a dialog of nations with US. in CNN interview. secretary of state, Madeleine Albright answers with conciliatory words. There follows an exchange of wrestling teams, freer travel to and from the US and an end to the embargo on just two items, carpets and pistachios. ... relations with the US foundered both on hostility from Iran's conservatives and on U.S. insistence on changes in Iranian [policy on Israel, nuclear weapons, and support of terrorism as preconditions for discussions. (Keddie p.272)

    Khomeinist Divisions - The "Three Trends"

    Around the time of the second majles, elected in May 1984, the opposition was more or less vanished. "Though the new Khomeinist elite was partly united in outlook, they became increasingly factional. The factions changed over the years, and some people side with one on some issues and with another on others, but they can be generally subsumed under three trends. Common names for them are

    1. the Islamic Left, comprising Khomeinists who stressed measures for the common people such as land reform and the nationalization of enterprises and were against better relations with the West;
    2. the Conservatives, of Islamic Right, who defended private property and religious orthodoxy and control; and later
    3. the Pragmatists, or Modern Right, who emerged from the Conservatives and stressed getting Iran's ailing economy moving after the shocks caused by revolution, war and the flight of trained personnel and capital.
    Khomeini mostly stayed above the factions and tried to mediate among them." (p.255)

    Women's Status

    "The return of codified sharia brought a revival of polygamy, temporary marriage, child marriage (girls could marry at age nine, though almost none did), and an end to the FPL's equalization of women's rights in divorce and child custody. Though social trends like urbanization and female education meant that the average age of women at marriage actually rose quite steadily, to over 22 today, women still lost substantial rights and status and, until the war required their work, were largely discouraged from working." (p.257)

    Prominent secular lawyer Mehrangiz Kar in 1996:

    The revolution gave women confidence in themselves. With all the sacrifices they made, Iranian women know how much their current and future rulers owe them and that egalitarian rights are part of what is due to them. This demand is no longer that of a group of women, it is a nationwide one. The Islamic government cannot escape it without risking a brutal separation of the state and religion. (p.294)(source: Nouchine Yavari-d'Hellencourt, `Disours islamiques, actrices socials et rapports sociaux de sexe,` in Noucine Yavari-d`Hellendourt, ed. , Les femmes en Iran: Pressions sociales et strategies identitaires (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1998) p.226)

    Women and Inequality of Sharia

    "... Some secular reformers criticize other secularists' con-operation with Islamic reformists. They note that most of the sharia-based inegalitarian laws are still in force, including the need for a father's permission for a first marriage, polygamy, temporary marriage, and de facto free divorce for men. They say the achievements of reform to date should not be exaggerated ..." (p.296)

    Revolution and Sharia

    "In August 1982 the supreme Judical Council declared all un-Islamic modern codes null. In August 1983 an interest-free banking bill was approved, though, as elsewhere in the Muslim world, the system then established did not bring much change. Judges were ordered to use Shi'i codified laws or fatwas from reputable ayatollahs. The majles passed the qesas retribution bill and reintroduced flogging, amputation, and stoning to death as well as capital punishment for sodomy. (In practice while flogging has been common, the other punishments have not.)" (p.257)

    Revolution and Music and Cinema

    "In the first years of the revolution many cinemas were burned or closed, Iranian and Western pop music was forbidden (though not Iranian or Western classical music or Iranian folk music), the sexes were rigidly separated in all public places ..." (p.290)

    Cultural Revolution

    "In the Cultural Revolution of 1980-83, in great part a war against Western culture, many professors were dismissed, students expelled, cultural and scientific figures publicly denounced, and Iranian radio and television broadcast only religious and official programs. The Cultural Revol8tion was one reason many teachers and trained persons left Iran. One part of the program was to united the theolotical schools of Qom with the universities, making secular teachers go for a time to Qom. This experiment had the unexpected effect of opening many students in Qom to Western thought, and today one finds clerics and teachers of theology who know something of contemporary Western thought and philosophy. In general, however, the Cultural Revolution greatly weakened Iran in the science and technology needed for development." (p.290)

    Political Dissatisfaction

  • 2002 Autumn - polls indicate dissatisfaction 94% of those polled say Iran is in urgent need of refom and 71% back a referendum to choose a new form of government. (Keddie p.281, source: Economist, Jan 19, 2003, Survey: Iran "A Secular Democracy in Waiting.")

    A recent study leaded from Iran's Interior Ministry revealed that nearly 90% of the public is satisfied with the present government. Of this total, 28% wants `fundamental` changes in the regime's structure, 66% desires `gradual reforms.` Less than 11% - most probably those on the government dole - is satisfied with the status quo. Other private polls show an even greater degree of unhappiness with the government.

    The combination of these two phenomena - the bankruptcy of Iran's ideology and the failure of its economy - now confronts the Islamic Republic with the worst challenge to it legitimacy yet. The public and the press now openly question the role of Islam - and especially the concept of the velayat-e faqih - in a society where people want greater freedom and the rule of law. [Keddie p.282-3, source: Jahangir Amuzegar, `Iran's Crumbling Revolution,` foreign Affairs, January February 2003]

    Iran-Iraq War

    Iran-Iraq War - Arms supplies - Iran-Contra Affair

    "The United States, which was giving Iraq substantial help in the war, also worried that a weakened Iran might become subordinate to the Soviets. Israel was already helping Iran. In January 1986, Reagan authorized the CIA to purchase 4000 TOW missiles from the Defense Department and sell them to Iran via Israel. Robert McFarlane, ex-national security adviser, was sent to Iran to try to further rapprochement with so-called Iranian moderates (including Speaker Rafsanjani and his supporters), but the mission failed. The secret of United States-Iran ties was kept until early November, when a small Beirut newspaper, ash-Shiraa, revealed the U.S. weapon sales, and the affair was exposed to considerable public indignation in both Iran and the United States." (p.258)

    Iran-Iraq War - U.S. Intervention

    Part of the fallout from Iran Contra was "the United States now decided to take a stronger stance against Iran. Iran's mining of the gulf to damage ships heading for Iraq provided a pretext for U.S. action. The United States agreed in March 1987 to protect Kuwaiti tankers against Iran by reflagging and escorting them. Iran's relations with Saudi Arabia deteriorated after Iran stirred up demonstrations that became violent in the July 1987 pilgrimage. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. all helped Iraq against Iran. the U.S. did not object when Iraq used poison gas against Iranian troops, with devastating immediate and long-term effects and implications for further possible use. And it was subsequently revealed that U.S> companies supplied Iraq not only with arms but also with elements known to be mainly useful for manufacturing chemical and biological warfare. The United States, knowing it was untrue, also said Iran was partly responsible for chemical warfare attacks on Kurds ..."

    Iran-Iraq War - Gets Worse

    In July 1987 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 598 calling for a cease-fire; Iraq accepted, but Iran did not respond. From September 1987 through August 1988 the US destroyed a number of Iranian ships and oil platforms, partly in response to Iranian attacks on US-flagged ships. (p.259)


    [Keddie has dates wrong I'm pretty sure. They disagree with Moin's]

    Khamane'i's Promotion

    1989 June 4 - Khamane'i elected new supreme leader by Assembly of Experts, having been recently "promoted" to Ayatollah. (Moin p.300?, Brumberg, p.146) Promotion to grand ayatollah is "rejected by much of the clerical establishment in Qom." (Keddie, p.262)

    Many Shi'is inside and outside Iran openly or silently rejected Khamene’i as such a `source of emulation.` Khamene’i did not press the question of religious authority but concentrated on building up his real power over the years.

    Efforts to promote Khamene'i to grand ayatollah were rejected by much of the clerical establishment in Qom. The gap between Khamene'i's religious stature and that of rivals like Montazeri and other distinguished grand ayatollahs who rejected Khomeini's version of velayat-e faqih remained. The secret Special Court for Clergy, created in 1987, and vigilante gangs were increasingly used to intimidate clerics who might threaten Khamene'i. The continued contrast between the original religious theory of the office of faqih and its actual occupant have contributed to internal disputes." (p.262)


    "About 60% of the economy is still controlled and planned by the state, and another 10-20% by five large foundations that are also tied to the Leader. They have preferential access top credit, foreign exchange, and lienses and contracts, which makes it difficult for others to compete." (p.273)


    "Although oil no longer accounts for as high a percentage of the national revenue as it did 30 years ago, it still provides a 40-50% direct share of government revenue, ca. 65% if its indirect share is included, and 80% of export earnings." (p.274) (source: The Economist, Jan. 19, 2003, Survey: Iran "Stunted and Distorted"

    Economic Winners and Losers of the Revolution

    "The loyalty of many of the poor was retained in part by subsidies for housing and items of mass consumption and some measures favoring villages, health, and education .... Equally important may have been the cultural identification of many of the urban poor with the clergy and their hostility to the westernized mores of the rich. The overall decline in the economy hurt most of the poor and many in the middle classes, however, and favoring the traditional commercial bourgeoisie hurt nearly all other classes and the economy as a whole. The economy was also hit by huge capital flight, which began before the revolution and continued long after despite governmental efforts to stop or slow it." (p.256)

    Income decline and growth

    "The per capita GDP is still substantially below its pre-revolution level despite recent rises. According to World Bank figures, which take 1974 as 100, per capita GDP went from a high of 115 in 1976 to a low of 60 in 1988, the year war with Iraq ended. It has since recovered, reaching almost 90 today, with significant real growth in the past three years." .... (p.274) (source: The Economist, Jan. 19, 2003, Survey: Iran "Stunted and Distorted"

    Economic Problems

    "Iran still has no export markets for industrial products. It remains more profitable and less risky to speculate in currency or real estate. Hence, despite recovery from war damage, the economy remains overwhelmingly dependent on government controlled oil income. The per capita GDP is still substantially below its pre-revolution level despite recent rises. .... (p.274)

    1993. "As oil prices slumped foreign debt rose from ca. $9 billion in 1991 to $34 billion in 1993, inflation was over 30% in one year reaching 49%, and the value of the rial fell disastrously. Declining living standards brought workers' riots in several large cities in 1992, which were brutally repressed, but more occurred in 1994 and 1995." (p.267)

    1995. "A cabinet committee drew up privatization bylaws in January 1995, but the program was delayed and partial. Massive imports and the rise of short-term foreign debt to about $20 billion reached unprecedented levels. [bad writing!] The situation worsened when President Clinton imposed an economic embargo in May 1995."

    The reforms had some results, including shifting from inward looking development based on agriculture to industrial growth based on private business. The agricultural sector improved in performance after the introduction of the market liberalization policies. However after liberalization money flowed more into real estate and construction of luxury apartments in Tehran than into productive investment. There was also a buildup of large foreign debts. ... (p.265)

    "Iran's economy still suffered from low investment in industry, high unemployment, and overwhelming dependence on oil Income, and opening foreign ties could be of some help, though it could not solve Iran's structural and legal obstacles to development." (p.271)

    "While its impressive health and education record give Iran a respectable place in the UN's human development index, the rise in unemployment, educated youth, and continued population growth as young people have babies have created an explosive economic situation. Strict limits on foreign investment, a weak legal framework, the majority economic role of corrupt governmental institutions and foundations, and the dearth of productive investment by the bazaar bourgeoisie create obstacles to economic reform and development. Iran remains overwhelmingly dependent on fluctuating oil income." (p.274)


    "Contributing to political discontent is economic unrest. The continued power of those who profit from the status quo blocks many, though not all, attempts at economic reform. Unemployment, officially ca. 14%, is often estimated at closer to 30%, and especially hits the young, and inflation continues. Young people in particular show signs of depression and alienation, with cheap drugs from Afghanistan taking an increasing toll." (p.279)

    Economic Restrictions against foreign investment

    "Constitutional restrictions still make it difficult for foreigners to invest in Iranian enterprises, although some changes in these rules are under way. The constitution forbids foreigners to own concessions, operate oil products, or enter production-sharing agreements. Some ways around these restrictions have been found and an improved foreign investment law was passed in 2002. Almost all the big international oil companies have a presence in Iran but they object to obstacles stemming from Iran's constitution." (p.273)

    Economic Sanctions by U.S.

  • 1995 April - total U.S. embargo on dealings with Iran imposed by Clinton after "pressure from Congress and the pro-Israeli lobby. Trade with the U.S., which had been growing following the end of the Iran-Iraq war ends abruptly. (Keddie p.265)

    "The U.S. Congress passed the Iran-Libya Sanctions act in 1996, which threatened even non-U.S. countries making large investments in energy. The act was denounced by the European Union as null and void, but it still blocked some needed investment ..." (p.265)

    Why no Economic Reform?

    "Khatami backed a five-year plan for 2000-2005, much of which is devoted to promoting the rule of law, non-oil exports, privatization, and deregulation. But relatively little has come of it, as most of these reforms would weaken the ruling clerics or allied bazaaris." (p.273)

    Social Successes

    Reconstruction Jihad

    "The social organization of the economy changed significantly after the revolution, and a few areas showed improvement. One resulted from a new emphasis on improving rural conditions. The Reconstruction Jihad (jehad-e sazandegi) began as a movement of volunteers to help with the 1979 harvest but soon took on a broader, more official role and carried out, with the help of local populations, programs that included road building, piped water, electrification, clinics, schools, and irrigation canals. The lack of radical land reform meant that few lands were distributed to the peasants, but in other ways rural life generally improved." (p.286)


    "Two other areas in which the Islamic Republic has had an impressive record education and public health. Achievements have been notable in rural and impoverished areas and have been especially felt by women and children. In the field of education, schools received substantial governmental funding, including school construction in villages and poor neighborhoods. The accessibility of school made it easier for girls to attend, as did the enforcement of single-sex primary and secondary schools (which had been dominant even before) and religious leaders' endorsement of girls' education. Though education before university level remains mostly rote memorization and includes some religious emphasis, most of the curriculum remains secular. Under the new regime not only did literacy among young males and females approach universality, but also the percentage of females among university admissions continually rose, until they were about 66% by 2003. Possible explanation for girls' greater achievement are that girls have fewer permitted activities away from home and do more homework, and that low teacher salaries mean that women who teach in girl's schools are more qualified and motivated than the men who teach in boys' schools as women have less access to higher-paying jobs." (p.286)

    On the other hand, because of the shit economy, at State universities ... "the level of instruction is often low, as teachers must have several jobs to make ends meet, and there is litte time for research." (p.291)

    Islamic Free University

    "In 1982, with Rafsanjani's encouragement, the private Islamic Free University was established. It tried to reconcile religious and scientific education and also spread higher education into many towns and cities; its branches covered many more areas than did the few state universities. This theoretically Islamic university, which paid better salaries than the state universities, became less ideological than the state universities and also more appealing to many students, especially young women whose families might not want them to travel far from their homes." (p.291)

    COMMENT: Do they have more students than the state university? Why private when the mullahs control the government? Why less ideological than state universities?

    Public Health

    "At the time of the revolution, health care was a major problem and particularly affected women and children. Poverty, lack of services and early and frequent childbearing contributed to high maternal and infant mortality rates. ... From 1985 to 1997 maternal morality rages dropped from 140 deaths per 100,000 live births to 37. (source: Jane Howard. Inside Iran: Women's Lives, Mage publishers, 2002, p.89)
    Infant morality rates were also slashed." (p.287)

    Family Planning

    "Regarding family planning the government did an amazing U-turn at the end of the 1980s. Although birth control was never outlawed, the emphasis of the Islamic Republic from 1979 to 1988 was on population growth. As mortality rates declined, however, population skyrocketed, with no employment in sight for many. There was an abrupt turnaround in policies in 1988-89 so that, by learning from other countries and adding the endorsement of most leading Muslim clergy, Iran developed one of the world's most effective programs. With the help of many involved in pre-revolutionary family planning programs, the new program took off once Khomeini authorized it. Free family planning was reintroduced, and shortly thereafter sterilization was again permitted. Benefits for children were cut off after the first three. ... (p.287-8)

    Human Rights

    State Killings

    "Before 1997 Iran also supported some murders of Iranian oppositionists abroad. Besides the killing that resulted from the Rushdie decree, several prominent opponents of the government were killed abroad, among them the Kurdish leader Abdol Rahman Zasemlu in 1989 and Shapour Bakhtiar in 1991. In 1992 four Iranian Kurdish oppositionists were killed at Myknos Restaurant in Berlin. German investigations traced the killings to high Iranian officials. One man was indicted and accused of ordering the killing on behalf of a group that included Khamene'i and Rafsanjani. Iran denounced the trial, but in April 1997 a German court said Khamene'i, Rafsanjani, and other officials were responsible. Germany recalled its ambassador, as did the other EU countries ... There is however, disagreement about how much the leaders of Iran were involved in all of the above incidents, and even more about how much if at all Iran has been involved in killings abroad since the early 1990s. [Note: "Discussing Iran's involvement in terrorism on the Gulf 2000 website, specialists expressed every view from no proven involvement to likely extensive involvement."]
    "A recent Argentine report ties Iran via Hizbollah to the March 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, in which 29 people were killed, and to the July 1994 bombing of the city's Jewish community center, in which 85 were killed. (p.268)

    Political Repression

    CHECK THIS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 2002 November 6 - Death Sentence Hashem Aghajari sentenced to death for speech in June rejecting the doctrine that all Shi'i should follow a leading cleric and saying that imitation was for monkeys. (Keddie p.280; )
  • 2002 Autumn - Repression of pollsters Authorized public opinion researchers Abbas Abdi, Hossein-Ali Ghazian, and Behrooz Geranpayeh are arrested and sentenced to several years in prison for taking and publishing the results of a poll finding that 74% of respondents favor negotiating with the United States and 64% favor opening relations with the United States. (Keddie p.281,
  • 2002 Autumn - polls indicate dissatisfaction 94% of those polled say Iran is in urgent need of reform and 71% back a referendum to choose a new form of government. (Keddie p.281, source: Economist, Jan 19, 2003, Survey: Iran "A Secular Democracy in Waiting.")
  • 1997 November - Grand Ayatollah Montazeri put under house arrest after saying that Supreme Leader Khamene'i was not competent to issue religious rulings. (Keddie p.283)
  • 2003 November - Grand Ayatollah Montazeri freed from house arrest after his health deteriorates and calls grow for his release. "More than 100 Iranian legislators" call on President Khatami "to lift restrictions on Montazeri." Speculation is that the government did not want to risk popular reaction to his dying while in custody. (Keddie p.283)
  • 2003 February - Iranian government no longer allows stoning as punishment. (Keddie p.283)