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The Shi'ite World - Iran Since The 1979 Re-Emergence Of Safawism & Background.

The promoters of Safawism, a modern version of the pan-Islamist ideology for the Ja'fari branch of Shi'ism, re-emerged in Iran as it took power through a revolution against the Pahlavi monarchy in early 1979. The background to this goes back to 1905, when protests broke out over the collection of Persia's tariffs to pay back a Russian loan for Muzaffar ed-Din Shah's royal tour.

Turmoil in 1905-11 featured elections to the first parliament named majles, with crises and Bakhtiari tribal forces capturing Tehran in 1909 for a constitutional movement. It also featured a female satirist writer Bibi Khatoon Astarabadi as one of the pioneers in a women's movement. That was under a Qajar monarchy. The post of prime minister (PM) gradually gained importance.

In the 1920s Reza Khan, an officer in Persia's Cossack Brigade, named himself shah of Persia after his coup d'etat against the government of the Qajar Dynasty. His drive to modernise the country led to public education, a rail-road system and improved health-care.

Ahmad Shah, the Qajar dynasty's last ruler, was deposed; Parliament voted in Reza Khan Pahlavi as Persia's new shah. He was crowned, marking the start of the Pahlavi Dynasty. The shah's eldest son, Muhammad Reza, became crown prince. In 1935 Persia was re-named Iran. But later Reza Khan's dictatorial rule caused dissent.

Though Reza Khan declared Iran neutral during World War-II, Iran's British-controlled oil industry were mostly maintained by German professionals. But against British demands, he refused to expel all Germans. By September 1941, after British and Soviet occupation of western Iran, Reza Shah was forced out of power. His son, Muhammad-Reza Pahlavi succeeded him on the throne. An attempt on his life blamed on the pro-Soviet Tudeh [communist] Party resulted in an expansion of his powers.

Nationalist PM Muhammad Mussadeq in the early 1950s tried but failed to nationalise the British-owned oil industry. The shah opposed Mussadeq and removed him from power. But he later regained power and the shah had to move to Iraq.

The shah returned to Iran in 1953 as US MI6/CIA-backed Gen Fazlollah Zahedi toppled Mussadeq in an August coup.

By 1957, the Federation of American Scientists had said US and Israeli intelligence officers had worked with Tehran to set up SAVAK, an intelligence agency blamed for torture and execution of thousands of prisoners and violent suppression of dissent.

The shah in 1963 staged a "White Revolution" - a bold socio-economic Westernisation drive met with strong popular opposition. Nationalist Ayatullah Khomeini was arrested in one of many crack-downs on the shah's foes. By the late 1960s the shah had relied on SAVAK to quell dissent.

In reforms alienating his people, the shah replaced the Islamic calendar with an imperial one, started with the founding of the Persian Empire. Many of the shah's multiplied critics saw that as anti-Islamic. Iranians in 1976 resort to rioting, mass rallies and strikes to protest the shah's authoritarian rule.

In response, Tehran enforced martial law. But the shah in early 1977 fled Iran amid intensifying unrest. Khomeini on Feb. 1 returned from France, where he was exiled for his opposition to the shah. He encouraged the brewing revolution.

Under Khomeini's guidance, Iran declared itself a Shi'ite theocracy and a referendum was held to name it the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Islamic students on Nov. 4 stormed the US Embassy in Tehran, taking hostage 52 US employees and demanded the shah's return from medical treatment in the US to face trial in Iran. The hostage issue ignites a crisis between the US and Iran.

Iran and the US in April 1980 cut diplomatic ties over the hostage crisis. The US Embassy became a training ground for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The Shah died in exile in Egypt. Iraq invaded Iran in September, after years of disputes over control of the Shatt al-Arab water-way. When Iraqi President Saddam Hussein announced that, an eight-year war broke out. After 1981 negotiations mediated by Algeria, the US hostages were freed from 444 days of captivity.

Yet the US and Israel secretly began selling arms to Iran in return for the release of 7 US hostages being held by Iran-guided Hizbullah in Lebanon, prompting the Iran-Contra scandal.

The US Navy's Vincennes war-ship shots down an Iranian civilian plane, killing all 290 passengers and the crew. Later Washington apologised and agreed to financial compensation for the victims' families, saying the civilian plane was mistaken for an attacking war-jet. Iran in August 1988 accepted UNSC Resolution 598 leading to a cease-fire in the Iran-Iraq War.

The February 1989 Indian author Salman Rushdie's book "The Satanic Verses" caused uproar among fundamentalist Muslims, and Khomeini issued an edict on the writer, saying his book was "blasphemous against Islam". The imam urged all "zealous Muslims" to kill Rushdie, placing a $3m bounty on his head.

Khomeini died in June 1989. The Assembly of Experts (AoE) chose out-going president Ali Khamenei to succeed Khomeini as Supreme Leader. Leading power-broker and Speaker 'Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani became president, keeping his post as head of the Council of Revolution's Guardians. He was re-elected president in 1993. The US placed oil and trade sanctions on Iran, accusing it of sponsoring terrorism, committing human rights abuses and seeking to sabotage the Arab-Israeli peace process.

Mid-level cleric Muhammad Khatami in 1997 was elected as president in a land-slide victory amid his pledges of political and social reforms as well as economic re-vitalisation. He was re-elected to this post in 2001. Khatami's pro-reform candidates and allies won 189 of the 290 seats in parliament.

That set the stage for moderates to control the legislature for the first time since the 1979 revolution. Conservatives won 54 seats, independents 42 and another five seats were reserved for religious minorities - mainly Armenian Christians and Jews. In his January 2002 State of the Union speech, US President George W. Bush made Iran part of an "axis of evil", saying the country was actively pursuing WMDs. The speech was met with anger in Iran.

The UN's IAEA in 2003 said Iran admitted to plutonium production, but the agency said there is no proof Iran was making nuclear weapons. Iran agreed to more rigorous UN inspections of nuclear facilities. Conservatives in 20004 reclaimed control of Iran's parliament after controversial elections boycotted by reformists. Iran's government said it will consider re-starting its nuclear plan.

Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the hardline Islamic mayor of Tehran, who campaigned as a champion of the poor and pledged to return to the values of the revolution of 1979, defeated Iran's elder statesmen Rafsanjani in presidential elections.

President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad in 2006 sent a letter to President Bush calling for ways to ease tensions over Iran's nuclear programme. But he continued to defy UN dead-lines to halt uranium enrichment activities. Ahmadi-Nejad insisted the nuclear plan was only for civilian energy purposes. He visited the US, and accused Israel of occupation and racism during a speech to the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

The US announced additional economic sanctions against Iran targetted to impact the country's military and halt Tehran's nuclear programme. A US National Intelligence Estimate reported finds that Iran stopped developing nuclear weapons in 2003, but continued to enrich uranium and could still develop atomic bombs in the future.

The IAEA in 2008 released a report saying Iran's suspected research into the development of nuclear weapons remained "a matter of serious concern". EU nations agreed to impose new sanctions against Iran.

Ahmadi-Nejad in June 2009 was declared the land-slide victor in presidential elections, sparking protests by supporters of moderate candidate Mir-Hussein Mousavi, who un-successfully appealed the results to Iran's Guardians Council.

Iranian moves to Libya in 2017/18 were resisted by nationalists and the main tribes, with Gen Khalifa Haftar in the east resuming efforts to reach the west. An Israeli air-strike had killed an IRGC officer in a US-backed warning of an offensive to reverse Safawi expansions beyond the theocracy's borders.

More US sanctions had just inflicted further damage to Iran's weakened economy. The US and Israel were barring Iran from all of North Africa.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Redrawing the Islamic Map
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Aug 12, 2018
Previous Article:Haftar's Profile.

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