Iran Essay, Research Paper
Iran is a country located in the Middle East. The main
source of income for the country is oil, the one object that had
greatly influenced its history. Iran’s present government is run
as an Islamic Republic. A president, cabinet, judicial branch,
and Majilesor or legislative branch, makes up the governmental
positions. A revolution that overthrew the monarch, which was
set in 1930, lasted over 15 years. Crane Brinton’s book, An
Anatomy of a Revolution, explains set of four steps a country
experiences when a revolution occurs. Symptoms, rising fever,
crisis, and convalescence are the steps that occur. The Iranian
Revolution followed the four steps in Crane Brinton’s theory,
symptoms, rising fever, crisis, and convalescence occurred.
Numerous symptoms led to the crumbling downfall of Reza Shah
Pahlavi, ruler of Iran until 1978. One of these symptoms is
rising expectations which can be seen during the 1960’s and 70’s.
The rich Shah cleared the way for the land reform law, enacted in
1962. The land minority had to give up its land to the
government, and among those stripped of land, were the Shi’ah
Muslims. Iran’s power structure was radically changed in a
program termed the “White Revolution”. On January 26, 1963, the
White Revolution was endorsed by the nation. By 1971, when land
distribution ended, about 2,500,000 families of the farm
population benefited from the reforms. From 1960-72 the
percentage of owner occupied farmland in Iran rose from 26 to 78
percent. Per capita income rose from $176 in 1960 to $2,500 in
1978. From 1970-77 the gross national product was reported to
increase to an annual rate of 7.8% (”Iran” 896). As a result of
this thriving economy, the income gap rapidly widened. Exclusive
homes, extravagant restaurants, and night clubs and streets
loaded with expensive automobiles served as daily reminders of a
growing income spread. This created a perfect environment for
many conflicts to arise between the classes.
Iran’s elite class consisted of wealthy land owners,
intelligencia, military leaders, politicians, and diplomats. The
Elite continued to support the monarchy and the Shah. The
peasants were victim of unfulfilled political expectations,
surveillance by the secret police, and the severe social and
economic problems that resulted from modernization. The middle
class favored socialism over capitalism, because capitalism in
their view supported the elite, and does not benefit the lower
classes. The middle class was the most changeable element in the
group, because they enjoyed some of the privileges of the elite,
which they would like to protect. At the same time, they
believed that they had been cheated by the elite out of their
share of the industrialization wealth (Orwin 43).
About this time, the middle class, which included students,
technocrats, and modernist professionals, became discontent with
the economy. The key event should have further stabilized the
royal dictatorship, but the increase in oil prices and oil income
beginning in 1974 caused extreme inflation. This was due to the
investment strategy followed by the Shah, which led to a
spectacular 42% growth rate in 1974. (Cottam 14). And because of
the Shah’s support structure which enabled the new rich to
benefit from inflation, the government effort to deal with
inflation was aimless. Poor Iranians and Iranians with a fixed
income suffered major losses in real income. Better standards of
living were no longer visible. Thus, the majority of the Iranian
people developed a revolutionary predisposition.
As the middle class became discontent in Iran throughout the
1970’s, the desertion of intellectuals could be found in great
excess. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini represented much of the
discontent of the religious sector of Iran. For speaking out
against the Shah’s autocratic rule, Khomeini was exiled to Turkey
in 1963. In 1965, Khomeini moved to Iraq where he became the
central spokesperson for expatriate opposition to the Shah. On
October 6, 1978, Khomeini was expelled from Iraq and moved to
Paris, where he was accessible to a larger body of opposition
forces. He was also accessible to the Western Press. Khomeini
preached that he would displace the Shah and expel the
foreigners. He also said he would enforce religious and
traditional values, and redirect Iran’s wealth away from large
industrialization schemes and toward reforms needed by the common
people. Throughout the 1970’s, Khomeini gained tremendous
popularity with the masses, and he became the symbol of the
opposition towards the Shah.
As Khomeini gained popularity, many religious groups grew in
numbers and in status. In the early 1950’s, the technocrats had
showed core support for Mohammad Mossedeq and Iran’s national
movement. They saw Mossadeq’s overthrow as the removal of the
symbolic leader of the Iranian nation by an American directed
coup d’etat. Many of his followers formed groups in opposition
to the Shah. Leaders of the Freedom Front, one of the groups
that grew out of the Mossadeq movement, were a group composed of
intellectuals who tended to be centrist in philosophy, more
religious, anti-Marxist, and militant (Cottam 13). They
recognized Khomeini’s large and potentially enormous following,
and associated themselves with him
The rise of religious opposition groups and Khomeini proved
to be a great test for the Shah. As time progressed the weakness
of the Shah became apparent. Waves of opposition began building
after 1975, due to the formation of the Rastakhiz , the legal
political party in Iran, and the banning of opposition political
parties. It also became clear that the increased oil revenues
following oil price increases, were spent on arms and
industrialization. In mid-1977 the religious leaders began
demonstrating against the modernization brought on by the Shah.
In November, several people were killed when police broke up
demonstrations. As time went on, protests became more radical.
To try and quiet dissent, the Shah became more of a dictator. As
a result, those who had been moderate in demands for reform
became more radical. In the fall of 1978, strikes against the
oil industry, the post office, government factories, and banks
demolished the economy. This pattern continued throughout most
of 1978 (Orwin 45). As these protests became more frequent there
were more and more people killed. This reflects the Shah’s loss
of power over his government and his people.
In late 1978, the Shah came to the conclusion that he would
and could not rule a country in which he had to stand in the
flowing blood of his people. In short, he understood that he
could not militarily occupy his own country. The Shah’s early
mistakes had been devastating as the years went on. His forceful
actions did not work and it’s no wonder that his grip weakened
and his mid wavered.
These events all led to the march against the government of
the Shah, in which eight million Iranians protested on December
10, 1978 (Bill 25). One-fifth of the Iranian government was
willing to join in a massive and nonviolent manifestation of
opposition even though most of them knew that thousands of their
countrymen had been shot in previous demonstrations. The banners
and slogans made clear the religious and political essence of the
revolutionary movement. This massive demonstration was the
turning point from symptoms to rising fever. It clearly
reflected the weakness of the Shah, and the inevitability of
revolution in Iran.
After a year of public demonstrations against him, the Shah
of Iran left Tehran on January 16, 1979, for an “extended
vacation” (Orwin 46). He left the country in the hands of a
regency council and Prime Minister Shahpur Bakhtiar, who was a
former member of the National Front.
The opposition leader, Khomeini, was to become the new
ruler, and he returned to Iran on February 1, 1979. Khomeini
occupied preeminent positions among Iran’s most respected
religious scholars, the Mujahedin-e Khalq.. Although Khomeini
wanted a stable government that could cope with the problems of
reconstruction, he wanted to eradicate the evil roots of the old
system, which he describes as satanic. He denounced the
materialism of the recent past and called for a climate in which
social justice would prevail.
On April 1, 1979, after a landslide victory in a national
referendum, Khomeini declared an Islamic republic. This republic
consisted of a new constitution reflecting Khomeini’s ideals of
Islamic government. He was named Iran’s political and religious
leader for life. Khomeini tapped the deep-seated conservatism of
the Muslim fundamentalists by making moderate changes in the law.
Women were required to wear the veil, Western music and alcohol
were banned, and the punishments described by Islamic law were
reinstated. Political vengeance was taken, executing hundreds of
people who had worked with the Shah’s regime (”Iran” 897).
The large moderate center composed of the professional and
bourgeois middle class had proved to be ineffective in their
leadership abilities. Moderate Bakhtiar, the last prime minister
under Pahlavi rule, was very unpopular, and he was unable to
compromise with his former National Front colleagues or with
Khomeini. He was then forced to flee to France.
On April 1, 1979, his replacement, Mehdi Bazergan was
appointed by Khomeini (Cottam 15). This 73-year-old engineer was
a leader of the Freedom Front, and president of the committee of
human rights. The middle and upper middle classes looked to
Bazergan to provide stability so the economy would recover and
the government services could be restored. Bazergan appointed a
cabinet, mainly, from the ranks of the Freedom Front, the
National Front, and the religious bureaucracy. Bazergan’s
position was weak, however, and he steadily lost ground to the
due to the attacks from the far right and left. As their base of
support narrowed, their dependence on Khomeini intensified.
During this time, Iran’s relation with the US went downhill.
It reached a stage of outright confrontation, when, on November
4, 1979, 500 extremist students seized the US embassy in Tehran.
They took hostage 66 citizens at the embassy and the foreign
ministry (”The Iranian Revolution” 835). The takeover seemingly
sanctioned by Khomeini, continued for the next 444 days, and
American-Iranian relations sunk to an all-time low. This led to
trade conflicts with the United States and its allies, causing
During the rising fever stage there is a presence of a dual
government. During Bazergan’s rule, it became difficult to
administer justice with a court system that had been particularly
lenient to the royal will. To deal with these problems on a
temporary basis. Khomeini set up a system of revolutionary
committees presided over by a revolutionary council. Religious
leaders clearly predominated in the revolutionary council-
committee-courts system, which came to be almost a parallel
In November, 1979, Bazergan resigned, and in his place
Khomeini appointed Abol Hassan Bani Sadr. Bani Sadr was an
idealist, a bookworm, and most personally ambitious of all the
liberal revolutionaries. Like the other moderates, he was a
representative of the professional middle class, who had little
skill or patience to build political organizations. Bani Sadr’s
efforts were fruitless in dealing with the hostage releases.
After being elected Iran’s first president in January 1980, he
and his followers, out of self defense and desperation, formed an
alliance with the Mujahedin-e Khalq (”Iran” 897). He also
attempted to work hard to establish close relations with the
military leaders. He ineffectively tried to appeal to the
Iranian people, who had little in common with a Paris trained
intellectual. One can see that during this stage of rising
fever, moderate control is losing power. The people of Iran
became upset with the little change that was taking place, and
wanted more extreme measures taken.
In mid-1981, leaders of the Islamic Republican Party (IRP)
convinced Khomeini that Bani Sadr was plotting against them, and
suggested evidence indicating that he was a threat to the
revolution. This led to his dismissal on June 20, of position of
commander-in-chief of the armed forces. His presidency lasted 17
months. He was arrested and dismissed as president on June 22.
Forced into hiding, he fled Iran on July 29, 1981, and was
granted political asylum in Paris. On July 24, extremist
Muhammad Ali Rajai with substantial IRP backing, won the
electoral victory over the moderates. Thus, the period of rising
fever ended, and the period of crisis began.
In 1981, Khomeini took complete control over Iran and took
many extremist measures. He made sure the government completely
controlled the media, as well as newspapers, television
broadcasts, and radio programs. He had strict control of
everything, including the treasury and flow of money to religious
leaders. Those who disagreed with him faced severe economic
retribution. The crisis had begun and radicals had taken over.
Under Khomeini’s rule (1981-1989) came a great period of
reign of terror. For example, after a speech the Ayatollah made,
right wing revolutionary guards fired into a rally of
approximately one hundred thousand Muslim leftists outside the
U.S. Embassy in Teheran. Five people were killed and more than
300 were wounded. Supporters held food riots in Tunisia, and
others held six car bombings in Kuwait. The Islamic Jihad held
suicide bombings that killed two hundred-forty one U.S.
Servicemen, and fifty-eight French troops in Beirut. These acts
were not looked at as being bad acts of terrorism, but rather as
acts of patriotic heroes. The reign of terror, the next step in
the crisis, brought extremists into complete control.
The people of Iran in the early 1980’s, had just about
enough of all these laws and regulations, and were outraged at
their standard of living. People were finally starting to revolt
against the way that they have been treated. This period
according to Crane Brinton, is known as the civil war. Civil war
started in Iran with the conflict with the Kurds. These people
were pushed out of their homes, religious temples, and places of
business, because of the overpowering radicals. An entire
religious group was almost completely annihilated because of the
savage behavior of the radicals. It was later found that the
Kurdish problem was merely a pretext on Iran’s part to engage in
meetings and collaborations with two influential middle eastern
states, Turkey and Syria. People suffered so that government
could gain allies. The poor treatment of the Kurds led to
confusion in the nation.
Because of all of the chaos in the country, due to different
public demonstrations and mass rioting, government groups were
forming. The IRP, one of these groups, was in support of a
nationalistic movement. Opposed to it was the Hojatieh, and a
third party, which represented the Mullahs and the high
ayatollahs. This third group thought Khomeini was reckless, so
there was great hostility towards the IRP. These groups formed
different factions among the people of Iran, and led to a divided
In the early 1980’s, patriotic fever was bordering on
hysteria, and the nationalism was incredible. This patriotic
fever fits in to the next part of the revolution, the republic of
virtue. Iran’s people had a great sense of nationalism inside of
them. People held many parades and marches to express their
nationalism. During this time, women were forced to wear veils
in public, modern divorce laws were repealed, and harsh courts
were set up, which set strict laws and harsh penalties.
The colliding views of the Iranian groups, as well as the
republic of virtue, made it hard for Iran to deal with other
countries. During this period, Iran’s relationship with Iraq
became troubled. The war began with a fight for land and oil and
as a result of the personalities of the two leaders. Both
Hussein, the leader of Iraq, and Khomeini are headstrong. In
addition, they disliked each other (Orwin 42).
All of the circumstances that resulted from the war may have
contributed in some measure to the outbreak and continuation of
the conflict between Iran and Iraq (Iran-Iraq War 77-78). The
situation worsened in September of 1980 when Iraq launched an
attack on Iran to take control of the waterway that divided the
two countries (”Iranian Revolution” p. 835).
During the war, industry suffered. Chemical, steel, and
iron plants in the war zone were heavily shelled. There have
been shortages in electricity, fuel, and spare parts. The
available pool of workers has diminished as thousands of men
marched off to the front lines to fight. This caused great
economic problems throughout the mid-1980’s. Iraq attempted to
devastate oil economy even further. Tankers and ships 50 miles
off the oil terminal were struck. Iran would be deprived of a
major source of income (Orwin 41).
By 1984 it was reported that there were one million refuges
in the Iranian province of Khuzestan. Some 300,000 Iranian
soldiers and 250,000 Iraqi troops had been killed, or wounded.
Among the injured were Iranian soldiers who sustained burns,
blisters, and lung damage from Iraqi chemical weapons (Orwin 47).
The war lasted about 8 years and Iran suffered casualties, not
only in people, but in economy and leadership as well.
Because of the war with Iraq, and the purges going on in
Iran, the economy was severely depressed. Besides the enormous
human cost, economic losses from the war exceed $200 billion.
Agricultural growth has declined as a result of war, also (Orwin
During the crisis and during the war with Iraq, industry is
plagued by poor labor management, a lack of competent technical
and managerial personnel, and shortages of raw material and spare
parts. Agricultural suffers from shortage of capital, raw
materials, and equipment, and as a result, food production has
declined. Also, out of an estimated work force of 12 million,
unemployment is up to 3-4 million (Orwin 16). Iran’s economy was
In connection with the devastating economy with the war,
there was economic suffering through purges, the next step in
crisis. Extensive purges were carried out in the army, in the
school and university systems, and in some of the departments of
government although the Ministries of Justice and Commerce proved
significantly more resistant because of the entrenched power of
conservative elements there). Additionally, new institutions
were created, like the Revolutionary Guards – including the
creation of a ministry for them – and the counsel of Guardians,
along with a string of other judicial bodies (Akhavi 53).
Purges eliminated many qualified personnel, and lowered the
morale of the Iranian people.
Finally, after about 9 years of crisis and fighting among
different groups, there was a breakthrough in the revolution,
with the return of conservatives. The Ayatollah Khomeini died in
May of 1989, and a new leader by the name of Ali Hashemi
Rafsanjani was elected and came to power two months later. This
would start the convalescence stage of Crane Brinton’s
revolution. Rafsanjani has not actually called for a reversal of
strict Islamic injunctions, but in oblique ways he is signaling
that he favors a more relaxed approach, especially in the
enforcement of the hijab (Ramazani 7).
Under Rafsanjani, the return of the church has been allowed
to occur, which is another step in the theory of a revolution.
On August 2, 1991, Iran resumed diplomatic relations with Iraq
and had also resolved the issue over the pilgrimage of Iranian
Muslims to Mecca, which has been suspended for three years.
Inside Iran, the most significant development in the last few
months took place in October, when several Iranian leaders teamed
up in a maneuver to marginalize opponents (Igram A-10).
Twelve years after Khomeini came to power, Iran’s Islamic
revolution has finally softened around the edges. The signs of
fitful change are everywhere. On Tehran’s streets women still
observe hijab (the veil), the Islamic injunction that women keep
themselves covered except for their faces and hands. But some
have exchanged their shapeless black chedors for slightly fitted
raincoats in colors like green and purple. Women’s fingernails
are starting to sport glosses, too (Ramazani 32). Obviously,
the republic of virtue has been eliminated, which is the next
part in the convalescence.
After Khomeini’s death, many radical groups were weakened.
This led to the elimination of radicals. President Rafsanjani,
with the support of Khomeini, swiftly eliminated four of his most
hard-line adversaries from the political scene by challenging
their right to re-election. With Rafsanjani in control, Iranians
took a new look at crisis. His pragmatic policies were firmly
established, replacing militancy and isolation. Rafsanjani
campaigned to decrease the influence of important opponents,
therefore improving ties with the western world. As well as
attracting foreign trade. The radicals were finally eliminated,
and Iran could return to the way it was.
Economic problems after a revolution are good. Iran had
been in debt from the time the revolution started, and an
economic recovery was needed. There was an increase in oil
revenue in 1990, since ties with non-oil bearing countries had
been replaced. There was also and increase in oil price, as well
as other raw materials. Iran did have ten billion dollars froze
in American banks, which still partly remain there today. The
country’s economic problems were starting to be resolved.
The return of status quo, is the final step in the
convalescence stage. Iran has returned to the status quo. They
have many ties, including ties with North Korea, Libya, Syria,
and Europe. Trade and friendliness has increased with Russia, as
well. Russia currently want to build nuclear reactors in Iran.
Commerce opened with Japan, Pakistan, Turkey, and even some
allies of Iraq. Rafsanjani wants to end Iran’s pariah status in
the world community and gain desperately needed aid. He thinks
they are in a period of reconstruction (Desmond 32).
The Iranian Revolution is over, and the country is back on
its feet. Rafasanjani was an incredible help to the economy and
the government, and remains in power today. Iran has a great
number of allies, which improves its ties with the west. Iran’s
oil industry is booming, and the country’s economy remains
stable. Americans are again allowed to be seen on the streets of
Tehran, and the foreign debt has reduced. The U.S. still has
their problems with Iran (the money in the banks), but these
problems are still in the process of being resolved. Iran is
progressing steadily, and has recovered from the revolution. The
Iranian Revolution follows Crane Brinton’s theory on a revolution
because the revolution included symptoms, rising fever, crisis,
and convalescence, just as the theory states.
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Bill, James A. “The Shah, The Ayatollah, and the U.S.” The
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Cottam, Richard W. “Revolutionary Iran.” Current History. Jan.
1980: 12-16, 35.
Ibram, Youssef. “Standoff in the Gulf: Testing the Waters in
Tehran.” The New York Times.
“Iran.” The New Encyclopedia Britanica. Vol. 21 1992: 860-
Orwin, George. Iran Iraq: Nations at War. New York: Shirmer
Ramazani, R.K. “Iran’s Islamic Revolution and the Persian Gulf.”
Current History. Jan. 1985: 5-8, 32.
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