Country Listing

Iran Table of Contents


Consolidation of the Revolution

As the government eliminated the political opposition and successfully prosecuted the war with Iraq, it also took further steps to consolidate and to institutionalize the achievements of the Revolution. The government took several measures to regularize the status of revolutionary organizations. It reorganized the Pasdaran and the Crusade for Reconstruction as ministries (the former in November 1982 and the latter in November 1983), a move designed to bring these bodies under the aegis of the cabinet, and placed the revolutionary committees under the supervision of the minister of interior. The government also incorporated the revolutionary courts into the regular court system and in 1984 reorganized the security organization led by Mohammadi Rayshahri, concurrently the head of the Army Military Revolutionary Tribunal, as the Ministry of Information and Security. These measures met with only limited success in reducing the considerable autonomy, including budgetary independence, enjoyed by the revolutionary organizations.

An Assembly of Experts (not to be confused with the constituent assembly that went by the same name) was elected in December 1982 and convened in the following year to determine the successor to Khomeini. Khomeini's own choice was known to be Montazeri. The assembly, an eighty-three-member body that is required to convene once a year, apparently could reach no agreement on a successor during either its 1983 or its 1984 session, however. In 1985 the Assembly of Experts agreed, reportedly on a split vote, to name Montazeri as Khomeini's "deputy" (qaem maqam), rather than "successor" (ja-neshin), thus placing Montazeri in line for the succession without actually naming him as the heir apparent (see The Faqih , ch. 4).

Elections to the second Majlis were held in the spring of 1984. The IFM, doubting the elections would be free, did not participate, so the seats were contested only by candidates of the IRP and other groups and individuals in the ruling hierarchy. The campaign revealed numerous divisions within the ruling group, however, and the second Majlis, which included several deputies who had served in the revolutionary organizations, was more radical than the first. The second Majlis convened in May 1984 and, with some prodding from Khomeini, gave Mir-Hosain Musavi a renewed vote of confidence as prime minister. In 1985 it elected Khamenehi, who was virtually unchallenged, to another four-year term as president.

Bazargan, as leader of the IFM, continued to protest the suppression of basic freedoms. He addressed a letter on these issues to Khomeini in August 1984 and issued a public declaration in February 1985. He also spoke out against the war with Iraq and urged a negotiated settlement. In April 1985 Bazargan and forty members of the IFM and the National Front urged the UN secretary general to negotiate a peaceful end to the conflict. In retaliation, in February 1985, the hezbollahis smashed the offices of the party, and the party newspaper was once again shut down. Bazargan was denounced from pulpits and was not allowed to run for president in the 1985 elections.

There were, however, increasing signs of factionalism within the ruling group itself over questions of social justice in relation to economic policy, the succession, and, in more muted fashion, foreign policy and the war with Iraq. The debate on economic policy arose partly from disagreement over the more equitable distribution of wealth and partly from differences between those who advocated state control of the economy and those who supported private sector control. Divisions also arose between the Majlis and the Council of Guardians, a group composed of senior Islamic jurists and other experts in Islamic law and empowered by the Constitution to veto, or demand the revision of, any legislation it considers in violation of Islam or the Constitution. In this dispute, the Council of Guardians emerged as the collective champion of private property rights. In May 1982, the Council of Guardians had vetoed a law that would have nationalized foreign trade. In the fall of 1982, the council forced the Majlis to pass a revised law regarding the state takeover of urban land and to give landowners more protection. In January of the following year, the council vetoed the Law for the Expropriation of the Property of Fugitives, a measure that would have allowed the state to seize the property of any Iranian living abroad who did not return to the country within two months.

In December 1982, the Council of Guardians also vetoed the Majlis' new and more conservative land reform law. This law had been intended to help resolve the issue of land distribution, left unresolved when the land reform law was suspended in November 1980. The suspension had also left unsettled the status of 750,000 to 850,000 hectares of privately owned land that, as a result of the 1979-80 land seizures and redistributions, was being cultivated by persons other than the owners, but without transfer of title.

The debate between proponents of state and of private sector control over the economy was renewed in the winter of 1983-84, when the government came under attack and leaflets critical of the Council of Guardians were distributed. Undeterred, the council blocked attempts in 1984 and 1985 to revive measures for nationalization of foreign trade and for land distribution, and it vetoed a measure for state control over the domestic distribution of goods. As economic conditions deteriorated in 1985, there was an attempt in the Majlis to unseat the prime minister. Khomeini, however, intervened to maintain the incumbent government in office (see The Consolidation of Theocracy , ch. 4).

These differences over major policy issues persisted even as the Revolution was institutionalized and the regime consolidated its hold over the country. The differences remained muted, primarily because of Khomeini's intervention, but the debate threatened to grow more intense and more divisive in the post-Khomeini period. Moreover, while in 1985 Montazeri appeared slated to succeed Khomeini as Iran's leader, there was general agreement that he would be a far less dominant figure as head of the Islamic Republic than Khomeini has been.

                                         * * * 

The projected eight-volume The Cambridge History of Iran provides learned and factual essays by specialists on history, literature, the sciences, and the arts for various periods of Iranian history from the earliest times. Six volumes, covering history through the Safavid era, had been published by 1987.

For the history of ancient Iran and the period from the Achaemenids up to the Islamic conquest, R. Ghirshman's Iran: From the Earliest Times to the Islamic Conquest and A.T. Olmstead's History of the Persian Empire are somewhat dated but continue to be standard works. More recent books on the period are Richard Frye's The Heritage of Persia and its companion volume The Golden Age of Persia. For the early Islamic period, there are few books devoted specifically to Iran, and readers must consult standard works on early Islamic history. A good study to consult is Marshall G.S. Hodgson's three- volume work, The Venture of Islam. Much useful information, for the early as well as the later Islamic period, can be culled from E.G. Browne's four-volume A Literary History of Persia. Ann K.S. Lambton's Landlord and Peasant in Persia is excellent for both administrative history and land administration until the 1950s. For studies of single Islamic dynasties in Iran, the following are interesting and competent: E.C. Bosworth's The Ghaznavids, Vasilii Bartold's Turkestan to the Mongol Invasion, Bertold Spuler's Die Mongolen in Iran, and Roy P. Mottahedeh's study of the Buyids, Loyalty and Leadership in an Early Islamic Society. On the Safavid and post-Safavid periods, in addition to the excellent pieces by H.R. Roemer and others in The Cambridge History of Iran, volume 6, there is also Laurence Lockhart's The Fall of the Safavid Dynasty and the Afghan Occupation of Persia and his Nadir Shah and Roger Savory's Iran under the Safavids. Said Amir Arjomand's The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam focuses on the relationship of the religious establishment to the state under the Safavids. The Zand period is covered in straightforward fashion by John R. Perry in Karim Khan Zand. For the modern period, Roots of Revolution by Nikki R. Keddie provides an interpretative survey from the rise of the Qajars in 1795 to the fall of the Pahlavis in 1979; Iran Between Two Revolutions by Ervand Abrahamian is a detailed political history of Iran from the period of the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-1907 to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Ruhollah K. Ramazani's The Foreign Policy of Iran, 1500-1941 is factual and comprehensive on foreign policy issues for the period from 1800 to the abdication of Reza Shah. On nineteenth-century economic history, Charles Issawi's The Economic History of Iran, 1800-1914, a collection of documents with extensive commentary, is still unsurpassed.

For the period of Reza Shah, A History of Modern Iran by Joseph M. Upton is concise and incisive. Modern Iran by L.P. Elwell-Sutton, although written in the 1940s, is still a useful study; and Amin Banani's The Modernization of Iran, 1921-1941, covering the same period and along the same lines, looks less at political developments under Reza Shah than at the changes introduced in such areas as industry, education, legal structure, and women's emancipation. Donald Wilber's Riza Shah Pahlavi, 1878-1944 is basically a factual but not strongly interpretative biography of the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty. J. Bharier's Economic Development in Iran, 1900-1970, as the name suggests, provides an economic history of the late Qajar and much of the Pahlavi period. For the period of Mohammad Reza Shah, in addition to books by Abrahamian and Keddie (cited above), Iran: The Politics of Groups, Classes, and Modernization by James A. Bill and The Political Elite of Iran by Marvin Zonis are both studies of elite politics and elite structure. Fred Halliday's Iran: Dictatorship and Development is a critical account of the nature of the state and the shah's rule, and Robert Graham's Iran: The Illusion of Power casts an equally critical eye on the last years of the shah's reign. More sympathetic assessments can be found in George Lenczowski's Iran under the Pahlavis. Relations between the state and the religious establishment for the whole of the Pahlavi period are covered in Shahrough Akhavi's Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran. Iran's foreign policy is surveyed in Ramazani's Iran's Foreign Policy, 1941-1973.

The United States-Iranian relationship in the period 1941-80 is the focus of Barry Rubin's Paved with Good Intentions. The United States-Iranian relationship in the period following the Islamic Revolution is covered in Gary Sick's All Fall Down. The foreign policy of the Islamic Republic is covered in Ramazani's Revolutionary Iran. Reign of the Ayatollahs by Shaul Bakhash is a political history of the Islamic Revolution up to 1986. The State and Revolution in Iran, 1962-1982 by Hossein Bashiriyeh is an interpretative essay on the Revolution and its background. Roy P. Mottahedeh's The Mantle of the Prophet is at once a biography of a modern-day Iranian cleric, a study of religious education in Iran, and an intriguing interpretation of Iran's cultural history. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of December 1987

Country Listing

Iran Table of Contents