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The Persian Republic (Persian: جمهوری فارسی - Jomhuri Fārsi), also known as Iran (Persian: ایران - Irān), is a federal republic in Western Asia. It is bordered by Armenia, Turkmenistan, Russia (by sea), Kazakhstan (by sea), Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is geographically and politically part of the Middle East. Its capital is Tehran. (Persian: تهران - Tehrān) Its official language is Persian. It is a secular state and it has no official state religion.
On April 28, 1951, the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi , appointed Mohammad Mossadegh as Prime Minister of Iran after the Iranian Parliament, the Majlis, nominated him by a vote of 79-12. Mossadegh was a member of the National Front Party, a party he founded along with other Iranian secular nationalist politicians, that aims to establish a democratic system in Iran and end foreign involvement in Iranian politics. One particular objective of the party was the nationalization of Iran's oil reserves from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), which was doing little for Iran's economical development through its oil.
Mossadegh was incredibly popular among the poor Iranian people for the social reforms he introduced: compensation for unemployment, compulsory insurance provided by factory owners for sick or injured factory workers, and the freeing of peasants from forced labor in the estates of their landlords. But one particular action made him not only a popular figure among the people, but also an enemy to the interests of foreign powers and the Shah himself.
On May 1, 1951, Mossadegh nationalized the AIOC, cancelling its expired oil concession and had its assets expropriated. This act triggered the Abadan crisis, an economically and politically damaging ordeal for Iran, which would eventually lead up to Mossadegh's overthrow in a joint Anglo-American backed coup on August 19, 1953. After the coup, Iran's oil was divided amongst major oil companies, with Iran receiving little than 25% of the profit. This coup consolidated the Shah's hold over Iran; this marked the beginning of the end of a monarchy that has existed for 2500 years. The Shah was eventually overthrown and driven into exile on January 1979, after implementing a campaign of modernization (The "White Revolution") in the previous years that was immensely unpopular among the people of Iran, especially the nation's predominantly traditional Shiite Muslim population.
Under the leadership of the immensely popular dissident Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic of Iran, a theocratic state, was eventually established. The new Iranian state would eventually face factional infighting, a major backlash in foreign relations, a costly war with neighboring Iraq, and damaging economic sanctions implemented by foreign nations.
However, what if the Iranian coup failed; what would Iran be if Mossadegh was able to remain in power after the coup; what would happen to the Shah after the failed coup; what would Iran be now if it still kept its oil? And the largest question is, what would happen to the the future of Iran; the Middle East?
Points of Divergence
1953 Coup Foiled
On August 15, 1953, the Shah issued two decrees as part of his role in the Anglo-American backed coup known as Operation Ajax. The first decree was Mossadegh's official dismissal by the Shah; the second decree being the appointment of General Fazlollah Zahedi, a military officer, as the new Prime minister, under the recommendation of the CIA. The Shah, along with his wife and a few companions, then prepared himself to leave the country for Baghdad where he would fly again to Rome, where he would remain until the coup had finally removed Mossadegh. Unfortunately, the Shah's private plane undergone a major technical difficulty; the Shah was forced to flee the country by a slower method: land transport, since taking another plane or even taking a commercial flight, would cause more delay and give people the impression he was leaving the country out of fear for the crisis respectively.
Earlier that day, Mossadegh received the Shah's decree through the head of the Imperial Guard, Colonel Nematollah Nassiri. Mossadegh rejected the decree and had Nassiri imprisoned, delaying the coup for a significant amount of time. Mossadegh, noticing something suspicious about the recent events; after being warned by his allies in the Communist Tudeh Party of a possible plot to overthrow him, Mossadegh had Nassiri interrogated by some Tudeh thugs. Nassiri divulged information that a coup was already planned; that it was already in motion, but he did not speak of the involvement of the CIA and the SIS (MI6). Nonetheless, the Tudeh informed Mossadegh of the coup; Mossadegh immediately went into hiding in his estate outside Tehran, but not before ordering all of the suspected coup leaders to be rounded up.
The next day, the Shah, along with his companions, was killed in a fatal accident while they were on their way for the Iraqi border when their transport accidentally rolled over a cliff. News of the Shah's death spread fast across Iran; and General Zahedi, who declared himself to be the rightful prime minister, decided to continue with the plan, even without the Shah. But Mossadegh, upon hearing of the Shah's death; realizing that there was no possible heir apparent to the throne of Iran (The Shah had a daughter, but women weren't considered as successors to the throne of Iran.), declared a state of emergency; called upon his supporters to stay vigilant for any attempt to usurp the Iranian state. Mossadegh did not like the idea of starting a new dynasty (contrary to the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty, Reza Khan, who was the last prime minister of the Qajar dynasty before its overthrow); and as the only remaining highest authority in Iran, Mossadegh eventually began contemplating the creation of a republic to replace the centuries-old monarchy.
On August 19, Zahedi, who had already garnered numerous supporters from the religious community; after bribing numerous Iranians to participate in the coup, was already beginning to set in motion a new plan: staged clashes between Tudeh inflitrators and monarchists. Zahedi took advantage of the Shah's death; the possibility of the formation of a republic that could be possibly pro-Soviet, as a means of gathering supporters and staging the clashes. Mossadegh, however, whose calls for vigilance were still popular, decided to get help from whatever support he had left from the people to convince the bribed people that they were being betrayed; that Zahedi was attempting usurp the vacant throne and reinstate British control over Iran's oil fields. Mossadegh already had a premonition that the coup was backed by foreign powers; it was only after the coup had been foiled that his premonition was proven correct.
The clashing Iranians, successfully convinced that they were bribed to overthrow the prime minister under the backing of their old enemy, decided to join one another and do whatever they can to repel the coup, reducing Zahedi's supporters to the military; some monarchist elements left from the people. Zahedi continued on with the offensive, but a massive human shield was formed around the major government buildings, preventing any land troops from assaulting the buildings. Zahedi, already frustrated by the setback of his failing plan, ordered his troops to open fire on the people, creating an impression that the military has turned their back on Iran's sovereignty. After a few hours of bloody struggle, the military decided to fall back, defying Zahedi's orders to push forward and destroy any obstacle in their way, as military commanders in the streets concluded that Zahedi was attempting to place Iran under his dictatorship. The demonstrators had successfully repulsed Zahedi's assault; and a humiliated Zahedi fled to NATO-aligned Turkey, where would die ten years later on September 2, 1963. The coup had been successfully foiled.
Mossadegh declares a transitional government; Iran becomes a republic
After the coup had failed, Mossadegh declared a national day of mourning for the Shah and the people killed in the streets who sacrificed their lives to repulse Zahedi's coup. The Shah was given a state funeral and his body was buried in Tehran a week after the failed coup. Mossadegh eventually created a transitional government that would decide if Iran would continue as a monarchy, with the Shah's daughter as a regent, rather than the actual monarch, or if Iran will finally put the centuries-old monarchy to an end; and create a republic. Monarchist elements in the transitional government had suggested that Farouk, the deposed King of Egypt; the Shah's brother-in-law through his first wife, take the throne of Iran. Initially, the transitional government was heavily composed of monarchist elements, but as the months passed, it was eventually dominated by leftists from the Tudeh party and the National Front. During the months that followed the coup, the transitional government sought to restructure Iran's crippled economy; and by November of 1953, Iran was back to business as the streets and walls were finally cleaned of debris and graffiti; and damaged buildings were rebuilt and renovated. The Tehran bazaar, however, reopened only a year later.
By the end of the year, as the transitional government began to break apart due to rising tensions between the monarchists, conservatives, socialists, and nationalists, a referendum was eventually held in which the people would cast their vote if Iran was to continue as a monarchy, or if it would eventually become a republic. Eventually, 87.6% of the vote was in favor of the republic; and 12.4% was in favor of the monarchy. On January 18, 1954, Iran was officially declared as the Persian Republic, with Mossadegh as prime minister. Mossadegh eventually withdrew his emergency powers and reinstated the Majlis. Mossadegh was eventually re-elected Prime minister by the parliament; and his close associate, Hossein Fatemi, was elected President by the people.
The transitional government also drafted a new parliamentary constitution, mostly composed of the National Front's ideological agenda. The Majlis was to have parliamentary elections every 3 years; that the people would openly participate in these occasions. The President, the new Head of State, who can be elected by the people, can serve the country for 5 years within a single term; that the President was limited to serve for a maximum of three terms in his entire political career. The Prime minister's selection has remained unchanged, still following the same procedure of nomination; his appointment (and dismissal) rested solely on the head of state's decision. The new constitution declared Iran as a secular state; it strictly forbade the participation of religion in politics, but allowed religious leaders the right to criticize the state. Perhaps the most significant change in the new constitution was granting women the right to vote. The new constitution also emphasized the importance of Iran's oil rights; that exportation of Iran's oil was a matter to be handled by the Minister of Petroleum and the head of National Iranian Oil Company; and any proposition to trade oil with any nation, or any similar matter involving the Iranian oil industry and trade, was a matter to be approved by the two officials and the President in order to proceed. The new constitution also emphasized Iran's neutrality, despite being a neighbor of mostly Soviet-aligned states. Iran's nationalities were to be distinctively treated equally, but forming political parties condoning non-Persian nationalism and separatism were forbidden.
History of the Republic
Fatemi's early presidency; Mossadegh's resignation
Upon taking office on February 18, 1954, a month after the republic was formed, Fatemi's immediate agenda was to restructure the Iranian economy and reinforce Iran's oil rights which were almost alienated by Britain's boycott. Fatemi, being a journalist, also emphasized the new sate's freedom of press by allowing the publication of newspapers advocating any ideology and lifting press regulations. Fatemi also encouraged Iranian technicians to learn how to produce oil efficiently, even without the aid of Western powers. An employment boom in Iran's oil industry marked the beginning of Iran's broader economical regrowth. Fatemi also sought to improve diplomatic relations with Western nations and begun to actively open relations with socialist nations, but keeping in touch with a neutralist policy, as Iran's constitution emphasized a strict national policy of neutrality and non-interventionism.
By mid-1954, the British blockade was withdrawn and the boycott on Iranian oil was officially called off, as an appeasement tactic was employed by the British in an attempt to hide their involvement in the failed 1953 coup.
Fatemi later called for an investigation on the failed coup of 1953 on August 15, 1954, a year after it occurred. The trial of the arrested coup plotters in October 1954, later revealed the deeper involvement of the CIA and the SIS in the failed coup; that Zahedi's true agenda was to continue the consolidation of his appointment, which was recommended by the CIA to the Shah; that the Shah was a major driving power in the coup, as he was leaving to escape from the uproar. The publication of these findings outraged the public; and Fatemi officially cut off diplomatic relations with the United States and Great Britain. On December 1954, the Shah's daughter, who was still residing in Tehran after the coup and the formation of the republic, left the country for the United States, out of fear of being victimized by the angry Iranian populace. The government decided to exhume the Shah's body from his tomb in Tehran and had it buried in an unidentified location. The trials also sentenced the coup plotters to death, including Fazlollah Zahedi, who was in exile in Turkey. People involved only in the coup's execution (But not its organization), including Nematollah Nassiri, were only given lighter sentences of 5 years in prison.
On January 18, 1955, on the republic's first anniversary of its founding, Mohammed Mossadegh, prime minister of Iran, announced his resignation due to his ailing health. Mossadegh was later given an honorable dismissal by President Fatemi, before retiring to his residence outside Tehran. Fatemi later appointed Mehdi Bazargan, the head of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and a deputy minister to Mossadegh's cabinet, as Prime Minister, after having been nominated by a majority in the Majlis. In the 1958 presidential elections, Fatemi was re-elected President after winning a majority of the vote against the candidates of the Tudeh Party and the Pan-Iranist Party, who were the primary runner-ups to the election. In the 1959 parliamentary elections, the National Front Party grew in size, as the Tudeh party and the Pan-Iranist party became the other two larger parties in the Majlis.
Bazargan's administration; Caspian crisis
Bazargan, being the head of the NIOC, emphasized Iran's oil rights by bolstering the campaign to train Iranian technicians to produce oil efficiently in Iran's oil wells. By 1958, most Iranian technicians had been trained efficiently and had produced oil at a rapid rate. Bazargan also emphasized that if Iran was to improve its economy with its oil efficiently, it has to sell its oil at a formidable but cheap price to the international market. Iran began to export oil to many Western countries, excluding Britain and the United States. Iran sold oil at a rate of 10 rials per mL of oil. Iran predominantly exported oil on barrels containing 10 L (About 100,000 rials) of oil. By 1963, Iran had already begun to become one of the most prosperous nations in the Middle East. The growing economy also gave way to the growing strength of the Iranian military, with its manpower doubling in size a decade after the 1953 coup. Iran's military significantly strengthened when it engaged in an arms trade with both Socialist and Western countries. Bazargan was also famous for encouraging an industrialization of Iran's other resources which proved essential in improving Iran's infrastructure and steel production.
In mid-1965, Iran once again became the focus of heated tensions as the country's large neighbor, the Soviet Union, threatened Iran with aggressive action after its appeal to trade with Iran's oil and become a trade partner with Iran was rejected. This rejection triggered an outrage from the Tudeh Party, which was now reduced to a minority party after the parliamentary elections of 1956, 1959, and 1962. The Tudeh Party also threatened to disrupt parliamentary functions during important sessions by walking out; particularly mentioned the incoming parliamentary elections next year. President Fatemi, who had recently been re-elected in the 1963 elections, viewed this as a credible threat, but understood that if he banned the Tudeh party, he would face a larger reaction from the Soviet Union: invasion, or worse, a Soviet-backed coup which would have been similar to the 1953 coup in terms of situation.
In December 1965, Fatemi decided that Iran should deal with the internal Communist threat by force. He later founded the Organization of Intelligence and National Security, notoriously abbreviated as the SAVAK. Fatemi ordered the newly-founded agency to pursue leftists in the republic, particularly, the Tudeh. Assassinations, staged riots and torture of captured leftists began to culminate around Iran, as the agents, posed as plainclothes in the streets, began to persecute leftist sentiment across Iran. By February 1966, the SAVAK had instilled fear among the Iranian populace; leftist parties technically disappeared from the political scene in Iran, but it did not stop the Soviet Union, who sent its own agency, the KGB, to oversee the situation of the leftists in Iran.
Operation Gulistan; Russo-Persian War of 1965-1966
The Soviet Union later began planning a coup to overthrow the Iranian government; and set up an occupation force and a puppet government that would enforce the trade with oil. The operation was ultimately given the codename Operation Gulistan, after the 19th century treaty that gave Russia most of its Caucasian territories. The Soviet Union formulated two plans: the first being the covert takeover of the Iranian government by instigating a Communist and leftist revolt that would ultimately form the puppet government that would give way to the arrival of the Assault force from the Caucasus, the Caspian Sea, and the neighboring Central Asian desert. The second plan being the forceful invasion of Iran in the event that the revolt would fail. The Soviet Union never underestimated Iran's capability of repulsing the revolt, but underestimated the tactics they would use in the event of a large invasion.
The Soviets also saw Iran as a location of strategic importance, giving their influence a close presence in the Middle East. The Soviets used the tactics used in the 1941 Invasion of Iran, in which Britain also participated in, as part of securing supply lines for the Soviets back in World War II, as their basis for the invasion.
Operation Gulistan was officially initiated on April 28, 1966, in which undercover Soviet agents stationed across Iran instructed Iranian operatives to convince the Tudeh party and other leftist parties and organizations to overthrow the government. Mass demonstrations and riots later occurred in the major Iranian cities of Tabriz, Shiraz, and Isfahan. Soviet-backed Guerrilla warfare began to sweep across Iran's rural southern areas; in a decisive showdown at Abadan on May 2, Guerrilla forces have captured a majority of Iran's oil fields in the Persian Gulf.
The government at Tehran, however, launched a repulsive offensive against the Guerrilla forces and the demonstrators, immediately and successfully quelling any trace of resistance in a few days, leaving every corner of Iran, technically, under the protection of guard patrols. The Soviets later initiated their second plan. On May 10, the Soviet Union officially gave the order to mobilize their troops for Tehran. In just a week, Soviet troops were already shelling the Iranian capital with mortars, but they have seemingly underestimated the Iranians blindly. Iranian troops in Southern and Central Iran began to push into Northern Iran towards the beleaguered capital. A major battle occurred in Tehran, which led to the loss of about 200,000 lives on both the Soviet and Iranian sides. However, a major Soviet airborne offensive against Tehran forced the capital to surrender; and a mass evacuation began before the Soviet Union land forces could be able to reach the capital. Within a day, Tehran was technically a ghost town; and upon arriving on the Iranian capital, the Soviet invasion force raised the flag of the Soviet Union on the Government building. The seemingly defeated Iranian government pulled back to the Southern Iranian city of Shiraz, setting up a temporary capital there until Tehran can be reclaimed.
Meanwhile, in Tehran, the Soviet Union appointed Tudeh party leader Khosro Roozbeh as President of the Socialist Republic of Persia, the puppet state organized by the Soviet Union. The Puppet state's main objective was to secure a pro-Soviet state in the Middle East to create the formation of a reinforced bloc in the area and to provide a reliable source of oil for the Soviet Union's economical needs. It was also planned to be a major military stronghold for the Soviet Military to ensure a hasty invasion of any Middle Eastern country with ease and to enforce the Soviet Union's hold on Iran's oil fields, which the Soviet Union plans to monopolize, causing a major economical dilemma for the Arab states and Western countries that could be essential for the Soviets in the event of pursuing a hasty victory in a possible war with the west or the Arab states. The Soviet Union also believes that this tactic could instill fear across the Middle East that would eventually lead to the forced submission of the Arab States to the Soviet side, further increasing Soviet influence in the Middle East. Particularly alarming was the situation Israel would face if the latter event were to succeed; an invasion of Israel could trigger what would be a costly war between the Soviet Union and the West.
Reactions to the invasion of Iran were negative in both the West and the Third World, with mass demonstrations against the invasion taking place in London, Paris, New York and Sydney. Josip Broz Tito, President of Yugoslavia, a Third World-affiliated socialist nation, condemned the invasion as a violation of the sovereignty of Iran and demanded that Russia withdraw its troops from Iran immediately, warning of the possible consequences it could bring across the World. NATO-aligned Turkey heavily militarized its border with the Soviet Union and Iran, as a precautionary measure in the event an invasion of their country would take place.
Throughout the remainder of the year, the Shiraz government and the Soviet Army, along with the puppet government's army, clashed in a seemingly endless war that gave neither sides a significant advance in territory after the takeover of Tehran; and it was only after the Shiraz government, which had already accumulated a significant amount of troops through conscription, launched an offensive in mid-November 1965 against the Soviet occupation. On Christmas Day, 1965, the Shiraz government had already reclaimed Tehran, but remained in Shiraz until the Soviets were finally repulsed out of the country on March 1, 1966. The war left considerable damage on Iran's major cities, which were mostly within the Soviet occupied zone, but since Iran's oil reserves in the Persian Gulf were never claimed by the Soviets; since their industry was centered mostly on the said region, Iran was able to initiate the hasty reconstruction of the damaged cities, particularly Tehran, which was left in a state of decay since the Soviet takeover. The Tudeh Party was subsequently banned, along with other extremist leftist parties, leaving only moderate socialist parties as the only leftist presence in the Iranian political scene. The SAVAK was eventually ordered to stand down on its campaign against leftists and return to normal operations of surveillance and internal security. The war humiliated the Soviet Union's reputation as a power in the Middle East, as Iran, slowly rising from the ashes of defeat, began to become a major power in the region.
Six Day War in Israel
On June 5, 1967, Israel invaded the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights; and in a bold move, the Sinai Peninsula. The resulting crisis led to a heightening of tensions in the Middle East; and Iran was not exempt from this. Iran's position on Israel has always been a matter of debate, as the government officially maintained the diplomatic recognition of Israel, whereas the people, mostly the Muslim majority, oppose Israel. President Fatemi, whose approach on Third World politics has always been strong, began to contemplate Iran coming to the aid of the Arab States, particularly Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt, against Israel, which was a Western co-belligerent. Prime minister Bazargan openly supported the Arab side of the war, but believed in an economical method of battling Israel. Bazargan and the Minister of Petroleum eventually proposed the increased exportation of oil to the Arab states battling Israel to President Fatemi. Fatemi eventually agreed to the proposition, believing that an economic tactic against Israel would be a far more peaceful method of aiding the Arab states. Iran decreased the price of oil for exportation to the embattled Arab states to 3 rials per mL, bolstering the Arab States' economical capabilities. By the end of the Six Day War, the Arab States signed a ceasefire with Israel, which had the advantage for most of the war. The war considerably damaged the involved Arab States economically, but Iran, as part of its approach to the Arab states, continued to sell oil at the decreased price; the price only normalized when the Arab States had finally recovered.
Forouhar's election; Federalization of Iran
In February 1968, Fatemi's final term officially ended with the election of Dariush Forouhar, a member of the Nationalist Pan-Iranist party, as President. Forouhar, a nationalist, believed that the country's ethnic groups should live equally with one another under the Iranian state; and he was also an active supporter of Kurdish rights. Forouhar later initiated a program to increase the rights of Iranian workers, disregarding their ethnicities and their religions. This further spurred the Iranian peoples' gradual movement from traditionalist Islam to the secularist ideology encouraged in the Iranian constitution. Originally, Iran's approach to secularism was received negatively by the majority Muslim population of Iran, but as time went on, after an economical, industrial and agricultural boom and a decisive victory against a major world power, Iran's Muslim population became acquainted to the idea of secularism; and unity between the Muslim majority and the small Sunni Muslim and Armenian Christian minorities were achieved. Forouhar also encouraged the education of Iran's nationalities, particularly the Kurds who were mostly living in the rural parts of Iran.
Forouhar's programs of approaching Iranian diversity encouraged a nationalist feeling within the Azeri minority who were living in the area bordering the Soviet Union, particularly the provinces of East and West Azerbaijan. Azeri intellectuals eventually began calling for the union of Iran and Azerbaijan, which was a Soviet Socialist Republic. The Kurds also began to push for the creation of an autonomous entity in the areas they mostly lived in, particularly the provinces of Kurdistan and Kermanshah, with a small group of Kurdish sympathy in East Azerbaijan and Northern Khorasan. Although the nationalist feeling was strong, the majority of the political manifestations called for by the Kurds and Azeris was Federalism. By 1970, almost every ethnic group in Iran was calling for the creation of a federal Iranian state; and on July 18 of the same year, President Forouhan called for a referendum that was held across Iran that would decide if Iran was to be a federal state. The referendum ended with a 71.2% vote for the implementation of federalism and a 28.8% vote against the implementation. The next day, Iran was federalized, with the emergence of the federal states of Iranian Azerbaijan, Iranian Kurdistan, Iranian Baluchistan and Persia. The original provinces were retained, but some were divided among the federal states that occupied those regions. A new federal constitution, with a few additions and revisions to the original republican constitution, was drafted and put into effect on the same day.
The newly created federal states were given full autonomy in terms of economical, social and military matters. The new federalized constitution still encouraged the federal states to share resources with each other to ensure economical development was equally distributed. It also lifted the ban on the formation of non-Persian nationalist political organizations, on the condition that they support the unity of the Iranian nation, thus, converting the ban on political nationalism into a ban on political Separatism. Each of the Federal States could elect their President, but overall legislative duties were to be the matter of the Majlis. The Federal States also had autonomous judiciary courts, with the judges being selected by the President of the Federal State. Despite these changes, the highest authority on government organization for the country remained in Tehran.
The early 1970s were marked by an economic boom across Iran. Iran began to trade oil with China, which had begun to split ideologically from the Soviet Union. Iran continued to trade oil with other Arab States at a cheap price, reinforcing Iran's position in the Middle East as an economic power, to the extent of surpassing Saudi Arabia as the region's largest exporter of oil. Iran's military began to increase in strength as the federalization of Iran encouraged ethnic groups to participate in the military of their federal states. Iran's arms trade with China, in exchange for its oil, was also essential in supplying the Iranian military with weapons, tanks and combat aircraft. Iran's increased industrialization had also largely improved infrastructure in the country, to the extent that it had equaled to the economical prosperity of Western nations. In the 1973 presidential elections, Forouhar was re-elected President.
Yom Kippur War; Iran as a growing regional power
On October 6, 1973, the Arab States, particularly Egypt and Syria, launched a surprise attack on the Israeli-occupied territories on Yom Kippur, an extremely holy observance for Judaism. The offensives were initially successful for the Arab States involved, but Israel later gained the advantage; and within a few days, Damascus, the capital of Syria, was under Israeli artillery fire. This event raised tensions once again in the Middle East, as the two world superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union began to supply their respective allies to the extent of approaching a major confrontation. Iran responded to the war by seeing it as another Israeli attempt to curb the sovereignty of the Arab States; and as a result, Iran tripled its exportation to the Arab States, selling oil once again at the decreased price of 3 rials per mL. By the later days of the war, the Arab States seem to be losing, but at the last minute, Iran decided that an economical tactic was doing little to help their allies; and that supplying them with actual arms was the only solution. Acting on a decree signed by President Forouhar and the Chief of Staff of the Iranian armed forces, Iran began to send weapons to Syria, particularly combat aircraft, artillery and armored vehicles. The Syrians, with the help of the Iranian weapons, were able to push back the Israelis to Golan Heights, which the Syrians eventually recaptured. By October 22, the United Nations brokered a ceasefire between the Arab States and Israel, but the war only ended when another ceasefire was imposed on October 25.
Although the War ended with Golan Heights once again in Syrian hands, Egypt was still unable to reclaim the Sinai peninsula; economic difficulties once again began to take place. Iran continued its increased oil trade with the Arab States until both Syria and Egypt had completely recovered. Iran later cut of all diplomatic relations with Israel, declaring it as an "enemy of the sovereignty of nations and the peace of the World". By the end of 1973, Iran had eventually become the Arab League's primary trade partner in oil; this eventually established Iran as the dominant economical power in the Middle East. Even though Egypt had officially signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1978 (Camp David Accords) that returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egyptian hands and led to the normalization of Egypt-Israel relations, Iran maintained trade with Egypt; and on one occasion, President Forouhar congratulated Israel for the act of "respecting Egypt's sovereignty"; Forouhar was also re-elected that year.
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; Bazargan and Forouhar's resignations
On December 24, 1979, the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan in order to deal with the Islamist insurgency in the country. The Soviets however, changed tactics by occupying Afghan cities, effectively securing control of the country and setting up a Soviet-backed government there. The invasion was received negatively across the World, in which Iran was among the nations condemning the act. The invasion also threatened Iran's position in the Middle East; and compared the situation in Afghanistan as something similar to what Iran experienced during the Russo-Persian War of 1965, in which a major threat to the peace of the region would be imminent. Iran later opened its border with Afghanistan for refugees fleeing from Soviet control. Although Iran saw the situation in Afghanistan as threatening, it did not supply weapons to the insurgent Mujahideen; and instead, unlike the policy of economic and arms assistance applied during the past two conflicts in the Middle East, allowed the war to take its course. However, Prime Minister Bazargan opposed the idea of leaving the situation in Afghanistan unattended by Iran. He personally appealed for the boycott of oil trade with the Soviet Union as a response to its actions in Afghanistan, but he was eventually overruled by the Minister of Petroleum; the appeal was disregarded.
As the war in Afghanistan intensified, on February 5, 1982, a year before the Presidential elections, Bazargan resigned as Prime Minister, having served in the position for more than 27 years. President Forouhar later appointed Shapour Bakhtiar, a member of the National Front Party, as Prime Minister, after winning a majority in the Majlis. Bakhtiar supported an economical intervention in Afghanistan; and denounced President Forouhar's refusal to approve the act. Eventually, the Minister of Petroleum agreed to Bakhtiar's proposal of boycotting oil trade with the Soviet Union. Forouhar still refused the proposal, but the proposal was left in situ. This led to a major wave of demonstrations across Iran, demanding that Forouhar accept the proposal, or resign. Workers from the NIOC threatened to go on a strike if Forouhar still refused to accept the proposal. Then, on June 28 that same year, President Forouhar announced his resignation on Iranian Television, declaring that he personally opposed the move; and that the people will have to elect a President who didn't. He also gave the people a warning that they would risk another Soviet invasion if they ever agreed to cut off the oil trade with the Soviet Union; and explained that this was his basis for personally disagreeing to the act. This premonition was eventually proven wrong in the later years of the Afghan War. Forouhar became the first Iranian President to resign. Veteran National Front politician Karim Sanjabi was named acting president.
In the months before the 1983 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, which were due to take place on February 10, 1983, the day Forouhar's term would officially end, Iran was, for most of the time, under the leadership of Prime Minister Bakhtiar. Sanjabi eventually accepted the proposal of cutting off oil trade with the Soviet Union. Bakhtiar also encouraged the creation of numerous refugee camps across Iran to temporarily shelter the Afghan refugees, particularly the Balochs from Southern Afghanistan, who were sheltered in Balochistan federal state. Bakhtiar also focused Iran's social welfare on the refugees, which further increased their facilities such as food, water, housing and health.
The following year, on the date of the elections, the National Front Party lost the majority in the Majlis as the Pan-Iranist party seemed to have gained a significant number of seats. The National Front Party eventually fell behind as the opposition minority party in the Majlis. Mostafa Chamran, who was running independently, was elected President.
Chamran's Presidency; Nagorno-Karabakh War
Upon taking office, Chamran, who was a scientist, encouraged Iranians to pursue the progress of Science if the country was to maintain itself as a power in the Middle East. Chamran also encouraged the modernization of Iran's energy industry; and it was said that he would not leave office until "every corner in every civilized part of Iran would have a lamp that would shine across the night". By mid-1985, Iran had already reached the status of an industrial and economical power in the Middle East; and thanks to support from Arabian technicians, Iran's energy industry had begun to flourish and provided the country with cheap and renewable electricity. He also organized the use of Iran's oil wealth not just for the country's industrialization, but also for its energy. Fossil Fuel power plants eventually became a common sight across the Southern part of Iran. Chamran also encouraged the use of improving Iran's agricultural development by supplying fertilizers across Iran and by setting up Irrigation canals along Iran's rivers. By the end of 1985, almost every road across Iran had a streetlight that would guide both cars and rural nomads across the country.
Chamran, who was also notable for his campaigns for religious participation in politics, contemplated the modification of the republican constitution, lifting the ban on religious political parties, but overall, respecting the Iranian nation's secularist ideal. It was only after a chain of events that Chamran's contemplation began to take manifestation.
On February 15, 1989, a year after Chamran was re-elected president, the Soviet Union had already withdrew all of its troops in Afghanistan. Chamran, who was also a follower of Third World economical policies of openness, agreed to lift the oil embargo on the Soviet Union, six years after it came into effect. By that time, the Soviet Union was economically drained by the war; and separatist and nationalist movements began to take manifestations in the streets of the Soviet Republics, as a result of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's reformist policies of glasnost and perestroika. One particular place was the Azerbaijani SSR, where a nationalist feeling had already begun to develop. One particular issue in the growing nationalism in Azerbaijan was what appeared to be "a separatist movement within a nationalist movement". In the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was technically a part of Azerbaijan, but had a larger Armenian population, protests began in the capital Stepanakert where Armenians living within the enclave demanded a union with the Armenian SSR. This ethnic strife, which had already been going on for a year, had left several Armenians and Azeris dead, was becoming a concern in Iran, especially for the Azerbaijani federal state's leaders.
On December 25, 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist; and the Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan were eventually recognized as independent. A year later, what used to be minor ethnic clashes in the two nations escalated into full scale war between two nations. Armenia was gaining an advantage over the Azerbaijani army, but ethnic violence, such as massacres and ethnic cleansing, occurred throughout the embattled nations, particularly in the contested enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh which proclaimed itself independent as an Armenian ally. The episodes of ethnic cleansing and the invasion of Azerbaijani territory in the Spring of 1993 was particularly worrisome for Iran; many Azeris in the Azerbaijan Federal State, began to voice their intentions that Iran should intervene in the conflict militarily. Iran, however, maintained a policy of non interventionism; and actual intervention was usually limited to economical tactics only, as was observed in the two previous Arab wars and the war in Afghanistan. As the year progressed, along with Turkish intervention in the war; and the seemingly volatile political situation in Azerbaijan brought on by numerous failures in the war, Iran decisively agreed to intervene militarily in the war, on the side of Azerbaijan.
Iran officially mobilized its army, which was composed of contingents from the Azerbaijani and Persian State Armies and the Iranian armed forces into Azerbaijan. The Iranians surprised the occupying Armenian armies in Nagorno-Karabakh, causing confusion among the ranks of the Armenian invasion force; and by late 1993, Iranian troops had almost completely repulsed the Armenian military presence in and around the enclave. Azerbaijan, already in a state of desperation but relief, launched a counter-offensive against the remaining Armenian-controlled areas of Azerbaijan, with the help of Turkey and Iran. Iran also recaptured Armenian-controlled Nakchivan, which was part of Azerbaijan. By early 1994, the Armenians had been completely repulsed by the combined Azerbaijani, Turkish and Iranian armies. Eventually, on February 1994, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran agreed to invade Armenia and set up an occupational presence there, where "aggressive negotiations" to secure Azerbaijan's hold on Nagorno-Karabakh were to take place immediately after the capture of Yerevan, the Armenian capital. Within a week, Yerevan was captured by the combined strength of the Azerbaijani, Turkish and Iranian armies, with the Iranians giving most of their aid in the process of invading and capturing essential Armenian holdings. By the end of the war, about 25,000 Armenians were killed in the overall conflict, with about 15,000 deaths on the Azerbaijani side and less than 3,000 deaths from the Iranian contingents.
Iran primarily won the war through confusion of the enemy ranks. Iran did not announce an official invasion of Armenia, creating the impression that Iran's troops were merely straying from the border, rather than actually attacking. Iran's military had already modernized significant; and the Chain of Command has been significantly sequenced from the highest ranking enlisted soldier in a military division to the division's commander. Iran had also gained superiority through massive armored assaults, which were a result of Iran's increased industrialization; and fuel supplies were constantly delivered through the front lines, almost endlessly, as a result of Iran's stocking of exceeded oil quotas, which the government had successfully put to use. Iran's artillery had also been essential to the capture of Yerevan, which the Iranians did not attack directly, but attacked the surrounding military and communication encampments. Iran also allowed Azeri troops from the Azerbaijani Federal State's army to fight along with the main Azerbaijani contingents. Overall, Iran's superiority was due to its mechanical and technical superiority. The war further established Iran's position in the Caucasus.
Unification of Azerbaijan
With the victory over Armenia, Azerbaijanis thanked Iran for its surprisingly effective military support, causing an improvement in relations with the two countries. The invasion of Armenia, however, alarmed the United Nations; and contested that peacekeeping between the two sides was to be done with the supervision of the UN, rather than the two sides. Iran played a crucial role in securing Azerbaijan's role in consolidation its control over Nagorno-Karabakh; and the Azerbaijanis, inspired by Iran's federalist system, agreed to treat the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh equally, in an attempt to ease tensions outside occupied Armenia. This sudden appearance of Iranian political influence proved immediately powerful as Azeris in Azerbaijan began to contemplate the union of their nation with the Iranian part of Azerbaijan. However, Iran was the first to act on this matter.
On June 1, 1994, a referendum was held in Iranian Azerbaijan by the Azerbaijani Federal authorities, with the backing of the main Iranian government, in which Azeris were to vote if Azerbaijan was to become a single entity under Iran, or if it was to become a single entity under Azerbaijani sovereignty. The Iranian government also encouraged Azeris in independent Azerbaijan to join the referendum; and this campaign of encouragement was successful, as the government of Azerbaijan also agreed to host the referendum. The referendum was boycotted by the Armenian population of Azerbaijan, particularly in the war-ravaged Nagorno-Karabakh region, but despite this small majority, the referendum was still successful in the region. The Referendum was held in both Iran and Azerbaijan, ending with a vote of 80.1% supporting the unity of Azerbaijan as an enlarged Federal State of Iran with 18.0% opposing the idea. Azerbaijan officially united with Iran and became a part of the Azerbaijan Federal State.
The Azerbaijani Federal State was officially renamed as the Republic of Azerbaijan, taking the name of the recently acquired nation; and Azerbaijan becomes the first Federal State in Iran to acquire the status of a republic. The capital was moved from the former state capital of Tabriz to Baku. The referendum faced some opposition though in Azerbaijan, criticizing the legality of the referendum in terms of the constitution. Former Azerbaijani President Abulfaz Elchibey, who was deposed in a parliamentary coup the previous year, openly denounced the unification as an "imperialistic move that has clearly defiled the sovereignty of our nation". However, the President of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, who was also essential in organizing the Referendum in Azerbaijan; and who was also essential in the cooperative victory along with the Iranian Azeri Commanders, supported the referendum, noting it "as a step closer to uniting our great nations that have long been separated by the imperialism of our greatest enemy in the North." Aliyev also became the absorbed republic's President; and also organized the improvement of the former federal state's immediate reorganization after it gained republic status. The Iranians, however, had a deeper economic agenda with the Referendum's success as it would place Azerbaijan's oil deposits in the Caspian under Iranian control; and upon unification, Azerbaijan's oil was nationalized, giving Iran a stronger economic position in the Caspian area, only rivaling Russia, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan in the region.
The Unification of Azerbaijan was viewed with surprise and debate across the World, with some critics of Iran seeing the action similar to the Anschluss of Austria back in 1938. The induction of Azerbaijan into Iranian territory was viewed by many nationalists in Iran, both Persian and Azeri, as a step to rebuilding Iran's former glory. Azerbaijan was also a part of the Qajar dynasty's empire, before being given to Russia as a condition of the Treaty of Gulistan. Many countries across the world questioned the legality of the Referendum; and some nations, particularly in the West, temporarily suspended trade with Iran, but this was short lived, as the annexation proved economically and socially fruitful for the absorbed Azerbaijani state. The induction of Azerbaijan was viewed by Russia cautiously, as it gave Iran a close proximity to Chechnya, a separatist state that they were currently engaged in a war with. It also threatened Russia's influence in the Caucasus, since an Iranian takeover of the region would give it proximity to Europe, in terms of strategic importance, threatening Russia economically and militarily. Acting on caution, the Russian government began to plan the assassination of President Chamran, in an attempt to curtail Iranian power; the plan was set in motion upon the formation of the FSB in mid-1995.
On August 19, 1995, Chamran attended and oversaw a military parade in Tehran, celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the failed coup. After the ceremony ended, Chamran immediately returned to his office in the Government Palace. But just as he was greeted by the guards upon walking into the Palace's lobby, Chamran was surprised to see a Russian tourist who was taking photos of the interior. Chamran was suspicious of the tourist's odd behavior and how he seemingly went into the palace without the guards' suspicion. Chamran approached a nearby guard and asked him in a scolding manner: "How did that tourtist get inside?" Those were to be his last words, as the tourist, who was actually a member of the Russian FSB, aimed a concealed Five-Seven towards Chamran and shot him three times, with the fatal shot hitting Chamran to the back of the head, instantly killing him. Chamran became the first President of Iran to be assassinated in office.
The Assassin was later pursued by the guards, who eventually asked for help from the police. A long pursuit followed, but the assassin was able to get away when he was able to blend into the dense crowd at the Tehran bazaar. The Assassin later returned to Russia, according to a source; and he was identified as Oleg Markov, a former operative of the KGB, who joined the ranks of federal Russia.
Chamran was given a state funeral by the Government in Tehran, where he laid in state for a week before his burial. His funeral was mourned by thousands as Chamran's body was being taken to the recently built Presidents' Crypt, where he is interred along with the then empty slots reserved for Former Presidents Fatemi and Forouhar, along with the many empty slots reserved for any of his successors. Chamran's body wasn't alone in the crypt for too long, as Former President Fatemi died of natural causes a week after Chamran's burial. Fatemi's state funeral was slightly larger than Chamran's, but both received posthumous honors from the Iranian government. Azerbaijan's President, Heydar Aliyev, was named acting President.
Aliyev's acting presidency; economical crisis
Although Aliyev held the position of Acting President, who's authority was often overruled by the Prime Minister's, Aliyev seemed to have handled Iran as if he was the country's actual President. Aliyev's primary agenda was to secure the nationalization of oil in the Caspian Region; and after approving a proposal by Prime Minister Bakhtiar and the Minister of Petroleum, which emphasized the expansion of their oil trade from the Caucasus to Europe, Aliyev seemed to have increased Iran's economical capabilities. By late 1995, work on a major oil pipeline that stretched from the major Persian Gulf oil producing city of Abadan to the major oil factories of Baku had begun, effectively connecting oil from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea. Plans were eventually drawn up to create networks of other pipelines connected to the Abadan-Baku pipeline that would connect to other major oil producing nations in the Middle East that could secure Iran's economic power, not only in the Middle East and the Caucasus, but also to nations as far away as China, France, South Africa and Australia.
On January 5, 1996, Prime Minister Bakhtiar proposed the resumption of oil trade with the United States and Britain, despite strained relations that have persisted for more than 43 years. The Minister of Petroleum initially doubted this, but eventually decided to agree with Bakhtiar's proposal, seeing Iran's now solidified economical power as a justification. Bakhtiar also believed that Iran's economical superiority will make the British and the Americans "beg for our blessing", believing that Iran's economical expansion will take a decisive advantage with the resumption of trade. The proposal was accepted by many Iranians, who, after more than 4 decades of being free of Western economical control, had already achieved a fully emancipated and industrialized oil industry which had boosted their economy and increased the effectiveness of the equipment of the armed forces, bringing Iran closer to the status of a World Power. Many Iranians believed this move to be a display of pride to the British and the Americans and also as a gesture to the two nations' so-called "global economical influence". A week after the proposal, Aliyev accepted it and Iran began to send oil tankers to British and American ports.
The resumption of trade with the United States and Britain was received well by the Americans, with their nation now the World's only remaining superpower after the fall of Communism in 1991. Diplomatic relations with the United States reopened some time in February 1996. Britain, however, believed that if Iran was to allow the oil trade with Britain, it should also allow foreign companies to set up a presence in the region, to further enhance the ease of managing the oil entitled to their country. Many Iranians began to doubt the economical durability of their nationalized oil industry; and believed that Iran may have to reopen its oil holdings and rights to foreign companies in order to maintain a properly managed oil production rate. In Iranian oil rigs, quotas were often exceeded and the Government often countered this by encouraging the storage of the exceeded amount of oil and accumulate them along with others in a recycling-related manner. However, in recent years, this tactic has proven ineffective in terms of observation and management; and on some occasions, barrels meant to be filled with exceeded oil were often disregarded and the rest of the exceeded oil meant for those barrels were often burned, wasting potential reuse.
On May 6, 1996, the Minister of Petroleum increased the price of exported oil from the usual price of 10 rials per mL to 20 rials per mL. This increase in the price of exported oil was meant to counter the minimized wages of NIOC oil technicians brought on by the excessive quotas and to ensure Iran's ever growing oil trade would be able to maintain durability with high foreign demand and payments. This tactic proved unsuccessful; and by September 1996, Iran's oil experienced a drop in foreign demand primarily due to its high price. Iran's economic superiority had also increased the Iranian rial's value; and increased prices meant extremely high prices for foreign currencies. Iran was on the verge of an economical crisis that could bring in economical damage on a wider scale across the World. Although Saudi Arabia was still a leading oil producer and exporter in the Middle East, the country's dependence on its superior neighbor across the Persian Gulf had caused its oil to decrease in value in terms of demand. Saudi Arabia had been selling oil at a rapidly increasing price trend ever since Iran became the World's largest exporter and producer of oil. Russia, however, being the World's leading oil producer and exporter, would be able to increase its influence economically by "compensating" for Iran's oil. Russia had been Iran's main rival in the oil industry since the mid-1960s when Iran began to develop its industrialization rapidly; and Russian dominance of the oil industry would mean the weakening of Iran's economical influence, which could also affect the Middle East and potentially, provoke conflict against Iran.