Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
After several years of relative eclipse, Iran returned to the world's headlines during the summer of 1960 and since then has continued periodically to catch the world's attention. It began with the election of a new Majlis, or National Assembly, the first in four years. The Shah, who throughout this period had been personally running the government, previously had made an effort to stimulate "safe and stable" political competition by encouraging the development of a, Mardom (Peoples) Party to function as "His Majesty's loyal opposition." He named as its leader Amir Alam, a landed aristocrat of Khurasan, who was generally regarded as a staunch royalist and good friend of the British. The new party was to serve in the Majlis as government critic and to contest the elections with the incumbent Milliyun (Nationalist) Party led by Premier Manucher Eqbal. This artificial man?uvre toward two-party democracy was scorned by the intellectuals and the majority of the electorate who are politically aware; even though the heat of the hustings led Alam to criticize the régime so severely as to pain and embarrass the Shah and to frighten Eqbal, they did not consider it representative of any really genuine opposition. The National Front, suppressed since the fall of Dr. Mohammed Mosaddeq in 1953, emerged into open political activity, though it scarcely dared to compete formally-certainly not after Abdor Rahman Burumand, member of a prominent Isfahan family and admitted National Frontist, was arrested when he began drawing too large crowds,
More troublesome to the Shah and his government were two independents who sought office. The more prominent, vigorous and embarrassing of these was Dr. Ali Amini, who had been Ambassador in Washington in 1956-58. As Finance Minister under Premier Zahedi, he had been the chief negotiator of the present consortium oil agreement that in 1954 reactivated that industry following its nationalization under Dr. Mosaddeq, Dr. Muzaffar Baqa'i, head of the Toilers Party, originally a supporter of Mosaddeq and the National Front, but subsequently contributor to their overthrow in 1953, avoided any taint of revolution but was so vigorous in criticism of Eqbal, rigged elections and control of the press that he forced both Amini and Alam, belatedly, to join the protest against the elections when the absurd majorities of government candidates were announced.
This protest was so acute from all sides that the Shah, who had mistakenly invited foreign correspondents to report his new, free democratic elections to the world, decided to annul them. He called on all those elected to resign in the national interest, jettisoned his puppet Eqbal, and appointed a new premier, Jaafar Sharif-Imami, who forthwith promised new and honest elections.
New elections were held in midwinter, but, in the people's view, with no better methods and poorer results. In protest the National Front generally boycotted the elections, calling them a sham. Dr. Amini did not stand for election, and thereby aroused suspicion that he had made a deal with the Shah. Allayar Saleh, head of the Iran Party-the most moderate element in the National Front[i]-got elected from Kashan, where his backing was so strong as to make government interference unlikely to succeed; because he ran unopposed, some suspicious cynics charged that he too had made a deal with the Shah. In any event, the victory gave the National Front a responsible spokesman for genuine opposition in public discussion.
The Shah opened parliament in February 1961. It was soon apparent, however, that with few exceptions the deputies were of the traditional type, man?euvring for patronage and the spoils of office, hamstringing the best efforts of government, which they ungratefully and glibly harrassed, though not from any basic stance of principle. Within the framework of existing restraints, public dissatisfaction was relatively articulate; it included some vigorous demonstrations by students, and reached its climax in a widespread teachers' strike. The accompanying demonstrations, complicated by the killing of a young high school teacher by the police, led to the downfall of the Sharif-Imami government. Early in May the Shah called on Amini to form a government and shortly thereafter dissolved the 20th Majlis, to the obvious relief of most of the people.
Though much absorbed during the early weeks with the critical state of government finances and dwindling foreign exchange, Dr. Amini made a strong start on the political front. He relaxed previous restraints, allowed more freedom of press criticism, and permitted free assembly-even to the National Front opposition, at designated public places (in Tehran, not the provinces) and on condition of respect for public order. Within a fortnight the National Front, for example, had gathered a crowd at Jalalieh Stadium conservatively estimated at 70,000 people to demand that the government respect the constitution's provision for calling new elections within 30 days of the dissolution of the Majlis.
Although from the start Amini promised elections, any hint of an exact date has been avoided. Moreover, the Prime Minister makes no secret of his dissatisfaction with present electoral laws, and declares that he will not leave office tagged with the opprobrium of allegedly rigged elections, which he regards as inevitable under current regulations. His position is much complicated by the fact that, in response to his government's query, the highest judicial authority has decreed that the electoral law as drawn is constitutional. Opponents of the government know well enough that the Prime Minister does not control the security forces and therefore cannot guarantee such results. But this does not deter them from demanding immediate elections and thereby seriously embarrassing the government. Recent reports from Tehran indicate the Prime Minister is revising the electoral regulations after all.
Politically, the position of the premier has been complicated vis-à-vis the public and the opposition-especially the National Front-by his shift in policy regarding the freedoms of speech, press and assembly. About two months after taking office, he cracked down on the press, some of which had become quite harsh in its criticism; even the large dailies, Ettela'at and Kayhan, were regularly censored, and as a warning the latter was suspended a day for its alleged irresponsibility. The National Front's scheduled mass meeting to celebrate the anniversary of Mosaddeq's triumph over the Shah in July 1952 was forbidden, and in any case prevented by the arrest of almost all its leadership. Since then no public meetings of the National Front have been permitted. In early August police were sent into the grounds of the University-during the previous year an inviolate asylum of students-to stop meetings and demonstrations; and in the process of resisting students were harshly handled and some were severely beaten.
To these events we shall return later in another context. The point to note here is the disillusion of so many Iranians who had hoped that Amini would be the man to bridge the widening gulf between régime and people-the man to implement constitutional procedures and a greater measure of political freedom. They hoped he would lead in the economic, social and political reforms which an increasing number recognize as essential for Iran's development, if not indeed its very survival as a nation.
To understand these events and appreciate the state of the present seething political pot in Iran, one must go behind them to identify and analyze those major developments in the country that constitute essential components of its present political problem.
It is trite, yet necessary, to emphasize that Iran is now at a relatively advanced stage in that total social revolution which presently engages most of the non-Western world. Too few in the West appreciate the depth or the breadth of the social change that currently engulfs a country like Iran. Society is profoundly convulsed, wherever one turns to deal with it: the old patriarchal extended family and its patterns of relationships-of parents and children, of marriage and divorce, of status and security; the threatened paternalism, especially of the rural areas, where landlords are no longer taken for granted, and where these very landowners are exacerbating their tenant relationships by mechanization that converts farmers into wage laborers; the traditionally independent but now awakened tribes which, in exchange for military service and stricter taxation, demand a greater share in such welfare services of the state as education and public health; the remarkable advances in public health and hygiene that have lowered the death rate since World War II as much as that of Europe in this century, that have almost eliminated malaria and finally brought the country's opium curse under relative control, and that have contributed to an estimated population increase of 2.5 percent a year, so that half the population is now under 18 years of age; the recent rapid industrialization that is changing the urban scene, producing a growing proletarian labor force which is not satisfied with current conditions since it has been assured that improvement is possible as well as its right; the burgeoning middle class to be found in every city and especially articulate in Tehran, where it constitutes the major threat to the status quo and the old order; widespread education that for all its faults and limitations has produced a new substantial intellectual élite and has raised the literacy rate to about 65 percent in the capital, though still under 15 percent in rural areas; the majority of these urban groups impatient with the old traditions and avid for modernization of all kinds, even though it brings tension with traditional customs, mores and values, and cuts those involved-especially the youth-adrift from old moorings, rendering them unable as yet to find new values and convictions by which to live; the pattern of Islamic piety no longer meaningful for such groups, the bulk of whom adhere to their heritage mainly for purposes of social solidarity and identity, confusing much of this with their highly emotional nationalistic faith; and alas, despite individual brilliant exceptions, the majority of the Shii religious leaders still oriented toward medievalism, untutored in modern thought, and hence unable to give those moderns among their fellows any satisfying leads as to how to reconcile the old heritage with new necessities.
Of primary importance among all these changes is economic development, which in Iran has been remarkable, if not indeed spectacular during recent years. Iran is economically one of the most favored countries of Asia. In terms of natural and material resources, the country's problems are far less formidable than, for instance, those of Egypt, Pakistan or India. It has been self-sufficient in food, and has the resources of land and water- as yet not brought together-to continue so. There are varied and substantial material resources that need only adequate capital and skilled manpower to be exploited for building a relatively modest but reasonably diversified economy. And to help stimulate such development there are oil revenues of approximately $300,000,000 a year, representing about 10 percent of the estimated Gross National Product and about 25-30 percent of the governmental budget. From this source comes adequate foreign exchange, all of it in hard currencies.
The human resources are more developed than in many other countries, although education in greater quantity and quality is needed; especially needed is a better balance in the kind of education made available. The Persian Gulf Command of World War II and a decade of Point 4 technical assistance attest that here is a highly intelligent people, with rather unusual manual and artistic skills. Experienced managerial talent, trained technicians and highly skilled labor constitute the manpower bottlenecks in present economic and social development. Yet beyond even these is the urgent need for adequate and reliable administrative talent within the government to marshal and coördinate what is available to attain present goals. Presently there is a woeful waste of both material and human resources for want of a social environment within which they can become effective.
This has become particularly apparent in the difficulties recently met on the economic front. For five or six years following the reactivation of the oil industry late in 1954, economic development went forward by leaps and bounds. The annual rate of investment was at least 20 percent, perhaps a bit better; and that of net economic growth was between 5 and 6 percent. A steeply rising scale of oil royalties, a succession of good harvests, relative improvement in external security and internal order, and substantial external loans and grants have contributed to this rapid growth. In the last decade United States loans have amounted to over $200,000,000, while economic and military grants have totaled approximately $850,000,000.
Most significant was the share of the private sector in this over-all growth. During 1956-57, for instance, it appears that one-third of new investment was from private sources, spread in the fields of industry, construction, agriculture, and trade and banking-in that order of percentage. For the first time the industrial investment exceeded that in construction, traditionally the main area for private capital.
Yet the very rapidity of this development has brought its complicating problems. Imports were uncontrolled and large sums went for luxury goods within the reach only of the rich; the same economic é1ite profited most from the new investments, especially in industry and construction, both private and governmental; and the tax collection still pressed most heavily on the rank and file of society. Skyrocketing land values and exorbitant rents, especially in Tehran, constituted the largest burden for the urban groups, both salaried and wage-earning, whose buying power shrank under an annual inflation rate of about 10 percent, just when they were beginning to acquire tastes for new goods and services regarded by many as necessities for modern living.
Perhaps worst of all was the too easy and uncontrolled credit, expensive though it was by Western standards; this tempted many into inordinate expansion on shoestring capital and brought a number to bankruptcy in the last year, when finally curbs and controls had to be applied. For months during 1958-60, Plan Organization economists had warned of such eventual trouble, but it was not until the early autumn of 1960 that the government adopted a program of economic stabilization-and then only under pressure from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, supported by United States lending authorities, all of which refused further loans without such measures. In fact, during the early months of 1961 the Sharif-Imami government defaulted on enforcement of this agreement so that the Plan Organization could not secure installments on previously authorized credits from the World Bank. Uncontrolled imports had seriously depleted foreign- exchange reserves. The budget for 1961-62 was apparently balanced but most who knew were sure there were unrealistic estimates on both sides of the ledger. Governmental credit with the Central and Melli Banks was perilously low.
This economic and monetary crisis absorbed much of Dr. Amini's best efforts during May and June, and in meeting it he demonstrated rather unusual understanding and courage. Not only were the provisions of economic stabilization reactivated but some unpopular measures to conserve foreign exchange were initiated, such as prohibiting exchange for some 200 super- luxury imports, raising duty on many other items by as much as four times, and eliminating all travel abroad except in cases of demonstrable necessity. To help meet the government's financial crisis, the United States made available $62.6 million although most of it was released from loans previously negotiated. The effect of all this has been salutary.
It is well to remember, however, that economic development (which in the case of Iran has been substantial, despite its shortcomings) is not, as many think, the preventer of revolution or the answer to social unrest. Enough is known historically of revolutions to indicate it is not at the nadir of poverty and distress that a people is restive and revolutionary but when the economy has experienced some growth and promise of a better life. Moreover, the really revolutionary and dangerous point is likely to be reached when a society, having achieved markedly improved growth and promise, is then unable to sustain that growth or to deliver the promised improvements. This is the thrust point of Iran's present danger, sharpened by the inability or unwillingness of the Shah and his ministers to perceive that hard political decisions are essential if economic growth is to be sustained and popular expectations minimally satisfied.
Essential for such sustained growth is the Third Plan for development, now under cabinet consideration; later a Majlis will presumably have to review and approve it in some enabling legislation. Without question this represents the first truly comprehensive economic and social planning in Iran. Compared to it, the Second Seven Year Plan (the First never really got off the ground because of the interruption of oil production in 1951- 53) was a congeries of disparate projects. The emphasis of the Third Plan is shifted from expensive infrastructures-such as dams (power and irrigation) and communications (air, land and sea) -to more basic needs such as agriculture (coöperatives, extension services and feeder roads: about 22 percent) and social affairs (local development, health and education: about 25 percent). Slightly over 50 percent of the total is allocated to rural areas, which were badly neglected in the Second Plan. Moreover, the Plan has been divided as to core necessities (60 percent) and less essential provisions, allowing planned flexibility in the face of unexpected shortages and necessary curtailment; and the allocations to the core in the fields of agriculture and social affairs are substantially higher than those for industry and communications.
In the improved economic and fiscal climate created by Amini it was possible for the Plan Organization last summer to send to Europe and to the United States representatives to open preliminary negotiations for foreign funding of a substantial segment of the Third Plan, which is to run for five and a half years beginning September 1962. The planners estimate that of a total outlay of almost $4.85 billion (public and private), almost 19 percent, or $900,000,000, represents the resource gap which will have to be filled by foreign borrowing (the present rate of $80,000,000 a year is considered possible and sound) and increased taxation (slightly more than $80,000,000 a year). There are, however, any number of serious problems connected with this program that will have to be faced and solved before Iran can hope to secure the external loans that she seeks. These involve internal reforms and self-help of the kind that President Kennedy has declared to be the conditions for aid, at least from the United States.
Although some ministries are badly understaffed, others are fat with the idle and incompetent; the ablest public servants work hard for long hours, but the majority do not. Many payrolls are padded with scores and hundreds of "consultants" or those "awaiting assignment," who draw half pay and never appear- a situation which the agency or ministry prefers to their incompetent presence and meddling. The Amini government began bravely and authorized clean-ups in certain agencies where chiefs were willing and aided by some tough assistants. In one agency the deputy for administration, who jettisoned 70 such persons as approved by the Prime Minister, complained that he had no time to get on to the next category for surgery since a large part of his time went to telephone calls from cabinet and other high officials pleading for their friends and families. He refused to budge on a single one; but there are few administrators with such gumption and disregard of big names. The government in August circulated the draft of a new civil service law that would improve administration were it ever to be enacted and enforced. The question is whether any government in the old tradition can effect such reform. This could test the nature and quality of Amini's government.
Connected with this problem is the scandal of corruption, meriting serious attention because of its alleged kind and degree, organized in the highest circles and involving colossal sums. The allegations are naturally exaggerated; but the fact that corruption is firmly and widely believed to be on a vast scale is in itself a matter that must be reckoned with.
On assuming office Dr. Amini jailed four prominent generals in the previous government, along with other agency and bureau chiefs dealing with licensing, monopolies and the like. Although the Justice Ministry has worked hard on the cases, and Amini is quoted as saying that he "means business," only one general has so far been brought to trial, much less convicted. To arrest and not be able to file an indictment, let alone secure a conviction, is likely to boomerang with the public-convinced as it is of the accused's guilt but not of the integrity of justice and cabinet officials.
Corruption on high and in large sums there undoubtedly is, but to prove it is not easy when the rot is widespread, especially in top circles. Yet one suspects that these more spectacular leakages in public funds, large though they be, are not as significant absolutely as they are relatively-as symbol and example in lowering the tone of public morality and morale. In this respect such corruption increases that leakage by what is regarded as normal influence percentages and the sheer inefficiency of an overstuffed bureaucracy; for excusing and dodging responsibility for these, the corruption scandal is convenient-real though it certainly is.
To effect vital reforms in these areas there are two possible approaches: drastic measures to be taken at the very top, provided there is both the necessary will and power; and the pitiless exposure of corruption and inefficiency before the public, the force of whose consensus may then be expressed by informal denunciation and formal franchise. A close look at these possibilities, not necessarily mutually exclusive, will lead us to the heart of the issues now stirring Iran.
Take, first, reform from the top. Is there the will to act by those responsible: the Shah, the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and all those who must impose whatever sanctions are invoked? Such will is publicized, but past efforts to exercise it have not produced results which satisfied an alienated and skeptical public. Substantial portions of that public, though ready to voice criticism and skepticism, will resist reform when it touches them on the quick of ingrained habits or vested privileges. One wonders if, in a paternalistic and personalized society where an interrelated, privileged élite constitutes the governing majority, even sincere leaders, with reasonable courage, can adequately conceive, much less successfully implement, these necessary governmental and administrative reforms. One regrets to report the deep skepticism of the majority of the urban middle class, which is in revolt against tradition and these interests, and becoming increasingly frustrated and angered at what they consider to be the betrayal of the country by these traditional interests.
But why should not the "top," if sincere in will, enlist this public, especially its leadership, in the task of identification and exposure of the inefficient, inadequate and immoral? Mainly because the "top" fears that such partnership might involve its own "toppling"-that to share its prestige and power might endanger the nation's stability and security. In short, society's top does not trust the bottom, and even less the awakened and aware middle. The heart of Iran's problem is the need for revolutionary and responsible leadership; how to traverse the distance from a traditional paternalism to a modern industrialism, how to bridge the gulf of mistrust that has developed between modern tinkerers with tradition and rebels against that tradition, how to transmit power from the small, habitual élite to the substantial, untested middle sector of society, and how to effect this in a disturbed and dynamic world in which the country's integrity and independence are ever in peril.
As elsewhere, the problem of how to attain freedom with order is central. Premier Amini during his first two months gave evidence of welcoming criticism and extending freedom. It was inevitable that once the sluice gates were opened there should be a rush of pent-up waters, leading in some instances to violent overstatement. Critics became bold and shot accusations at specific top-flight targets that began to squirm and cry "Foul"-in some cases with reason. In a highly surcharged atmosphere, huge public meetings were held to demand constitutional procedures without delay. Attack came not only from the aggressive left but from the intriguing right. Neither was handled with finesse. The two major political fishermen on the right (Azamudeh and Aramesh), instead of being coolly discredited by facts and then ridiculed before the public, were arrested (later released on bail), and thereby given valuable publicity and made political martyrs.
More serious was the government's conflict with the National Front, which the Shah deeply distrusts. Ever since he clashed with Mosaddeq in 1953, was victorious and returned to power, he has been less than rational on the subject of the National Front. Understandable though this may be, it is extremely unfortunate for the future of Iran.
Undeniably the Front has hardly inspired confidence. Despite its assurances of a completely orderly mass meeting and despite its protestations of loyalty to His Majesty as a constitutional sovereign, at a moment of internal economic and political crisis coinciding with unusual external world tension, the Front planned to celebrate a day on which the Shah was humiliated by Mosaddeq. This seemed to be irresponsible provocation. The Front argues that the day was made a national holiday by the Majlis and the law signed by the Shah; but this is doctrinaire and unrealistic, if not naïve. Amini (convinced by the Shah and his military?) argues, after he had arrested almost all the Front leaders and filled Tehran with tanks to prevent a gathering, that the Soviets and the Tudeh Communists were clearly preparing to create disorder, if not perhaps a holocaust. Why did he not denounce Front irresponsibility before the event, permit the gathering in accordance with initially announced principles, and then put the tanks at readiness for action in the event of disorder? Thus he could have tested Front intentions and claims, held it strictly responsible for any disorder, and preserved his own stance in favor of promised freedom of assembly. Granted the risk, the result could scarcely have been worse than his loss, from this point on, of what support he had retained with the left and urban middle class.
On the other hand, the Front could ask why, a month later, the government deemed it appropriate to celebrate the anniversary of the overthrow of Mosaddeq and the National Front, with the Shah as sole speaker and supported by the régime's security forces. To reverse the coin of judgment, it may be observed that it was questionable statesmanship for the Shah and his government to widen the gap between themselves and the people by rubbing salt in these old wounds, when what the nation much needs in critical days is more unity and some rapprochement between the two. In between these two anniversaries came Constitution Day. What a difference it might have made had the National Front planned to celebrate this day only; and even more, if the government, instead of exploiting the day for its own propaganda, had scheduled a celebration in which all citizens could truly have united!
Clearly each side in this contest is deeply convinced there is no room for compromise or possible rapprochement. Shades of Ahuramazdah and Ahriman! Here is Allah arrayed against the Devil, each side convinced that it is clothed in white, its antagonist in black: a dangerous political impasse, weighted with portent of trouble.
In this political tussle and head-on collision, Premier Amini has been man?uvred into a position of staunch supporter of the Shah, if not indeed of identification with his policies. The central question is whether the Shah or the National Front represents the people and the policy that is best for the nation; or whether some third ground between them is what the country needs.
There is little doubt that the overwhelming majority of the politically concerned and aware among the people are back of the National Front. This excludes the masses-peasants, tribesmen and laborers-who are relatively indifferent or inarticulate, though rapidly awakening and becoming potentially important; they damn the régime, but blame the Shah's advisers and entourage. In a negative sense, the wide support of the National Front is underlined by the fact that recent governments have had to maintain stability and themselves in power by force, one instrument of which is SAVAK, the hated security police, which has been privately denounced by former ministers and elder statesmen. It is also clear from the fact that when within the last year some loosening of controls has been allowed, dissatisfaction has become so apparent as to frighten those in power.
Yet whether the National Front leadership, for all its popular support, is able to forge, much less to execute, policies for better guardianship and guidance of the nation seems doubtful. The leaders of the Front support constitutionalism, avow loyalty to the throne, emphasize freedom, promise honest administration, and denounce Communism; but these admirable principles are not accompanied by much evidence of political realism or practicality or by any specific program that would give thoughtful people, in and out of government, a basis for confidence in supporting the Front. As a coalition the Front apparently cannot agree on such a program, argues that this is the task of individual parties. This may seem to be good negative tactics for ousting those presently in power (though this is debatable), but it does not inspire confidence that the Front would come to power with a unified executive and a constructive, integrated program. There are many sympathizers with the Front, especially among the educated youth and intellectuals, who share these misgivings.
There was reason to believe that Amini might help to bridge the deep gulf between the National Front and the Shah, and it was hoped he might find some third ground between the two. But that hope has been dimmed as events have moved the Premier nearer the Shah, farther from the Front-primarily because he has postponed new elections indefinitely, returned to a strict press censorship, denied public assembly, agreed to governmental policing of the university campus, and tacitly fostered the confusion, if not indeed identification, of the National Front with the Tudeh Communists.
The relation of the National Front to the Tudeh Communists is important. The Front denies any collaboration, and there is substantial reason to believe this is true. The danger is not collaboration, but infiltration, despite the best efforts of the Front to prevent it; most Frontists could be duped by dissimulating Tudeh members. None knows how strong the Tudeh is, except presumably the security police. Many, however, doubt even this, and point to the confusion this service creates, presumably with royal sanction, by using a variety of means to smear the National Front with the Communist label; this is for the benefit of the Americans, so the cynics observe. The danger would come from any sudden release of all restraints by any radically new government, bringing home all Tudeh exiles and into the open all those underground. Russia would likely exploit such a situation in Iran better than she did in Iraq in 1958. Yet one gets the impression that National Front leaders have learned much on this score since 1953 and would take great pains to resist such Tudeh exploitation of the Front's position- provided, of course, that such exploitation were evident and identifiable.
This brings us to a deep and long-standing governmental problem in Iran: the nature of the monarchy. To put it bluntly: Is the Shah to reign or rule? By constitutional theory, he reigns; and, compared to most constitutional monarchs, he has much power. Yet, for the last six years the Shah has chosen to rule. His strong father, Reza Shah, established Iran's independence and launched her modernization between the two World Wars as a dictator, for all his continuation of constitutional forms. Mohammed Reza in his first decade on the throne tried to reign as a constitutional king. Influenced by his father's shadow, alarmed by his near loss of the throne in 1953, and genuinely concerned with promoting "positive nationalism" and practical modernization, he has become convinced-almost mystically-that he has a mission to save his country. During recent years he has ruled, not reigned.
Despite demonstrable economic progress, as well as the admirable example set by the Shah's distribution of at least half the royal estates to the peasants tilling them, it is the opinion of a large and varied segment of the population-especially of the intellectuals, professional men, smaller businessmen, government officials and other members of the urban middle group-that the Shah's rule has been inadequate in results; they feel so particularly because of the price that has been paid in the curtailment of freedom and the extension of the penetrating power of the secret police. They complain that the rule is too personal and arbitrary, that no one person, not even the exceptionally intelligent, knowledgeable and hard- working Shah, can be expected to be adequate on all fronts of government, especially when so many of his close advisers are inadequate in vision, dedication and competence, and unprepared to question his personal and sometimes mistaken desires and decisions.
What is most disturbing to so many, including some of His Majesty's staunchest supporters, is that such rule may imperil the throne, to which they are more strongly attached than to its present occupant. As Premier Amini himself expressed it, both the constitution and political prudence require that the throne be above responsibility and not become identified with day-to-day government, since no government, however competent or successful, can indefinitely satisfy a people, particularly one impatient, inexperienced and uncomprehending of the complexities and difficulties of government in a period of revolutionary social change. The Prime Minister is to be admired for his policy of assuming full responsibility for his government, insisting that the Shah be separated from such responsibility. All the more courageous is this when there is reason to believe that in many instances he may have been pressed by the Shah and the court entourage to take action about which he himself may have had grave doubts; and that in other instances he has found that his governmental writ goes only to the doors of the security forces and secret police.
This state within a state Is rooted in the constitutional provision that the military forces are under the command of the Shah, not of the civilian chief of state. In recent years these forces have come to include those of the Ministry of Interior-the rural gendarmerie, municipal police and secret service. During the last 20 years this problem has actively concerned in varying degrees the strong premiers-Qavam, Razmara, Mosaddeq and even Zahedi. It was on this issue that the Shah challenged Mosaddeq in July 1952 and soon had to yield to intense public opinion marshalled by the National Front in a general strike. Understandably, since 1953 the Shah has determined that such a threat should not be allowed to reëmerge, much less to succeed. This is a basic constitutional and governmental problem in Iran, not likely to yield to any radical solution during the leadership of the present Shah, even were he to return to reign, rather than to rule.
Under a strong Prime Minister, there may be some royal withdrawal from direct and specific contact with the business of government; but there is no evidence of withholding the whole battery of available indirect pressures which His Majesty is very skilled at marshalling. It is the results of the exercise of this skill which have led many of those dissatisfied or disillusioned with the Shah's recent personal rule to conclude that Amini has been man?uvred into the position of another, though tougher and abler, supporter of the existing régime. Their hopes that here was the bridge to a new pattern and a faster pace of modernization appear dampened. This situation is further complicated by the fact that a powerful conservative élite, blind to inevitable social change, also mistrusts the court and the Shah, who tries to operate somewhere between this élite and demands for modernization. A kind of political triangulation results, involving the Shah, the conservative élite and the urban middle class led by the National Front.
This political pattern poses a serious problem in regard to the development of a new and abler cadre of public servants from the swelling reservoir of educated youth. Much of the credit for recent economic progress must go to a group of competent young men in and out of government. Within the government this cadre of dedicated technocrats has accomplished much when given adequate opportunity and leadership. Their education and competence propel them upward toward posts of political importance and policy; yet to join the régime at the policy level renders them suspect with many of their fellows. Some of this suspicion is born of jealousy or envy; much of it, however, arises out of the conviction that compromises must have been made with the powerful and corrupt, and that there is room at the top only for those willing to betray the values of democracy and freedom.
Whatever else may be said for the Shah's policy and rule during recent years-and this can be substantial-certain it is that conditions have not been created in which the oncoming generation can mature into responsible leaders. The glaring inadequacy of Reza Shah's dictatorship was his thwarting of the development of a cadre of experienced and mature younger statesmen. As a result, Iran suffered a famine of such men after World War II when there were great opportunities; the country had to rely almost solely on those trained and tested before Reza Shah's dictatorship. This has impoverished Iranian leadership in the last decade. Mohammed Reza has scarcely bettered his father in this respect, and the worst results of the leadership famine are still to come in the decade ahead.
Examination of one other set of political developments in Iran may conclude this review and point up some basic issues. These involve international relationships, particularly as they relate to the cold war.
Basic in this area is the traditional neutralist policy of Iran in this century, born out of the rivalry of Britain-in-India and Russia since the eighteenth century. Iran survived by playing the one off against the other, trying to keep an even balance between them; and thereby she acquired a deep psychic habit of viewing most of her affairs-internal and external-in this context.
Immediately after World War II the United States championed Iranian independence against Soviet threats in Azerbaijan and in connection with the Soviet-Iranian oil treaty subsequently proposed for development of Northern Iran; in 1946 the U.S.S.R. withdrew from Azerbaijan and in 1947 Iran rejected the treaty. Then during Iran's struggle with Britain over the southern oil industry, the United States, initially restraining Britain, finally joined her in a policy that overthrew Dr. Mosaddeq and the National Front and returned the Shah to throne and power. Thereafter the United States became the dominant Western power and partner in Iran, naturally opposed to the Soviets who had begun the cold war in Azerbaijan.
The Shah in 1955 abandoned traditional foreign policy, joined the Baghdad Pact, now CENTO. Although the United States has never formally joined, everyone recognizes that it is available United States power that gives CENTO any effectiveness; and the United States has underlined this by the bilateral military defense pact with Iran. During the last decade, as we have noted, the United States has furnished Iran more than a billion dollars in economic and military aid. Like it or not, justly or unjustly, this has served to identify the United States with the Shah's régime, together with responsibility for what that régime has done, or failed to do. Also, however unjustly, popular opinion holds that the sums have been wasted as far as helping the common people of Iran is concerned.
For this reason the United States is distrusted, if not indeed thoroughly disliked, by all those who have come to distrust the Shah and oppose his policies. Among these anti-Western, anti-United States groups are those who still think and feel in the neutralist tradition, who deplore such complete alliance with, but especially dependence upon, the United States. This is not so much because of fear of what Russia may do by way of reaction, though this is real; it is rather their fear of becoming so beholden to, and identified with, the United States that the nation loses its independence and freedom of action. Fiercely patriotic and nationalistic, they are suspicious of any policy that might give any great power undue hold upon them; and this they believe massive economic and military aid makes possible. Beyond this, they believe that the United States is interested primarily in the status quo and fearful of permitting any change that could in any way mean social revolution. This may seem unfair to Americans; but we need to realize this is our dominant image in Iran today.
What the United States can do in the light of the present situation is another subject and not easy to determine. What she does will inevitably affect basic issues and the trend of future events. But these trends will be primarily determined by the Iranians themselves as they struggle with their most basic issue, that of adequate leadership. Amidst such tension and turmoil, much of it seething beneath the surface, some sudden coup or lightning accident could alter the scene overnight. The present pattern cannot persist without explosion or significant change. One can but hope that sane, steady and competent leadership may somehow emerge sufficient to the challenge of the crisis.
[i] The other parties are the Socialist Third Force, the Pan-Iranist, and die People of Iran; the last two are relatively small.