This paper examines the historical elements of the Shah of Iran's autocratic and repressive rule, the factors that led to his fall, and the misguided U.S. policy that failed to appreciate the Shah's alienation from the Iranian people and the trends that led to his fall.
The imperial ideology that guided the Shah's autocratic rule placed the roots of the Shah's dynasty in the pre- Islamic Persian Empire. The Shah sought the development of a modern secular state centralized in his person and sustained by the imperial armed forces and other security forces. Under this ideology, no opposition was tolerated. All dissent, whether from liberals and intellectuals or the Shi'ite Moslem mullahs, was suppressed by brutal security forces. The United States viewed the Shah's dynasty as a force for stability and predictability in the region and provided it with the military weaponry it requested, believing that a militarily strong ally would undermine the influence of the Soviet Union in the region. Both the Shah and the United States failed to understand the general opposition to the Shah that stemmed from his efforts to suppress the militant Islamic culture that permeated the populace. In the minds of the citizenry, the United States and the Shah were cooperatively engaged in an effort to suppress the will of the people. The outcome has been damage to the U.S. image of strength, a tarnished prestige in the Gulf region, and a shaking of the foundations of several friendly regimes in the region. The core of the lesson the United States should learn from this experience is the need for an effective U.S. response in assisting internal improvements in a nation rather than with military support and the uselessness of arming a country against external threats when internal threats render it unstable. 21 notes
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