on the Persian Sphinx
This article is an abridged version of a critical analysis of the failed quest for justice 27 years ago, and the inherent dangers in relying upon pre-revolutionary propaganda and general word of mouth in charting our future. I conclude that disseminating gross exaggeration amounts to a falsehood and ultimately is detrimental to ones own political agenda.
I came across this biography of Amir Abbas Hoveyda by Abbas Milani that appeared at first glance an excuse by the author to vent his anger against Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the rigid authoritarian hierarchy that has characterizes Iranian government for millennia.
Well written the book certainly is. The author has a writing talent and intellect that I cannot match. I quite liked how it evoked emotion and revulsion at the murder of such friendly personality as Mr. Hoveyda.
Factual the book most certainly is not. Yes it does make a good read. It sounds logical and well grounded in facts and also evokes many memories. Never the less, as much as I wanted to skip the petty points, which I had already heard ad nauseam, and read about Mr. Hoveyda it became clear that the key conclusions derived in this book are based on village gossip and the book has an agenda which is a bit difficult to decipher at first.
It would seem to the casual reader the book is out to tarnish the reputation of who the Iranians now call "Khoda biamorz" (God Bless him), using Court Minister Hoveyda's life as an excuse. In fact, as I intend to show, it falsely presents the very structure of the modern Iran created by Reza Pahlavi from the biased political view of someone who in his youth, as a follower of imaginary, idealistic and untested philosophy of Marxism, Leninism and Maoism (2) combined, was preaching the massacre of the wealthy and respectable people.
In this book I found a gold mine. It articulates the political motives behind the people delighted by the book and an eloquent display of their character at the same time. I believe it is necessary to bring to light the weakness of such gossip, present an insight from those involved on some issues raised, and show how spreading gossip and this casual lying that is a staple of middle eastern politics, ultimately hurts all us Iranians.
This is an abridged version of my original article, containing only one of these eight subject area's: Corruption, Press Freedom, Character, Rumours, Dictatorship, Political System, SAVAK and History. For the full version, and if you would like to provide any feedback, please look at the full document by clicking here: http://www.persiansphinx.info
The author attempts at presenting an investigation on the past by using reports produced by the very same country whose reports (partial presented in this book) reflect their attempts towards the removal of the government (Shah, Hoveyda and the rest of the team).
From the political point of view this book has no added value since it simply regurgitates the western media’s campaign of darkening the Pahlavi’s reputation that started soon after the oil price hikes initiated by OPEC in Tehran.
Any comments about the Shah which do not give a single consideration to what American, British and Soviet Union’s interests were and which also fails to give consideration to their common and divergent views, their undercover competitive operations and also the general condition of the Iranian society would be a political stunt by the author, not history, biography or analysis with an academic value.
If you are patient and read my comments below, to the Persian sphinx by Abbas Milani, the Iranian revolution will remain a riddle no more.
Despite the fact that the author, in the preface, writes in a manner to show he is a knowledgeable person who uses the view of those who know the power of words and who are familiar with research work to avoid ideological tendency and who are “Catholic” in wise use of words to present an unbiased writing, and also having used the help of people like Mr. Fereydoun Hoveyda, Mr. Cyrus Ghani, Mr. Ebrahim Golestan and Mr. Ahmad Ghoreyshi, and by admiring their character sycophantically (6) gives credit to his own writing, every time he mentions the name of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, even when he points to a real fact, he does it in a poisonous and childish way. For example:
From the first paragraph of the first chapter:
a – “Fearing for their lives, the royal family fled Iran on January 16th 1979. They took with them much of their personal belongings, including the royal dog. Their long trusted prime minister, however, they chose to leave behind”.(p21) "He was sacrificed to save his throne”.
What is the purpose of this manner of explanation?
1.) Does the author himself not state that when Mr. Hoveyda resigned as Secretary of States for the Royal Court, the Shah suggested sending him abroad as the Ambassador to Belgium, but Mr. Hoveyda did not accept the offer. (p. 294)
2.) Does the author himself not state that France’s head of National Assembly sent a message to Mr. Hoveyda, stating we are certain that the situation will get much worse, and invited him to France, but Mr. Hoveyda did not accept this invitation. (p295)
3.) Does the author himself not state that childhood life in foreign countries had created a trauma that convinced Mr. Hoveyda to live in Iran and never leave Iran, with such significance that on the eve of the Islamic revolution, when he was offered a chance to leave Iran, he did not choose the life in exile? (p. 47)
4.) Does the author himself not state that with the Iranian army’s declaration of neutrality, Hoveyda’s guards decided to escape themselves. They left behind the key to a car and a pistol, and urged Mr. Hoveyda to flee as well. Hoveyda demurred. (p. 304)
5.) Does the author himself not state that Hoveyda asked Mrs. Ensha, his cousin, to arrange for his surrender to the new authorities. He called his wife in Paris and said I have nothing to fear. I have decided to turn myself in. (p. 304)
6.) Did not Mr. Riazi, the head of Parliament, who was abroad during the revolution, based on the same kind of reasoning, return to Iran?
Further, did or could the execution of Mr. Hoveyda save the throne? Is sending someone to prison, called sacrificing him? Was only Mr. Hoveyda sent to prison? What were people demanding of the government in those days? Does the author himself not state that Mr. Ardeshir Zahedi and his group, Mr. Manuchehr Azmun, Mr. Hushang Nahavandi, Mr. Mohamad Baheri, General Oveysi and some of the other generals, were requesting that Mr. Hoveyda should be sent to prison? (p. 296-8) Is going to court and the answering of the accused for their actions, unjustified?
The facts under these circumstances were that the Shah held talks with Mr. Hoveyda, suggesting that for his own security it was in his own interests, as well, to be kept in a safe house (as stated in the book) on the basis that later he will be answerable to a court of law. The Shah knowing full well that the Iranian people will find him innocent of most accusations hurled at him by his opponents and probably forgive any mistake he may have made in office. It was the mullahs that moved him to a prison with bars.
Has the author not seen the Royal families personal belonging at Niavaran palace, and the Pahlavi foundations wealth donated to an Islamic trust under Iranian jurisdiction? And we all saw the official ceremonial departure of the royal family, and the armies show of loyalty. Some of us heard at that time the worrisome statement of the BBC television news broadcaster who stated that the Shah has four generals who can still crush the rebellion, if hinted at by the Shah. With angry security forces waiting for a signal to put their foot down and confused as to why they are told not defend themselves, the Royal Family fled fearing their lives!? Eight months after the Shah had left Iran the nervous and paranoid government in Iran was still frightened of the possibility of an ill and dying Shah returning to power. In Algeria, Mehdi Bazargan asked Zbigniew Brzezinski if Iranian doctors be allowed to examine the Shah, now in New York, to determine if he was really ill, or if it was only a ruse to disguise a plot to return.
The Shah’s horse, selected as the most handsome horse in a 1975 Paris show, whom they did not take with them, was blinded and later destroyed by the movement the author calls Islamic!
From the second page of the first chapter:
b - The author writes, “the Shah’s Italian tailor was also Mr. Hoveyda’s tailor for many years. Lest to appear impertinent to the Shah, who in the word of one observer (Marvin Zonice) suffered from narcissistic grandiosity, Hoveyda remained discreet about it”. (p. 22)
The ambiguity? Was the case of the Shah’s Italian tailor a secret case? Was he only the Shah’s tailor for the case to be kept discreet by Mr. Hoveyda or did many, many others use this tailoring service?
Mr. Marvin Zonice, an American security expert, who could not tolerate the refusal by the Shah to adhere to the views of the American government, and instead carried out the speediest economic expansion, would blame the Shah for having narcissistic grandiosity! But why would an Iranian, unless he is a gossip monger and acts as a loudspeaker for western foreign policy, consider the desire by the Shah to remedy the economic backwardness, in the shortest possible time as narcissistic grandiosity.
c- The author writes, “the young monarch was shy and timid, ill-fitted to fill the shoes of his domineering parent. There is a picture that captures the problematic father and son relationship. Taken in 1926 the father is 48 and the son 7. The contrast between them is striking in every respect. The huge, powerful Shah-father stand sulkily, predominant, hand on his hips, and beside him the small pale boy, frail, nervous, obediently standing at attention”. (p. 84).
Who else but a jealous, devious person, and they who take advantage of those who gossip, and who try to throw mud at the leadership to destroy it, would present the official picture of Reza Shah Kabir and his pre-pubescent son as reflecting the character of the grown up son?
d - The author writes “Hoveyda had developed the habit of having most of his confidential and many of his intimate conversation in European languages. May be that was one of the reasons the Shah, no less a Francophile, grew to feel comfortable with Hoveyda. Speaking French or English, might have been part of their implicit camaraderie; they were both exile in their own country, at home only in Europe of their imagination.” (p. 175)……They were both out of sync with the deeply traditional and often religious centre of gravity that defined Iranian culture. …..The two men. …..embarked on a radical program, changing the socioeconomic foundation. …..The foreign language the two men used when talking about matters of state was an indication of this estrangement. (p. 176) ….. As the tempo of modernization increased, as the Shah grew more authoritarian in his style of rule, as he became more distant, haughty and self referential in his manner, he moved farther and farther away from the traditional centre of the city.When I speak English or French it is to maintain privacy from the waiter or taxi driver and I am no less Iranian when I write in English as if I were to write in Persian. It is my suggestion that the use of foreign language between the Shah and Mr. Hoveyda was to maintain the privacy and secrecy of the talks from domestic staff as well as just to practice a foreign tongue.
Further, does using foreign language represents one’s distancing from his nationality? What does the author mean by the deeply traditional and often religious centre of gravity that defines Iranian culture? Do the Islamic Republicans in anyway represent Iranian culture? More importantly, at what period was the behaviour of the aristocracy, bazaary, labourers, farmers and the clergy the same, and what criteria exist to present the clergy as Iranian culture? Which one of the aristocrats has been following the bazaary way of life, and which semi-educated person ever took the clergy talks as serious?
Does the author not refer to the recommendation of the American Embassy to the President Lyndon Johnson, stating that the Iranian educated group do not have respect for Islam and feel uncomfortable about religious discussions. (p. 229) Is culture basically fixed and does it not continuously change with the increase of knowledge and the change of technology. The printing industry and the ease with which information spread, together with economic expansion and the increase of income in Europe and America helped the lower strata of the society to imitate what the aristocracy considered the proper way of living. Today too, with the spread of information and becoming familiar with the way other people live, the change in the habits and behaviour of different populations are noticeable.
What has caused the author to suggest that in Iran, replacing the way of life of those who shaped national Iranian culture based on truth and justice with the way of life of the least educated, who use terror with the help of the rogue, can be considered as a movement toward Iranian culture?? This I suggest might be the influence on the author of new friends he has found in America.
Was Marmar Palace built in the centre of the town? Did the transfer of the Shah’s living quarter from Marmar Palace to Niavaran have a decreasing effect on the Shah’s audiences?
These kinds of statements referred to above show that the author’s intention is not to write a biography for Mr. Hoveyda, but his main aim is propaganda of what he has learned from activists abroad, aimed at darkening the reputation of imperial symbols in Iran, and assist in laying the roots of a new national culture. Not forgetting that in politics, perception and rumour is as important as reality. Rumours do not only takes the shape of reality but it becomes a tool of political and undercover warfare. Long before one is judged in a revolutionary court, ones personality is being killed by the corrosive power of rumour. Every terrifying thought, every unpleasant political tendency, and every hidden undesirable tendency is blamed on those involved in politics.
It is a calamity when this kind of thinking finds buyer among the educated, and this kind of person becomes a storyteller for a society that accepts gossip instead of facts for scholarly work. This is why I have now put pen to paper. Let me continue.
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was a man who with all the domestic and foreign problems that the country was faced with took charge of the leadership of a country that, as the author says, annual income per capita of its residents was $174, and the day he left the country, he had raised it to more than $2400 (18) (real-terms equivalent of $6,000 today) or put more simply:
The average Iranian was one of the wealthiest in the 3rd world. We even imported doctors from Pakistan, drivers from Korea, labourers from Turkey and Afghanistan, had one of the best trained and best equipped military forces in the world and at the very same time the country had one of the largest capital reserves in the whole world. The future of our young was bright.
From 1963 to 1977 our GNP went from 340bn rials to 5682bn rials, a 16 fold increase in 15 years. In this period we had a 13.8% compound growth rate in savings (from 45bn to 1509bn). And by 1974 we were listed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the 13th wealthiest country in the world.
This makes him a dictator and despot to those who’s political motives objected to a patriarchic society with a strong economy and military. For ordinary Iranians he was benevolent and with high wishes for his country. He should be praised for this. The observation of world-wise tourist in our country was also that the Shah of Iran was a good man completely dedicated to the welfare of his people and the Iranian masses loved and supported him.
What I propose to you the reader to assume is that such manipulation of history by the underwriters of the Islamic Revolution will continue. And we will continue to hear what theoretically, based on unreal assumptions, seem right.When looking to blame someone else for our failures 23 years ago, we must not forget that collectively, all of us can be regarded as being "guilty". Guilty of gutlessness and indifference by our very own national standards. We have surrendered completely and passively to the violation of our Identity, Culture and Civilization by the Islamic invasion, initiated over 1500 years ago by the Bedouin Arab invader, and then a second time with the help of blatantly biased views, such as this one presented, by a person who wants to become a storyteller for a society that accepts gossip instead of facts for scholarly work.