Iran: Reform or Revolt

April 4, 1962

Report Outline
Reform and Opposition to Reform
Overhanging Threat from the North
American Aid and Iranian Security

Reform and Opposition to Reform

The state visit to this country of the Shah and the Empress of Iran may help to ease tensions that have risen between Washington and Teheran. The Shah is reported to be distressed by the lukewarm attitude of the Kennedy administration toward his requests for increased military aid. The American government, on the other hand, has been concerned by the continuing political unrest and the slow progress of land and other reform programs in Iran. The hope is that conferences during the Shah's sojourn in Washington will lead to better understanding and closer cooperation between the two countries.

Effort at Reform in Iran to Avert Revolution

A social struggle going on in Iran since the end of World War II has been growing in intensity. The Shah commands a certain degree of popular loyalty, but there is question whether he can hang onto his throne unless he keeps the backing of the army. Meanwhile, a rising middle class, eager for riches and power, has been assailing the country's ancient feudal structure, and the wealthy landowning aristocracy stubbornly resists reform. The “1,000 family” oligarchy, for whose members the concept of enlightened self-interest has little meaning, still holds a million peasant families in virtual serfdom. And Iran's peasant majority, almost totally illiterate, remains largely unaware of the struggle now in progress between the middle class and the aristocrats.

The upper class of landowners, generals, members of the court, and rich merchants lacks both unity and the skills needed to bring about orderly change. The Shah nevertheless is attempting to reform the country from above so that revolution will not topple him from below. Even Premier Ali Amini, who is a member of the dynasty that was overthrown by the Shah's father shortly after World War I, is reported to think of himself as a man who is trying to save his class from itself by figuring out what an enlightened revolutionary would do and then trying to do it in his place.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Feb. 07, 2012  Rising Tension Over Iran
Nov. 16, 2007  U.S. Policy on Iran
Dec. 18, 1998  Reform in Iran
Aug. 29, 1986  Iran's Revolt Within
Jan. 26, 1979  Iran Between East and West
Apr. 26, 1974  Resurgent Iran
Apr. 04, 1962  Iran: Reform or Revolt
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