Paradoxes and Plans: Alternatives for Shah

  December 13, 2021   Read time 3 min
Paradoxes and Plans: Alternatives for Shah
The other two premiers were also prominent patricians. Muhammad Mossadeq (Mossadeq al-Saltaneh), the future national hero for many Iranians, came from a prominent mostowfi and landed family.

Ahmad Qavam (Qavam al-Saltaneh), Mossadeq’s cousin, best represented the notables eager to reassert aristocratic power at the expense of the Pahlavis. Qavam had been prominent in national politics ever since 1906, when he, with his masterful calligraphy, had written the royal proclamation granting the country a written constitution. He came from a long line of mostowfi families going back five generations to the famous Mohsen Ashtiyani. The Ashtiyani family had married into the Qajars, Farmanfarmas, Alas, and Qarahgozlus. Vossuq al-Dowleh, the foreign minister who had signed the 1919 Anglo-Persian Agreement, was Qavam’s elder brother. In the era before Reza Shah consolidated power, Qavam himself headed four different cabinets and an impressive array of ministries – of war, justice, finance, and interior. After a brief exile in France, he had been permitted to retire to his tea plantation in Gilan. One observer wrote that he reentered politics in 1941 “openly baring his teeth at the royal family.”

Another suspected that he planned to set up a republic with himself as president. The shah complained to Bullard that Qavam was a “dangerous schemer” who was “eager to implement some desperate design” and had surrounded himself with “a gang of cut-throats.” Bullard himself described Qavam as the most shrewd, energetic, skillful, courageous, ambitious, and authoritative of the old time politicians. In some ways, Qavam in the 1940s was what Sepahdar had been in the 1910s and Mushir al-Dowleh in the 1900s. The nationalist interregnum 103 Qavam reentered politics with Muzaffar Firuz Farmanfarma, the son of the famous Farmanfarma murdered by Reza Shah, as his right-hand man. Educated at Harrow and Cambridge, Muzaffar Firuz rushed home determined, in Bullard’s words, to “avenge the murder of his father”: “he would sacrifice anything to bring about the downfall of the Shah.”

Notables also dominated the four parliaments that sat in these thirteen years: the Thirteenth (1941–43), Fourteenth (1944–46), Fifteenth (1947–49), and Sixteenth Majles (1950–52). For example, of the 134 deputies in the Fourteenth Majles – the first elected after the abdication – 27 percent were large landlords, 16 percent were civil servants with substantial land, 11 percent were wealthy businessmen, and 6 percent were clerics with land. More than 62 percent had been born into landowning families. Professionals and civil servants without land numbered fewer than a handful.

What is more, notables dominated Majles through parliamentary parties known as fraksiuns – the term was borrowed from the German Reichstag. For example, the Fourteenth Majles was divided into four major fraksiuns. The Azadi (Freedom or Liberal) Fraksiun was led by: Muhammad Vali Mirza Farmanfarma, the family’s patriarch; by Abul-Qassem Amini, the grandson of the Amin al-Dowleh who had served as chief minister to both Nasser al-Din Shah and Muzaffar al-Din Shah – the Aminis were descendants of the famous Ashtiyani family; and by Sardar Fakher Hekmat of the Mushar al-Dowleh family that had struggled for generations with the Qavam al-Mulks and the Qashqayis for mastery of Fars. The Demokrat Fraksiun – also known as the Fraksiun-e ‘Eshayer (Tribal) – was led by: Samsam and As’ad Bakhtiyari; Sowlat Qashqayi, son of the late Sowlat alDowleh; and Abbas Qobadian (Amir Makhsus), chief of the Kalhur tribe in Kurdestan. Qobadian, like many Bakhtiyari and Qashqayi khans, had been incarcerated by Reza Shah. The Ettehad-e Melli (National Union) Fraksiun was led by: Sayyed Muhammad Tabatabai and Sayyed Ahmad Behbehani – sons of the two mojtaheds who had led the early constitutional movement; and by Ezatollah Bayat, brother of the premier with the same name, both of whom were major landlords in Arak. The Mehan (Fatherland) Fraksiun was led by Hadi Taheri, Muhammad Namazi, and Hashem Malek-Madani – three wealthy businessmen who had represented Yazd, Shiraz, and Mallayer respectively during the previous twenty years. The Majles also contained a number of prominent independent (mostaqel) deputies: Mossadeq; Sayyed Ziya, the short lived premier of the 1921 coup; Timourtash, son of the murdered minister; and Rahman Khalatbari, heir to the famous Sepahdar.

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