The Shah's Intellectual Squad

  December 13, 2021   Read time 3 min
The Shah's Intellectual Squad
Ali Foroughi (Zaka al-Mulk) was a seminary-trained jurist who had been tutor to the young Ahmad Shah and minister of justice on numerous occasions in the 1910s.

He had represented Iran at the 1919 Versailles Conference, thrice served as war minister in the early 1920s, and headed the cabinet during both the1925 coronation and the 1934 Mashed crisis. The latter had led to his resignation. Some thought he had resigned because he had opposed the anti-veil campaign. Others thought he had resigned because the executed custodian of the Mashed shrine had been his son-in-law. In 1941, Foroughi oversaw Reza Shah’s smooth abdication, privately telling the British that if the latter remained in Iran he would inevitably scheme to return to his “old arbitrary ways.” Even though Foroughi was instrumental in preserving the monarchy, he placed little trust in the new shah. Bullard commented: “Foroughi hardly expects any son of Reza Shah to be a civilized man.” Bullard, in his constant frustration to get Iranian politicians to do his bidding, added caustically: “He is one of the three honest men in Persia.”

Ibrahim Hakimi (Hakim al-Mamalek), another patrician, was the son of the court doctor and himself had served as a doctor at the Qajar court. He inherited his title from his father. Despite his family position, Hakimi participated in the 1906 protest in the British legation and sat in the First Majles as a Democrat. He studied medicine in Paris; served as minister of education and finance before being forced into retirement by Reza Shah; but was brought back in 1933 to be minister of agriculture. It was thought that he had regained the shah’s confidence by turning his large estate outside Tehran into a highly successful cotton plantation. Ali Mansur (Mansur alMamalek) typified part of the old elite that had swallowed its pride and submitted to Reza Shah. He served as his prime minister and interior minister before being arrested for financial irregularities. A few years later, he was forgiven and reappointed minister of industry. Muhammad Sa’ed (Sa’ed al-Vezareh), also known as Maraghehi, came from a landed family that had moved to Azerbaijan from Herat more than a hundred years before. In addition to representing his constituency in the Majles, Sa’ed had a long career in the foreign office, mostly in the Caucasus.

Mohsen Sadr (Sadr al-Ashraf) typified part of the old elite with links to the religious establishment. A seminary-trained jurist, he was a son of a religious tutor in Nasser al-Din Shah’s court and himself had served both as a tutor at court and as a custodian of the Mashed shrine. He was also a major landlord in Qom and Mashed who increased his own properties while serving as a judge and administering the royal estates. Morteza Bayat (Saham al-Saltaneh) came from the wealthiest family in Arak. Although one of the few politicians with no experience in public administration, he briefly headed the finance ministry in 1926–27. He had spent much of his life as a gentleman farmer and as a venture capitalist with a coal mine in northern Iran.

Hussein Ala (Mu’in al-Vezareh), another major landlord, was the son of Ala al-Mulk, also titled al-Saltaneh. In 1922, the India Office described the family as one of the most influential in the whole southeast of Iran. Educated at Westminster School, Hussein Ala deputized for his father as foreign minister on and off from 1906 until 1915. He also served as Reza Shah’s English translator, and as the country’s representative in London and Washington. He was married to the daughter of Nasser al-Mulk who had been Ahmad Shah’s regent. A Qajar himself, Nasser al-Mulk’s side of the clan adopted the family name Qarahgozlu.

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