The seeds that led to Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979
The Islamic Revolution of 1979 was one of the most important uprisings in modern political history, an event which still shapes the world.
After enduring decades of economic exploitation under the British, followed by a CIA and MI6 coup in 1953 to overthrow Iranian PM Mossadegh and replace him with Western-backed monarch the Shah, Iran finally stood up to Britain and the United States. Iranians took to the streets by the millions, regained its sovereignty as well control over its natural resources and dealt a heavy blow to imperialism, setting the stage for resistance and anti-imperialist movements to this day.
Iran's Islamic revolution of 1979 was a monumental event in many aspects, with long lasting effects still felt to this date.
To better understand the roots of Iran's Islamic Revolution we have to go back in time to the beginning of the 20th century.
This is when the British Empire was at its height with around a quarter of the world's entire population under its rule and around a quarter of the Earth's landmass under its dominion.
At this time the British were occupying India, Australia, Canada, and vast swaths of Africa, one place that wasn't officially part of the Empire, but in practical terms, very much under its rule was, in fact, Iran, with the Russian Empire occupying the northern part of Iran and the British exerting their sphere of influence over the southern part of Iran.
Now as with many imperialist endeavors a lot of this story has to do with natural resources, particularly oil. In 1908 oil was discovered in Iran, a British company known back then as Burma oil, founded a subsidiary company called the Anglo Persian oil company. This Anglo Persian oil company installed its first pipeline just one year later in 1909 and built an enormous refinery in Abadan, which was completed later in 1912. And from that moment on this company in Britain effectively began stealing oil from the Iranian people for the following six decades.
Former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty and in charge of the British Royal Navy at the time. He realised what a lucrative goldmine this was.
He convinced the British government to buy an ownership share in the Anglo Persian oil company in 1914, and he transitioned the Royal Navy's fleets from coal to petroleum, which proved to be of immense use in World War One, and World War Two, when the British Navy was the envy of other empires at the time.
The British however, took the Iranians for granted and gave them crumbs. with Iran receiving a mere 16% of all oil revenue, for its own oil. If that wasn't bad enough, this tiny amount of 16% was calculated by the United Kingdom's government in private, without ever showing the Iranians the books. And on top of that this was done after taxes had already been paid by the British government to the British government.
This blatant theft and plundering of Iran's Natural Resources became common knowledge, and people rightfully resented the British and their colonial arrogance.
In the years after World War Two, there was one politician who would soon put an end to this, Mohammad Mossadegh. Mossadegh was known for wanting to nationalize Iran's oil fields and just like many Iranians held a grudge against the 1933 agreement, made by Reza Shah, which gave enormous concessions to the British to continue plundering the oil at Abadan.
Mossadegh was appointed Prime Minister in 1951, and soon thereafter Iran's Parliament moved to nationalize all of Iran's oil fields, including Abadan which, at the time, housed the largest oil refinery in the world.
That should give you an idea of how badly the British wanted to keep their hands on it. They attempted to stop Iran from controlling and using its own oil refineries through sabotage and other clandestine operations. An embargo or blockade was also imposed on Iran in order to stop it from being able to sell its own oil on the global market.
The British felt that they had been robbed somehow, because they had discovered the oil, they had built the refineries and they had developed Abadan. This is of course absurd, but the British would not accept this condition for long, and instead they resorted to the typical dirty tactics used by imperialists, they plotted a coup.
The British called it operation boot. Meanwhile, the Americans who were helping them refer to it as Operation Ajax. The goal was to oust Mossadegh and reinstall the Shah, and retake the oil.
Now while people often attribute the coup of 1953 to the CIA, and that's partly correct, the role of the British cannot be overlooked. We know for example that Mossadegh's chief of police Mahmoud Afshartoos was kidnapped, tortured and executed by Britain's foreign intelligence service, MI6.
Once this coup was completed and Mossadegh was deposed, the Americans and British moved quickly to help the Shah establish and train the SAVAK, Iran's secret police. The SAVAK were trained by the CIA, who had lots of experience, training people in torture, all over the world, in Jakarta, in Latin America, as part of their Cold War campaign against communists.