The history of Iran in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries corresponds neither to the image that Westerners have of it, nor to the image that the official discourse of Iranians gives of it. Historically linked to China and for the past two centuries fascinated by the United States, Iran is struggling between the memory of its imperial past and the liberating dream of Rouhollah Khomeiny. Considering that Shiism is not only a religion, but also a political and military weapon, it hesitates between proclaiming itself the protector of the Shiites or the liberator of the oppressed. We publish a two-part study by Thierry Meyssan on modern Iran.
The British overthrew the Kadjar and placed an officer of their army in place of Shah. Worried about his pro-German friendships, they deposed him during the Second World War in favour of his son. The latter, aware that he was not much, summoned in 1971 a third of the world’s sovereigns, heads of state and government to celebrate the 2500 years of his predecessors. Concerned about his megalomania, the United States and the United Kingdom removed him from office in favour of Ayatollah Khomeini.
The Persians built vast empires by uniting neighbouring peoples rather than conquering their territories. Traders rather than warriors, they imposed their language for a millennium throughout Asia, along the Chinese Silk Roads. Farsi, which only they alone speak today, had a status comparable to English today. In the 16th century, their sovereign decided to convert his people to Shi’ism in order to unify them by giving them a distinct identity within the Muslim world. This religious particularism served as a basis for the Safavid Empire.
Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh (right) addressing the UN Security Council.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the country had to contend with the ferocious appetites of the British, Ottoman and Russian empires. In the end, after a terrible famine deliberately provoked by the British, which caused 6 million deaths, Tehran lost its empire while London imposed an operetta dynasty, that of the Pahlevi, in 1925, in order to exploit the oil fields for its sole benefit. In 1951, Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh nationalized the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Furious, the United Kingdom and the United States succeeded in overthrowing him while maintaining the Pahlavi dynasty.