Hector blogs on British Foreign Policy Misjudgements

How We Created an Enemy: Iran

Before 1953 Iran was a constitutional Monarchy, with the Shah (Iranian monarch) being the head of state, but with a parliament controlling the government. Very much like how the United Kingdom works. Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, the prime minister of Iran during pre-1953 was a democratically elected leader, who wanted a secular Iran much like most western democracies. How he planned on doing this; Oil. However after the Anglo-Iranian war during the 1940s, the British Empire controlled most of Irans oil reserves. Mosaddegh began nationalising all of the British controlled oil reserves.


The United Kingdom was not happy about losing it’s oil reserves as it was a huge source of income and fuel. Britain then turned to America, wishing to overthrow the current government and seize the oil. At first the American government sympathised with Iran, and cared little for Britain’s imperialism. However in 1953 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower came to office he took a very anti-communist approach to the situation. The British convinced Eisenhower Mosaddegh sympathised with communism, even though in reality he sympathised with the West.

The British got their coup d’tat backed by the U.S. and topple the democratically elected government. In Mosaddegh’s place, the west put the Shah in power, who was known to be in favour of the West, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Transforming Iran into an Autocratic monarchy, allowing the UK and US back into Iran for access to their Oil reserves. Over the next 20 years, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi became very unpopular among the Iranian population. This was due to multiple reasons; The Shah initiated brutal crackdowns on political opponents, with secret police silencing many opponents. Also since Iran has a largely Islamic population, his forceful progressive policies were seen as inconsiderate, and undesirable in the eyes of many. He wanted to secularise Iran so much, inspire by European democracies he even went on to encourage reform in Saudi Arabia to allow women to wear mini skirts and drive, et cetera, much of which is still seen as taboo in this area of the world today. This is what was know as the “white Revolution”, (not to be confused with the white army of the Russian revolution). With many land, educational and social reforms apart of this. However the land reforms just created a huge class and pay gap, with the Monarch getting richer and the citizens getting poorer. This created many enemies in the predominantly Muslim population. One of which was open critic and Islamic preacher, is Ruhollah Khomeini. Who insulted the Shah, calling him a puppet of the west. After this he was sent into exile.

In 1978 protests erupted in Iran, the Shah called for open negotiations where he lifted crackdowns and allowed more freedom in the press. This calmed them down until a terrorist attack caused by islamically motivated terrosists ignited a revolution, with more protests, violence only for the economy to collapse. This led to the overthrow of the Shah. Ruhollah Khomeini turned Iran from a secular nation to a Islamic Theocracy. Due to all of the heavily westernised policies of the Shah, this caused much of a anti-western foreign policy and sentiment amongst the newly established regime. This is what has led to many worrying United Nations Sanctions on Iran as they pursue nuclear weapons, and in the eyes of the west, nuclear weapons and anti-western sentiment do not seem to be a good thing. This is how we created one of our possibly greatest concerns/enemies.

Hector Bowering. Year 12