History of Iran

Iran after the victory of 1979's Revolution

Page: 1 2 3 4     Page 2
Consolidation of the Revolution
As the government eliminated the political opposition and successfully prosecuted The Iran-Iraq War, it also took further steps to consolidate and to institutionalize the achievements of the Revolution. The government took several measures to regularize the status of revolutionary organizations. It reorganized the Pasdaran and the Crusade for Reconstruction as ministries (the former in November 1982 and the latter in November 1983), a move designed to bring these bodies under the aegis of the cabinet, and placed the revolutionary committees under the supervision of the minister of interior.

The government also incorporated the revolutionary courts into the regular court system and in 1984 reorganized the security organization led by Mohammadi Reyshahri, concurrently the head of the Army Military Revolutionary Tribunal, as the Ministry of Information and Security. These measures met with only limited success in reducing the considerable autonomy, including budgetary independence, enjoyed by the revolutionary organizations.

An Assembly of Experts (not to be confused with the constituent assembly that went by the same name) was elected in December 1982 and convened in the following year to determine the successor to Ayatollah Khomeini. Ayatollah Khomeini's own choice was known to be Ayatollah Montazeri. The assembly, an eighty-three-member body that is required to convene once a year, apparently could reach no agreement on a successor during either its 1983 or its 1984 session, however. In 1985 the Assembly of Experts agreed, reportedly on a split vote, to name Ayatollah Montazeri as Ayatollah Khomeini's "deputy" (qaem maqam), rather than "successor" (ja-neshin), thus placing Ayatollah Montazeri in line for the succession without actually naming him as the heir apparent.

Elections to the second Majlis were held in the spring of 1984. The IFM, doubting the elections would be free, did not participate, so the seats were contested only by candidates of the IRP and other groups and individuals in the ruling hierarchy. The campaign revealed numerous divisions within the ruling group, however, and the second Majlis, which included several deputies who had served in the revolutionary organizations, was more radical than the first. The second Majlis convened in May 1984 and, with some prodding from Ayatollah Khomeini, gave Mir-Hossein Mousavi a renewed vote of confidence as prime minister. In 1985 it elected Hojatoleslam Khamenei, who was virtually unchallenged, to another four-year term as president.

Bazargan, as leader of the IFM, continued to protest the suppression of basic freedoms. He addressed a letter on these issues to Ayatollah Khomeini in August 1984 and issued a public declaration in February 1985. He also spoke out against the war with Iraq and urged a negotiated settlement. In April 1985 Bazargan and forty members of the IFM and the National Front urged the UN secretary general to negotiate a peaceful end to the conflict. In retaliation, in February 1985, the hezbollahis smashed the offices of the party, and the party newspaper was once again shut down. Bazargan was denounced from pulpits and was not allowed to run for president in the 1985 elections.

There were, however, increasing signs of factionalism within the ruling group itself over questions of social justice in relation to economic policy, the succession, and, in more muted fashion, foreign policy and the war with Iraq. The debate on economic policy arose partly from disagreement over the more equitable distribution of wealth and partly from differences between those who advocated state control of the economy and those who supported private sector control. Divisions also arose between the Majlis and the Council of Guardians, a group composed of senior Islamic jurists and other experts in Islamic law and empowered by the Constitution to veto, or demand the revision of, any legislation it considers in violation of Islam or the Constitution. In this dispute, the Council of Guardians emerged as the collective champion of private property rights. In May 1982, the Council of Guardians had vetoed a law that would have nationalized foreign trade. In the fall of 1982, the council forced the Majlis to pass a revised law regarding the state takeover of urban land and to give landowners more protection. In January of the following year, the council vetoed the Law for the Expropriation of the Property of Fugitives, a measure that would have allowed the state to seize the property of any Iranian living abroad who did not return to the country within two months.

In December 1982, the Council of Guardians also vetoed the Majlis' new and more conservative land reform law. This law had been intended to help resolve the issue of land distribution, left unresolved when the land reform law was suspended in November 1980. The suspension had also left unsettled the status of 750,000 to 850,000 hectares of privately owned land that, as a result of the 1979-80 land seizures and redistributions, was being cultivated by persons other than the owners, but without transfer of title.

The debate between proponents of state and of private sector control over the economy was renewed in the winter of 1983-84, when the government came under attack and leaflets critical of the Council of Guardians were distributed. Undeterred, the council blocked attempts in 1984 and 1985 to revive measures for nationalization of foreign trade and for land distribution, and it vetoed a measure for state control over the domestic distribution of goods. As economic conditions deteriorated in 1985, there was an attempt in the Majlis to unseat the prime minister. Ayatollah Khomeini, however, intervened to maintain the incumbent government in office.

These differences over major policy issues persisted even as the Revolution was institutionalized and the regime consolidated its hold over the country. The differences remained muted, primarily because of Ayatollah Khomeini's intervention, but the debate threatened to grow more intense and more divisive in the post-Khomeini period. Moreover, while in 1985 Ayatollah Montazeri appeared slated to succeed Ayatollah Khomeini as Iran's leader, there was general agreement that he would be a far less dominant figure as head of the Islamic Republic than Ayatollah Khomeini has been.

The New Constitution
Ayatollah Khomeini had charged the provisional government with the task of drawing up a draft constitution. A step in this direction was taken on March 30 and 31, 1979, when a national referendum was held to determine the kind of political system to be established. Ayatollah Khomeini rejected demands by various political groups and by Ayatollah Shariatmadari that voters be given a wide choice. The only form of government to appear on the ballot was an Islamic republic, and voting was not by secret ballot. The government reported an overwhelming majority of over 98 percent in favor of an Islamic republic. Ayatollah Khomeini proclaimed the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran on April 1, 1979.

The Ayatollah Khomeini regime unveiled a draft constitution on June 18. Aside from substituting a strong president, on the Gaullist model, for the monarchy, the constitution did not differ markedly from the 1906 constitution and did not give the clerics an important role in the new state structure. Ayatollah Khomeini was prepared to submit this draft, virtually unmodified, to a national referendum or, barring that, to an appointed council of forty representatives who could advise on, but not revise, the document. Ironically, as it turned out, it was the parties of the left who most vehemently rejected this procedure and demanded that the constitution be submitted for full-scale review by a constituent assembly. Ayatollah Shariatmadari supported these demands.

A newly created seventy-three-member Assembly of Experts convened on August 18, 1979, to consider the draft constitution. Clerics, and members and supporters of the IRP dominated the assembly, which revamped the constitution to establish the basis for a state dominated by the Shia clergy. The Assembly of Experts completed its work on November 15, and the new Constitution of the Islamic Republic was approved in a national referendum on December 2 and 3, 1979, once again, according to government figures, by over 98 percent of the vote.

In October 1979, when it had become clear that the draft constitution would institutionalize clerical domination of the state, Bazargan and a number of his cabinet colleagues had attempted to persuade Ayatollah Khomeini to dissolve the Assembly of Experts, but Ayatollah Khomeini refused. Now opposition parties attempted to articulate their objections to the Constitution through protests led by the IPRP. Following the approval of the Constitution, Ayatollah Shariatmadari's followers in Tabriz organized demonstrations and seized control of the radio station.

A potentially serious challenge to the dominant clerical hierarchy fizzled out, however, when Ayatollah Shariatmadari wavered in his support for the protesters, and the pro-Khomeini forces organized massive counterdemonstrations in the city in 1979. In fear of condemnation by Ayatollah Khomeini and of IRP reprisals, the IPRP in December 1979 announced the dissolution of the party.

Few foreign initiatives were possible in the early months of the Revolution. The Bazargan government attempted to maintain correct relations with the Persian Gulf states, despite harsh denunciations of the Gulf rulers by senior clerics and revolutionary leaders. Anti-American feeling was widespread and was fanned by Ayatollah Khomeini himself, populist preachers, and the left-wing parties. Bazargan, however, continued to seek military spare parts from Washington and asked for intelligence information on Soviet and Iraqi activities in Iran.

On November 1, 1979, Bazargan met with President Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew K. Brzezinski, in Algiers, where the two men were attending Independence Day celebrations. Meanwhile, the shah, who was seriously ill, was admitted to the United States for medical treatment. Iranians feared that the shah would use this visit to the United States to secure United States support for an attempt to overthrow the Islamic Republic. On November 1, 1979, hundreds of thousands marched in Tehran to demand the shah's extradition, while the press denounced Bazargan for meeting with a key United States official. On November 4, young men who later designated themselves "students of the Imam's line," occupied the United States embassy compound and took United States diplomats hostage. Bazargan resigned two days later; no prime minister was named to replace him.

The Revolutionary Council took over the prime minister's functions, pending presidential and Majlis elections. The elections for the new president were held in January 1980; Bazargan, fearing further personal attacks, did not run. The three leading candidates were Jalal o-Din Farsi, representing the IRP, the dominant clerical party; Abolhassan Bani Sadr, an independent associated with Ayatollah Khomeini who had written widely on the relationship of Islam to politics and economics; and Admiral Ahmad Madani, a naval officer who had served as governor of Khozestan Province and commander of the navy after the Revolution. Farsi, however, was disqualified because of his Afghan origin, leaving Bani Sadr and Madani as the primary challengers. Bani Sadr was elected by 75 percent of the vote.

Page 1 Page 3