General InformationRace Background:Aria (Arya)Area: 1.648 million sq km (Slightly Larger than Alaska)Arable Area: about 10 %Population: 78,868,711 (July 2012 est.)Religion: Shia Muslim 89%, Sunni Muslim 9%, Zoroastrian, Jewish,Christian, and Bahai 2%Literacy (age 15 and over can read and write): more than 80%
General InformationCapital: TehranCalendar: Persian CalendarPersian New Year: 21st MarchOfficial Language: Farsi (Persian)
1935 - Formerly known as Persia, Iran is adopted as the countrys officialname.1941 - Anglo-Russian occupation of Iran and the deposition of the Shah infavor of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.1951 April - Parliament votes to nationalize the oil industry, which isdominated by the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Shah flees thecountry in August 1953.1953 August - Mossadegh is overthrown in a coup d’etat engineered bythe British and American intelligence services. The Shah is installed.
1963 January -. The Shah launches the White Revolution, a program ofland reform and social and economic modernization. During the late1960s the Shah became increasingly dependent on the secret police(SAVAK) in controlling those opposition movements critical of hisreforms.1978 September - The Shahs policies alienate the clergy and hisauthoritarian rule leads to riots, strikes and mass demonstrations.
• 1979 January - As the political situation deteriorates, the Shahand his family are forced into exile.• 1979 November - Islamic militants take 52 Americans hostageinside the US embassy in Tehran. They demand theextradition of the Shah, in the US at the time for medicaltreatment, to face trial in Iran.• 1979 February - The Islamic fundamentalist, AyatollahRuhollah Khomeini, returns to Iran following 14 years of exilein Iraq and France for opposing the regime.• 1979 April - The Islamic Republic of Iran is proclaimedfollowing a referendum.• 1980 July - The exiled Shah dies of cancer in Egypt.
US-Iran Relations: A Brief Historical BackgroundAn analysis of US-Iran relations often starts withsome “original sin”:The events of 1979, according to some AmericananalystsThe events of 1953, according to many Iranian analystsSince the events of 1953 led to those of 1979, one shouldstart with the former.
1953: “Operation AJAX”In 1953 the CIA staged a coupd’etat in Iran, overthrowing theconstitutionally electedgovernment of the Iranian PrimeMinister, Dr. Mossadegh.Mossadegh at the UN, 1951
With the help of British agents, the CIA brought backthe self-exiled Mohamed Reza Shah.
What followed was a cozy and symbiotic relationshipbetween the US and the Shah for a quarter of acentury.
For the US, the relationship meant:Economically, the Shah maintained the interests ofthe US corporations, particularly the oil companies,aerospace industry, and financial institutions. Thisincluded recycling petro-dollars into purchasingmilitary goods and Eurodollar deposits (by the mid1970s, the Shah was the largest buyer of US militarygoods).
It should be noted that in the 1970s, the US told the Shah toexpand Iran’s non-oil energy base by building a number ofnuclear power plants. One such plant, which started to bebuilt in the mid 1970s is in Bushehr:
Politically, the Shah acted as the gangster of thePersian Gulf, stifling any aspiration for independenceor democracy (e.g., he put down the revolutionarymovement in Dhofar in 1973-76).“His Majesty” Sultan Qaboos
For the Shah, the relationship meant maintaining anabsolute monarchy combined with a theater of theabsurd.
For the Iranian populace, the relationship meant:• An uneven economic development, characterized bycorruption, waste, skewed income distribution, andultimately high rates of unemployment and inflation by thelate 1970s.A dictatorship characterized by:• Lack of the most basic freedoms, including thefreedom of expression, speech, and organization• The existence of massive secret police (SAVAK)trained and maintained mostly by the CIA & IsraeliMossad• Jails overflowing with political prisoners• Disappearances, torture, and executions
Note that the US had noproblem with the lack ofbasic human rights in Iran.Even as late as 1978, onthe eve of the IranianRevolution, PresidentCarter, the champion of“human rights,” traveled toIran and said:
“Iran is an island of stability in one of the moretroubled areas of the world. This is a great tribute toyou, Your Majesty, and to your leadership and to therespect, admiration and love which your people giveto you. There is no leader in the world for whom Ifeel such deep gratitude and personal friendship as theShah.”The New York Times, January 1, 1978.
An “island of stability,” Iran was not!In 1979, Iran exploded in revolutionary turmoil.Masses of people, from every segment of society, pouredinto the streets to end the rule of the Shah.
Shah’s dictatorial rule had managed to eradicateeffectively every organized opposition to his rule exceptone—the clergy whose lives were intertwined with thefabric of the society.
Thus, when in 1979 Iran exploded, one organized forcemanaged to come out on top—the clergy, led by oneexiled grand Ayatollah, Khomeini.
In the showdown between the Shah and Khomeini,the former lost.He went into exile once again and after traveling aboutfor a while, he arrived in the US for “medical care.”
Shah’s arrival in the US triggered “students following theline of Imam” to attack the “nest of spies,” the USEmbassy, in November 1979 and take 52 Americans ashostages in exchange for the Shah.
A few days after the takeover of the US embassy, theCarter Administration invoked the InternationalEmergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) to freeze allIranian government assets and properties.This act was initially instituted in 1977 to protectthe interest of US corporations, particularly thefinancial institutions, such as the Chase ManhattanBank.
After many months of negotiations, the US and Iran signedthe Algiers Accord in 1980, setting up the Hague Tribunalto settle all financial claims between the US and Iran.Iran agreed to release the hostages and pay reparations to the UScorporations. The US agreed to unfreeze the Iranian assets and not tointerfere in Iran’s affairs again.
Iranian DiasporaDiaspora - "the movement, migration, orscattering of people away from anestablished or ancestral homeland" or"people dispersed by whatever cause tomore than one location", or "people settledfar from their ancestral homelands”.
• In the 1977-1978 academic year, about 100,000 Iranianswere studying abroad, of whom 36,220 were enrolled in USinstitutes of higher learning; the rest were mainly in the UnitedKingdom, West Germany, France, Austria, and Italy. In the1978-1979 academic year, the number of Iranian studentsenrolled in the United States totaled 45,340, peaking at51,310 in 1979-1980. According to the Institute ofInternational Education, more Iranian students studied in theUnited States at this time than students from any othercountry.Iranian Diaspora
Table 1. Iranian Immigrants Admitted tothe United States, Canada, Germany,the UK and Sweden: 1961 to 2005
Table 2. Iranian Asylum Applications,1995 to 2004
In January 2006, the International Monetary Fundclaimed that Iran ranks highest in brain drain among 91developing and developed countries, with an estimated150,000 to 180,000 educated people exiting per year.According to a 1999 study, the brain drain from Iran to theUnited States, measured by migration rates of theindividuals with tertiary education, is the highest in Asia.Iranian Diaspora
In January 2006, theInternational Monetary Fund claimed that Iran rankshighest in brain drain among 91 developing anddeveloped countries, with an estimated 150,000 to180,000 educated people exiting per year. According toa 1999 study, the brain drain from Iran to the UnitedStates, measured by migration rates of the individualswith tertiary education, is the highest in Asia.
The migration story of Iran is not limitedsolely to the migrants and refugeesthemselves. Rather, through the popularityof Iranian cinema and the explosion ofvirtual communication, Iranians in Iran areincreasingly connected to those in thediaspora and beyond.
One of the most widespread and effectivemeans of group expression for Iranians hasbecome the creation of a virtual communitythrough chat rooms and blog websites.Estimates suggest that Iran has more than75,000 bloggers, making Persian the fourth mostwidely used language on blogs in the world.According to a June 2004 report by ReportersWithout Borders, the Internet has grown faster inIran than in any other Middle Eastern countrysince 2000.
With the looming threat of organizedinternational sanctions ahead, thegovernment may need to focus onbusinesses beyond the petroleumsector. In all of these efforts and more,the diaspora will undeniably play asignificant role.Looking AheadIn the coming months and years, theIranian government will need toconcentrate on effective methods ofencouraging investments andremittances back into Iran. It will alsoneed to make more of a concertedeffort in preventing further flight of thehighly skilled.