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Patriots and Reformists: Behzad Nabavi and Mostafa Tajzadeh

11 Aug 2009 20:5647 Comments

By MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles | 11 Aug 2009

Of all the reformist leaders who have been the target of the wrath of Iran's hardliners, none, with the possible exception of Dr. Saeed Hajjarian, have been like Behzad Nabavi and Sayyed Mostafa Tajzadeh. Both are members of the central committee of the Islamic Revolution Mojahedin Organization (IRMO); Tajzadeh is also a member of the central committee of the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF). The IRMO and IIPF are the most important reformist political groups in Iran.

Nabavi and Tajzadeh both have been outspoken throughout their political careers. They both speak with utmost clarity. They have never shied away from confronting the hardliners, and have been a thorn in their flesh. Both have always emphasized the republican side of Iran's political system. Both also have stellar reputations for honesty, which is acknowledged even by the hardliners. Both are said to be highly despised by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who sees them, along with Hajjarian, as the brain behind Iran's reformist movement. And, both have long track records of serving their nation with distinction and honor.

Both Nabavi and Tajzadeh have been arrested and are reportedly under pressure and torture to "confess" to their "offenses," to recant their views that Iran is in a deep crisis and in need of deep and lasting changes to its political system. Tajzadeh is reportedly in a military hospital after being beaten very badly. Nabavi is reportedly in a notorious jail run by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) that is in Takhti Blvd. in the eastern part of Tehran.

Credible reports sent to the author from Tehran indicate that one of Nabavi's interrogators is Ahmad Salek, a cleric who is the representative of Ayatollah Khamenei in the Qods force, an elite and secretive unit within the IRGC. Before the 1979 Revolution, Salek was in the Shah's jail as a political prisoner, but was reportedly providing the SAVAK, the Shah's dreaded intelligence and security service, information on the political prisoners and what they discussed among themselves. It is known that Nabavi discovered this and let other prisoners know about it, which set off Salek's longtime enmity toward him.

Rooz, the online newspaper, reported that Nabavi and Tajzadeh are also being interrogated by one of the most notorious agents of the Ministry of Intelligence, Javad Abbasi Kanghoori, known as Javad Azadeh, or Javad Amoli.

The Old Guerilla

Nabavi is known to his comrades as the old guerilla. He was born in Tehran in 1942. His father was a historian. After graduating from high school, he was admitted in 1960 to the electrical engineering program at Tehran Polytechnic (which is now called Amir Kabir University of Technology). Along with the engineering school at Tehran University, Tehran Polytechnic was a hotbed of anti-Shah political activities. He received a master's degree in electrical engineering in 1964.

In June 1960, elections were held for the 20th Majles (parliament), but they were rigged and widely criticized because none of the supporters of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh, Iran's national hero whose democratically-elected government was overthrown by a CIA-MI6 coup, were elected. To appease the incoming Kennedy administration and receive economic aid, the Shah dissolved the Majles and announced that new elections for the 20th Majles would be held in January 1961 and that it would be free. That allowed some banned political parties to begin activities in the open. This included the Second National Front (NF), which had been revived several years after the 1953 coup when the original (or the First) NF had been outlawed. The Shah's promise of free elections however did not materialize.

Nabavi joined the NF and was highly active in it. At that time the NF was publishing Jebhe Melli Daneshjoo (National Front of University Student). In the fall of 1963, a new publication started under the name of Payam Daneshjoo (University Student's Message), which advocated a united front for all university students in the struggle against the Shah. For several months, Hasan Habibi (vice president to former president Mohammad Khatami during his first term) was the editor of Payam Daneshjoo. But, in the spring of 1964, a committee was formed to better run the publication. The committee selected Bijan Jazani (a distinguished secular leftist intellectual -- and later a guerilla fighter -- executed by the Shah in April 1975) to publish Payam Daneshjoo. Nabavi was put in charge of its circulation.

The articles in Payam Daneshjoo were written mostly by secular leftists and communists. It is said that at that time, Nabavi himself believed in Trotskyism. But, the author has never seen any acknowledgment of this by Nabavi himself. Indeed, he has stated many times, and others have confirmed, that he has been a practicing Muslim all his life. He once said, "I have been saying my prayers since I was 15." [15 is the mandatory age for Muslim boys to start praying.] Still, there is no question that Nabavi has always been on the left side of the political spectrum in Iran.

Payam Daneshjoo stopped publishing in 1965, when the SAVAK, the Shah's dreaded intelligence apparatus, arrested many people including Jazani and others who were responsible for publishing it. All the nationalist parties, such as the NF (which, by then, was called the Third NF), and the Freedom Movement of former prime minister Mahdi Bazargan, as well as other leftist and Islamic groups were outlawed by the Shah.

In the same year, an Islamic-leftist group called the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Oraginzation (MKO), was founded by Ali Asghar Badi' Zadegan, Mohammad Hanifnejad, and Saeed Mohsen (and a few others, such as Ahmad Rezaee, Mahmoud Asgari Zadeh, and Rasoul Moshkinfam). The founders of the MKO had been active in the NF and the Freedom Movement, but after the 1965 crackdown decided that the only way of confronting the Shah was through armed struggle. Nabavi joined the MKO in the late 1960s. He was arrested three times, the last of which was in August 1972. He was jailed until the fall of 1978, when the Shah released the political prisoners as the Iranian Revolution was gathering steam.

When he was arrested in August 1972, he swallowed a cyanide pill, hoping that it would kill him. He was afraid of revealing, under torture, the hiding places of his comrades. But, "fortunately or unfortunately" as he put it, the pill did not work. Although he told the SAVAK that he was Hamid Jahanbin, the agents knew his true identity. In his memoirs, Nabavi says that he was unprepared for the arrest and the subsequent tortures. He told the SAVAK that he had just swallowed the pill so that he would be taken to a hospital, which would allow him time to prepare himself for the interrogations.

He was put on trial in the Shah's military court and was given a life sentence, which was later reduced to 10 years. He spent 20 months in solitary confinement and was tortured repeatedly. He spent a year in the notorious Evin prison, and was then sent to Ghezel Ghale' prison, where long-term political prisoners were being held. Nabavi stayed there until he was released in the fall of 1978.

In 1975, a communist faction within the MKO took over its leadership, and in the process murdered Majid Sharif Vaghefi, the leader of the Islamic faction, which had resisted the take over. Sharif Vaghefi was a student at Aryamehr University, which is now called Sharif University in his honor. It is one of Iran's top universities, with an international reputation. After the takeover, Nabavi cut off his affiliation with the MKO, even with its Islamic faction, and became a strong critic of the MKO.

The IRMO was formed shortly after the 1979 Revolution as a coalition of seven Islamic groups that had opposed and fought the Shah's government. The seven were the Mansooroon, Ommat-e Vahed, Movahhedin, Fallah, Badr, and Towhidi-ye Khalgh. Each was active in some part of Iran. The IRMO and the MKO were bitter foes (the MKO is now in exile and listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department). IRMO members believed that it was due to the MKO's mixing of Islam and Marxism that the 1975 communist takeover had taken place. Nabavi played a leading role in the founding of the IRMO, was its first leader, and has remained a member ever since.

Due to their experience of armed struggle against the Shah's government, many of the IRMO members formed the core of the first high command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which was formed in May 1979. When in June 1981, the MKO took up arms against the government, the IRMO played a key role in defeating it and forcing it into exile. But Nabavi was never a member of the IRGC.

As the 1979 Revolution gathered steam, Nabavi played a key role in the formation of the Islamic Revolution Committees (IRC), known in Iran as the komiteh. In the fall of 1978 and early 1979, the IRC's main task was coordinating revolutionary activities and providing aid to those who were on strike. After the Revolution, the IRC acted as the local security forces. When political chaos gripped the nation in 1981, the IRC worked against the opposition and helped the IRGC to brutally suppress it. Years later, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani merged the IRC with the regular police force.

Nabavi also helped establish the Office for Intelligence under direct supervision of the president. Later on, in 1984, the Office formed the backbone of the newly established Ministry of Intelligence, but Nabavi never worked for it. He was also a member of the committee that oversaw the transformation of Iran's national radio and television network from under the Shah to one under the Islamic Republic.

After the war with Iraq broke out in September 1980, Nabavi established the National Economic Mobilization Headquarters for rationing and distributing government-subsidized coupons to the poor for obtaining food at lower prices. The war also motivated the government to negotiate with the United States more seriously, in order to release the 53 Americans taken hostage in November 1979, when the U.S. embassy was overrun by the Islamic leftist students. Nabavi was Iran's chief negotiator with the United States. The negotiations led to the Algiers Accord of January 1981, which led to the release of the hostages. The U.S. team was led by deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who was Secretary of State during President Bill Clinton's first term. Nabavi was considered at that time a "radical." It is said that before going into any negotiation session with the U.S. team, Nabavi and his team would chant Marg bar America [death to America].

When Mohammad Ali Rajaei was appointed prime minister, Nabavi was the chief government spokesman, as well as a Vazir Omoor-e Ejraei, a minister engaged in a wide range of executive affairs. When Rajaei was elected president in August 1981, after the first president, Abolhasan Bani Sadr, had been impeached by the Majles (he fled the country in June 1981), he appointed Dr. Mohammad Javad Bahonar as the prime minister, and Nabavi kept his position.

On August 30, 1981, only 15 days after the election of Rajaei to Iran's presidency, there was a huge explosion in the office of the prime minister that killed Bahonar, Rajaei and others. The MKO took responsibility for the explosion. Since then, the hardliners have periodically accused Nabavi and Hajjarian of not taking the necessary security precautions, and of being complicit in the assassination. In the latest round of the revival of what seems to be more totally baseless accusations, Mohammad Hossein Saffar Harandi, who up until two weeks ago was Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance in the Ahmadinejad administration, made the same allegations. Perhaps he was laying the foundation for "convicting" the two and jailing them, since the hardliners cannot prove any other charges against them.

Nabavi was a key figure in the administration of prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi (1982-89), the main reformist candidate in the June 12 presidential election. He was Minister of Heavy Industry in the Mousavi administration, and was the key figure in Mousavi's centralized economic policy of the 1980s. In the last 18 months of the war with Iraq, Nabavi was also deputy chief of staff of Iran's armed forces for logistic affairs.

Right-wing Majles deputies tried repeatedly to impeach Nabavi, but he successfully fought back all attempts to get him removed from the government. In a memorable debate during one of the impeachment attempts, some right-wing deputies complained about the subsidized products that the government was providing to the industry. Nabavi pointed to a large number of the right-wing deputies one by one and said, "What type of means of transportation did you have before getting elected to the Majles? Bicycles? What type of car do you drive now, and who provided the subsidized car at the lower price to you? The government!"

When the post of the prime minister was eliminated after the revisions made in Iran's Constitution in early 1989, Mousavi left the government, and so did Nabavi. Despite his long presence in government occupying important positions, Nabavi was never accused of corruption or enriching himself. He has been a truly pious man all his life.

Meanwhile, in 1985, the Islamic leftist wing of the IRMO split from its right-leaning faction. The right faction included such people as Ali Reza Afshar, Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr (both currently Brigadier Generals and among the top commanders of the IRGC), and Mohsen Rezaee, who was the IRGC top commander from 1981-1997. Rezaee is now secretary-general of the Expediency Council (a constitutional body), and was a candidate in the June 12 presidential election.

The left wing, including Nabavi, remained silent and inactive as an organization until 1991, when it restarted its activities under the name IRMO again. It began publishing the biweekly Asr-e Maa (Our Era). Together with the monthly Kian (published by the students and followers of Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush, the distinguished Islamic scholar and philosopher), and Salaam (a daily published by Ayatollah Mohammad Mousavi Khoeiniha, a leftist cleric, and editor-in-chief Abbas Abadi, an outspoken reformist). Asr-e Maa played a key role in transforming the Islamic discourse in Iran, and kindling the reformist movement. Asr-e Maa was shut down by the hardliners a few years ago (Kian was shut down in 1998, and Salaam in 1999 by the hardliners). In 1992 Nabavi was prevented by the Guardian Council (the Constitutional body that vets candidates for most elections) from running for the 4th Majles.

Despite the important role of Nabavi and the IRMO in giving birth to the reform movement, they also made a grave mistake in the early 1990s, when they developed the concept of the insiders and outsiders. The former group was supposed to be made up of those who are loyal to the Islamic Republic and could therefore serve the country in the government; whereas the latter was made up of the politically unqualified unable to serve. The concept has, however, been disowned by Nabavi and all the other reformists, but is now invoked and used by the hardliners against them.

Nabavi and the IRMO have also been fierce advocates of reform. For example, a leading member of the IRMO, Dr. Hashem Aghajari (who lost a leg while serving in the armed forces in the Iran-Iraq war), a university professor and an important Islamic intellectual, began an uproar in 2002 when he severely criticized the clerics, accusing them of expecting people to follow them like obedient "monkeys." He was arrested and initially given a death sentence by a reactionary judge for supposedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Iran's Supreme Court eventually overturned the sentence and freed him after he served more than a year in prison. Aghajari has remained outspoken. Some have even referred to him as the Martin Luther of the Shiites.

In May 1997, Mohammad Khatami was elected Iran's president in a landslide. Then in February 2000, the reformists also took over control of the Majles with an absolute majority. Nabavi was elected a Tehran deputy, receiving 39% of the vote. He was then elected as the First Deputy Speaker of the Majles (Mahdi Karroubi was the Speaker). When Khatami was re-elected in another landslide in 2001, there was much speculation that he would appoint Nabavi as his First Vice President (Iran has 8 vice presidents). The hardliners immediately reacted to the rumor by reviving the allegations about Nabavi and the assassination of Rajaei and Bahonar. As a result, even if Khatami had intended to appoint Nabavi as his First Vice President, he backed down.

When the campaign for the elections for the 7th Majles got under way in early 2004, the Guardian Council disqualified 80 of the most important reformist leaders from running for re-election, including Nabavi. He led a sit-in that lasted for about a month, protesting the Guardian Council's verdict. The Council did not back down, prompting Nabavi to resign from the Majles on February 1, 2004, which was approved by the Majles after the March 2004 elections. In his resignation speech he said that the main reason for his resignation was, "violation of the people's rights by the Guardian Council," and declared in his typical blunt and plain-speaking manner that,

I congratulate the founder of the Islamic Republic [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] in that the fruits of his revolution are being wasted by the counter-revolutionaries.

When Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003, Nabavi said that,

If one admits that the Iraqis are delighted with Saddam Hussein's end, one must also think about the possibility that may be the Iranians would celebrate at the end of the Islamic Republic as well.

He also said, "I did not agree with everything that the Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini] did or said," hence giving more ammunition to his enemies to attack him. But he has never backed down from his opinions.

Nabavi is married to Hengameh Razavi. They have two sons, Yaser and Maysam.

So, now, the old guerrilla finds himself in the same place as he was 50 years ago: In the opposition and in jail.

Mr. Straight Shooter

020691Sayyed Mostafa Tajzadeh was born in Tehran in1956. After graduating from high school he went to the United States in 1975 to study political science. He lived there for 31 months. In that period, he joined the Muslim Students Association, a political group active against the Shah. With the start of the Iranian Revolution in 1978 he left the U.S. and went back to Iran. Together with Hasan Vaezi, Homayun Khosravi, and Sayyed Mahmoud Yasini, he founded the Towhidi-ye Khalgh, one of the seven Islamic groups fighting against the Shah. After the Revolution it merged and formed the IRMO.

After the 1979 Revolution, Tajzadeh was active in the Islamic Revolution Committees, and also active in the IRMO, which was involved in a fierce verbal confrontation with the MKO. Because several members of the IRMO were former members of the MKO, they were intimately familiar with the internal structure of the MKO leadership and knew how it operated. This provoked the MKO to continuously attack the IRMO.

Tajzadeh's political career began in May 1982 when he joined the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance (CIG). He worked closely with former president Mohammad Khatami, who was the Minister of the CIG in the Mousavi government, and also in the administration of former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani during his first term. Eventually, Tajzadeh was promoted to be Khatami's chief deputy at the Ministry.

After the Iran-Iraq war ended in 1988, and Rafsanjani was elected Iran's president in 1989, Khatami and his aids, including Tajzadeh, began a cautious opening of the press, the arts and literature. In particular, it issued permits for several publications, such as Asr-e Maa, Kian, and Salaam, all of which played leading roles in strengthening the embryonic reform movement in Iran. [Salaam's editor-in-chief was Abbas Abdi, an outspoken reformist]. Iran's film industry also began a revival, and more books were also allowed to be published.

Due to such progressive positions regarding the press, literature and the arts, Khatami was under huge pressure by the right-wing reactionaries. He eventually resigned his position as the Minister of the CIG in 1992, and left to become the head of Iran's National Library. Tajzadeh resigned from the Ministry as well and joined Hamshahri, a daily published by the office of Tehran's mayor. He stayed at Hamshahri until 1997.

When Mohammad Khatami was elected president, he appointed Abdollah Nouri (a progressive cleric) as the Interior Minister. Khatami knew Tajzadeh from their years together at the Ministry of the CIG. Two other reformist leaders, Gholamhossein Karbaschi (Tehran's popular former mayor) and Mohammad Atrianfar (the editor of several reformist newspapers, who is now imprisoned) suggested to Khatami and Nouri to employ Tajzadeh. Thus, Tajzadeh was appointed as Nouri's deputy for security and political affairs. In fact, Khatami had intended to appoint Tajzadeh as the Interior Minister, but had realized that he would not be confirmed by the 5th Majles in which the conservatives were in the majority.

Tazjadeh's influence at the Interior Ministry was clear almost from the beginning. Nouri and him removed almost all the right-wing mayors and governors of the provinces, and replaced them with reformist officials. Next, in the fall of 1998, the Interior Ministry held the first nation-wide elections for city councils around the country. Elections for the councils had been allowed by Iran's Constitution, but had never been carried out. The reformist candidates swept the elections, in many cases by a landslide.

One of the greatest crises that the first Khatami administration faced was the uprising by the students at Tehran University dormitory on July 9, 1999. A few days earlier, the Majles was debating revisions of the press law of 1985, and developing a Draconian set of rules and laws to suppress the press, which was enjoying relative freedom at that time. Then, the day before voting on the revisions, the daily Salaam revealed that the revisions had actually been written years earlier by Saeed Emami, the notorious ring leader and agent of the Ministry of Intelligence who, together with several other agents, had murdered several dissidents in the fall of 1998 (and many more between 1988 and 1998).

The day after, the judiciary shut down Salaam, which was a very popular daily. In the evening of that day, students from the dormitory demonstrated against the closure of the in Salaam the dormitories and the main street next to it. As they were going back to their rooms, they were attacked by paramilitary groups. That sparked huge demonstrations in Tehran and several other cities, which badly shook the Islamic Republic. By then, the Interior Minister was Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari, another reformist cleric. (Nouri had been elected to Tehran's city council and had left.) Tajzadeh and Lari, who by law were also members of Iran's Supreme National Security Council managing the crisis, were instrumental in calming the students down, and were constantly present at the site of the demonstrations.

The next important national event was holding the elections for the 6th Majles in late February 2000. The Guardian Council (GC) disqualified relatively few candidates and, as a result, the elections were very competitive. But, the reformists swept all the thirty seats for the Tehran district. This was not what the GC and the conservatives had in mind. Thus, the GC began claiming that there were voting irregularities at several polling stations and, first, ordered recounting the votes, and then annulled, without presenting any evidence, about 700,000 of the votes cast in Tehran. This started a fierce struggle between Tajzadeh, who was supervising the elections, and the GC.

The main goal of the GC was to get both Hashemi Rafsanjani and Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel elected as Tehran's deputies. Because reformist journalists had strongly criticized Rafsanjani at the time, he was in the conservative camp. Haddad Adel's daughter is married to Mojtaba Khamenei, the Supreme Leader's son. Another goal of the GC was to prevent Dr. Ali Reza Rajaei, a journalist close to the Nationalist-Religious Coalition, from getting elected.

Tajzadeh insisted that no irregularities had taken place, and declared the elections as the "cleanest and freest elections" in the history of the Islamic Republic, a claim that was very much true. After a long standoff between Tajzadeh and the GC, and when it became clear that Tajzadeh would not back down, Ayatollah Khamenei ordered the GC to accept the people's verdict. The GC had achieved its goals, though. Dr. Rajaei was prevented from getting elected, and in his place Haddad Adel got elected, and Rafsanjani, though ranked 20th in Tehran in terms of the votes that he had received, resigned his position and never joined the 6th Majles.

The GC took Tajzadeh to court and, in return, Tajzadeh filed a lawsuit against Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the powerful reactionary cleric and secretary-general of the GC, accusing him of trying to rig the elections. Tajzadeh's lawsuit against Jannati never went to trial -- Jannati is too powerful to be tried! But, Tajzadeh himself was put on trial in March 2001. He never admitted anything, and challenged the court to order a recount of all the votes in the dispute, which the court declined to do. He repeatedly clashed with the judge, Naser Daghighi, and said, "Some people are angry about the way people voted last year."

The court "convicted" Tajzadeh and gave him a suspended one year term. He was barred from all government employment for three years, hoping that it would make him go away. Tajzadeh never appealed the verdict, as it was clear that the goal was to remove him from the Interior Ministry, and the appeal would not go anywhere. But, in 2004, once the three-year period was over, Khatami appointed Tajzadeh as his senior adviser, a post that he held until August 2005 when Ahmadinejad's term began.

Throughout his career, Tajzadeh has always been a straight shooter: plain-speaking, blunt, to the point and honest. He has an impeccable record as an uncorrupted official who has held senior positions within the political establishment, and has been a progressive reformist.

Tajzadeh is married to Fakhrossadat Mohtashamipour, a notable political figure on her own. She is active in defending women's rights, and is a first cousin of Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, the leftist cleric who at one point was Iran's ambassador to Syria and is widely believed to be a major behind-the-scene force in founding the Lebanese Hezbollah. They have two daughters, Arefeh and Fatemeh. Tajzadeh is also a first cousin of Mohammad Hossein Saffar Harandi, a former hardline commander in the IRGC who until two weeks ago was the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Tajzadeh is also a doctoral student in political science at Tehran University, though he has not been able to finish his studies.

Regardless of what happenes to Nabavi and Tajzadeh, one thing is clear: both are Iranian patriots who have served their nation with honor, have made great sacrifices, and have always been proud reformers and advocates of a democratic Iran.

Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau

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I think the solution to Iran's problems would be the restoration of the monarchy with Shah Reza II. He is a very intelligent man, a true democrat and h would be able to unite under the crown all freedom lover Iranians and bring tru democracy to the country!

Carlos Mundy / August 11, 2009 6:48 PM

Thanks Dr. Sahimi. Your article took me to ~1977-1978 when I first saw one of IRMO eelAmiiehs in Esfahan. Hope this time around if anything comes out of this "green" thing, these guys and not Rafsanjanies, or Makhmalbafs ride the tide!

anonym7 / August 11, 2009 8:33 PM

I cannot say that I am angry that some of these Islamists are falling into the same trap that they set up for iranians to see what their islamic republic's islam that they supported has done to iran and iranians:


Imagine where Iran would be today had the black revolution had not happened.

Must See / August 11, 2009 9:27 PM


what about makhmalbafs?

Carlos Munday,

reza shah has no place in Iran except hanging from a noose. Then again it woiuldn't surprise me if iranians willfully install another tyranny to bow to again. it would never happen, but damn those iranians loving kissing somebody's feet, whether it's a king or rahbar.


"He has been a truly pious man all his life."

Yes, part of the men that presided over the tyranny of the eighties, helped establish the police of terror and intelligence services, and bring about a theocracy.

A pious man indeed!

Articles like this remind me that Iranians don't deserve better than ahamdinejad. really, this guy shouted death to america before negotiating? Ha, who's laughing now!? Obama will take the US to new heights while Iran rots. 30 years of 'independence' you've had now, and this is the best you could do. Of course these things were obvious from the starts, it was all just a bunch of barbarians blaming the west for their inferiority, and when they got their country back from from the 'foreign puppet', they reduced to to a 7th century nation that offers nothing to the world except terror and immature, childish slogans and hate hate hate.

Enjoy your islamic republic, oh pious reformists! :D

Oreo / August 11, 2009 10:47 PM

"Regardless of what happenes to Nabavi and Tajzadeh, one thing is clear: both are Iranian patriots who have served their nation with honor, have made great sacrifices, and have always been proud reformers and advocates of a democratic Iran."

I posted by previous reply too early, but now that I finished this article I'm pretty sure not only iran deserves ahamdinejad, it deserves much worse.

Science however seems to be making sure that will happen.In a few years clean tech will start reaching the technological point where it can compete with oil, and I think in about a decade oil prices will crash and Iran will be reduced to a 4th world country. the sooner the better, perhaps then its pernicious influence could only be directed at its pious citizen sheep.

Oreo / August 11, 2009 10:58 PM

we do not need the shah and his cronies to go back to iran and steal all the assests and run away.we need to go forward.many of these young kids whom have sacrificed their lives to free iran and push toward democracy do not even know who the shah is.leave them alone allow iran to grow toward the free iran with no shah,elected officials and term limit for their service.

fay moghtader / August 11, 2009 11:00 PM

The people the author has mentioned in this article are mostly neither patriots nor iranian unless one lives in an alternate universe of opposites. Most of these people are creators and feeders of the monster that we know today as Islamic republic; only that the monster has become so big that has started feeding on its own worshippers. Frankly, I don't mind seeing some of these islamists who staged the devolution of '79 and supported it in its 30 years of daily crimes against the people of iran to pay for their crimes in the hands of their own creation. That is called Justice! I hope the rest of islamic republic leaders and supporters face Justice, albeit more severely, for crimes against people of iran.

Patriots are those youths who face danger every day on the streets of iran yelling 'down with dictator', not these opportunist thugs who are unhappy now that the regime has stopped sharing power and wealth of the country with them at the cost of the real people of iran.

No one believing in the revolution or the islamic republic or supporting it in any shape or form can be iranian, let alone patriot.

Justice / August 12, 2009 12:31 AM


Thank you for your comments.

But, you don't get the point of the article, and instead resort to slogans. You do not see things in the context of their time, rather you see things in an abstract puritarian way. Everything is relative, dear. Leave your ivory tower and live in a real world. How many 68 years old men do you know in the US who is willing to fight for his country?

First of all, neither Nabavi nor Tajzadeh had no role in the bloody events of 1980s. Instead, during a horrible war, they served their nation, and ever since after the war they have tried to push it on the right path toward democracy. So, your slogans are just that, slogans.

Secondly, most of the people who supported the 1979 revolution supported a revolution for freedom, independence and establishment of a republic. But, in the political vacuum that the Shah, supported by the US, had created, the false leadership took over. Since then, many of the original supporters have been trying to correct the system.

Third, people change over time. By opposing the system and trying to change it from within they are trying to correct things. Or, you think people never change?

Fourth, don't insult Iran and Iranians by saying they deserve Ahmadinejad. And, you presumably consider yourself a progressive? It is exactly such patronizing and arrogant attitudes that made Iranians angry at the US. You seem to think that the US has been acting like a saint. To the contrary, the US' hands are in Iranian blood all the way. It was the 1953 US coup in Iran that got Iran and Iranians to this sorry state.

Muhammad Sahimi / August 12, 2009 10:00 AM

There are a few groups and people we can do away with that will probably serve the whole Iranian community inside and outside of Iran: the MKO, the monarchists, radical leftists, Ahmadinejad and Co., and people like Oreo who left a comment here.

Sahimi is right. Everything is relative. Yet so many people see things in either black or white instead of gray. Just like in '79, when the revolutionaries (Islamist, seculars, leftists, the ones on the right, all of them) saw the whole monarchy regime as evil, and everyone associated with the regime as evil, and executed countless people who were truly innocent and had nothing to do with Shah's security forces and policies, so here again today we see the same mistakes happening.

The Oreos are symbols of the continuity of human simplicity and naivete.

IranianCanadian / August 12, 2009 11:12 AM

Unfortunately, in a lot of revolutions, once the dust settles the radicals who shout the loudest and are more prone to the use of violence take advantage of the power vacuum to instate their own idea of a 'better' government.

Maziar / August 12, 2009 1:38 PM

My contacts are telling me, and this is credible, that Nabavi was never part of the MKO, which seems to be only one of the inaccurate statements in this article.

IranianCanadian / August 12, 2009 1:50 PM

Prof. Sahimi,

Thank you for the informative article. As a historian I appreciate your inside information a great deal. Please do not be disappointed with negative comments. There are numerous readers that appreciate your writings.

Goli / August 12, 2009 3:37 PM

Oreo, have you forgotten that just a few months ago millions of Americans voted for Sara Palin? .... and millions are fascinated with your friend Rush Limbaugh! Do you think any of those guys are any better than Ahmadinejad?

anonym7 / August 12, 2009 4:50 PM

One of the key points, which in Nabavi's political life is not mentioned here , is his role in signing the Aljarerian agreement, which became to be known as October Surprise. Apart from its catastrophic effect on US' politics, it had even more catastrophic effect in Iranian politics. Tens of billions of dollars were lost and more importantly it enabled the totalitarian faction of the leadership to fatally weaken the democratic wing. He also played a leading role in the June 1981 coup, when the first elected president of the republic, because of his fierce advocacy of democratic goals of the revolution, was forcefully removed from office, which subsequently thousands were executed, imprisoned and tortured.

Here is part of my research in that regard. In advance I have to say that this is a part of my thesis, which I am hoping to publish asap.

Ps: It seems that I cannot transfer the reference to the comment are. Still if there is a demand , I am willing to share. Here is one of the references:

Kiomarse Saberi (Gol Agha) stated, "when both [Nabavi and Rajei] returned from Jamaran [Khomeini's house] and as soon as [Nabavi] saw me from the end of the hall told me: 'Saberi listen! You as a writer should be a witness! Tomorrow we have to do something and [as a result] people will call me Vosoogh-al-Doleh. But you have to be my witness that I am doing that because of the Imam's order." I told Nabavi that he should not give this name to reporters, but he did not listen to me and used the exact name." Yaas-e-no, 20 January 1994 [30 day 1372]. Later, he called the signing the agreement as the "only pride [eftekhaar] of his entire life". See Majaleye Siasate Khareji [Foreign Policy Magazine], no. 3 (Autumn 1991 [1370]).


On 11 December, Behzad Nabavi, the chief Iranian negotiator, estimated the Shah's assets in America at more than $56 billion. A few days before the presidential election, he bluntly asked the Americans to deposit $24 billion in a bank account as security for the Shah's assets and frozen Iranian funds. Carter agreed, but Nabavi failed to respond. However, after the election, on 15 January, Nabavi made a complete U-turn: he not only dropped the $24 billion as a condition for the release, but also agreed to pay all of Iran's external debts in cash. The question of the Shah's wealth was dropped and buried under vague verbosity. The second point relates to weapons. As has already been argued, the Iranian armed forces suffered from severe shortages of ammunition and spare parts, and on 26 October Carter had offered to release large shipment of pre-paid supplies for the Iranian air force. However, on 22 October (shortly after a sudden trip to the UN) Rajaei claimed that Iran needed neither American weapons nor spare parts. Two days later, on 24 October, Rafsanjani (then head of the Majles) told Eric Rouleau the same thing. These statements were made at a time when the Council of Revolution was attempting to buy weapons and spare parts for the armed forces from the black market. They are striking in view of the fact that the final negotiation to release the hostages made no reference to military hardware, not even to the $300 million worth of spare parts that Carter had been willing to release. Given Iran's heavy dependence on American military equipment, it would be have been logical to include the release of these spare parts in the agreement, particularly as the Americans had already agreed to it. These spare parts were never shipped to Iran.

An agreement to release the hostages was finally negotiated on 17 January in Algeria. It proved so detrimental to Iran that Carter later in his memoirs wrote that he felt pity for the Iranians signing the agreement. Almost none of the Iranian demands were met. Of the $12 billion Iranian assets in American banks which were released, $4 billion were retained by America against claims by 330 individuals and US companies, another $1.4 billion was to be held against international claims, and Iran had agreed to repay $3.7 billion to various firms and foreign banks (these loans were repaid far before maturity). Iran was therefore left with $2.3 billion. The agreement was signed nine hours before Reagan was sworn in; the plane carrying the hostages took off from Tehran airport a few hours later.

IRP Leaders, who realised that no international agreement could have been made without Majles' approval and the president's signature, called it the "Algerian Declaration" and portrayed it as a great victory for Iran. Banisadr, however, thought otherwise and argued that the agreement had taken place without his knowledge. The previous day he had tried to prevent the signing of the agreement under these conditions and wrote to Khomeini:

"I told Ahmad [Khomeini's son] that the whole thing was ending in complete loss and submission....As much as I have understood, the constitution is being violated as well as the four conditions of [Khomeini]....They will not give Iran's money and this is at the level of treachery. There is no reason to accept this. We are dishonouring the dignity and integrity of our country and revolution....they are saying that you have agreed with it...this is not an agreement but submission."

Behzad Nabavi, who signed the agreement, was well aware of his action when he compared himself with Vosugh-al-Doleh and made it known that he was ordered by Khomeini to do it.

Signing the agreement not only cost the country financially, but also violated Article 125 of the constitution; the agreement was incompatible with the ratification of the Majles regarding the hostages. The president consulted his legal advisors and on 10 April 1980 drafted an indictment against Rajaei (his prime minister) and Nabavi (the chief negotiator), which he submitted to the court. Nabavi asked for a closed parliamentary session, in which he argued that as he had signed the agreement with the support of the Majles and under Khomeini's order, then the real target of the president was neither himself nor Rajaei, but rather that Banisadr aimed to put Beheshti and Rafsanjani and above all Khomeini himself on trial, since he and Rajaei had simply executed their orders. He thus argued that the trial would not only lead to the collapse of the government; ultimately, Khomeini would be implicated. Banisadr asked for a copy of the tape of Nabavi's speech so that he could respond in the parliament, but Rafsanjani, in clear violation of the constitution, refused to provide him with it. On 1 May, the president requested a national debate on the question of whether releasing the American diplomats in such a manner was "a great service or high treason".

As he failed to put Rajaei and Nabavi on the trial he went public, saying "I believe that silence, in the face of the violation of the constitution, the ratified laws of the Majles and the lack of observation of country's interest is nothing but treachery." "Not only me, but the entire nation, should know what the authorities have done to our independence and wealth." And finally, "the government has tainted the national sovereignty. The Algeria agreement has violated many articles in the constitution. Not only Americans but also non-Americans have received money." His newspaper also exposed the details of the agreement, pointing out that none of Iran's demands had been met: the US had not apologised for its interference in Iran's domestic politics, the Shah's wealth had not been returned, and the country ended up facing hundreds of lawsuits, many of them specious. (Salamatian argues that the overall financial loss totalled more than $30 billion. )

Mahmood Delkhasteh / August 12, 2009 5:04 PM

Mr. Sahimi,

Mr. Nabavi and Tajzadeh, and others were among the people involved in the '79 revolution and the creation of the Islamic Republic In Iran.

Where were these men when thousands of people, being supporters of Shah, communists, marxist or nationalists were being arrested, tortured and killed.

You call these men patriots. Patriots to what? A regime or the people?

These men, as you mentioned, were key figures in the reformist administrations of Refsanjani and Khatami. What reforms were they able to put in place?

It's time that we see things as they are and not make any of these people into heroes.

This is simply a power struggle among two different groups, who both support the same murderous, corrupt regime and want to rule the people based on religion and not democracy.

It is very naive to think if there was Mousavi instead Ahmadinejad, the people of Iran would have freedoms that they didn't have before.

Armen / August 13, 2009 4:40 AM

Dear Mahmoud Delkhasteh:

Thank you for your long and valuable comment.

I did mention that Nabavi was the lead negotiator for the release of the hostages.

You are correct that the Algiers agreement was not in Iran's interest. Any fair person would agree with that. I have said as much in other article.

However, blaming it on Nabavi is not, in my opinion, fair. The establishment wanted to get rid of the hostage problem at any cost, because the war with Iraq was going on, and they had a sense that Jimmy Carter would be defeated and did not know how Reagan would handle the problem.

Thus, Nabavi was given a mission to finish things off. He did not have the autority to make decisions on his own. We should blame it on the entire establishment.

Dear Armen:

Thank you for your comment.

Your are confusing two issues, in my opinion. Supporting the 1979 revolution is one thing, supporting its aftermath is totally different. I also supported the 1979 revolution, and I still believe that it was totally legitimate. However, what I was supporting was the establishment of a democratic state, not what we have. Nabavi and others have tried to correct the situation. But, you are, of course, entitled to your opinion.


You might be correct about Nabavi and MKO. But, two facts are established: (1) Nabavi has never said in which group he was active. Despite my extensive research, I could not find it. That is an indication of where he was, given the way MKO is viewed. (2) Those who follow the events right after the revolution, like yours truly, know the fierce verbal attacks and counterattacks by MKO and IRMO on each other that, as I pointed out, was because members of IRMO were formerly members of MKO. In addition, Masoud Rajavi has always attacked Nabavi for his positions regarding MKO after the 1975 communist coup within MKO.

Next time, when you comment, please point out any possible mistakes, instead of saying "this is just one of the mistakes." I'll be happy to correct them, if there indeed errors. My writings are not carved in stone. They can be corrected!

Anonym7: Thank you.

Muhammad Sahimi / August 13, 2009 11:12 AM

"It is very naive to think if there was Mousavi instead Ahmadinejad, the people of Iran would have freedoms that they didn't have before."

I agree, I think it would have become more like the beginning of the Khatami era again ... so essentially it would have been like putting a bandaid on a large gaping wound that's gushing blood.

AN getting 'elected' might have been the best thing that ever happened to Iran as it really awoke the people. If Mousavi had become president, I think the people would have relaxed assuming that some social reforms were coming and the economy might pick up. But the true essence of the problem, the Islamic dictatorship and its corruption, would not have been exposed as vividly.

Also ... I would be interested to read Muhammad Sahimi's response to Mahmood Delkhasteh's post.

Maziar / August 13, 2009 11:35 AM

Did someone here compare Palin and Limbaugh to ahamidenjad? ROFL!!!!

Iranian society would need DECADES of development and education just to reach Plain and Limbaugh levels of civility!

And this is coming from someone who detests and despises Palin, Limbaugh, and their sheeple!

Oh and btw, yes millions of Americans voted for Palin, but millions MORE voted for Bams, that's why America rocks. If one believes this talk of 'stealing' elections (it all sounds like denial to me honestly), Iranians didn't vote for a medieval tyrant puppet, but a milder medieval tyrant puppet. Oh how wonderful for you! Payandeh Iran! Cyrus! Persepolis! Rumi! Hazef! [insert other handful of irrelevant and ancient names that don't stand a candle to western civilization and iranians repeat to delude themselves into believing they're anything but a 3rd world country that doesn't belong in the modern world]

Oreo / August 13, 2009 11:39 AM

Mahmood Delkhasteh: I am very interested in your work. I hope I get to see it once it is complete.

IranianCanadian said: "Everything is relative. Yet so many people see things in either black or white instead of gray."

I wonder if the prof. author would see it the same way about the Shah, whom now we know was far closer to white than any black period in IRI. I wonder if he considers that, according to IRI insiders, IRI executed more in a single day than Shah did in his entire regime. We may need to go as far back as the Mongol and Tatar periods to see as much atrocities against people of iran as during IRI 30 years of murder.

Yes, all things are not black and white, and "thus" we need to compare and judge, and in that comparison, IRI comes out as black as it can be, and surprisingly the dictatorial Shah's regime comes out whiter than ever; I wonder if islamists acknowledge that or if they are still wrapped in their religious and ideologic blindfold. For those of us who judge based on observation, we see that today's iran is looted and is in ruins: From losing 40% stake in Caspian oil to creating dumpsters on historical sites in Fars province; from (supposedly) $18.5 billion shipped in container to tent dwellers in south or street children in tehran, from bankruptcy of more than 60 major factories (that were built during Pahlavis) to turning prostitution into a part-time profession for support of family and education of women; from rapes in prisons to imprisonment of whistle blowers of IRI corruption (as in Univ. of Zanjan attempted rape case by an islamist Prof.); from flooding historical sites in Tange Bolaghi to lending Bolivia $280 million while iranians cannot afford food on the table and youths have no job.

Let me paraphrase few IRI insiders, who still cherish the islamic republic, as to how gray this system is:

"Oil and gas contracts by A.N. with India is like the Tokaman Chai accord (that iran lost land to russia for nothing)" [Ramezanzadeh that is now in prison].

"Shah's civil justice system was just and honorable, that is why political prisoners faced military courts. IRI justice system is all violations of constitution that has no provision for revolutionary courts, that accused needs to have his/her lawyer present, that jury is required, that arrested person needs to be charged within 24 hours or released, that torture is illegal, ...; all violated by IRI courts" [Mohsen Kadivar].

IRI prisons are 1000 times worse than Shah's.

Iran's wealth belongs to some 400 regime insiders.

Ruling iran is a family business; these people are mostly related to each other.


Frankly, while imprisonment of innocent iranian is heart-breaking, but the only silver-lining is that I am very happy to see that the snake eating up its own tail. I have no sympathy for ANY IRI insider and active (ex-)supporter who helped ruin the country. Had Mousavi been elected, he would have been as impotent and incompetent as Khatami was in vali-faghih system. The people praised here as patriots are only given credit for their opportunistic support for IRI and for being islamists as well as opposing the shah; otherwise, judged by deed, they are as treasonous as they can get. They are only patriots for those that they screamed for and dealt with, namely, islamists, arabs, palestinians, russians, indians, central americans, etc; but for iranians they are nothing but enemies and traitors.

Silver Lining / August 13, 2009 12:36 PM

Sahimi says: "However, blaming it on Nabavi is not, in my opinion, fair. ..."

Amazing how things are spun when it comes to IRI! So, an agent of the regime cannot be blamed for ANY misdeed. Who should be blamed then, me or you? Or some unseen hand. Regime was none but made of these thugs, without whom there would have been no regime.

He should not have taken the duty if he was not able to take responsibility. The same rational that was used to murder likes of Hoveida and Rahimi.

Amazed / August 13, 2009 1:02 PM

Sahimi says: "However, blaming it on Nabavi is not, in my opinion, fair. ..."

Amazing how things are spun when it comes to IRI! So, an agent of the regime cannot be blamed for ANY misdeed. Who should be blamed then, me or you? Or some unseen hand. Regime was none but made of these thugs, without whom there would have been no regime.

He should not have taken the duty if he was not able to take responsibility. The same rational that was used to murder likes of Hoveida and Rahimi.

Prof.: you need to update your views. Being a hard core ideologue does not help ANY iranian nowadays, and neither it would fool history. These people were self-serving traitors, nothing more!

Amazed / August 13, 2009 1:05 PM

Oreo, I agree I went too far with insulting Ahmadinejad by comparing him with Limbaugh and Palin. Ahmadinejad is not as indecent as the ultra right faction of the republican party. Additionally, many of those who voted for Ahmadinejad are much smarter than those who worship your friend Limbaugh, because many Iranians voted for Ahmadinejad NOT because they like his ideology, but because he doubled their pensions/salaries (*).

(*) more ore less doubled

anonym7 / August 13, 2009 1:06 PM

To see the deeds of these so-called heros and patriots, from Khomeini to Khamenei, from Nabavi and Bazargan to Khatemi, must see:


I only hope that some true nationalist hero, a Nader shah, a reza shah, ... would bring justice to ALL these islamist thugs, the justice that would match those imprisoned, raped, and murdered by them directly or indirectly. Any revolutionary leader, IRI leader, and supporter deserves no less.

See / August 13, 2009 4:39 PM

Dear Dr Sahimi

Thank you for your response. There are few problems here:

- It is correct that it was decided to free the hostages and Nabavi was used as a tool. First of all why he let to be used as a tool? Didn't he have a choice? He knew it is a treachery and that is why he compared himself with Vosoogh-al-doleh, but he still did it? Why?

- The manner and time of freeing the hostages are telling us, that they aimed to defeat Jimmy Carter. The whole argument about October Surprise is about that. There is massive literature about this claim. Two people have produced most information about that: Banisadr, the first president, and Robert Parry, one of the most renowned investigative journalists in the US

- One cannot understand and explain and answer the question of why the hostage taking, which was not supposed to last more than few days, lasted 444 days, without understanding the clandestine agreement between Khomeini and Reagan's men. Why they did not release the hostages before the American presidential election, which would almost guarantee the re-election of Carter but to extend it few weeks longer so Reagan would win? Why the hostages were released at the exact minute when Reagan was sworn in?

Few months before the Iran-Iraq war ended, Khomeini sent one of his trustees, Mesbahi, to Paris,(From the airport he was taken to Banisadr by the French secret service and then taken back to the airport straight away.) asking Banisadr to return to Iran and work with him. Banisadr realized that, as he had predicted 7 years ago, the war has ended in failure and Khomeini needs to use him. So he put two conditions for his return: A. to establish all forms of freedoms before his return and not after (as Khomeini had promised). B. To go on tv and confess about his role in October Surprise and leave the judgement to the People.

Tomorrow when Iran is freed and democratic (all the indicators show that in people's view the system of velayte faqih is as dead as monarchy, as now people demand Iranian republic), people will ask these questions and many more and will demand answers. I suggest we get prepared for this time, when truth cannot be censored any longer.


Mahmood Delkhasteh

Mahmood Delkhasteh / August 13, 2009 5:29 PM

The sad thing is that there are 3 mindsets today in Iran: the "Good...the Bad...& the Mad" all in all that makes another a 4th one & that one is "Ugly"!

Jaker / August 13, 2009 9:13 PM

Mahmood jaan (if I am allowed to call you as such):

Everything you say is correct, except one, in my opinion. Your point about the whole hostage affair is completely correct, but this article is not the place to discuss it. The article is about Nabavi's life.

The only point I disagree with is when you say, "why did he allow himself to be used?" Things are not as black and white as we might think. We need to consider events in the context of their time, the conditions that the country was in, etc. If everyone were to say, "I don't agree with this and, therefore, I won't do it," there would be no one to serve the country.

Muhammad Sahimi / August 14, 2009 12:11 AM

Dear Mr. Sahimi,

Thanks for responding to my post.

I think we may have misunderstood each other. I don't have a problem with these men supporting the revolution. I, like you, believe that the monarchy had to go. However, these men supported and helped create the Islamic Republic.

They were also involved, either dircetly or indirectly, in the atrocities that took place after the revolution. Don't you think now to make these men out to be patriots and reformists is a little too late?

Also, I would like to know your opinion on a comment i made on one of your previous posts.

Why these men, along with people like Banisadr and Bazargan did not support Mr. Bakhtiar when he became prime minister? wasn't it a prefect opportunity to lead Iran into a real democracy, with Shah out of the way?

Armen / August 14, 2009 4:39 AM

It's interesting that the people who are so critical of reformists put forward no real alternative.

Nazih Musa / August 14, 2009 10:23 AM

Dear Armen:

Just because someone works within a system with which we disagree does not imply that he/she supports everything within that system. Collin Powell worked with Bush. He tried to change the way he was viewing the world for 4 years. Bush committed too many crimes. Does that mean that Powell also shares the responsibility, at least as much as Bush?

The very fact that as soon as Ayatollah Khomeini died, the right wing expelled all the leftists from the system goes to show the threats they were feeling about them.

As for your question: I liked Bakhtiar. God bless his soul. But, the reason that the revolutionaries did not suupport him was that he wanted to preserve monarchy, albeit in a diluted form. The revolutionaries wanted a whole new system. Moreover, it was not clear that Bakhtiar could do that. The suspicion was that as soon as things calmed down, the Shah, with the support of the army commanders, would go back. And, remember that as soon as Bakhtiar accepted to be the Shah's PM, everybody deserted him.

Muhammad Sahimi / August 14, 2009 10:52 AM

"Things are not as black and white as we might think. We need to consider events in the context of their time, the conditions that the country was in, etc."

Dr. Sahimi, some 20 years ago I did not understand what you stated in your short statement, and I too harshly judged people such as Nabavi with my unrealistic expectations, ... I blamed likes of Nabavi for complacency. ... 20 years later and despite my deep disagreements with IRI, I advocate calm because I see the external threat to Iran as the one which overshadows everything else.

anonym7 / August 14, 2009 2:11 PM

Prof. says: "...Bakhtiar. ... But, the reason that the revolutionaries did not suupport him was that he wanted to preserve monarchy, albeit in a diluted form."

What? Is that what Mousavi, Karrubi, Khatami, Rafsanjani are doing?

Isn't that so that Vali-Faghih has far more legal authority within IRI constitution than Shah did within Royal constitution?

Isn't that so that IRI is by far (up to 1000 times according to IRI insiders imprisoned now) more corrupt and less progressive than shah ever was?

And finally, isn't that what people are screaming today by asking for "independence, freedom, IRANIAN Republic."?

So why are we still supporting these ex-criminals simply because they MAY have good intentions by telling white lies to people as Khomeini did.

We never had the chance to test the shah and bakhtiar to see if they were lying or telling the truth & shah was ill and died a year later so he could not be telling any lie. BUT we know that khomeini lied and revolutionaries kept supporting him in his atrocities against people of iran. If there were any legitimacy in the revolution and any decency in the revolutionaries, they would have turned away from Khomeini the minute that they saw him not being what he claimed to be. They had 365 chances in the first year of Khomeini whose rule started by murder, continued with imposing hejab, closing of newspapers, hanging of newspaper editor and journalists, and finally mass executions of Kurds and other minorities; all in a single year.


Hypo / August 14, 2009 2:42 PM


You and I are talking about two different times.

You are speaking with the benefit of hindsight, which is always 100 correct. I spoke about 30 years ago without any such benefit, not after experiencing 30 years of the revolution's aftermath. At that time, there was no talk of velaayat-e faghih or a religious dictatorship; at least I am not aware of it.

Yes, we did have the chance to test the Shah. His 25 years of dictatorship, brought about by a CIA-coup, was plenty enough experience.

One terrible regime (the IRI) does not justify another terrible regime (Shah's). But, if you think that, in this case, relativism is important, why then do you not use the same concept about Nabavi and others? Double standards because of your bias?


Thank you. To be honest with you, I was more or less like you for the first 2-3 years after the revolution. Only after catastrophe hit my own family, my eyes open.

Muhammad Sahimi / August 14, 2009 9:05 PM

Thank you prof. Samhimi for again responding to my post.

And Thank you Tehran Bureau. I may not agree with some of the journalists' views, but this is a very good source of information and intelligent debate.

In this case, i have to agree with Hypo. Bakhtiar was never given a chance. Hypo said some of the things that i left out. My porblem is also with the regime and anyone who supports it.

Maybe Prof. Sahimi is right and these reformists want to make drastic changes within the system. I just don't see how much reform can be made within a brutal theocracy.

Armen / August 15, 2009 4:03 AM

Dear Prof. Sahimi, I thank you for your response even though I am puzzled that your biased response is basically based on accusation of bias.

You are an engineer sir, aren't you? So you should know how to compare numbers. Yes both 1 and 1000 are greater than 0 but they are much farther from each other than 1 is from zero. Comparing these ex-criminals to Shah is nothing but based on bias. Shah was not perfect and full of flaws in view of 70s (that you seem to stuck with), but he is a saint in view of the past 30 years of islamic republic. According to Baghi, a regime insider, shah's regime eliminated (executions + in-street casualties) some 383 individuals between '63 and '79 (excluding during revolution, that if my memory serves me well, some 2800 persons were killed). According to conservation figures (like human rights or some opposition sites, like Boroumands') IRI has killed tens of thousands. The figure could be as high as 120,000 (according to Karim Sadjadpour) in the past 30 years. That is a ratio of say about 100 to 1 (depending on what numbers one uses). Killing a single person is too many, but given the choice, any sane person would choose a mild lightening over a massive tsunami. You resort to meaningless words like 'dictator', which has long lost its luster in view of regimes like IRI, as counter-argument without quantifying it.

I mean no disrespect sir, but you are either utterly naive, utterly ideologue, utterly uninformed, or utterly stuck in history.

You are utterly naive if you think likes of Mousavi (or Nabavi), the PM of two or the worst periods of IRI's disgusting life, can cure the fundamental ills of iran. Even if we ignore his past crimes, you are still utterly naive to assume that he could do anything within IRI regime (that he believes in) where Rahbar is legally entitled to over-riding him. You do remember the reformist parliament and the media freedom bill that Rahbar instructed Karrubi to shelf, or the chain murders which led to a regime insider and then shut down, or student uprisings and arrests and imprisonments, all in the same Khatami period, don't you?

You are also utterly uninformed on the depth and dimensions (social, financial, religious, legal) of corruption within IRI regime and how those have affected iran and iranians and will for decades to come. You really must travel through iran and talk to people to see all that IRI has done in 30 years are none but baby steps (often exaggerated and faked in a manner not too different from the 24 million votes that AN claimed to have obtained) which are collectively worth close to nothing at the cost that iranians paid for. They have looted the country, murdered iranians, corrupted iranian culture, destroyed iranian heritage, yelled for palestinians, and force-fed 1400 year old non-sense down iranian throats. Have you seen families living in tents around the towns and cities? Have you seen children looking far worse than those in any ghetto in india who can't remember when they took their last bath or ate their last decent meal? Have you seen students or housewives who are part-time prostitutes simply because there is no other way to produce an income (and their best customers are regime sheikhs -- you have read about tehran's chief of police's, Zarei's, court proceedings where 6 prostitutes claimed that he ordered them to stand lined up to perform group prayers in nude when captured)? Have you seen how families who were chemical-attacked live in western iran in utmost poverty? Have you seen how war veterans are neglected? Have you seen how likes of Neda and Sohrab and Amir and Ashkan and hundred others' killers roam free while a memorial stamp is unveiled in memory of an egyptian woman killed in europe?

You are also an ideologue since you sound neither sensitive enough to the criminality of A to Z supporters of this regime nor acknowledge the tremendous contributions of Pahlavis to progress of iran. All that we have, from top universities to the minimal remaining freedom for women, are due to pahlavis, without them we would be not much different from Taleban's afghanistan, albeit with a rich versions of mulla omar and general dustom. I know all about Pahlavis' short-comings, mostly aimed at those who wanted to make iran into what we have witnessed in the past 30 years much sooner, and I acknowledge their injustice; but at least their deeds were (some) black and (mostly) white, unlike that of IRI that from the first day has pretty much been all religiously black (with a few droplets of white if you insist) and practically nothing else.

This incompetent regime has not even been able to be self-sufficient in gasoline production in 30 years, that had they wanted they could build refineries from scratch all internally in the hands of iranian engineers and artisans -- at least they could try and get there by trial and error. Neither finish up the bushehr power plant which was scheduled to be finished in 1981. You know that IRI has paid russia, according to various reports, some $30 billions for plant+arms+aviation in the past 30 years, don't you?

Once again, I really mean no disrespect to you sir, but it makes me terribly sad to see how our educated class gives a passing grade to the regime, that has made all of us wanderers around the globe, only to avoid saying that they made a terrible mistake in 1979 and take full responsibility for it when we see the youths of the new generation are sacrificed day in day out and the country has lost 30 years, 30 long years that likes of china and india and korea and taiwan and Singapore and malaysia and ... have moved on to relative prosperity and likes of Brazil have been able to build their own reliable brand of airplanes while iran's rusted airplanes are falling from sky left and right like toys (but then again, who cares? Iranian lives have no value and they end up in heaven anyway sooner if they were innocent!).

Let me end with what the great poet says (Hafez?): The building is rotted at its foundation, and you are talking about how to decorate the patio.

(Khaaneh az paaybast viran ast, khajeh dar fekre naghshe eevaan ast).

Hypo / August 15, 2009 3:49 PM

Dear Hypo:

Thank you for your comment. I did not give a passing grade to the IRI (see my today's article on Iran's judiciary); never have, never will. It is only you who sees it that way, simply because you are against the reformists.

As for the Pahlavies: Reza Shah did do some fundamental work for Iran. But, his years also destroyed the progress that Iran had made by the Constitutional Revolution. Politically, Reza Shah's years were some of the darkest years, matched by his son in the 1970s, and by the IRI in the 1980s. But, even now, at this very moment, and in fact over the past 15 years, there has been far more political freedom than we ever enjoyed during the Shah and his father.

Mohammad Reza did not do much for Iran, in my opinion. He talked too much, did little, except blocking the political development of Iran, which resulted in the 1979 REvolution. The 1979 Revolution did not occur in a vacuum. It was not the work of the foreigners. It had essential political, economical, social, and cultural reasons. In fact, as I have always said, the IRI is the legitimate child of the Pahlavi regime. We got IRI precisely because we had the Pahlavies. You disagree? Be my guest.

Tell me how you suggest we can make deep, lasting change in Iran for the better, if we do not form a united front with the reformists in Iran. What is your plan? Who will be the organizer? Who is your leader? Reza Pahlavi? If so, you cannot be serious.

When was it that I said I am UNbiased? I am not. I am totally biased. Guilty as charge. I have my own opinion, views, analyses, AND biases. Anyone who has a political opinion is biased. I am against monarchy. Have always been, will always be. I make no pretence about not being so. But, you are also biased. Every word that you write is biased toward the Pahlavies. I do not hold it against you, because it is naturtal, and it is your right.

Finally, I have a thick skin and, therefore, being called by you naive, ideologue, uninformed, etc., does not bother me. But, you cannot call someone all of these, not knowing anything about him, and yet insist that you mean no disrespect! What is disrespect, anyway, in your view?

Muhammad Sahimi / August 15, 2009 5:09 PM

Dear Prof. Sahimi, Bias is when one ignores some important facts in proving his points. I am glad that you have acknowledged that your views are biased and provided the proof by saying that "Mohammad Reza did not do much for Iran, in my opinion", as all of the following are deeds of the jinns not his government:

- Voting rights for women (didn't khomeini opposed it at the time, calling it prostitution?)

- Establishing top universities: sharif/esfahan/shiraz/tabriz/mashhad/zahedan/...

- Establishing steel mill (at the verge of bankruptcy now due to mulla import of cheap steel)

- Establishing refineries in tehran/tabriz/...

- Establishing car production line iran khodro (with budget deficit of $1B today due to mulla car imports pocketing $1 to 2B yearly profits)

- Establishing sugar production factories in abadeh/eghlid/... (some being shut down today due to sugar import by mullas with profits ranging $100 to 200M yearly)

- Establishing house appliance factories arj/azmayesh

- Establishing TV stations across the country

- Dispatch of tens of thousands of students to west (we had 50 to 60 thousand students in america only in '79)

- Establishing a solid primary/secondary education system for boys and girls which resulted in literacy rate increasing from around 3% (7% if we count reading Qoran) in 1925 to 65 to 75% in 1979.

- Establishing first research reactor in Tehran univ.

- Work towards bushehr reactor to be operational in 1981.

- Establishing first semiconductor chip fabrication facility affiliated with sharif university

- Establishing airports and roads and clinics and schools across the country.

- Establishing pipe water and sewage system in major cities: esfahan/shiraz/tabriz.

- ...

The jinns who did all these must have been pretty busy since most were in fact done in late 60s and 70s.

If I were biased, then I would have denied any misdeeds by Pahlavis, but I acknowledge any misdeeds that they did if are based on reasonable proof rather than hatred.

As for reza shah, once again, you view him one-sidedly. I wish he was void of what you criticize him for, but I wish you were more familiar with iran that he took over and who he was. He was an amazing person as he was so bright and nationalistic, while essentially illiterate. Iran that he took over was disintegrating and backward. Judiciary, education, and medicine (among other things) were either under control of mullas or in their medieval form. I am sure you know that he intended to create a republic but mullas opposed him. Once a king (with the approval of the parliament) he tried to work with the mullas and found it impossible as iran's state demanded decisive and fundamental changes that mullas opposed (like de-veiling of women, teaching of french in schools, taking schools and judiciary out of the hands of mullas, dispatching of students to europe). He found it impossible to work with them, and yes he turned oppressive, mostly towards mullas, but with some undeserving souls amongst them too. So once again, we need to look at him humanly and see what his deeds and misdeeds have been in 16 short years that he was in charge.

As for what to do now, if I knew I would do it. But, iranians within are well ahead of us AND likes of mousavi/karrubi. In fact, their slogans are sometimes in contrast with mousavi's (like "indepedence, freedom, iranian republic" or "we neither want a lobster flag nor a hooligan leader") that mousavi has disowned them. But a leader should at least have no all F grades on his past record and believe in some basic fundamentals that can repair the cracking diverse iranian society. Mousavi/karrubi/khatami/nabavi/ganji are not such persons. We should lidten to the common voice amongst the protesters: justice and freedom. We need someone who oppose the fundamental legs of this regime, to close down all these shameful establishments (prisons, torture, confessions, beatings, press inquisitions) and bring IRI leaders to justice, without which there would be no deterrent for future gangsters to fall into religious/political/society leadership.

Unfortunately I believe that IRI leaders would not step aside so easily. They have created a perfect mix of corrupt religion, thuggery, thievery, and murder. Each of the four elements - ayatollahs, thieves fed by some $80 billion flowing into the country each year, sadistic thugs of the country (rapists, gangsters, etc), and the misguided security forces - is at a sweet spot of his nature to support this regime and not care about anything else. That is a hard nut to crack in a peaceful manner.

As for reza pahlavi, anytime I listen to him I find him saying the right things and he has no negative past record (unlike musavi et al), but he has no traction within iran and has not been able to do much in the past 30 years. Likes of you (who are very forgiving about musavi et al) blame him for being a prince (but I am sure you do not do the same for dr. mosaddeq who was also a qajar prince and almost all his family assets were from confiscated qajar land). But it is not up to I anyway. Leaders rise out of nowhere (like musavi) and it is for people of iran to collectively choose one. Unfortunately there is none or else we/they may have been able to do more than simply receiving bullets in silence in the past couple of months. Musavi is misguided and is weak and he would have at best been another khatami had he been (s)elected.

This is getting to be too long, so I end with a couple of videos that is worth looking at if you have not seen it already:



Hypo / August 15, 2009 10:01 PM

Hypo, thee is one area, one very important area that IRI has done MUCH worse than Shah, and that is the strengthening of the middle class.

During the latest years of Shah we had a very large middle class, IRI not only has not pushed the poor to middle class, it has allowed the gap between the rich and the poor to increase to an appalling level.

As for the country's political and economical development, IRI has definitely done better than Shah considering all the external pressures and threats that the country has faced since 1979.

anynym7 / August 16, 2009 3:42 PM

IRI is rotten and corrupt in all its organs, likes of which I cannot imagine except for maybe in the darkest days of iranian history when iran was occupied by invaders and aggressors, arabs, mongols, tatars, and iraqis. Is IRI really reformable or are we just kidding ourselves while prolonging the corrupt mulla regime:


Reform what / August 16, 2009 3:44 PM

anynym7: IRI makes a lot of claims, but we need to make a quantifiable observation to see how IRI has done and at what cost. Despite exaggerations of IRI, one decent source of information is IRI insiders' assessments sometimes made by ex-revolutionaries which are very telling.

As for distribution of wealth, poverty is rampant, and middle class weakened and narrowed. I read (sorry I do not have the link) that an IRI insider is claiming that the "Gini-coefficient of inequality is the same as the shah's period despite doubling of the population." In other words, considering that IRI lies all the time, they are proud of being only as good as the Shah's period in gap between rich and poor.

As for political development, if you mean "development" on behalf of the people, I do agree with you. If you mean development of the ruling class, I do not see it that way as all elites are part of the same faction and often part of the same family (e.g., khatami, haddad adel, khamenei are all related to each other). If you are referring to political "freedom", I don't think so, even though it works in a totally different way in IRI compared to shah's period. In shah's period, one could hardly hear any opposing voice (was suppressed at its source); nowadays, we hear opposing voices (maybe because of internet) and then we hear that opposers landed in jail, tortured, or killed.

As for economical growth, I do not know what you are referring to and how you measure it. There is little change in iran for 30 years compared to ballooning of oil revenues. oil was mostly under $10 a barrel then (as little as $3 a barrel in early 70s before arab oil embargo) and it is in $50 to $100 a barrel range now. Total cumulative intake of oil revenue for all years prior to 1979 was around $100 billion (that is for ALL years since first drop of iranian oil was sold, without any adjustment for inflation). Total oil revenue for 1979-2009 is estimated to be between $1 and $1.5 trillion dollars. That is at least 10 times larger in the last 30 years compared to the 38 years of Shah's reign. So what have they done to be worth 10 times larger than what shah did for the country?


Hypo / August 16, 2009 5:57 PM

Hypo, regarding the political development under IRI, we neither need to get too philosophical nor get too abstract. Just let's look at the last election ... large number of people (if not %85) participated, including my retired khAleh who could care less about Islam, but voted for Ahamadinejad (because of her increased pension) to my entrepreneur friend who doesn't give a hoot to any religion but voted for Mousavi (because he found Mousavi more market friendly) .... even yours truly who wanted to topple IRI when young, voted for the first time!

Regarding economical development under IRI, ...., I visited Iran just a few years ago ..., I was more than surprised and happy to see how much has been done, ..., I have no doubt that lots of money has been wasted, stolen, and gone to Khodies ... but much has been done also, despite all the vicious sanctions against Iran. Unfortunately my happiness was quickly gone when I saw the appalling level of poverty.

anonym7 / August 16, 2009 9:00 PM

Hypo, not sure if you are still reading this thread, I was just watching the following Shah's interview, and found it very relevant to our exchanges (yours, mine, and Dr. Sahimi's). ... I am not a monarchist, but after watching this clip, I have substantial respect for him, and also know more concretely what his major mistake was:


anonym7 / August 18, 2009 4:13 PM

anonym7: Thanks for the video. I have so much to say about M.R. Shah and Reza shah's impact on the society through direct observations of my family and reliable readings that are beyond this brief. It is a pity that his deeds were neutralized by misdeeds of Savak and its dirty works although it was in no imaginable way comparable to what IRI has been doing since its inception as Makhmalbaf (the film director) attested to a couple of days ago in an interview based on his personal observations. And my problem is not so much allowing Monarchy to fall, but to replace it with a MUCH worse islamic republic.

My sad argument with Dr. Sahimi is that after all these years, for someone so educated and intelligent, who attended a top university (which was established by reza shah) and went through a good educational system for free (that M.R. shah provided; I wonder how much he would have paid if he had gone though the same quality of education in America instead, and if he could afford it at all), he still allows his emotions to rule, not realizing that the hatred of the shah (which was 95% based on lies by khomeini and his supporters and the leftists as they now attest to) and unconditional trust in khomeini, the dislike of monarchy and the love affair with islam, brought us here and made 98% of iranian blind to what was happening to them. I am pretty sure that Dr. Sahimi has good intentions, but, as he claims, he is biased and thus overlooks that "Islamic" and "republic" juxtaposed failed miserably at a very high cost for iranians, thus monarchy was NOT the problem or else Republic would have saved us. That england and holland and sweden and denmark and norway and ... are all monarchies. That the fall of monarchy has brought 30 miserable years, the extent of which may not be really empathized by those living in the west.

Criticism of the shah and monarchy would have been valid if the revolutionaries (who were often imprisoned by the shah) proved to be any better than the shah and could make life easier for iranians, rather than comparing the shah with an ideal person but being forgiving towards islamic republic since it is not monarchy in name, although constitutionally Khamenei has far more power than Shah did.

We need to be fair, tell the truth about good and bad, or else not only we would be diminished to the level of likes of O'Reily, but also may repeat the same mistakes that the generation of revolution made.

Let me make this short and only flag three huge achievements of reza shah and his son: de-veiling of women by reza shah, requiring girls to attend school (by both father and son), and allowing women to vote (by mohammad reza shah). The latter is even considered a big deal in the west. There is nothing that IRI has done in its 30 years that can come even close to the impact that any of these achievements has had on pushing iran out of dark ages.

If you care please see these:

Reza shah:


How revolution happened from horse's mouth:



See the Tuesday 8/18 video (you can download and see video to see the cry of the anchor when she hears about IRI prisons).


Hypo / August 18, 2009 11:51 PM


DR. Sahimi said Shah blocked "the political development of Iran" ... and Shah in that video, right about the end of it, proves Dr. Sahim's point (please watch that video again, I have watched it at least five times--).

As I said before, now that I know Shah was trying to make Iran independent towards the end of his reign, I respect him immensely .... but he fell victim to his blocking of political development of Iran. He did not have the backing of Iranians when he needed it ...

anonym7 / August 19, 2009 4:52 PM

anonym: I agree that Shah "blocked the political development of iran". Even Shahbanou Farah said almost the same thing in an interview about her book and wished that that had not happen. I wished he had done differently. BUT, what I differ from Dr. Sahimi is that (1) Dr. Sahimi claims that shah "did not do much" when iran was at the same level as S. Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey then. The worst of the 3 today is Turkey whose per capital income about 1.5 times iran based on IRI's own data (which is fudged to the benefit of IRI). (2) political development is a means not a total end; we need to blame shah for that yet give him credit for his positive deeds. (3) Those who opposed him (now we know) were 95% the same people now in charge who wanted no participation but total control of power and wealth. (4) There are accomplishments that could not be done in reasonable time in a democratic way. There was no way that Reza shah could de-veil women democratically in a country whose organs were under control of mullas, There was no way that allowing women to vote when ayatollah khomeini called it equivalent to prostitution. And so on and so forth. As we saw people were fanatic even in 1979 when they lined up like a herd and voted for Islamic Republic without knowing what it was and without having read any of the despicable books written by khomeini.

I have no issue with flagging shah's deficiencies, and in fact we need to do that to improve, but we need to separate accusations that we have no evidence for such as what khomeini was claiming that shah stole $56B for which there is no evidence and many evidence to the contrary.

This is an interesting letter written to Hoveida by same people that are in charge today that criticizes the shah. Now the same people are far worse and lack all positive deeds of the shah. Please see who have signed the letter towards the mid-bottom of the page:


Hypo / August 19, 2009 8:29 PM

[sorry I wrote this before seeing the last exchanges, which say alot more]

my dear sirs, Hypo and Pr Sahimi, who write so knowledgeably, I certainly can't, but I would just like to ask - why can't you both be right in some ways ?

I don't know what Iran was like during the Shah except from some videos, some articles but I have seen the son on our TV a couple of times and he seemed very nice. I never got any impression he was pushing to be anyone in Iran, but if he was asked maybe he would. ?

There are several democratic countries with monarchs with varying power (little in fact), or wealth, but serve as symbols and if they are appreciated, they serve the stability of the nation.

About the statistics, how do you measure ? What is the yardstick ? The number of deaths, tortures, political freedom, personal freedom, economic freedom ?

From your comments you seem to be saying that the last 30 years have been disastrous yet, pr S says not from the political freedom aspect. But he hates the regime. Hypo is showing that it has been much worse than what the Shah accomplished despite the negative side. One is apparently more religious than the other but both would like a secular system. Pr S hates monarchs, and also asks who else apart from the reformists can do anything ? And also, people can change, (they do). So why not this :

Supposing that the idea of bringing back the son is a good idea, firstly I don't see why he has to have the title of 'monarch' or 'Shah'. (It's only an artificial status anyway.. who cares today, when we all have some genes from some monarch or other :-)). He could simply be an interim president or some title during a change of system. If the people appreciate him, why not ? What is the problem ? On the other hand, could someone who's lived all his life in the west really be able to work in Iran ? How could he manage to operate with all the present situation ?

So why couldn't they work all together ? The son could be a personality, bringing in his experience, the others, the knowers of the country : all the players and the games. They just need to agree on a political platform, get all the financial stuff worked out, the foreign politics, the religious issues, ... sooo.. much, but why not after all ?

Usually for a great change to happen in any country, there needs to be an important personality who is liked and can organise and unite. Think of Nelson Mandela, who was nobody, a prisoner most of his life. He managed to get the country switched from apartheid and organized a national pardon. People need to be helped to face crimes, suffering and then maybe they might be able to accept change without violence. But I don't know, I can't say, I'm just throwing out ideas, because there is debate and questions. And why talk in terms of 'revolution' today, that brings in so much violent memories, its the colour that's in vogue, this time it's 'Green', it's totally in phase with modern notions of durable energies/polution...

pessimist / August 29, 2009 7:21 PM

HM Shah REza II, a true democrat and Persian patriot would be and culd be a unifying force for all moderate Iranian people and parties under a Parliamentary and Constitutional Monarchy if he had the chance

Carlos Mundy / September 19, 2009 8:56 AM

naghshe tehran

saye / February 6, 2010 10:52 AM