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September 23rd, 2004
Red Lines and Deadlines
Timeline: Iran, Pahlavi to Ahmadinejad
1921 Pahlavi Takes Power: Reza Pahlavi, a military officer, stages a coup and abolishes the Qajar dynasty.
1925 The Rise of the Shah: Pahlavi declares himself Shah; emulating Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk, he puts Persia on a westernization program and begins a program to modernize and secularize institutions and industry.
1941 Changing of the Guard: Reza Shah Pahlavi supports the Axis powers during World War II; under pressure from Britain and Russia he steps down and the throne passes to his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who proves to be a weak leader. The Majles (parliament) begins to exercise more control over the government.
1951 Nationalization: Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq sponsors a bill to nationalize Iran’s oil industry (controlled by the British-run Anglo-Iranian Oil Company). The Majles votes for the bill, and follows through with nationalization. Western countries respond by boycotting Iranian oil.
1953 Coup: A CIA-engineered coup overthrows Mossadeq, returning power to Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, who imposes a royal dictatorship, outlawing political parties, controlling the press through the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Culture, and establishing the SAVAK secret police.
1963 The White Revolution: In response to a continuing economic downturn, the Shah sponsors the “White Revolution,” a package of economic and social reforms. This does little to please his harshest critics, including the clerical opposition, who object to continuing secularization and the extension of suffrage to women.
1965 Khomeini Exiled: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is exiled to Najaf, Iraq, where he remains for 13 years, moving to Paris in 1978. He develops his theory of “velayat-e faqih” (guardianship of the jurisprudent), in which a council of Shia scholars guide the secular government. Back in Iran, secular and religious groups step up protest against the Shah. Khomeini communicates with his supporters within Iran by means of cassette tapes of revolutionary sermons.
1967-1971 Persian Legacy and Legitimation: In 1967, the Shah has himself crowned as King of Kings and Emperor of Iran, seeking legitimacy in the heritage of the Persian empire; this culminates in a massive ceremony held in observance of the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian empire.
1978 Fall of the Shah: The opposition begins a series of strikes and riots, destabilizing the Pahlavi government. The Shah goes into exile.
1979 The Islamic Revolution: Khomeini returns; the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) comes into being on April 1. After an initial period of secular governance, Khomeini consolidates his authority and institutes a clerically administrated government based on his theories of guardianship of the jurisprudent.
1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War: Iran and Iraq fight an eight-year war, killing hundreds of thousands in a war marked by the use of child soldiers by both sides, and the use of chemical weapons by Iraq.
1989 Khomeini’s Death: Ayatollah Khomeini dies, and is replaced as Supreme Leader by President Ali Khamenei.
1990s Growing Pains: Without Khomeini, the Revolution begins to rethink itself. Alternately, Iran pursues expansionist policies and tries to normalize relations with its Arab neighbors and the rest of the world. Frustration with the ruling clerical establishment becomes widespread.
1997 Reform Begins: Mohammad Khatami is elected president with 70 percent of the vote and a strong mandate for reform.
1999-2003 The Slow Pace of Reform: Khatami’s administration finds it difficult to deliver reforms given the continuing conservatism of the clergy and the Council of Guardians. Students riot in 1999, and in 2000 the reformists finally win a majority in the Majles. The Council relaxes some social controls — allowing a critical press to develop, and delivering increased rights for women — but continues to crack down at intervals and thwarts significant changes.
2004 Conservative Reaction: The Council of Guardians disqualifies the great majority of reformist candidates and the conservatives retake control of the Majles.
2005 Presidential Elections: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the conservative mayor of Tehran, wins 62 percent of a run-off vote, defeating the cleric and former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani later claims an illegal dirty tricks campaign has been mounted against him, but refuses to make an official appeal of the result.
Source: BBC News Country Profiles: Iran and PERSIAN MIRRORS: THE ELUSIVE FACE OF IRAN, Elaine Sciolino, 2000.

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