The Socialist Movement In Iran
The struggle for freedom in Iran has always had three prongs:
- religious groups
- the socialist groups and
- the nationalists.
The blowback from the severe dictatorship of the last 100 years is the main cause of the attraction to socialism. Although the socialist movements consisted of very small cells, the long border with the Soviet Union and the strong desire of Russians to get to the Persian Gulf modified these sporadic movements to serious uprisings which could have easily turned Iran into one of the Soviet Republics.
As the socialist movement of Iran was quite extensive, and because my family was involved with these events and I personally knew some of the players, I divided this section of Iranian history to three separate parts.
This section is about the rise and fall of "the democratic Republic of Azarbaijan." This event was the first struggle of the Cold War and probably was the most serious Soviet attempt of the 20th century at carving up Iranian territory. I should also mention that there are a few issues covered in this article which come from my personal knowledge and have never before been reported. For clarity, those facts are written in italic.
As mentioned in the previous article, the allied countries were fed up with Reza Shah and his unruly behavior. He was not just the absolute dictator in Iran - he was flirting with Hitler. Though he declared the country independent, Reza Shah would not stop misbehaving. In early 1943, the allies needed to get war materials to Russia both quickly and safely. The fastest route was through Iran's railroad from the Persian Gulf to the Russian border. The allies gave Reza Shah direct and indirect ultimatums to throw the Germans out and join the allies seriously. However, he did not realize how serious they were and Hitler was battling it out in Stalingrad which was not far from Iran.
The idea was that if German forces would break through Stalingrad and make it to Iran, they would have had access to all of the oil, would cut off the flow of oil to the Britain and the United States and could make the final push for the pincer movement movement of joining the Africa Core. Such an event would have been the beginning of the end for the allied forces. Since the stakes were high and Reza Shah was not responding to their threats, they simply poured in and the dictator was finished faster than all participants. No one put up a fight. He had irritated so many people that this most unpleasant takeover of the country was simply a relief.
The Iranian Army
Reza Shah had spent 20 years putting the army together. There was a navy and an air force. There were many generals and about 150,000 men. Although Reza Shah had spent all of his life in the barracks, at the end of the day he was not properly educated in the strength of new armies. The politicians around him would tell him what he wanted to hear and he was under the illusion that his 150,000 men were able to put up a fight against the millions in the allies' armies. The British had spies placed extensively and were able to dismantle his armed forces in less than a week. He was lucky to have his old friend General Amir Ahmadi, who remained loyal to him.
Although Reza Shah had mistreated General Amir Ahmadi by demoting him to the humiliating title of commander of stable of the Calvary, General Ahmadi out of sheer patriotism and military loyalty to the Royal family, put aside his grievances and saved Reza Shah from getting arrested and hanged by the Russians. The general took two brigades of the army before its disintegration. He kept Tehran secure and quiet and this took the excuse away from the allies to take over Tehran and dismantle the government. Finally, Reza Shah left in disgrace, and died a miserable death in exile.
With Reza Shah's departure, some of his henchman got hanged. However, there were some unfortunate losses as well including the assassination of Ahmad Kasravi, who was a great historian and the founder of critical investigation of Persian beliefs.
Rising to the Occasion
A few days after the invasion Reza Shah personally visited Mr. Mohammad Ali Foroughi in his home.
Mr. Foroughi was one of the top five literary experts of the country. Even today, his books are being used throughout the country. He was also a Bahii, which was hated by the Shiite clergy, and he was a 33grade mason. He also had very close ties with the British. The dictator had insulted Foroughi badly; he had called him "bearded woman." However, he needed him and was begging him to intervene. He wanted him to get the British off his back and let him run the country and assist the allies with the transfer of the goods. Foroughi made it clear that was not an option and that Reza Shah had to go. Under those circumstances, Reza Shah wanted his son to be the king. The British were contemplating pulling one of the men from the previous dynasty who was a British naval officer to become the next king.
The main people in choosing Reza Shah's successor were Churchill and the British intelligence officers in Tehran. The new king had only a few confidants - General Fardoost, who was his playmate since elementary school, and a gay Swiss barber who was a total embarrassment for the royal family.
General Fardoost remained a close friend of the Shah and founded the SAVAK .During 1979 revolution he betrayed the Shah and sold him out to Khomeini.
The Russians prefered to change the whole thing to a Republic. The United States, due to lack of foreign experience, followed the British not knowing how much of a hater they were inheriting by association. At the end, the allies settled on Reza shah's son, Mr. Foroughi, who was able to keep his promises.
Foroughi was able to get the allies to agree with a few points as well. They agreed on Iran's territorial integrity, restitution for all damages after the war and the agreement to use Persian labor during the war to free their soldiers to go to war. Once all parties signed off on the deal, and most importantly all allies agreed that they would leave Iran after the war, Mr. Foroughi took the agreement to the Iranian parliament and ratified it, making it an official agreement between the countries.
Foroughi died three months later never getting the recognition he deserved. It is interesting that the integrity of the country was saved by an expert in literature who was a mason and a Bahii.
With Reza Shah's departure, all political prisoners were freed. These newly freed intellectuals started many political parties including the famous pro soviet "Tudeh" party which became one of the most powerful forces in the country for two decades.
The Tehran Conference
At this time there was a need for FDR, Churchill and Stalin to meet face to face. There was much haggling over the location of the meeting, but in the final analysis Stalin prevailed and the conference was held in Tehran.
Stalin's preference was because of the Red Army's presence in Iran, Tehran's close proximity to the Soviet Union and the fact that the Tudeh party was very strong. Stalin's security measures were extraordinary. I have heard of his security measures from my father and uncles who were present in Tehran at that time. My father told me that Stalin had seven identical motorcades with a fake Stalin in six of them. He also arranged for FDR to stay in the Russian embassy so that Stalin could control everything.
The following two years were miserable in the war torn country with disease and famine. Russians were occupying the north, British the south, and the Americans running around doing what conquerers do. I have heard of the misbehavior of American GIs from the elders of my family. I will refrain from writing of it as it is as disgraceful as any other army.
The three leaders of the allied countries treated the new king of Iran quite poorly. They looked at him as a boy with a crown who got the job because of their generosity. Churchill showed his aristocratic arrogance, FDR was more cordial, Stalin turned out to be the friendliest one although he brought a company of security forces with him to the dinner.
The Shah did not know that these men were coming to Tehran. Even his generals and servants kept the news from him and he never forgave them for it.
Cold War: First bullets
The Democratic Republic of Azarbaijan (Fergheh)
The biggest problem of the time was the Russians deliberate attempt to install puppet regimes in the Iranian states which were occupied by the Red Army. The Russian plan was to create independent communist states similar to Eastern Europe. The most suitable place for Stalin's plan was the state of Azarbaijan in North West Iran. The reasons were abundant, but include:
- Azarbaijan had a large border with Russia.
- There were many Russian agents who had infiltrated every corner of the state.
- The language was Azari, and deeply ingrained. People resented studying and communicating in Persian.
- The leaders of the constitutional revolution were from Azarbaijan.
- The first groups of Iranian communists were mostly from Azarbaijan.
- Old rift and resentment by Azaries against people of Tehran for treating them as second class citizens.
- And finally, there were several divisions of the Red Army throughout Azarbaijan.
Iranian Communist Leaders
Before the war was over, a group of old Iranian communists, who had spent many years in Reza Shah's prison under the direction of Stalin's henchman, Mir Jaafar Bagherov, took over the state.
This picture is taken from a Persian book, which had copied it from a Russian magazine called "Sputnik." This is the first time that his picture is being available for public.
Bagherov worked under the command of Beria (Stalin's Himmler). Bagherov is reported to have killed more than 25,000 people. Beria killed more people for Stalin than Himmler did for Hitler.
They were both hanged by Khrushchev right after Stalin's death. His name is quite famous as he was in charge of the security of Azarbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. Bagherov's orders were to yank Azarbaijan and unify it with the Soviet Republic of Azarbaijan. He imported several old Iranian communists who had been in Reza Shah's jails. These old Iranian communists along with the KGB and Red Army put the Democratic Republic of Azarbaijan together. They are referred to as "Fergheh" in Iran. Their leader was Mohammad Jaafar Pishehvari.
Pishehvari was an ardent communist who had been educated in Baku and had met Lenin and Stalin in person.He was a popular reporter ,and my father used to sell his paper before his betrial of Iran.
Although, the allies had signed the treaty requiring them to leave Iran after the war, the Russians did not have such intentions.
The Iranian Army in Azarbaijan
The Iranian army was quite small, they were mostly left over from Reza Shah, and although they received their orders from Tehran, they could not move out of their garrisons without the permission of the Red Army. They were dispersed in different garrisons in cities of Azarbaijan. Some of their commanders were quite nationalist and did not give in to the new republic. General Zangeneh spent a long time in prison until he was freed by Iranian forces. The main commander of all forces in Azarbaijan was General Derkhshani who turned out to be a KGB agent and in the final analysis gave up the garrison of Tabriz to the new Republic and flew back to Tehran. The Shah retired him and Derkshani continued to deny his role in the collapse of the Army as long as he was alive. He was arrested in 1979 by the Iranian Secret Service and died the same night in the notorious Evin prison. Later, a Russian defector reported that Derakhshani used to get a monthly allowance from the Russians. During the chaotic winter of 1979, he did not receive a payment and foolishly went to the Russian embassy to get it. The SAVAK had taken a picture and picked him up the next day. Under torture, Derkhshani was killed by the SAVAK.
With the collapse of the army, the Fergheh forces took over the entire state and declared independence. One of my distant cousins, who was in Tabriz at that time, told me several sad stories of life in Azarbaijan under the soviet rule. There were a couple of henchman who were under Pishehvary's supervision, but they would get their orders from Stalin. The main strongman was Gholam Yahia Daneshian, who could not speak Azari or Persian and was imported from Moscow.
There was also Biria who was the equivalent of Stalin's Beria. During the first month of transition of power one of my mother's cousins was killed by the Red Army, making him one of the first twenty casualties of the Cold War. The New Republic had put up its own army which was a mixture of Iranian army officers who deserted their units and and joined the Fergheh, as well a large group of locals called Fadaeen, and many imported residents from the Russian side of Azarbaijan. The method of their rise in ranks in the new army was quite funny. Almost all the affiliates of the Fergheh became high ranking officers overnight. According to my cousin during the day's traffic, you would go blind from the reflection of sun on the stars on the shoulders of Fergheh officers.
The Men who Checkmated Stalin
The loss of Azarbaijan to Russians was not acceptable to the people of the rest of the country. The Iranian Parliament chose an old shroud aristocratic politician as the new prime minister to deal with this new menace. His name was Gavamalsaltaneh
and he was just about the best person to deal with Stalin. He chose the old style of Persian politics which is to dupe everyone and keep all secrets to oneself. He brought several members of the Iranian communist party to his cabinet. He promised to give the monopoly of the oil of the northern states to Stalin. He negotiated for months with Pishehvari. During his negotiations with Pishehvari, he intimidated him so badly that Pishehvari looked like a school kid in the presence of the school principal. At the same time, he filed grievances against the Soviet Union in the Security Council of the United Nations. This was the first case heard in the Security Council making Iran the first conflict of the Cold War. He also brought a brilliant tough general to become the army chief of staff. General Razmara's first mission was to take Azarbaijan back.
He also mobilized the local feudal who had lost everything to Fergheh. The most powerful of these feudal were the Zolfaghari family who were quite famous and ardent enemies of my family. I had met several of them. Their elder, Mr. Mahmud Zolfaghari, worked closely with General Razmara to make the final preparations for the final push to Azarbaijan. There were two other instrumental factors in this dispute.
The most impressive, unexpected help came from President Truman. He told Stalin that if he did not pull his forces from Azarbaijan, he would land American forces in Southern Iran. Stalin was not in any shape to go face to face with the United States army. Also, one should remember that at that time the United States was the only country who had the bomb.
The second surprise came from an Iranian physician with the name of Dr. Javid:
He was the interior secretary of the Fergheh.
My Interaction with Dr Javid
Dr. Javid was a close friend of my uncle who was completely on the American side. I met Dr. Javid when I was 18 in Tehran and he permitted me to ask him some questions about the Fergheh. His command of the Persian language was good; however, he mostly spoke in Azari. I asked him in Azari, if I could ask him some questions. He looked at my uncle to see his reaction. My uncle told him a few good things about me and Dr. Javid nodded to allow me question him. My question was simple. I wanted to know with his long history of being an ardent communist what was he doing with my family who were known for their battles against Russians. He laughed and said a couple of vulgar things to my uncle that I did not understand, but they end up laughing for a while. Then he said: "I am like most other communists of the world, although we claim to be internationalist, we are all nationalist first, then communist. I could not have permitted Iranian territory to be stolen by Russians." I asked him if he was affiliated with the Iranian government before he joined the Fergheh. My uncle said all you need to know is that he is the only man in history who F@#ked Stalin and they both laughed.
I wanted to ask more questions but my uncle let me know that the interview was over. Later, my uncle told me that the Shah had been grateful for what Dr. Javid did and that on the New Years eve, people from the Shah's court came to see Dr. Javid and bring him personal gifts from the Shah. Interestingly, recently the Islamic Republic declassified a series of SAVAK documents about the old members of the communist party. Reading the documents, I realized that Dr. Javid's affiliation with the Shah was kept secret from the SAVAK to prevent it from getting compromised to KGB.
Dr. Javid's Role in the Events
It is difficult to know the details of Dr. Javid's role in this whole endeavor. However, one can assume that a member of the cabinet who happened to be the interior secretary could have crucial information and assistance for friendly forces. Also, my sources told me that he had a direct line to communicate with the prime minister through the encrypted massage system of Iranian Gendarmerie. It is widely known that during last couple of days of Fergheh role, when people were running for the Russian border, he put a lot of pressure to Fergheh Fadaeen to drop their guns and not to put up a fight.
After President Truman's threat and the dissections in the Security Council, the Iranian army along with the local feudal made a final push towards Azarbaijan and the members of the Fergheh lost the battles and ran away to Russia. Mr. Pishehvari, Gholam Yahia, Biria and most of the other leaders of Fergheh conspicuously died in different accidents (Bagherov's thank you gifts). The local sympathizers were killed or ran away to Russia.
- The biggest winners of this ordeal were the people of Azarbaijan.
- The most important Iranian player was the prime minister Gavamalsaltaneh.
- The biggest loser was Pishehvari who was sold out and killed by Stalin.
- The biggest liar was The Shah who claimed the entire victory to be his own.
Although the Shah was commander in chief of the army and participated in the final push, it was General Razmara's military planning and command of the forces in the battlefield which got the job done. The Fergheh's impotence in absence of the Red Army was icing on the cake. The Shah's main contributions were a couple of flights on the battlefield in his own plane while Fergheh did not have a single fighter plane.
I have been reading about these events since my early twenties .If I had actually had kept track of every book, I am sure it would have been a very long list.
This is a selected bibliography .I believe each one helps to learn the truth about specific events.
4)From Reza Shah's prison to chief of Fergheh: Ali Maraghehei, 2002 Tehran (Persian).