Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

New government promises democracy and independence

Masses Overthrow Shah’s Forces in Iran

First Published: Unity, Vol. 2, No.4, February 23-March 8, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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On February 11, Shahpur Bakhtiar, who was appointed Prime Minister of Iran by the Shah before the monarch fled the country in January, resigned from his position. Power was assumed by the provisional government set up on February 5 by the opposition Moslem leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Bakhtiar’s resignation came less than two weeks after Khomeini returned to Iran from exile. Since his return on February 1, the months-long struggle of the Iranian people for democracy and independence intensified, with mass demonstrations and street fighting. Many cabinet and parliament officials resigned from the Bakhtiar government. Bakhtiar himself tried to negotiate with Khomeini, but the latter refused. Instead he declared the Bakhtiar government illegal and established a provisional government, and appointed Mehdi Bazargan as Prime Minister.

On February 9 and 10, intense street fighting broke out in Teheran and other cities. The people battled troops, burned buildings, seized munitions and government offices. On the evening of February 10, the cadets at the Doshan Tappeh Air Force base staged a demonstration in favor of the Khomeini forces. The elite Imperial Guard attacked the base, but the cadets and thousands of armed civilians fought them through the night. The morning of February 11, the Army General Command ordered its troops back to the barracks and announced the Army’s neutrality and support for the “will of the people.” Hours later, Bakhtiar resigned.

Upon the takeover of power, there was mass celebrating in the streets. Over 11,000 prisoners, many of them political prisoners, were freed from the Teheran prison. Then the people burned to the ground this hated symbol of the Shah’s repression.

New government attempts to stabilize

The new “government of the revolution” called for stability and unity. Khomeini called upon the people to turn in their arms, and to stop attacking public buildings and property. Some fighting continued, including an attack on the American Embassy on February 14. The new government began to set itself up, and a few ministers were appointed.

The new government has declared that it will call a referendum on the establishment of an Islamic Republic, which would be governed by the laws of the Koran. It is not clear what this would mean for Iran’s domestic and foreign policies. No law or constitution has been written yet.

Prime Minister Bazargan announced the government’s platform on February 9. It promises to redistribute the wealth of the country among the people; implement land reform; bring about democracy; industrialize the country; and treat any “foreign contracts not in the interests of the Iranian people as null and void.” The government also plans to cut oil sales to Israel and South Africa.

On February 17, Yasser Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was welcomed in Teheran, as the new government broke ties with Israel and handed over the Israeli embassy to the PLO. Khomeini pledged that as soon as Iran consolidated its strength, it would turn its attention to aiding the Palestinian liberation struggle.

Among the first acts of the new government were the confiscation of all royal property, and the trial and execution of eight of the Shah’s generals, including the former head of SAVAK. They were convicted of torture and massacre of the Iranian people and treason to the country.

On February 17, Khomeini called for an end to the general strike. Most oil workers returned to work and oil production started up again.

Soviet threat still great

With the new government not yet consolidated and the situation in Iran still not stabilized, superpower interference in Iran still poses a big threat.

Having had strong ties with the Shah and many investments in Iran for years, the U.S. imperialists are hated by the Iranian people. The influence of the U.S. has rapidly diminished and the U.S. recognizes its weak position. Worried about its millions of dollars of assets in Iran, the U.S. tried to begin discussions with the new government almost immediately after it assumed power.

On February 15, the U.S. began evacuating the 7,000 Americans who work both for the U.S. military and for U.S. corporations in Iran. On February 16, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company got a New York court to freeze $30.2 million of Iranian assets in a New York bank. The money was committed under a contract between AT&T and the Shah’s government.

But while the U.S. tries to save its vast holdings in Iran, it is the other superpower, the Soviet Union, which poses the biggest danger to Iranian independence at this time. It still maintains Farsi-speaking troops along the border and naval destroyers in neighboring waters. Farsi is the main Iranian language. The Soviet imperialists have also bought up large amounts of Iranian currency on the world market as part of its plans to play a prominent role in the country’s affairs.

The Soviets are also trying to promote continued instability in Iran. KGB agents have infiltrated Iranian organizations and the revisionist Tudeh Party acts as Moscow’s fifth column in Iran. The Soviets know that the more instability there is, the more room they have to maneuver and establish some influence.

The Iranian people, however, have already shown their determination and strength to fight for democracy and independence. Many have sacrificed their lives for this cause. Their struggle will continue until their goals are met.