Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi
Who was he: Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, came to power in 1941 when the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Persia forced his father, Reza Shah (Reza Shah Pahlavi), to cede the throne to him. The Shah reigned as the last crown prince of Iran's 2500 years of continuous monarchy, until the Iranian Revolution in 1979 when he was likewise forced to abdicate and Iran was declared an Islamic republic. The Shah fled to Egypt where Anwar Sadat granted him asylum.
The Shah's continuation of his father's policies of rapid modernization and secularization of the country led to development of strong opposition against the secular Muslim Shah, particularly among Shi'a clergy. Numerous assassination attempts were carried out against him. By the early '50s a political crisis was brewing and Mohammad Mosaddegh, appointed prime minister in 1951, set about to nationalize the Iranian petroleum industry thus cutting off profits to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, one of Britain's most significant companies.
Although the US under President Truman was initially sympathetic, paranoia grew that Iran would become a stronghold of communism and "Operation Ajax" was launched, under the direction of Allen Dulles, to force Mosaddegh from office. While unsuccessful on its first attempt, in 1953 the US- and UK-backed coup d'etat succeeded, and a "West-approved" prime minister, Fazlollah Zahedi, took office. Over the next two decades the Shah's regime became more and more oppressive, brutal and corrupt, and public anger over this and his lavish spending exploded. Public perception that he was beholden to the United States was a significant factor in these rising tensions. Unable to squelch increased unrest with his SAVAK intelligence agency, the unrest grew to eventual revolution in 1979, at which time the Shah fled Iran.
After his exile, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi developed gallstones requiring surgery, which he received – reluctantly allowed by President Jimmy Carter at the insistence of David Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger – in October 1979 at New York-Weill Cornell Medical Hospital. Complications of surgery led to a prolonged recovery period so that the Shah stayed in the United States for six weeks. This caused outrage among Iranians still angry over the United States' involvement with the overthrow of Mosaddegh and who had just ousted their own Shah, only to see him embraced by the United States. It is theorized this anger led to the "Iranian Hostage Crisis." Fifty-two American intelligence officers, military personnel and diplomats were kidnapped at the US Embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979, held 444 days and were finally released January 20th, 1980, the day of Ronald Reagan's inauguration as President of the US. Much has been written about this "October Surprise."
The Shah returned to Egypt in 1980 where he died on July 27 from complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was buried with his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi, and his brother-in-law, King Farouk of Egypt, in Cairo's Al Rifa'i Mosque.
Background: Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was born in Tehran on 26 October 1919, the eldest son of the first Shah of the Pahlavi Dynasty, Reza Pahlavi, and his wife, Tadj ol-Molouk. He was educated for four years at a Swiss Boarding school, Institut le Rosey, and returned to Iran to graduate high school in 1936 after which he registered at the local military academy.
Five years later, during World War II, his father abdicated his throne when British and Soviet forces occupied Iran, which had declared neutrality, after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The Pahlavi Dynasty smoothly transitioned nonetheless with the accession of his son, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, to the throne two days later. This ushered in a kinder, gentler monarchy initially welcomed by the people of Iran, though over the next 40 years that early support turned to anger and eventually, revolution and the formation of an Islamic republic.
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