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The Islamic Revolution of 1979 eradicated half a century of Westernization in Iran and installed Ayatollah Khomeini as the leader of Iran’s new Islamic Republic. However, the revolutionary forces were not strongly unified under Khomeini’s radical Islamic vision. Indeed, many facets of the opposition simply desired moderate political reforms to increase democratic participation in the government and opposed the imposition of a government directed under the auspices of Islam. By the late 1970s, though, these various moderate revolutionaries realized that the only legitimate means to overthrow the reign of the American-supported Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, would be to join the Ayatollah and his network of radical Islamic mullahs. Acting as a cunning politician, Khomeini kept his plans for post-revolutionary Iran purposefully vague in order to galvanize the maximum amount of support for his cause. Khomeini unified the various opposition groups and directed their anger towards overthrowing the Shah, blinding them to his true motives for the future. A complex relationship between economic crises, the effects of the Shah’s brutal police-state, and the mobilization of average Iranians by the intelligentsia and the Ayatollah’s organized network of radical mullahs all contributed to the Shah’s eventual downfall and the subsequent imposition of the first Islamic Republic. The well-being of the average Iranian citizen did not improve after the revolution. Khomeini’s government continued to utilize the repressive political tactics employed by the Shah, including the execution of political opponents, to safeguard the regime. The failures of the Iranian Revolution offers a cautionary tale to today’s current revolutionary fighters in the uprisings throughout the Middle East, collectively known as the “Arab Spring.”


Providence College

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