To what extent did the Cold War play a role in the 1950s in catalyzing the Iranian revolution in 1979?


The cold war is a historical event that took place between1945 to 1960. This is a period where there was an intense conflict between the nations in the Soviet Union (communist nations) and the democratic nations (for example, United States of America). The war is perceived to have started because the democratic nations and the communist’s nations had two different systems of government and neither of the two governments could compromise theirs to follow another (Gasiorowski 1998, 6).

Other factors that contributed to the war include; economic indifference where U.S wanted the world to practice free trade while the Soviet union wanted nothing to do with international trade, the power rivalry where each of the nations wanted to dominate the other, another cause of the war was that the Russians, a member of the Soviet Union had extended Its influence to Europe which displeased many politicians in the united states advocating for the resistance against Russian expansion.

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It was then in 1947 when the United States secretary of state, George Marshall announced that the United States would aid in the regaining of a well economic trend in the world but laid conditions that implied the European countries that were to get their aid from U.S would have to disclose their economic records to the united states a move that the Soviet union regarded as intrusion of states affair.

Together with many other factors the Soviet Union declined U.S offer but America, Britain and other nations got together to form the military alliances that resulted to the cold war.

When it came to Middle East, the Americans and British had their own reason to not favor the influence of the Russian spreading across the region. Britain and the United States had certain interests on the Iranian soil including the oilfields. To prevent Iran from falling into the hands of the USSR and to recover the oil company, the British and Americans responded by helping in the coup. The Iranian coup de tat of 1953 set the stage for this Islamic revolution that would come twenty six years later.

When the weak Mosaddeq’s government nationalized a British oil company, Afterwards in 1979, the virulent anti American Islamic regime ousted the Shah, who was an American sympathizer. It is thus practical enough to hypothesize that the coup, brought about by the cold war (Amuzegar 1991, 28; Curtis 2007).

Iranian revolution is also called the Islamic revolution. It can also be referred to as the 1979 revolution. 1979 is the year which the Iranian monarch was ended by the emergence of the Islamic Republic. This phenomenon was preceded by demonstration against the monarch in the year 1978 (Ruud 2008, 454).

The main difference with this revolution and other world revolutions was that this revolution was not caused by normal factors like the under privileged classes opposing oppression from the elite class of people nor was it because of issues of inequality, but it was seen different from other revolutions experienced there before in countries like France and the US. This revolution was supported by the whole society from the rich to the poor all these people revolted against their own state governance (Iran Chamber Society, 2010).

Despite this lack of customary causes, the revolution resulted into rigorous changes within a short time. It was a massive and popular revolution that ended up toppling the system of monarch led by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Thus, the revolution oversaw the replacement of the modernizing monarch by a theocracy. It is therefore believed that the cold war was a recipe for the Islamic revolution.

Summary of the evidence

This study tries to explain how the major superpowers who were once allies during the Second World War influenced the emergence of the Iranian revolution. As a matter of fact, the end of the Second World War was a precursor to the beginning of the cold war. As already stated, Cold War started as a result of hostile relationships between the United States of America and the former USSR. The conflict arose due to issues related to sharing the plunder of the Second World War.

Since Iran was one of the victims of the plunder, the United States wanted to avoid the fall of Iran into Russia’s hands. The U.S. and Britain strengthened their interests in Iranian oil by overthrowing the democratically elected civil government and helping an American friendly government seize control of Iran. By doing this, Americans were trying to spread their influence into Iranian soil thereby blocking the USSR influence (Nayeri & Nasab 2006, 7).

However, more than two decades after, the Iranian government faced strong rebellion because of its monarch system and the anti-American movements, in 1979; the same government of the Shah was overthrown by the Iranian revolution that oversaw the reinstatement of a religious system of governance that persists up to date (Houghton 2001, 74).

The Iranian coup de tat of 1953

The Americans and the British joined in the cold war in order to have control over the Iranians oil, because at the set time the Russians were gaining control over Iranian oil fields (Gottfried 2003, 18).

Mosaddeq and his colleagues wanted to attain a complete oil independence to establish a lasting democratic government in Iran. This objective was obliterated by the 1953 coup de tat that was carried out by a combination of domestic and foreign forces. The 1953 coup marked the first important turning point in post war Iranian history (Gasiorowski & Byrne 2004, 11).

After Iranian Prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, was ousted from office, Shah Pahlavi assumed his position. Shah Pahlavi was actively involved in the coup of 1953. He was a pro-American figure who received a lot of support from the United States in return.

After the Iranian coup, he began projects that aimed at westernizing Iran in all sectors including academic institutions. The shah wanted the universities to follow after the highly esteemed United States universities. The 1960’s saw the adoption import substitution industrialization approach to development.

Enormous efforts were being made to industrialize Iran by building factories to ensure that goods no longer had to be imported to Iran. Thus, he wanted the goods to be produced within its borders (Wagner, H. 46). As a result, there were several huge construction projects that were launched in Tehran. Roads, dams, railways, airports and hospitals were built because of this initiative.

Oil output also increased, thereby guaranteeing greater revenue for Iran. To expound on the success of the Shah’s ambitious project, Iran was able to rise from the smallest oil producing and exporting country in 1960, during the formation of OPEC, to one of the largest in 1967. The shah saw Iran’s oil as a way for the country to change the global political dynamics (Hogan 1992, 153; Kinzer 2008, 59). His strength of leadership was obliterated after the Islamic revolution that oversaw his downfall.

Evaluation of sources

During the research of the study, a number of reference books were used including other reference material like the periodicals in the internet, and journals about Iranians Revolution among others.

Specifically, from an online periodical titled “MacroHistory and world report: The Iranian revolution” the author has cited the precise happenings dates as to why and how the revolution took place in Iran. The article has elaborated profoundly the happenings before up to the time the revolution was said to have taken place at a point the author states, “After returning to power in 1954, the shah launched an effort to modernize Iran economically and socially.

He was seeking to balance his increase in power with changes, which would be favored by the normal Iran people.” Another reference material used was the Encyclopedia of the Cold War, Volume 1 that clearly brings out the facts about Iranian revolution. The book is written in simple English that as a reader I was able to understand it very well. It defines the historic times events between 1945 and 1991 when the United States was in collusion with a group of nations that dominated world politics the USSR.

From this reading, discussions of how states joined together to act against the other in way to show who was more superior are clearly brought out it also examines how nations continuous anxiety arose, widened and eventually calmed down. The author of the book is keen to note the time line of each occurring event: “The 1960s and 1970s saw significant rise in the observance of religion in part as a reaction to Shah’s reforms whish directly targeted the clergy and the core supporters” (Wagner 2010, 53).

He also examines the military (CIA) efforts that contributed to the success of the coup that heard planned on including the diplomatic help from states that saw Iran not falling into Russians’ hands together with the evolution of the political arrears in Iran not forgetting its impact to the people of Iran. Using a geopolitical style of writing, the author is able to capture the readers attention to try and help the reader get to know the perspective of all the nations that participated in the cold war.

From the two sources it is clear that as a researcher, is well equipped to analyze whether the Cold War had any impact to the revolution of Iran. The accounts produced were meaning full to the coming up with the study above. Without the referencing over the accounts mentioned in the study, the events would be seen as unclear occurrences that leaves a reader having doubts as to whether the events that have been mentioned are true or just a story has been made up (Macrohistory and world report, 2011).


When doing the research going through the historical context is quite important as the researcher gathers information and facts necessary to support the research question. When using a historical context, one needs to note the precise dates to establish the sequence of events instead of having vague dates.

Knowing the historical background of an event from a historical context makes it easier to analyze the event thoroughly and more accurately. Hence, by considering historical context during a study it means there is essential balanced view to critically analyze the event or happening since there is enough evidence to prove it’s a true happening and the information present is usually needed for its restoration. The analysis of a historical context forms the base of the study conducted.


The cold war between Russia, the United States and Britain, and the Mosaddeq government played a major role in the onset of the 1953 Iranian coup that led to the subsequent downfall of the Shah Pahlavi’s government and the revolution of Iran came to birth. Pahlavi was a pro-American figure who had good diplomatic relationship with the United States.

As a result the United States through the CIA helped the Shah oust Mosaddeq from the prime minister’s position through an organized institutional coup. The main reason for this action was because Mosaddeq’s government had nationalized British property. Mosaddeq’s government was also weak and the U.S. and Britain feared that Iran would fall into Russia’s hands.

Shah Pahlavi succeeded in the coup and engaged in major infrastructural and economic developments. However, not every Iranian citizen benefited from his projects.

Consequently, students started demonstrating thereby paving way for stronger anti-Shah campaigns. The Americans overlooked the strength of these anti-Shah protests. Mainly who were the conservative Shiite Muslims who wanted their nation to be governed using Islamic Law. This led to the Islamic revolution that oversaw the ousting of the Shah in 1979.

The revolution in 1979 had been supported for by practically every person in the Iranian society. Though during that time there were conflicts within some Muslims groups to mention: Islamic tendencies that included Islamists, Marxist-Islamic and democratic-Islamic and Marxist-Leninist tendencies that included fada’I, Tudeh, Maoist, and others this conflict was seen not to be major as compared to the Shahs rule that they wanted to over through. These groups did not let their conflicts deter them from overthrowing Shahs governance. Instead, they united together in efforts to bring down the Shahs governance and overthrowing the state.

Although there were several Muslims who were of no particular tendencies, they were also said to participate in the overthrowing of Shahs governance in Iran. These people were regarded as the modern middleclass people who single solidly objected the removal of shah but were threatened to be accused of treason if they didn’t join the rest of their Muslim brothers in removing Shah from power.


Amuzegar, J., 1991. The Dynamics of the Iranian Revolution: The Pahlavis’ Triumph And Tragedy. New York: State University of New York Press.

Curtis, M., 2007. The Coup in Iran, 1953. WordPress. Available through: [Accessed 30th January 2011].

Gasiorowski, M. & Byrne, M., 2004. Mohammad Mosaddeo and the 1953 Coup in Iran. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.

Gasiorowski, M., 1998. The 1953 coup de tat in Iran. Department of political sciences, Louisiana State University. Available through: [Accessed 30th January 2011].

Gottfried, T., 2003. The cold war: the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. Brookfield, Connecticut: Twenty first century books.

Hogan, M., 1992. The End of the Cold War: Its Meaning and Implications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Houghton, D., 2001. US Foreign Policy and the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Iran Chamber Society, 2010. A Short Account of 1953 Coup. Iran Chamber Society. Available through [Accessed 30th January 2011].

Kinzer, S. 2008. All the Shah’s Men: an American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Macrohistory and world report, 2011. The Iranian revolution. Macrohistory and world report. Available through: [Accessed 30th January 2011].

Nayeri, K. & Nasab, A., 2006. The Rise and fall of the 1979 Iranian Revolution: Its Lessons for Today. Google Documents. Available through: [Accessed 30th January 2011].

Ruud van D., 2008. Encyclopedia of the Cold War, volume 1. Philadelphia, PA: Tailor & Francis.

Wagner, H., 2010. The Iranian Revolution. New York: Infobase Publishing.


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