The strangling of democracy: the international dimension of liberalization, democratization, and authoritarian persistence under the shah, 1941-1979.
Collier, David R.
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The literature on democratization has traditionally concentrated on the internal causes of transition. Recently however, serious attention has begun to focus on causes external. To contribute to this welcome trend, this study explores the effects of US policy on the ebb and flow of Iran's democratic impulses during the reign of the last shah, 1941-1979. Democracy dawned in Iran as early as the late 19th century, with events that culminated in a constitutional revolution in 1905. Since then it has waxed and waned as Iran has moved between periods of representative government and the personal rule of the Shah. My hypothesis in this study is that once US involvement began in 1941, American policy largely controlled these movements between democracy and authoritarianism. When US policy favored liberal reform, democratic transition began (1941-1951; 1957-1962; 1976-1978). When the United States preferred authoritarianism during the intervening periods, the Shah was able to reassert personal rule. Bridging comparative politics and international relations through extensive archival research, including recently unclassified material, I put forward a detailed analysis of US policy. The study highlights the important role of exogenous forces in Iran's democratic breakthrough and explains why its consolidation ultimately failed. I contend that when in a position of high linkage and leverage over Iran, the United States effectively promoted its goals, including democratization. Less effective was when one or the other was absent, and when devoid of both, the United States was largely unable to influence events. This last situation describes the period of the early-1970s and explains the ineffective American response to the oil crisis and subsequent revolution in Iran. This study offers new insight into American attempts to sculpt Iranian internal affairs during the reign of the Shah. It also highlights the trade-offs that were made between promoting democratic reform while also maintaining the stability and close alliance of an important Cold War partner. I conclude that the United States fostered important periods of reform and democratization in Iran. But by ultimately siding with authoritarianism and blocking sustained democratic politics, American policy between 1963 and 1976, made an uncontrolled violent revolution inevitable.
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