What makes a revolution? Mass dissatisfaction with the existing order certainly plays a role, but anger is only the first ingredient. Iran’s successful 1979 revolution, which overthrew Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was the result of a confluence of factors. The populace resented the regime’s political repression and its modernization reforms that left many impoverished and displaced. The shah was widely perceived as a Western puppet installed after the ouster of democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. And, critically, Iran’s clerics wanted to establish a modern-day Islamic republic. Today, Iran is facing threats from all directions and may be approaching the edge of a precipice. There are echoes of 1979 in today’s crisis, but there are significant differences, too. On the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, we take a look back – and see what 1979 can teach us about Iran today.
A driving force of Iranians’ anger in 1979 was the fallout from