Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Failure of Mehdi Bazargan How the Revolutionary Council, the Clerical Oligarchy, and United States Foreign Policy Undermined the Liberal Democracy of Iran in 1979
by Ramsey, Christopher, M.A., The George Washington University, 2016, 66; 10149946
Abstract (Summary)

The Failure of Mehdi Bazargan How the Revolutionary Council, the Clerical Oligarchy, and United States Foreign Policy Undermined the Liberal Democracy of Iran in 1979 The aim of this thesis is to demonstrate that the downfall of Mehdi Bazargan and the Provisional Government is due less to the deliberate manipulations of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, as depicted in popular narratives, than to both the conflicts between rival power centers in the government, foreign influence, and Bazargan’s administrative mismanagement, poor leadership skills, and failure to successfully project his own vision.

The conclusions of this thesis were reached based on leading secondary sources from both Western and Iranian writers, as well as the extensive use of contemporary news sources, revealed internal Iranian government communiques, and archived interviews with principle actors.

The thesis identifies the rival power centers at conflict in Iran during the Provisional Government Era from February — November 1979 as Bazargan’s Provisional Government, the Revolutionary Council, Ayatollah Khomeini’s evolving concentration of power, and U.S. foreign policy. Chapter one describes the oppositional background of Bazargan, illuminates his own vision for Islamic government, and introduces his deliberate methodology for instituting revolution.

Chapter two explains the rival power centers at play during the Provisional Government Era. The Provisional Government is depicted as Bazargan’s main source of support, the legal administrators of the transitional government, and as such, it represents his vision. The Revolutionary Council, dominated by clerics loyal to Khomeini, referred to as the clerical oligarchy, represent diverging agendas within the clerical leadership who operated in Khomeini’s name but often without his explicit consent. The clerics within the Revolutionary Council exerted their greatest usurpation of Bazargan’s legal authority through their control over the extralegal revolutionary committees and the judiciary, circumventing his ability to provide state-controlled security and enact state-sanctioned justice. Khomeini lacked consolidated control in the early months of the Provisional Government Era, instead relying on the infighting between the government and the Revolutionary Council, and allowing for the popular momentum of the revolution to guide his political moves, but ultimately exercised decisive action to consolidate all political authority. Finally, the thesis argues that U.S. foreign policy had been to support the Provisional Government through intelligence-sharing, hoping that by supporting the liberal democratic stream of power they could offset the radical religious stream and undermine Khomeini’s personal influence.

Chapter three reveals how Bazargan chose to react to the challenges each rival power center presented. Despite the momentum of the popular revolution, Bazargan insisted in moderating the tone and progress of change, ignoring how ineffective his methods were in effecting positive change.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Atkin, Muriel
Commitee: Howard, Adam
School: The George Washington University
Department: History
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: MAI 55/06M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Clerical studies, Middle Eastern history
Keywords: Bazargan, Khomeini, Mehdi, Provisional government, Revolutionary council
Publication Number: 10149946
ISBN: 978-1-369-05042-4
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