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Anyone familiar with Iranian history would not have been surprised by the uneasy coalition of religious leaders, secular intellectuals, and bazaar merchants that spearheaded the antishah movement in Iran. Once each generation in this century such a coalition has attempted to gain political control of the nation. Each time, including this one, their efforts have met the determined resistance of one or more external powers. There appears to be a cruel geopolitical determinism at work. Iran, standing at the meeting point of competing imperial interests, is not allowed for long the luxury of chaotic development. Internal chaos threatens the delicate balance of external competitors—each fearing the other will take undue advantage of the situation. And since the kind of regime the coalition claims to seek, liberal and democratic, is certain to be at least initially unstable, it has been consistently the negative target of the external competitors.
It would be premature to declare the Cold War over in the summer of 1969. The Cold War rhetoric continues to abound in the United States in the debates over Vietnam and the ABM; dangers of Soviet-American confrontation are serious in the Arab-Israeli conflict; and Soviet behavior in Czechoslovakia is of the Cold War mold. But, as symbolized by Richard Nixon's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, there is widespread agreement among American leaders that an era of negotiation and rapprochment with the Soviet Union has been entered. The indications are already strong that for Iran this portends an era in which the Soviet-American conflict will not influence very significantly Iran's internal affairs.
As this new era begins, there are already signs that the Cold War world view, including the Soviet-American confrontation in Iran, is about to be drastically revised by a new generation of students of the Cold War.
The period of reasonably free and vigorous political party activity in Iran was remarkably brief when viewed in the perspective of the very long history of that ancient land. Beginning slowly after the abdication of Reza Shah in 1941, party activity became steadily more intense until August 1953 when it was suddenly suppressed. But as brief as this period was, these twelve years witnessed patterns of political party development which deserve comparison with the experience of other developing states.
The term “developing” has been in vogue throughout the post-World War II era. But for all that the term remains a vague one. Why Iran with its recorded history of over twenty five hundred years should be classified as “developing” while the United States with a history of less than two hundred years should be classified as “developed” is not immediately obvious.
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