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Fazlollah Zahedi

Fazlollah Zahedi

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Mohammad Fazlollah Zahedi (Persian: محمد فضل الله زاهدی) (c. 1897- 2 September [or 1 September] 1963) was an Iranian general
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 and statesman who replaced democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq through a western-backed coup d'état, in which he played a major role.

Early years


Born in Hamedan in 1897, Fazlollah Zahedi was the son of Abol Hassan "Bassir Diwan" Zahedi, a wealthy land owner at the city of Hamedan. During his service at the Imperial Russian-trained Iranian Cossack Brigade
Persian Cossack Brigade
The Persian Cossack Brigade was an elite cavalry unit formed in 1879 in Iran. During much of their history they were the only functional, effective military unit of the Qajar Dynasty...

, one of his military superiors was Reza Khan
Reza Shah
Rezā Shāh, also known as Rezā Shāh Pahlavi and Rezā Shāh Kabir , , was the Shah of the Imperial State of Iran from December 15, 1925, until he was forced to abdicate by the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran on September 16, 1941.In 1925, Reza Shah overthrew Ahmad Shah Qajar, the last Shah of the Qajar...

, who later became the Iranian monarch
Pahlavi dynasty
The Pahlavi dynasty consisted of two Iranian/Persian monarchs, father and son Reza Shah Pahlavi and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi The Pahlavi dynasty consisted of two Iranian/Persian monarchs, father and son Reza Shah Pahlavi (reg. 1925–1941) and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi The Pahlavi dynasty ...

. Zahedi was among the officers dispatched to Gilan to put an end to the Jangal movement of Mirza Kuchak Khan
Mirza Kuchak Khan
Mīrzā Kūchik Khān was an early twentieth century revolutionary and is considered a national hero in modern Iranian history...

. At the age of 23, as a company commander, Zahedi led troops into battle against rebel tribesmen in the northern provinces. Two years later Reza Shah promoted him to the rank of brigadier general
Brigadier General
Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

.

He was also involved in the overthrow of Seyyed Zia'eddin Tabatabaee
Seyyed Zia'eddin Tabatabaee
Seyyed Zia'eddin Tabatabaee was an Iranian politician and the Prime Minister of Iran from February to May 1921 under Ahmad Shah, the last Shah of the Qajar dynasty....

's government in 1920. It was Colonel Zahedi who arrested Sheikh Khaz'al Khan
Khaz'al Khan
Sheikh Khaz'al ibn Jabir Al kaabi, GCIE, KCSI , Muaz us-Sultana, and Sardar-e-Aqdas , was the ruler of the semi-autonomous Sheikhdom of "Mohammerah")....

 and brought him to Tehran
Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

.

During Reza Shah's reign, General Zahedi was named (1926) military governor of Khuzestan province, holding the hub of Iran's oil industry, and in 1932 chief of national police, one of the nation's top internal posts. During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 he was appointed (1941) commanding general of the Isfahan
Isfahan (city)
Isfahan , historically also rendered in English as Ispahan, Sepahan or Hispahan, is the capital of Isfahan Province in Iran, located about 340 km south of Tehran. It has a population of 1,583,609, Iran's third largest city after Tehran and Mashhad...

 Division. Following the forced abdication of Reza Shah in 1941, Zahedi was arrested by British forces for his sympathy for Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. He was arrested in his own office by Fitzroy Maclean
Fitzroy Maclean
Sir Fitzroy Hew Royle MacLean of Dunconnel, 1st Baronet KT CBE was a Scottish soldier, writer and politician. He was a Unionist MP from 1941 to 1974 and was one of few people who entered World War II as a private and left having risen to the rank of Brigadier.Maclean wrote several books, including...

, who details the adventure in his 1949 memoir Eastern Approaches
Eastern Approaches
Eastern Approaches is an autobiographical account of the early career of Fitzroy Maclean. It is divided into three parts: his life as a junior diplomat in Moscow and his travels in the Soviet Union, especially the forbidden zones of Central Asia; his exploits in the British Army and SAS in the...

. Zahedi was flown out of the country and interned in Palestine until the end of the war.

Return from Internment


Returned from internment in Palestine in 1945, during the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah (Reza Shah's son and successor), General Zahedi became Inspector of military forces in southern Iran. He became once more chief of national police (Shahrbani) in 1949, when Mohammad Reza Shah appointed him as chief of the Shahrbani Police Forces, in order to counter the growing threat of Sepahbod Haj Ali Razmara
Haj Ali Razmara
Sepahbod Haj Ali Razmara was a military leader and Prime Minister of Iran....

.

1950s


After retiring from the army, he was named Senator in 1950. Zahedi was appointed Minister of the Interior (1951) in Hossein Ala'
Hossein Ala'
Hosein Alā was a Prime Minister of Iran during 1951. He was born in 1882 in Tehran and spent his early years in London. He was educated at Westminster School and studied law at the University of London after which he was admitted to the bar at Inner Temple...

's administration, a post he would retain when Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh became Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

. Zahedi actively supported the new government's nationalisation of the oil industry, which had previously been owned by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, now BP. However, he was at odds with Mossadegh over his increasing tolerance for the outlawed communist party Tudeh, which had boldly demonstrated in favor of nationalisation. Both of these moves antagonised the Western Powers, especially the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and the United States. Zahedi was dismissed by Prime Minister Mossadegh after a bloody crackdown on pro-nationalization protesters in mid 1951 in which 20 people were killed and 2000 wounded.

Zahedi finally broke with Mossadegh, with the latter accusing him of fostering plans for a coup. Meanwhile, sanctions
Economic sanctions
Economic sanctions are domestic penalties applied by one country on another for a variety of reasons. Economic sanctions include, but are not limited to, tariffs, trade barriers, import duties, and import or export quotas...

 levied by the Western Powers significantly curtailed Iranian oil exports, leading to an economic crisis. Disorder
Civil disorder
Civil disorder, also known as civil unrest or civil strife, is a broad term that is typically used by law enforcement to describe one or more forms of disturbance caused by a group of people. Civil disturbance is typically a symptom of, and a form of protest against, major socio-political problems;...

 among several ethnic groups in southern Iran and labor unrest among oil-field workers put further pressures on the government.

1953 Coup




At the behest of the British and American government, the Iranian military carried out a coup d'état which put an end to Mossadeq's rule and the era of constitutional monarchy and replaced it by direct rule of the Shah. The newly-formed CIA
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

, along with the British intelligence agency MI6
Secret Intelligence Service
The Secret Intelligence Service is responsible for supplying the British Government with foreign intelligence. Alongside the internal Security Service , the Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence Intelligence , it operates under the formal direction of the Joint Intelligence...

, took an active role in the developments, terming their involvement Operation Ajax
Operation Ajax
The 1953 Iranian coup d'état was the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh on 19 August 1953, orchestrated by the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom and the United States under the name TPAJAX Project...

. Zahedi and his followers, financed by the foreign intelligence services, planted newspaper articles in Iranian publications and paid agent provocateurs to start riots. There were such riots in Tehran and other cities. Fearing his arrest, Zahedi went into hiding.

On August 15, after the first attempted coup d'état failed, the Shah fled first to Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

 and then to Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, after signing two decrees, one dismissing Mossadegh and the other naming Zahedi to replace him as Prime Minister. Both decrees were in direct violation of the Iranian constitution which stated that only the Parliament had the right to elect and dismiss Prime Ministers.

Backed by the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, and encouraged by the intelligence agents Kermit Roosevelt Jr and Donald Wilber
Donald Wilber
Donald Newton Wilber , American writer and spy.Wilber was the architect of the CIA project "Operation Ajax", a successful plot to overthrow the government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq. The plot replaced Iran's first democratically elected leader with a brutal dictator and monarch...

, Zahedi staged a second coup
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 on the 19 August 1953. Military units arrested Mossadeq at his home at night. The Shah returned from exile
Exile
Exile means to be away from one's home , while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return...

 on 22 August 1953.

Final Exile


General Zahedi's role as Iran's Prime Minister ended in 1955. His final post was Ambassador
Ambassador
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

 to the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

, in Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

.

Family



Zahedi was a descendant of the Sufi mystic
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

s Sheikh Zahed Gilani (1216 - 1301) and Sheikh
Sheikh
Not to be confused with sikhSheikh — also spelled Sheik or Shaikh, or transliterated as Shaykh — is an honorific in the Arabic language that literally means "elder" and carries the meaning "leader and/or governor"...

 Safi-ad-din Ardabili, the eponym
Eponym
An eponym is the name of a person or thing, whether real or fictitious, after which a particular place, tribe, era, discovery, or other item is named or thought to be named...

 of the Safavid Dynasty
Safavid dynasty
The Safavid dynasty was one of the most significant ruling dynasties of Iran. They ruled one of the greatest Persian empires since the Muslim conquest of Persia and established the Twelver school of Shi'a Islam as the official religion of their empire, marking one of the most important turning...

, and through his mother, Djavaher Khanom, he traced his descent to the dynastic ruler Karim Khan Zand.

Zahedi married Khadijeh Pirnia, daughter of Mirza Hussein Khan Pirnia (titled Motamen-ol-Molk), and granddaughter to Mozzafar-al-Din Shah Qajar (1853 - 1907). They had a son, Ardeshir
Ardeshir Zahedi
Ardeshir Zahedi was an important Iranian diplomat during the 1960s and 1970s, serving as the country's foreign minister and its ambassador to the United States and the United Kingdom.-Early life:...

, and a daughter, Homa.

His son Ardeshir
Ardeshir Zahedi
Ardeshir Zahedi was an important Iranian diplomat during the 1960s and 1970s, serving as the country's foreign minister and its ambassador to the United States and the United Kingdom.-Early life:...

 became a politician and diplomat
Diplomat
A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization. The main functions of diplomats revolve around the representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state, as well as the promotion of information and...

 and married Princess Shahnaz Pahlavi, the daughter of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, Shah of Persia , ruled Iran from 16 September 1941 until his overthrow by the Iranian Revolution on 11 February 1979...

 from his first marriage to Princess Fawzia of Egypt, daughter of King Fuad I.

His daughter Homa Zahedi was a member of Parliament, representing the constituency of the region of Hamadan.

According to The New York Times report a day after the 1953 coup, "General Zahedi has been married twice, but it is not known here whether his second wife is living. By his second wife he had two sons, one of whom lives in Sydney, Australia, while the second son, an air force officer, was killed in a crash."

See also

  • Pahlavi Dynasty
    Pahlavi dynasty
    The Pahlavi dynasty consisted of two Iranian/Persian monarchs, father and son Reza Shah Pahlavi and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi The Pahlavi dynasty consisted of two Iranian/Persian monarchs, father and son Reza Shah Pahlavi (reg. 1925–1941) and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi The Pahlavi dynasty ...

  • List of Prime Ministers of Iran
  • Monarchism in Iran
    Monarchism in Iran
    Iranian monarchism is the advocacy of restoring the constitutional monarchy in Iran, which was abolished after the 1979 Revolution.-Historical background:...

  • 1953 Iranian coup d'état
  • Mohammed Mossadeq

External links