Emergence of a New Constellation of Statespersons under Mohammad Reza Shah

  January 27, 2022   Read time 3 min
Emergence of a New Constellation of Statespersons under Mohammad Reza Shah
Ibrahim Hakimi (Hakim al-Mamalek), another patrician, was the son of the court doctor and himself had served as a doctor at the Qajar court. He inherited his title from his father. Despite his family position, Hakimi participated in the 1906 protest in the British legation and sat in the First Majles as a Democrat.

He studied medicine in Paris; served as minister of education and finance before being forced into retirement by Reza Shah; but was brought back in 1933 to be minister of agriculture. It was thought that he had regained the shah’s confidence by turning his large estate outside Tehran into a highly successful cotton plantation.

Ali Mansur (Mansur al-Mamalek) typified part of the old elite that had swallowed its pride and submitted to Reza Shah. He served as his prime minister and interior minister before being arrested for financial irregularities. A few years later, he was forgiven and reappointed minister of industry. Muhammad Sa’ed (Sa’ed al-Vezareh), also known as Maraghehi, came from a landed family that had moved to Azerbaijan from Herat more than a hundred years before. In addition to representing his constituency in the Majles, Sa’ed had a long career in the foreign office, mostly in the Caucasus.

Mohsen Sadr (Sadr al-Ashraf) typified part of the old elite with links to the religious establishment. A seminary-trained jurist, he was a son of a religious tutor in Nasser al-Din Shah’s court and himself had served both as a tutor at court and as a custodian of the Mashed shrine. He was also a major landlord in Qom and Mashed who increased his own properties while serving as a judge and administering the royal estates. Morteza Bayat (Saham al-Saltaneh) came from the wealthiest family in Arak. Although one of the few politicians with no experience in public administration, he briefly headed the finance ministry in 1926–27. He had spent much of his life as a gentleman farmer and as a venture capitalist with a coal mine in northern Iran.

Hussein Ala (Mu’in al-Vezareh), another major landlord, was the son of Ala al-Mulk, also titled al-Saltaneh. In 1922, the India Office described the family as one of the most influential in the whole southeast of Iran.16 Educated at Westminster School, Hussein Ala deputized for his father as foreign minister on and off from 1906 until 1915. He also served as Reza Shah’s English translator, and as the country’s representative in London and Washington. He was married to the daughter of Nasser al-Mulk who had been Ahmad Shah’s regent. A Qajar himself, Nasser al-Mulk’s side of the clan adopted the family name Qarahgozlu.

The other two premiers were also prominent patricians. Muhammad Mossadeq (Mossadeq al-Saltaneh), the future national hero for many Iranians, came from a prominent mostowfi and landed family. Ahmad Qavam (Qavam al-Saltaneh), Mossadeq’s cousin, best represented the notables eager to reassert aristocratic power at the expense of the Pahlavis. Qavam had been prominent in national politics ever since 1906, when he, with his masterful calligraphy, had written the royal proclamation granting the country a written constitution. He came from a long line of mostowfi families going back five generations to the famous Mohsen Ashtiyani. The Ashtiyani family had married into the Qajars, Farmanfarmas, Alas, and Qarahgozlus.

Vossuq al-Dowleh, the foreign minister who had signed the 1919 Anglo-Persian Agreement, was Qavam’s elder brother. In the era before Reza Shah consolidated power, Qavam himself headed four different cabinets and an impressive array of ministries – of war, justice, finance, and interior. After a brief exile in France, he had been permitted to retire to his tea plantation in Gilan. One observer wrote that he reentered politics in 1941 “openly baring his teeth at the royal family.” Another suspected that he planned to set up a republic with himself as president. The shah complained to Bullard that Qavam was a “dangerous schemer” who was “eager to implement some desperate design” and had surrounded himself with “a gang of cut-throats.”

Bullard himself described Qavam as the most shrewd, energetic, skillful, courageous, ambitious, and authoritative of the old time politicians. In some ways, Qavam in the 1940s was what Sepahdar had been in the 1910s and Mushir al-Dowleh in the 1900s. Qavam reentered politics with Muzaffar Firuz Farmanfarma, the son of the famous Farmanfarma murdered by Reza Shah, as his right-hand man. Educated at Harrow and Cambridge, Muzaffar Firuz rushed home determined, in Bullard’s words, to “avenge the murder of his father”: “he would sacrifice anything to bring about the downfall of the Shah.”