Religious, social, political and economical issues are often the main causes of most revolutions; however, as Keddie explains in Modern Iran; Roots and Results of Revolution, the Iranian revolution of 1979 is an exception. While one may try to classify this revolution into one of the more common categories such as religious, political, social or economic, the fact of the matter is that never can one of such proposals cause such huge of a revolution. Although one of these may have been the main cause or what ignited some small or even large movements and riots, a combination of all must be the main basis of the revolution. On the other hand, a short period of time behind religious disagreement, political or social dissimilarity, economical divergence or even a combinational of all cannot cause such massive reform, as these must have developed over time and finally detonated.
Keddie begins by explaining that due to the aridity of the terrain, Iran in the early centuries remained an independent, decentralized country. This led to widespread nomadic rule. She goes on by pointing out that, between the 11th and 19th century, Iran was governed by nomadic tribes that basically managed their own internal affairs and ruled over villages and people who lived in their area. She continues to explain that even the most powerful dynasties, such as the Qajar dynasty that Keddie claims reunified Iran, was ruled by tribal leaders or was tribal in origin. The Qajar dynasty was also affected by outside influence. Great Britain and Russia were two countries that affected Iran’s governmental policies and took a very political and strategic interest in Iran. This limited Iran’s independence that Britain and Russia protected the Qajars against revolts. Tension was mounting due to the fact that Abbas Mizrah’s was unable to modernize the army. Western influence also caused Mizrah’s to be unable to fully modernize the army because that western authority figures were profiting from the corruption of the old military system. Finally under Reza Shah, Modernization was successful, as he brought tribes to heel, silenced the Ulama, and set up a strong central bureaucracy. His reforms included a change of direction from judicial role of the clergy, and consequently provided for a modern non-clerical judiciary and a uniform, centrally controlled legal system (Keddie, 89). Through a strong army and bureaucracy, Reza Shah was able to establish centralization. Reza Shah’s fall was largely due to his autocratic way, which left him with few supporters at the end of his reign. Succeeding Reza Shah was his son Mohammad Reza, who soon faced the troubles dealt with war. Being trapped, Mohammad Reza quickly turned to the United States for help. “American influence in Iran grew and as the United States was largely responsible for stabilizing the postwar Iranian government, it was natural to turn to an American firm for development aid”(Keddie, 121). While America had a major role in the Iranian government, Mosadeq tried to limit this role by trying to steal the Shah’s control over the army and stopping foreign influence. America quickly helped the Shah in destroying Mosadeq’s plan and threw him out of power. But as Keddie explains “reducing foreign control neither solves all problems nor preserves unity of coalitions”(Keddie, 131). This being said, it was clear that Mohammed Reza was having trouble centralizing the country like his father did. Soon, Khomeini’s popularity grew providing the people with a break from Mohammad’s unsuccessful rule. Khomeini’s ideas were very appealing to the poor and Muslim masses, due to the fact that he promised a ruling government that governed through an Islamic path. With little effort, Khomeini soon took Mohammad’s throne in marks of a revolution. All of the political discontents that Keddie writes about serve as one of the factors leading to the revolution.