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Mossadegh's Error was Not to Create a Republic
Sam Ghandchi
September 21, 2019

Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh of Iran’s Greatest Regrettable Error

Mossadegh followed the tradition of Iran's Constitutional Movement which neither had any intention to end the Monarchy nor was willing to disallow religious authorities from obtaining positions in Iran's modern secular state. Personalities such as Ayatollah Hassan Modarres and later Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani despite holding high level positions in Iran's Shiite religious hierarchy, held positions of power in Iran's modern state. There were rare individuals in Iran's nationalist movement and Jebhe Melli, such as Hossein Fatemi who supported forming a republic and even considered Ali Akbar Dehkhoda as the future president of Iran and this way challenged the noted two tenets of traditional Iranian politics. As we know, Hossein Fatemi was executed by Shah's order after the 1953 coup in Iran. Of course, decades later, Ayatollah Khomeini adopting a republic, even though in words and not in deeds, ended the first taboo of seeing monarchy to be eternal, and the current Iranian secular opposition to the rule of clergy is ending the second taboo of allowing clergy who hold positions in religious organization to take office in the secular state.

I believe Mossadegh's error was that he did not take the next step, when Shah escaped from Iran. I think his next step should have been to announce a referendum to choose between monarchy and republic.
I think why he did not make a move towards a republic had the following reasons, but I believe he should have made such a move, nevertheless, as this was why he was finally defeated.
1. Fear of Anger from the West
Mossadegh thought that the West did not want a republic in Iran and thus this would be attacked by the West. In reality, the West really would work with Republic or Monarchy, if successful, and if they entered cooperation and negotiations with the West and not just challenge the West and avoid cooperation. An example of proper negotiations and cooperation with the West was demonstrated in 1946 by Ahmad Qavam about Azerbaijan and Kurdistan. Also, in the Middle East region, the West had accepted the Republic in Turkey and later accepted republics, and overthrows of monarchies, in Egypt, Iraq, etc.
2. Fear of Collusion with the Tudeh Party and Russians
Mossadegh knew such a move would mean that he would become the ally of Iranian leftists and the Soviet Union, as they were the only ones asking for a republic for decades (except for a short episode of Reza Khan's republicanism, which again had the left's support).
But Mossadegh and Iranian liberals in general were always more scared of the left than of monarchy. It is interesting that decades later, Ayatollah Khomeini, in his bid for an Islamic version of a republic, was not afraid to be the ally of the left, but the Iranian liberals were still afraid and made themselves the losers.
3. Fear of Islamists and Clergy Opposing the Republic
Mossadegh was afraid that Islamic forces would oppose republicanism. He had seen the time of Reza Khan's republicanism and the opposition of clergy to the idea.
If Mossadegh had lived to see Ayatollah Khomeini, decades later, to go for a republic, to win power for an Islamic movement, he would have been amazed, to observe the irony that he had feared the clergy's strong opposition to a republic, thus avoiding to push for a republic, whereas the clergy themselves made such a decision in 1979 which ironically helped them to win power in Iran.
At any rate, Ayatollah Kashani left his support of Mossadegh, despite Mossadegh distancing himself from the left and from the idea of a republic.
4. Learning from Reza Khan’s Republican Experiment
Mossadegh had seen the time of Reza Shah's republican movement and how only people like Ali Dashti joined that movement, and the respected liberals of Iran had opposed or ignored it. Thus, having seen all leading liberals not joining such a movement, was enough for him, not considering such an option as an alternative of forces of independence in Iran.
Mossadegh could not see that a demand for a secular republic could be a genuine liberal demand and not just an imperialist ploy or a communist tactical demand. And if successful, finally even the West would have come to terms with it.
I think Mossadegh should have broken with the existing liberal traditions of Iran and pushed for a republic following the nationalization of oil, just like what Gamal Abdel Nasser did three years later, with Suez Canal and the monarchy in Egypt, and later Anwar el-Sadat who was Nasser's right hand became the best friend of the United States.

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