Memoirs: Reza Shah vs. Mohammad Reza Shah
Observed by an Ex Imperial Air Force Officer
September 29, 2011
Reza Khan Pahlavi Mir5 (General) amongst his Cossack Troopers
Let me first briefly introduce myself. I was a teenager during Mossadeq era living in city of Shahi Mazandaran. Like majority of people of Iran, in that era, I was an enthusiastic supporter of Mossadeq and hater of the British. In mid 1330s (1950s) due to unavailability of sufficient higher educational system and my passion for receiving my college degree, I enrolled in Tehran Officers College. After graduation I immediately signed up for fighter pilot training program which became available through US Military Aid Program (Komak-e Bella-Avaz). I completed the primary Pilot training but soon after, due to stomach ulcer I had to quit flying. According to the Air Force regulation I was not allowed to fly fighter jet because of the high G-Force involved.
Pahlavi Court Imperial Coat of Arms
In early 1960s, after completing a “Budget Officer Course” in the US, I started working in “Imperial Iranian Air Force Headquarters” as director of the budget estimation which I served over six years in that position. Disgusted with the Shah’s regime for reasons that I will discuss later in this article, in 1972 when I was a Major with promising future in the Air Force, while working on my PhD degree in the US, I sent my resignation. But, as it was customary in the Armed-Forces of Iran and I was already aware of it, the resignation was not accepted.
They challenged me in US immigration court via State Deportment. I won the case but
They court marshaled me in absentia and condemned me to prison time and dishonorably discharge from the Iranian Armed-Forces. I did not care to find out how many years of prison time I was rewarded. The minimum used to be four years.
A Walk Through History
Recently my son gave me a book titled “The Nationalities in the Post-Soviet States”. In that book, the section about Tajikistan, written by John Payne, attracted my attention. Payne indicates that;
“Iranian peoples have been settled in Central Asia since ancient times, predating the Turks by at least a millennium. During the seventh-sixth centuries BC, the territory to the north of the Oxus River (Amu-Darya), which forms the present Tajik and Uzbek Republics, was already occupied by East Iranian people: the Bactrians, the Soqdians and the nomadic Sakas. In the sixth century BC, the early independent states of Bactria and Soqdiana were incorporated into the Persian Empire by Cyrus the Great. At this time, the town of Marakanda (modern Samarqand) in Soqdiana was already an important trading center.”
According to Payne, prior to formation of the Soviet Unions, there was not any nation by the name of Tajikistan. There was Iranian stock people called Tajiks scattered in different Turkic states. In year 1924 the Central Committee of the Soviet Union has created union of Tajikistan by incorporating the areas that had the most “Tajik people”.
What attracted my attention to the story of Tajikistan the most was the word “Tajik”.
In late seventh/early eight century AD the Arab invasion had reached in that part of the world and as a consequence number of Iranian people who gave-in to the Arab pressures and accepted Islam were called, by the other Iranians of the area, Tazi-Ak, meaning “the little Arabs” which in my opinion is not a very respectable term and maybe the people of Tajikistan should reconsider the name for their country.
Note: The word Taazi (Tazi) in Persian means foreigner but after the invasion it mostly referred to the Arabs.
This story reminded me of the Samanids dynasty who accepted Islam for power and wealth. While claiming to be the descendants of “Bahram Chubineh”, they became devout servant of the Caliphate, promoting Islam vigorously in Central Asia. It was the Samanids that converted the Turks, and the Turkmen to Islam. The funny thing is that these newly converted Muslims became more devout and energetic Muslims than the Samanids and the Caliphate realized that these new energetic Muslims could serve the cause more effectively than the old tired Samanids could and helped the Turks to over-through the Tazi-Ak (the little Arabs) Samanids.
As we know now; Caliph (Khalifeh) was correct in his assessment. Not too long after the last Caliph “Mo’tasam” was defeated and killed by Hulacue Khan in 1258 AD and dismantlement of the Caliphate all together, the Turks of Anatolia, by creating the Ottoman Empire, took up-on themselves to become the savior, protector, and promoter of Islam and as the history shows, they succeeded in converting number of East European nations to Islam in Islamic fashion (sword and gun).
This story will take us to the Pahlavi dynasty, the subject of this article. I started going to school in Iran when Mohammad Reza Shah just took over. At that time the schools were still using books with Reza Shah Era curriculums, mostly with patriotic oriented subjects, free of Islamic religious propagandas.
Reza Shah and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
During and after WWII, gradually the mullahs that Reza Shah had disempowered from the political arena that they used to enjoy during Qajar dynasty started flourishing again. They gradually replaced the patriotic oriented curriculums in school system with Islamic friendly ones.
For example the two Iranian dynasties of Taherids and Samanids who became the servants of Caliphate and openly went into war against their own patriotic countrymen who were trying to oust the Arabs became the darlings of our school history books during the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah.
Note: Abdullah Taher the Amir of Khorasan was the reason for defeat and capture of Maziar the Shah of Tapourestan who was hand delivered by Hussein Ibn Taher, Abdullah’s brother to Mo’tasam Bellah to be executed and the Samanids are the one who defeated Amro Leis of Saffarid, a patriot, and hand delivered him to Caliph to be executed. Of course not too long after that the Samanids were demolished by Sultan Mahmoud Qaznavi the Turkmen and of course the Taherians were defeated by Yaqub Leis years before that.
The above is one example that Reza Shah was patriotic and secular while his son Mohammad Reza was a religious man who was afraid of spiritual power of the Ayatollahs. The reason for Mohammad Reza who had a secular father became a religious man is because his mother was a religious woman and responsible for upbringing of her son while Reza Shah was too busy with the day to day business of the country to pay much attention to his son’s upbringing.
Reza Khan Pahlavi, a Self-made Man
Reza Shah was born in Alasht village of Savad Kooh who lost his father in early age and was raised by his mother who provided for him by doing low-paying laborer-works in villages in mountainous area of Mazandaran. At age 14 he decided to leave his poverty ridden hometown for better future and joined the Cossack (Ghazzagh) Brigade of the army that at that time was staffed by Russian officers hired by the Qajar Shahs.
The 14 years old Reza with no schooling, as was the case for 99.9% of the Iranian public at that time, climbed the ladder within the Cossack Brigade quickly and steadily who reached the rank of “Mirpange” (general) and after the departure of the Russian officers, due to the Bolshevik Revolution, he became the commander of the brigade. From there he entered into politics and became prime-minister of the country during Ahmad Shah Qajar.
Small cottage in Alasht where Reza Khan was born
Reza Khan, besides being a good military man, was a superb politician who played his hand really well in a political arena ridden with powerful mullahs, and also as powerful, the British and many other elements of those chaotic Qajar days.
While Reza Khan hated the mullahs who were the cause of all disastrous events occurred during the Qajars including losing two wars to the Russians and as a result losing two large regions of the country to the Tsars and also losing Afghanistan to the British. Reza Khan in political arena, by playing his hand well, got the mullahs on his side. For instance on one night of “Tasua” he participated in the ceremony of head bashing (Dagger Banging) with a bouquet of straw pretending to be a religious man.
For more information about Ashura / Tasua Dagger Banging, review:
Ashura, this is Shiite Islam – Part 4
He completely reversed his policies toward mullahs after the mullahs voted him to be king instead of president that Reza khan was in favor of.
Note: Reza Khan was against constitutional monarchy. He suggested a democratic republic form of government similar to the system that his good friend, next door neighbor, Atta Turk was establishing. It was the mullahs who pressured him, led by father of Ruhollah Khomeini, in favor of continuing the monarchy system with the existing constitution which favored mullahs as well as the monarch.
For more information about the relation between Mullahs and Monarchs, review:
The Historical Relation between Monarchy and Shiite
For more information about the fundamental and the philosophical difference between the monarchists and the republicans views, please review:
How Republicans and Monarchists View the World?
Reza Khan with Kemal Atta Turk of Turkey
In regard to why Reza Shah chose a dictatorial form of government; as a matter of fact I wrote a piece about him and posted on an Iranian political chat-room, I think it was in 1998 or 99 sponsored by AOL which at that time was a very new thing. There were number of IRI agents in that chat room which used to gang up against us, the few oppositions.
In that article I wrote that in my opinion Reza Shah was a patriot and for "future Iran" he was planning a democratic system of government even though he himself used to preside over a dictatorial regime, which I thought, for a very good reason, was necessary. And my reasoning was;
First, in choosing dictatorial system; an illiterate Iran, just out of lifetime control and propaganda of mullahs and foreign powers was not ready for a one-man one-vote system. During Qajar dynasty, due to lack of educational system in Iran, the government used to import accountants and bookkeepers from Belgium and Switzerland. Even the minister of finance was an American economist hired by the Qajars. In other word, all clerical and administrative duties of the government which required literacy were being done by foreign workers. That had created an atmosphere in which the foreigners were being considered superior to average Iranian and Reza Shah wanted to end that.
When Reza Khan took over as prime minister the first thing that he wanted to do was to end all foreign influences in Iranian political system that the country was suffering from during the Qajars. He started that by getting rid of all foreign workers, using the few educated Iranians available who were either from “Hezar Famil” (Top 1000 Families) or upper class land owners in running the business of the government until the sons and daughters of the ordinary Iranians become educated and ready for the task. Until that day to come, he had to use the old gangs (the Qajars) whom he did not trust.
Second; in why I thought that he was preparing Iran for a democratic form of government was his devotion to educating the Iranian masses. During Qajar, the mullahs were against education and they convinced the royal family that governing an uneducated mass is easier to control and they are also less demanding. They murdered “Amir Kabir” who started modernization for that very reason. While as we know, Reza Shah’s number one priority was education.
After Reza Khan was declared the Shah, he did not want to be called Shah or Alahazrat even though he earned the position, but Mohammad Reza had covered himself with all those mambo jumbo undeserved titles such as Shahanshah; how many shahs did Iran have (at the time) that he was the shah of shahs! And Alahazrat which was an Arabic “mullahpasand” Qajar title any way. And many more titles.
Reza Khan’s modest bedroom
Reza Khan, growing up in the army with its harsh environment, was used to simple way of living. Even after he became Shah he did not pursue luxury. He chose to put his bed in a small undecorated room right on the floor. He did not want to get lost in luxury living of the royal court, as the Qajars did, and gradually become distanced from the ordinary poor people of his country. He wanted to stay close to poverty living way of his people so he could serve them more effectively.
For more information about Reza Shah the Great, review:
Reza Shah the Great, the Real Story
For more information about Modern Monarchy, review:
Role of the 21st Century Monarchs and Monarchists
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in the Shadow of Father
In complete contrast was Mohammad Reza who was born with silver spoon in his mouth and a goof-off in school in Iran. Reza Shah himself being deprived of education, as were 99.9% of people of Iran in Qajar period, wanted all people of Iran to become educated. So he created the most modern system of education, copied after French educational system of his time. He was educating everybody but unable to get his own son to take the school seriously. The teachers too scared to report that the Crown Prince is not doing his homework and of course Reza shah was aware of that. He finally took him out of school in Iran and sent him to Switzerland where teachers would supposedly treat him as a normal student. But in Switzerland he continued his goof-off behavior and as a consequence he could not get his high school diploma but he did acquire the title of “Europe’s Play-Boy Prince” because of his continued womanizing behavior. Of course he did learn French and English, needed to communicate with the girls.
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was always in the shadow of his father Reza Shah the Great
Mohammad Reza back from Switzerland with no high school diploma, Reza Shah who was an education enthusiast could not register the future Shah’s name in Tehran University that was the prize of his accomplishment. Consequently he had to register his son’s name in the newly formed two-year Junior College of Tehran’s Officers College. In Officers College Mohammad Reza continued his goof-off attitude and stayed “playboy”. Consequently; this is the extent of his formal education.
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, childhood and youth
WWII arrived and the British got the opportunity to get their revenge against Reza Shah by exiling him to South Africa, a British colony, and installing the “goof-off” as the new Shah of Iran while they easily could create a Republic form of government but they knew that no one could serve them better than Mohammad Reza whose priority was women and the British were well aware of that.
My explanation, so far was about the extent of his preparation for governing an ancient country that his father put on a silver platter and was forced into handing it to him prematurely in 1941 when Mohammad Reza was 22 years old. We all can remember when we were in that age. How responsible a person of that age can or should be? Of course a great number of people are not serious enough about life at that age and I cannot argue with that. There is plenty of time ahead. But what if all of a sudden and unexpectedly a person is given such a great task and he/she is not prepared for it at all!
With his father not around any longer to fear from, he stayed a playboy even more so because he was the king now and had nothing to do in his day to day life because country was occupied by the Allied Forces who were running the affairs of the country with some help from the Prime Ministers of the period.
At that time there were plenty of women available to keep him busy. A great number of fathers from so called noble families (Ashraaf) used to pimp for him by pushing their virgin daughters toward him expecting something in return undeserved.
But what a responsible person, even at age 18 or younger, would do! From 1941 through 1945, the end of WWII, there was enough time for him to go to college or home schooling, and get a degree, read the history of his great country and be prepared for the day to arrive.
In 1941, Reza Shah accepted to go to exile with the condition that all foreign forces leave the country not later than six month after the end of the war. Americans and the British honored the signed contract but the USSR stayed. This is a different story which could be discussed some other time.
After the two allied countries left, Mohammad Reza stepped into the politics of the country but because he was not prepared for it, the old politicians were still running the country and he started as “on the job training basis” and sometimes he was being used as a symbolic figure, specially for the ouster of the Soviets which was great and successful. That was the period in Iran’s history that we could, with some reservation, say we had a democratic system of government. If he would stay in that role, it would be great for the country and for him. But the British had something else in mind. They wanted to keep the cheaply acquired oil industry for themselves but a few old politicians such as Mossadeq were big obstacles. Guess who was chosen to remove that obstacle for them! At the same time the Americans used to prefer dictatorial regimes in the Third World Countries for different reason; campaign against Communism by any means.
I am writing this for the new generation of Iranians to learn the truth about the recent history of their country. They are not going to hear the truth from neither monarchists, nor from Qajars or the IRI. I am a patriotic Iranian, attached to none of those or any other interest groups and do not have any animosity toward the Pahlavi family either. As a matter of fact I consider Reza Shah a great patriot who modernized the country and at the end he sacrificed his position by accepting exile for good of the country and in his departure all he took with him to Johannesburg was a fist full of dirt of his beloved country. Bravo (Aafarin) to the great patriot of Iran whose services to the country should never be forgotten.
Picking a fist full of dirt at the air port while leaving Iran
A number of people, particularly the Qajar family members, called “Hezar Famil” who hated Reza Shah’s guts for obvious reasons, used to bash Reza Shah. A few even called him the agent of England because he signed the extension of the Darcy Oil Contract. I strongly disagree with that. Actually the opposite is true. These dishonest writers do not tell the whole story that Reza Shah had said; because the Darcy Oil contract was signed by the Qajar Shah, as an individual, and William Darcy the English businessman not the representatives of the two governments, the contract is not a valid one and called it unofficial and null. Then he declared the Iranian oil industry nationalized.
But the British brought their powerful naval fleet into Persian Gulf and blockaded the harbor and threatened imminent attack and occupation unless, not just Reza Shah had to repudiate the nationalization but also had to sign the Darcy contract with a few changes in favor of the British with another 60 years extension with Iran receiving 16% of the profit but the ruthless British used to cook the books in a way that not just Iran would not receive any revenue but would receive a bill that had to pay for the partial expense of the roads that the British were building from oil-wells to the nearest town. Their justification was that the roads that we build will benefit your country and Iran did not have the right to check the accounting books. Wouldn’t you love to hate these SOBs!
Reza Shah’s final pictures
One must keep in mind that in that period the British were the sole superpower of the world and if they would occupy the country, it would be the end of independence, for who knows how long! And Reza Khan was alive during WWI and had seen the brutality of the British toward Iranian citizens in that period which Iran was not even involved in that war. As I mentioned before he was a patriot and an arch enemy of the British and as we have seen, they got their revenge and exiled him to Johannesburg, South Africa.
Reza Shah’s final pictures, outdoor
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Takes Over
Mohammad Reza hated his own father like most brats and spoiled children do because their father tells them; do your homework son. He hated his father so much that he made alliance with his father's arch enemy, the British who exiled him; the British who not just Reza Shah but every Iranian used to hate because of their involvement in politics of Iran during the Qajar era also worse than that; the older Iranians of that time could not forget the atrocities committed by the British during the WWI. In that period, the British had occupied Iran for strategic reason, purchasing and taking by force all foodstuffs for their own solders which caused country-wide famine which over 8 millions Iranians perished.
Bess and Harry Truman with Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Shah of Iran
One thing that I cannot forgive Mohammad Reza of is; when he replaced his own statue with Reza Shah's statue in the main square of city of Shahi, were I was born. Reza Shah had built Shahi from scratch to connect the passengers of his beloved newly built railroad to the beach cities via automobile road. Mohammad Reza had done nothing for the city of Shahi to deserve a statue.
People of Shahi, young and old, adored Reza Shah, because not just he built a brand new European-style little town by the hand of German civil engineers, but he also built several latest model German engineered factories, roads, schools, hospital, etc. that brought so much prosperity and wealth to the area that raised everybody's living standard by tenfold.
One morning people of Shahi woke up and witnessed that instead of Reza Shah's statue Mohammad Reza's statue was there. They replaced it in the middle of the night when everybody was sound asleep. What an unappreciative son whom his father handed him such an important position, undeserved.
Mohammad Reza Shah never forgot the great favor that the British had done for him. Actually it was a two-tear favors:
1. They got rid of his strict father who was keep pushing him; “do your homework son and get a decent education; women are always going to be at your disposal”.
2. Handed him the kingdom while they could easily create a different system of government and install one of those “Ashraaf” that they had on their payroll to power.
For above reasons Mohammad Reza Shah, ignoring all crimes committed by the British during the Qajars, also ignoring that the British were the cause of his father’s death in exile; far away from his beloved country. He immediately made an alliance with this monstrous blood-sucking enemy of Iran and stood by them all the way to the end of his reign in 1979.
The undisputable example is; this black sheep of Iran sold the country to the British from the get go as soon as they declared him the Shah. He sided with his master against Mossadeq who was trying to nationalize the oil industry of Iran that the British had an unfair contract with the Qajars by bribing the Qajar kings who could not even understand the significance of the so called “Black Gold”, the term coined for oil by the British.
Mohammad Mossadeq Prime-Ministership
Now let’s go back to Mossadeq era. I was a teenager at the time, like most Iranians of that era very aware of politics of the day, and remember clearly that the whole nation, even old people like my own mother who liked monarchy, were behind Mossadeq. This does not mean that they had to be against the Shah. Also we the majority were not against the Shah either. We couldn’t care less if he would stay the Shah or not. All concentration was on the subject of nationalization of oil and the defeat of the British. It was the Shah who decided to go on the British corner. If he would have stayed with the will of the people, he would stay loved by majority of the people because the majority was thankful to his father for his services to the country. Some people may disagree but as I mentioned above, in my opinion, Reza Shah’s services outweigh his mistakes.
As far as being a dictator is concerned; again even though no one appreciated it but under the circumstances of the time, it was a correct choice. One must keep in mind that the people of Iran were already used to the dictatorial system of Qajar era to begin with but now they had a dictator who at least has built roads, factories, new educational system, etc. resulting in creation of jobs, more income and higher standard of living and many other services that they were not getting under the previous dictators.
Contrary to the general belief, Mossadeq himself never wanted to end the monarchy. He told Shah face to face that (Shah Bayad Saltanat konad Na Hokoomat). This was the famous phrase by Mossadeq that we all heard at that time and in those days everything that Mossadeq would say was like written on stone and would be accepted by the majority. Consequently Shah could not have been concerned about his crown when he rose against Mossadeq and the will of the people. He was just paying back his debt to the British whom he owed his crown to.
Mossadeq bowing to the Shah
In 1330s (1950s), only a small group of mullahs and “Hezeb-e Tudeh” (The Communist Party) wanted Shah out but they did not have enough power to do anything to him. Tudeh of course, we all knew were the puppet of the Soviets and even little kids knew that and we all hated them.
Mullahs did not like him, not because of him but due to animosity that they had towards his father. They even tried to assassinate him in Tehran University visit in 1327.
Shah in the recovery room from assassination attempt
Why Shah took that obvious wrong path?! Cowardice; he was a weak man very easy target for intimidation. He was afraid of the British, afraid of the mullahs, and also not just afraid of the Americans but he was terrified of them. He repeatedly has said that “if Americans could over throw Mossadeq and bring me in, they can remove me as well any time that they want”. We will see more of his cowardly decisions in coming pages which sent thousands of his loyal servants to the firing squad of mullahs.
In 1953 when the British/American coalition brought him back to power, he was full of hatred towards Iran and all Iranians whom he thought that should not take side with Mossadeq. From that point-on he started looting the country building his bank accounts abroad. He knew that the day will come that he would need the money and, as we know it now, he was correct. To find out the degree of Shah’s looting, I strongly suggest a book by Kenneth M. Pollack, titled “Persian Puzzle”. Pollack wrote this book after his retirement from lifetime service as a CIA officer, part of it in charge of the “Iran Desk”. He has also served under three different administrations, Democratic and Republican, in State Department and NSA.
I have seen the looting first hand when I used to work as the Director of Budget in the Iranian Air Force Headquarter from 1962 through 1969. There were so many things in Pollack’s book that I already knew about; some of it I have seen firsthand and the rests were all very familiar and true. There were plenty more, in details, which I did not know at the time but after reading the book, I could connect the dots.
According to Pollack; in 1970s, when I was not in Iran any longer, corruption got even worse due to oil price quadrupling and production reaching 3.8 mills barrel per day, the highest in the world for that time. Up to present day, production never reached that high in Iran due to the 1980s war damages to the installations.
Back to Mossadeq; now imagine; what would be the choice for an average Iranian at any age in that time! In one corner stood Mossadeq, for many people a new face, who was saying we must nationalize the oil that the British have stolen the industry from us by bribing the Qajar king and then forcing Reza Shah to extend the infamous contract by bringing their powerful fleet in the Persian Gulf, not just blockading the harbor but also giving ultimatum of eminent attack.
On the other corner you have the British, deeply hated by every individual Iranian. Standing by the British is the Shah, whom many people used to love, and a group of vultures upper class traitors whom generation after generation were on the British payroll for life; a common knowledge in Iranian society of those days. Which corner would one choose? Of course the answer is obvious.
After the coup d’état of 28 of Mordaad, Shah publicized that Mossadeq staged a coup against him. Not true. The truth is; Shah who had the constitutional power to fire the prime minister did not dare doing so afraid of public reaction. Consequently he called Mossadeq to the palace and asked him to resign. But Mossadeq knowing that he had the support of the people responded, “I do not resign, you can fire me and you have the constitutional power to do so”.
Mohammad Reza Shah and Eisenhower
At this time Kim Roosevelt (CIA station chief in American embassy in Iran), Persuaded by the British, made a stupid mistake and staged a coup d’état against Mossadeq on behalf of the Shah, thinking that after the coup they would declare marshal law and after a short period of time people would tire and would forget about it. According to Pollack “Shah himself, terrified that things would unravel, chose to wait at his villa on the Caspian with a plane at the ready to whisk him out of the country at first sign of trouble”.
But Mossadeq was informed ahead of time by officers loyal to him and he had his guard ready for Colonel Nasiri, the arresting officer to arrive. Nasiri, not anticipating any resistance, had only a small tank unit with him. After a short gun battle Nasiri was defeated and arrested by Mossadeq’s guard. That happened at the night of August 15, 1953. Shah was in a small plane next morning with his suitcase heading for Baghdad. Like a horse that spooks seeing his own shadow. It was his own coup; why did he have to leave when Army was still loyal to monarchy?!
After the failed coup, Eisenhower ordered to abandon the mission and decided to negotiate with Mossadeq and force the British to accept the oil deal term, meaning nationalization. At this juncture Kermit (Kim) Roosevelt, the chief of CIA station in Tehran embassy, advised by the British, sent a message to Eisenhower and asked for another chance and requested the approval of only $1,000,000 for staging a second coup. Eisenhower Okayed it and Roosevelt this time tried the infamous “Shaban Jafari” (Bimokh) fiasco and succeeded due to the mistakes made by the Hezeb-e Tudeh by jumping in and staging violent demonstrations against the Shah which backfired because the CIA publicized that the Tudehs are trying to take control of the government. Roosevelt, in his memoir, wrote that; out of one million dollar only $390,000 was spent for the second coup and the rest was given to General Zahedi. That money was divided between Shah and Zahedi he said.
For more information about General Zahedi and Ardeshir Zahedi, review:
History of the Iranian National Socialist Movement
Now on to the next chapter at the next page.
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