Iranian Oral History Project | Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Plan Organization DirectorTranscript 9 of 16
Narrator: Dr. Khodadad Farmanfarmaian
Date: December 17, 1982
Place: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Interviewer: Habib Ladjevardi
Suggested citation format page
A. Because he laid bare the trickery that had gone into the election of the members of the parliament or the central control, because he had clearly shown that these people were not representative -- that these were almost appointees of the government. Naturally as a young man, as a young man with all those ideals, I would have thought this to be far less an institution than I had imagined parliaments are. I had listened to many of those speeches, I had read many of those speeches. These speeches were mostly polemics. It wasn't until later years, surprisingly enough, that once in a while I'd see a decent speech. Not close to the revolution, no, no, no. But at the time of, let's say, Mansour's government and later on Hoveida's government.
I distinctly remember one man, that nobody talks about, and his speech as a member of the opposition, his speech on the budget. Everytime Hoveida presented the budget, the opposition speaker was Halakou Rambod. And his speeches, to me, were one of the best things that I had heard coming out of that parliament.
The prime minister would present a speech. Sometimes I was in the gallery, usually read it in the newspapers. And the opposition comments were usually superficial, irrelevant, not to the point, unstructured and unprincipled. You know, it was just like picking at something. It wasn't the question of discussing overall national policy, as such, that was going on. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but that is what I thought in those days, you see. That's why I always felt that the parliament is something on the side that we had to put up with it, it was a rubber stamp anyway and I didn't really in my heart respect it.
Q. So, when issues of high proportion of funds, allocations for defense, military came up, or the question of the place where the budget function should be, it never occurred to you to try find allies in the Majles to support you or give your position?
A. On the development plan itself, we did a lot of convincing, we did a lot of lobbying and talking with the members of the parliament. On these administrative reforms, such as for example, the dismemberment of the Ministry of Finance, the taking away of the budget function from it into the Plan Organization, I didn't. They applauded us for the fact that we were suggesting (after Ebtehaj had left, of course) and in preparation of the third plan, that the execution must go to the line ministries. This was well received in the parliament. In that sense we hardly needed their support.
But I don't remember ever going to the parliament because it was purely internal. I wouldn't allow myself. And it was mostly taking place during Amini when we did not have a parliament, you see. Anyway.
I was not a political man, as such. Don't forget this, at the time I was just an administrator within the government, I was deputy managing director of the Plan and as such it wasn't proper for me to go to the parliament. And I didn't want to do anything, so to speak, behind the back of my boss or my superiors, because I was extremely proper in these matters. I thought it the job of Asfia to go in and argue in the parliament or the prime minister. We were just men of ideas and we would build ideas, we would submit papers and table papers. No more than that.
Q. Would you like to talk about the land reform issue?
A. Yes, yes. I don't want to talk about it in great detail, because there are papers and there are all kinds of work on it available.
Q. Perhaps you can give references or...
A. Only to speak of the genesis of land reform. At the very beginning, the very beginning, when we started to talk about agriculture in the Economic Bureau, we had come to the conclusion that you couldn't get agricultural development without land reform. That under the then-system of tenancy, there was no real incentive for agriculture to grow and besides, this was an essential reform. You had to change this -- as I always refer to it -- this historical inequity, if you wish, by decree. And if so, by an injustice, as the then-owners would have claimed, to redistribute the land among those people who toiled the land.
So we set out to study the matter. Naturally enough, the first thing which came up was the need for a cadastral survey. We did study this in the Economic Bureau and, in fact, we had some pilot projects. By the way, the Shah at that time had already distributed his own lands.
Q. His opponents have said that he was selling his land and turning real estate into cash.
A. In regard to actual distribution of land, this is not true. The payments, which were distributed over a long-term period and were nominal, were to be paid to Bank Omran for reinvestment in the same area and for supporting the credit requirements of the new farmers. The payments were not made to the Shah's account as such.
Q. So it wasn't that Bank Omran was the intermediary to take the land, take the notes and in return give the cash to the...
A. Back to the Shah? Not that I'm aware of. If I were, I would have told you outright. I don't know anything about such machinations. I wish I did, I wish I was familiar. But in principle, he had distributed in good faith, as early as 1949. And he did this, and repeated that, "If I did it, then the other landlords should follow my example. I'm the King of the country." Few followed him in the early days. One or two, which I'm going to explain in a moment. This didn't catch on and the landlords just held onto their own and remained as such.
But this was, in parentheses if I may simply say to you, an attempt at land reform by examplism. I have never seen examplism work in the case of Iran. Even when it came from the Crown. Or maybe sometimes because it came from the Crown, I don't know, or because it came from the government. Anyway, examplism, whenever it came from the government, such as a pilot project to be emulated by others -- not only in land reform, but in development of agriculture, in pilot project for use of machinery, fertilizer, etc. -- was not all that effective a mechanism to promulgate, disseminate information to others. It just didn't move them. It seemed you needed other type of devices to spread a practice if you wanted it to spread.
Anyway, the Shah had already done this. And we started to study cadastral survey. And we started to study the time and the cost required for cadastral survey of land under cultivation in Iran.
Q. What is that word?
A. Cadast, c-a-d-a-s-t, I believe. It's, if I'm not mistaken, Latin word for unit, for unit of land. Cadastral surveys. We had felt that.... Cadastral survey simply means a survey of the land and its use of agricultural land available.
On the basis of funds available, and in fact the number of people needed for this type of thing and planning and organizing it, it would have taken twenty years to complete, to complete the survey for the whole country. So if you wanted to go about this business properly, first you would say, "All right, let's have a cadastral survey for the country and then we will carry out a land reform program on that basis" -- which would have meant another twenty years and we knew we didn't have the time for this purpose and we should have done this earlier -- much earlier if we wanted to proceed on that basis.
Mr. Khosrow Hedayat was at the time head of of the Plan Organization -- he's dead now. I've always said that he was one of the wisest superiors I ever had, one of the nicest persons, I'll compliment him first. But when I talked to him about the need to propose land reform, he said, "I advise you not to enter into this discussion at this time." And he was my boss and we sort of went back to the Economic Bureau and sat on it. But we conducted our studies. In this interim, this is before Dr. Amini comes to power, we just discussed the problems of carrying out land reform without a cadastral survey within the Economic Bureau.
One day I had gone to visit my eldest brother. By the way, my eldest brother, Mohammad Vali Farmanfarmaian is now 94 years old. At this time he was considered one of the biggest landowners in Persia. He owned the whole of Mianeh, which had a population of about 30,000 at that time. I had gone to his house just for a visit -- this is '60, yes, 1960.
As I entered his anteroom, I noticed there was a man standing in the corner with a file under his arm. No tie, he looked like a simple villager. And I saw my brother standing there talking to him. He asked me to go to his private sitting room and wait for him. I went and sat there and waited until he came. When he came, in his very gentle way, he said to me, "You know something?" I said, "What, sir?" He said, "This man is my chief planner. He is my Mr. Ebtehaj." I said, "What plan, sir? Are you jesting or is this serious?" He said, "No, seriously, he is my Ebtehaj." I said, "What do you mean, sir?" He said, "You know something, for some years now, I have carried out a full program of land reform in Mianeh and it was a very successful program and it has worked. And this man has been in charge of the whole program." I said, "Sir, how did you do this? Did you do a cadastral survey of the village and so on?" I proceeded to ask the question from my own, of course, technical point of view. He said, "No, no, no. It's much easier than that." I said, "Well, it's very costly." He said, "No cost at all."
I became more and more curious to see how he had done that. He said, "Firstly, I collected the sort of Criesh sefidane mahalD -- the local white-bearded men -- that I knew for years and years. We sat down in a meeting and I told them of my intent to distribute the land. And they all applauded my intent. Then I said to them that well, shall we discuss how this should be done." He said, "Out of this discussion came a very simple method: that we will assign the land or transfer the land ownership to him who had toiled the land for at least the last three years." So the concept of toiler/owner/farmer, tenant/toiler/owner was used as a guiding principle. I said, "But who knows this?" He said, "Nobody knows better than all the villagers themselves who has toiled the land. Because if one came and claimed, everybody around would know that he wasn't the one who was toiling." He said, "So, and the amount of land that was toiled by a family or a head of the family was known. Some of them had been doing it for years and years, some of them have been doing it for less than a year and so on."
He said the next step was, "How do we conduct this and at what price and what were the terms? He said, "Again, I discussed with the white-bearded men of the village (a sort of council, if you wish) and they put a price on various types of land. If the land was near water, or was more fertile, they knew again and they put a higher price on it, somehow relating to the recent productivity of the land or CbardashtD, the average output of the land for the last three years. And they came to a decision of the value of the land on the basis of the quality of the land -- and there were various qualities. So we agreed on the price of various land categories. The next question was the mode of payment to the landlord -- 'How do we pay?' There was an argument. At the end it was agreed that it should be paid in installments of eight years at (I remember this distinctly) five percent rate of interest on the balance of indebtedness -- the net remaining debt."
I said to him, "Sir, how did the plan progress?" He said, "This man that just came to me brought me a bunch of letters -- if you wish, you can read them -- from the various people who were given the land, who had gone to Makkeh <Mecca> already, that is, they had made enough savings to be able to go to Makkeh from the toil of the land that they owned and were not giving me a share, except paying me." He said, "To this moment, not a one of their notes has fallen due." And this was already three, four years that he was carrying out his land distribution scheme.
I checked back with him again in later years. He was fully paid, completely paid by the farmers, by his previous tenants. There was no interference by the gendarmes or government officials. There was no difficulty whatsoever. And no cadastral survey. The CbonchaghsD, that is to say, the old or historical titles of land, the CbonchaghsD were a form of title, indicating the owner's rights and tenancy conditions and were used as the instrument of ownership transfer after full payments were made.
Well, this gave me an idea. I came back, wrote a paper, unfortunately in English, on this and suggested a land reform for Iran on that basis. And started to consult with some of my friends and colleagues, such as Mehdi Sami'i, Reza Moghadam, Cyrous Sami'i, Hossein Mahdani and some of the foreign advisors, such as Christjensen and Ken Hansen. I said, "All right, this is a model. These men have done it and it's a pilot project. Let's examine various aspects of it and see where the problem lies and settle those, polish it and let's have at least a policy ready in case the government decides to have a policy." So we did. Dr. Amini comes to power. Hassan Arsanjani is appointed as Minister of Agriculture. Land reform is to take place.
One day, Arsanjani, who was a very close friend of Mehdi Sami'i, hears from Mehdi that we had a plan. He takes us, the whole group -- I remember it was me, Mehdi, Cyrous Sami'i, Moghadam, and I, the whole group of us -- he takes us up to Hesarak. Hesarak was where the Razi Institute was located, which belonged to the Ministry of Agriculture. Do you remember the Razi Institute, this well-known laboratory and research center where they produced vaccines? One of the best institutions we ever had in Iran.
Q. Yes. Is that on the road to Abe Ali?
A. No, no. It's the other way, it's on the way to Karaj.
There were facilities there, there were buildings there. And we all sat in a room, we were locked in the room from morning. And I remember they served us chelo-kabob. And we discussed this plan until late, well into the evening. Because Arsanjani had no notion whatsoever. You know, he was a newspaper man by profession. He had no notion about how he was going to proceed and he was under pressure to develop a plan and draft a law. He took my English paper -- I've never forgotten -- he had it translated. And he discussed all aspects, he examined, reexamined it with us. And went on.
The next time that I had the opportunity to enter into this picture was when Dr. Amini called on me to attend the presentation of the land reform law by the Minister of Agriculture to a limited number of the cabinet members. Principally, Arsanjani was proposing exactly what we had proposed to him earlier, save one very important change. He had allowed that each landlord should be able to keep one whole village for himself, a CshishdongiD. This CshishdongiD could be either parts of various villages or just one complete village or lands around villages. And remember, this was supposed to be the first phase of the land reform program, the other two phases to come at a later time. That the government would issue land reform bonds, the government would collect on the basis of some long-term arrangement from the tenants and would issue long-term bonds to the owners. The long-term bonds were backed up by the sale of government-owned industries and the agency to do this was the agricultural credit bank.
These aspects I didn't pay attention to, but the fact that a landlord was still allowed to hold a whole village -- and in some cases like Mr. Alam, for example, it was the whole of Birjand, as it turned out, it began to bother me tremendously. I said, "What about the peasants who are in those villages left to be owned by the landlord? They see that the next-door village, their cousins, their friends and so on all have private ownership, but they still continue as tenants in this village. This is going to cause..." I said this across the cabinet table to Arsanjani who was sitting right opposite to me, I said, "This is going to cause bloodshed." Arsanjani in his very cool, calm way bent over the table and said, "But that is precisely what I want." I have never, never forgotten this. These were the exact words. What he meant, what he must have meant, that he wanted to carry out the plan in full. That the pressure of many landlords through government channels, including Dr. Amini and the Shah, was such that he was forced to give them this particular advantage, that I thought was incongruous with the whole program of land reform as we had perceived.
Q. So this was a temporary concession he was making?
A. It was a concession. Would it be temporary or not, he didn't know. But he thought there'd be enough political pressure to change it. As it were, there was.
The next time I saw Arsanjani was in his room with Malek, General Malek (later on to become our ambassador to Germany), who was the head of the gendarmerie. They were discussing the problem of revolt and instability in some of the areas where land reform was enforced. And Malek was under instruction, of course, to support the program. The Shah had instructed him to support the program and keep peace in the province.
We didn't know it in Tehran, but apparently there was a considerable amount of bloodshed in the south, in certain areas, and the gendarmes played a considerable role in the enforcement of land reform.
Q. Caused by whom, the landlords or the tenants who hadn't been given land?
A. Both, both. And some of the landlords fingered this, no doubt some of the landlords fingered this. And this led to a very famous speech by the Shah in Doshan Tappeh in his military uniform -- I remember those bleak, bleak days -- defending the land reform, answering the landlords saying, "I listened to you all these years. I waited for you all these years. You didn't do it. This is the only way it has to be done, this nation, these farmers have a right to it."
This is the beginning, by the way, of the clerical opposition, organized clerical opposition to the Shah in the person of Khomeini. There is no doubt, there is record that Khomeini took a position against land reform. And this is the beginning when they tried to close the Faiziyeh School in Qom and jailed and exiled Khomeini, who went dead set against land reform, of course, as well as against the reform that allowed women equal rights to vote.
This is one note I just wanted to give on land reform.
Q. Could I now ask you to describe your memories and draw a sketch of the several prime ministers under whom you served during this period, beginning perhaps with Dr. Eghbal, then going to Sharif-Emami, then Amini, Alam.
A. Just this period?
Q. Just this period.
A. Well, let me really begin by talking about Ala, when he was prime minister and afterwards, and I'd known him and I loved him. And I thought of him as probably the last of the greats -- greats in the sense of Qavam o-Saltaneh, in the sense of Hakim ol-Molk, in the sense of Moshir ed-Dowleh and Zok ek-Mulk Foroughi, in that group. You know Ala was one of the most educated men that I have met in my country. Ala was one of the most experienced men, not only in the affairs of Iran, but also in the affairs of the world. Don't forget, he had already been the ambassador to the United Nations and his famous speech on Azarbaijan,which still stands as a classic, I think. I hope that in your records someplace you will find this speech and place it, it should be a part of your records. And you should interview people who have known him far more intimately than I did.
I wasn't part of his government. I wasn't aware of his abilities as prime minister. All I knew was that he was so well accepted and he was so well respected that he could sway decisions in the direction he thought was right. I also knew that to the Shah, because of this long period of association and because of difference of age, Ala was like a father, the Shah must have had a great inner respect for this man. I had seen Ala stand up and give speeches in English, the like of which I had not even heard in England. He could be any day a leader in the British parliament and he could handle the issues at the same dignified level that issues are handled in that historical House of Commons or maybe I should say the House of Uncommons.
In French, he was no less as I understand from people who are masters of the French language. He had such a great ability in Persian. He was a scholar of Persian and his writings, his speeches before the Iranian parliament are there to be seen. And I refer to impromptu speeches, which also is a sign of the mode of his thinking and the very structures of his thought. Unless you do have models in your mind, you cannot talk that well, even if your language was excellent. One couldn't project complicated thoughts just by mastery of words.
Ala was a great patriot. He was a very talented man. By the way, I don't know whether if you have ever seen some of his sketches? He was a man who was a man of multi-talents. I have seen some of his sketches of political leaders. They're the most fantastic sketches -- it's like a professional who has sketched, with pencil, the various political leaders or individuals.
He could make puns out of words so easily, whether in English, French, or Persian. One that I remember -- I may have told you before -- when the President of Turkey was visiting His Majesty the Shah, and Ala was Minister of Court. He was standing between the two and the President of Turkey was speaking in French to the Shah and tells the Shah that, "Turkey is full of roads, we have built so many roads. And it's full of banks, we have got so many banks." So Ala turns and says to the Shah, "Your Majesty, Turkey's CbanquerouteD." The word CbanquerouteD, well it seems a combination of banks and roads that he was talking about, also means bankrupt in French. And that was the type of mind. And truly enough, Turkey was bankrupt, if all its development effort was spent on creating banks and roads.
I found that he was a great refuge to us, he understood us, he listened to us. He was extremely sincere, he always helped us -- when I'm talking about this group of young reformists. His background I need not refer to here, it is a matter of historical record. My God, he was a member of the League of Nations, the mission of Iran to the League of Nations. He served in foreign office, ambassador to the United Kingdom and the United States, ambassador to the United Nations, head of the Bank Melli. Various ministries, prime minister four times, minister of Court a long, long time.
Q. What was his relationship with the Shah?
A. I'd seen him many times in the presence of the Shah. The Shah was rather timid in front of him, rather shy with him and respected him a great deal. Not always accepting what he might propose, not always believing in the positions he took. But he was so forthright and honest with the Shah. I remember everything you would tell him, he would write down and, in so many words, he would report to the Shah. There was that truthfulness and honesty about him. Not necessarily his own view, but what you had gone there to tell him. He considered his function as minister of Court, for example, as a conduit to let the Shah know the true information that has come to him. Whether the Shah accepted it or did not was besides the point and what was his own view would only be voiced if the Shah had asked, you see. But this was the honesty that I saw in that man.
Often he was referred to as naive. He was referred to as naive because of his honesty again. Because of this approach of truthfulness that I say. And in Persia, to us, people who are straight, honest and abiding by their responsibilities and duties, are often called naive. The next man I knew...
Q. Before you go to the next man, there are some statements made about the last position that he held and the allegation that he was discharged by the Shah because of his openness, if I may put it that way. What do you know about that incident?
A. I think that when he was minister of Court, a group of people alarmed by the circumstances in the country and political circumstances in the country and so on, collected one night at his home.
Q. At Ala's home.
A. At Ala's home.
Q. This is around the 15th of Khordad incident?
A. That's right. About that. Or just after, just after. And these people were, so far as I know, General Yazdanpanah, Sharif-Emami (for sure), who else?
A. Old man Djam?
Q. No, no.
A. No, he was dead.
A. I do not know, General Djam. General Djam was not yet.... No, General Djam was not yet chief-of-staff at that time. He may have been there, but I don't see.... And Djam is a very disciplined man, I doubt it, I doubt this very seriously. No.
And presumably after this meeting, when alarm is voiced and discussion takes place, and so on -- before Ala has a chance the next day to go and report as he would have -- Yazdanpanah runs to the Shah and says we had such a meeting and these are the things that have happened; and nobody knows, but of course how he had reported the event in the instance to the Shah. All we know is that the Shah was put off by this, became very angry and immediately, or shortly after, set Ala aside....
A. Ala aside and appoints him to a seat in the senate. And he was a senator when he died, he was about eighty-five or so when he died. This is the only story that I know. I don't know anything about the details of what went on in that meeting. You ought to talk about this to Fereidoun Ala.
Q. His son.
A. His son in London. And this time...
Q. What to a listener who has heard you describe Mr. Ala the way you have, and then hearing this incident, I'm sure they will be very puzzled at how could this happen with such a loyal man, with such long history of service to Reza Shah and Mohammad Reza Shah himself. How could this happen over one...
A. One incident.
Q. One incident. What do you make of it? Or what did you make of it?
A. The only explanation I had at that time, and I have today, is that the Shah was so sensitive at this time, and so insecure at this time that he would have looked at this whole thing as a cabal, as a gathering of the statesmen to take certain measures and that if they wanted to do this, they should have come to him, rather than meet separately. It's this sense of insecurity that was developing very severely because of the incident and because of the reactions to land reform. That period of insecurity was very famous. That's the only explanation I have. He was just, he felt totally insecure. He felt paranoic, I guess, about the circumstance. He must have. He just saw things that weren't there necessarily. Certainly these people wouldn't be plotting against the Shah. A man like Ala would never plot against the Shah. But he had become paranoic because of these conflicting reports that he constantly heard.
This goes to show you the lonely position of being a leader under pressure, you know. Everything was directed towards him. The Khomeini affair, the clergy uprising, the treatment by the Kennedy administration in terms of cutting the military support -- all of these had already left an affect on him.
Q. Did this and similar incidents serve as a lesson to people such as yourself, who were on the rise, as to what would be proper behavior on your part under these circumstances?
A. I suppose we thought about this. I suppose we thought. Certainly it gave us a notion that the Shah was very suspicious of these things, was very sensitive to these things. He didn't like this type of thing going on. He understood it when the National Front people would collect together, but this was to no avail, they had no power. But when a group within the administration would do this, this was sort of a revolt within, if you wish, or so interpreted by the Shah. Or so reported by Yazdanpanah, I do not know, because Yazdanpanah after that, we see him move up and up and remains on the top as the confidant of the Shah to the end. Ala falls off favor, is dispatched into the senate and dies there. That's it.
Q. Because at least some foreigners have raised this question, addressed this question to Iranians that in the last days of the regime, or at least in the months preceding the fall of the monarchy, why didn't the group of you get together and discuss the situation and try to find some sort of resolution to it. And it seems that perhaps the reason people didn't do that in a way relates to this Ala incident.
A. They did, in this revolution, they did. Considerably so. There was considerably more, because now the threat was real and far more pervasive than at that time. I don't think at that time the Shah was really basically threatened. I don't think so.
Q. Could you talk about Eghbal, Dr. Eghbal as prime minister?
A. Well, Dr. Eghbal was always known, and I have no reason to believe any other way from my dealings with him, throughout as a personally very honest man. When he died, he really didn't even have very much in terms of personal wealth. Dr. Eghbal had started in medicine, but his heart was never in medicine, it was always in politics. He was a highly politically motivated individual who had become minister of interior and anyway, subsequently the president of university and using those as stepping stones to become prime minister. And there's no doubt in my mind that he was very loyal to the Shah, to the regime as such. He had proved that time and time again.
There was a certain reasonableness about him. He was the sort of a man who wanted to solve everybody's problems, so to speak. He was very proud of the fact that everyday he would come to the office at five o'clock in the morning and read every letter which was written to him as prime minister or later as chairman of NIOC -- which, of course, in those days we ridiculed. We said, "My god, what kind of prime minister can this be?" But he was capable of putting in a great number of hours into his work, he had the ability to do so.
But you know, I never found him deeply versed in world affairs. I never found Dr. Eghbal with a deep understanding about issues as it related to, let's say, economic development of the country. He didn't have that much interest. His primary interest was to just make things continue, this bureaucracy to continue and he didn't want to bring about such reforms that would begin to shake this structure that he had done so well within. He was a man who represented the status quo par excellence.
He had a great ego, but that wasn't an unusual thing. I mean, after all, many, many Iranians who had reached such position had great egos. I didn't find this in Ala, by the way. Eghbal was very pleased with himself as to his achievements, his past career. And he had a habit of every time, in new circumstances, in the presence of a new person, he would recite all the posts he had held previously and all the experiences he has had, you know. He repeated this. I had heard this so many times.
He was a man who also could use the whip, political whip to keep the various factions in the parliament together or to keep his Melliyoun party members happy and together in order to get results from them and keep them fairly well satisfied. He would dole out small favors to this man and that man and such. In that sense a sort of a classic prime minister. But I never thought he had far-reaching horizons. He was no visionary. He just thought that things will go on as long as he was sitting on the top.
During his administration of the oil company, for example (and this was very well known), every report that came to his desk, he would write on the side of it "be arz berassad," to be reported to His Majesty. And the Shah trusted him implicitly because of that character. Everything, every report -- every time he'd go in and take all these reports to the Shah and tell the Shah what it is and get the Shah's instructions and write the instructions on the side and say do this. Just like that.
He, I think, was the man who contributed so much in pulling the Shah into the day-to-day affairs of the country, into the routine affairs of the country. Into such affairs that the Shah never needed to be pulled into to preserve his power. But Dr. Eghbal, whether out of recognition or philosophy, or lack of knowing any other way to do things, or his failure to make direct decisions himself, or his fear of making direct decisions himself, Dr. Eghbal was that type of individual.
Q. What about Sharif-Emami?
A. Sharif-Emami was far more of a decision maker, in my judgment, than Eghbal. Whether as I remember him, as the Minister of Industries and Mines, the President of the Senate, or as prime minister. Sharif-Emami was a far better administrator, he was known as a "no-nonsense" type of administrator. That once a decision was made, then Sharif-Emami would see to it that it's carried out. I could see Sharif-Emami arguing things with the Shah far more than Eghbal would ever do.
There was a great deal about his connection with the vested interests, there was a great deal about this that we all heard. At one point, I remember, Mansour was Prime Minister and in the Plan Council meeting, without naming names, in a very derogatory statement -- which obviously was about Sharif-Emami -- said, "Some people who were using their previous positions are collecting on a monthly basis a hundred thousand toman from various business organizations," and so on. There was a great deal about Sharif-Emami in this connection.
Sharif-Emami, again, was the type of man that had his own enclave around him and would solve the problems for the groups and take care of their interests. Maybe his last statement before the parliament, that this "Sharif-Emami is not the Sharif-Emami of twenty years ago," was in a way an answer to these innuendos and accusations. But the atmosphere was rife with this type of rumor about him.
Q. I guess so much could be said about Mr. Alam, since he had such a long career and had such a long.... But if you could just limit today's discussion about his premiership.
A. The most important thing was that he was close to the Shah and the Shah trusted him implicitly, in my judgment. I don't think I can name any other person that the Shah trusted more than Alam and was as close to him.
Q. How could you compare him and Eghbal?
A. With Eghbal, the Shah wasn't as open. I would sense with Eghbal he was much more impersonal and formal, whereas with Alam he was much more intimate.
A. With Alam. He could be far more intimate. Don't forget, these two grew up together. They had seen everything together.
Q. The Shah and Alam?
A. Oh yes, the Shah and Alam. His relation with Alam was an intimate relation, personal relation. And I have no doubt, that if I were to select one person who knew about the greatest secret of the Shah and the court, it would have been Alam. No one ever came so close to knowing these things, or the greatest secret of the Crown, what actually the Crown was involved in, the things that the Shah might have done. And there is no record of this, of course, anywhere.
Q. You know, of course, it's rumored that he was keeping daily diaries.
A. Oh, there was this rumor about everybody. I have very serious doubts. Diaries in the sense that he would write, I've seen them, what the problems that he had to discuss before the Shah and what the Shah's orders were. But outside of that, in terms of anything manipulative within the political system, in the regime, I doubt very seriously if there is a record of this.
There was a lot of, also, talk about Alam being involved in various deals and in various derogatory activities, certainly in the later years. But I'm sure none of it was without the open permission of the Shah, I mean he's that type of a man. I don't think he ever did anything, unless he first cleared it with the Shah. So in that sense, if he was ever involved or he had any benefits or gains, it would have been that the Shah would have thought that he deserved it, as a sort of a bonus for his services, rather than anything else.
Q. What kind of prime minister was he?
A. He was very political, almost tribal in sharing power among a close circle of friends. He had no real understanding of economic development, financial aspect of the government at all. A highly, highly political type of man, both in two fields: one, domestic politics; two, foreign politics. I mean his relationship with the British, Americans, and Russians was very strong in that sense and these were the two areas he held very strongly. He was not at all interested in the domestic reform type of activity.
And he was a hard decision maker. If he were alive, I think there would have been a lot more bloodshed at the time of the revolution. I think he would have made his decisions and carried them out. Maybe he would succeed in preventing or delaying the Revolution of 1979 -- indeed as he did in 1963 with Khomeini's first uprising.
Copyright © 2003 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College (Harvard University)
Dr. Habib Ladjevardi
Iranian Oral History Project
Center for Middle Eastern Studies
1430 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138