Before the Islāmic Revolution in Iran in the late 1970s Iran was already an authoritarian state, but in the form of a monarchy under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who was the Shah of Iran. Who was basically their king who ruled this large country for about forty years as a dictator. His governing style was similar to that of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, but Shah Pahlavi was more progressive on economic policy. And did a lot to develop this very underdeveloped country when he came to power. And gave the country a functioning economy and infrastructure system. But this guy was hardly a Liberal or a Democrat, but an autocrat who believed in economic development.
Again Iran was certainly not a liberal democracy or a democracy in any form before 1979. They had a dictatorship that went out of their way to squash any form of political opposition whether it was democratic or theocratic. And some of the Iranians who came to power in 1979 as part of that Islāmic Revolution did time in Shah Pavlavi’s jails and prisons and victims of his secret service and other security services that the West helped finance. Because they did not want to see these Islāmic Theocrats come to power in Iran. But what Iran did have was a functioning economy and a growing middle class and an education system that allowed for everyone in Iran to succeed in life. And one more thing, they weren’t under economic sanctions from the West because the Shah was a partner.
A lot of the economic progress that Iran made under the Shah is almost gone now. They still have a modern infrastructure system and education system. That includes for women and ethnic minorities and in many cases Iranian women are freer than Saudi women. But the country because of this socialist authoritarian regime that sort of mixes in autocratic rule under a theocracy where the elected president is not even the head of state and a socialist economic system that is more about state-control than progress with all sorts of state-owned industries failing. And of course with the Islāmic Republic’s continue support of Islāmic terrorists and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction their economy has gone backwards and their currency has lost a lot of value. And a lot of Iranians still live in poverty and have now moved into poverty.
I’m obviously not an expert on Iran, but know enough about the country that if you eliminated the theocratic state-sponsoring terrorist component from their national government and made the elected president the actual head of state with complete responsibility over their executive branch with the cabinet reporting to the president and not what is called the supreme leader who is the dictator of the country, Iran could become a great developed country and the economic power of the Middle East. Along with Saudi Arabia, because Iran is an energy independent country that could become a very reliable energy supplier for Europe and Asia. With an educated class that would further develop the country and create all sorts of new thriving industries in the country.
I believe the model for Iran is the Turkish model of having an independent executive accountable to no one but the voters who would have a Parliament and judiciary to hold each other accountable. A government that uses its vast economic resources to develop the country and empower the people. To be able to manage their own affairs where their people would be free to live their own lives. And not have to worry about their government when they disagree with them. But these are the decisions for Iran the Iranian people to make. But a successful small r republican model is out there for them to take.
Shahzad Raja-BBC News: Iranian Revolution 1979 Fall of a Shah