Introduction of constitution which limits the absolutist powers of rulers.
Iran declares neutrality but is scene of heavy fighting during World War I.
1921 Reza Khan, a military officer in Persia's Cossack Brigade, names himself shah of Persia after successfully staging a coup against the government of the Qajar Dynasty. He immediately launches an ambitious campaign to modernize the country. Among other plans, he hopes to develop a national public education system, build a national railroad system and improve health care.
Reza Khan becomes prime minister.
Ahmad Shah in the center of the picture
1925 Ahmad Shah, the Qajar dynasty's final ruler, is deposed, and an assembly votes in Reza Khan (who had adopted the last name Pahlavi) as Persia's new shah.
1926 Reza Khan Pahlavi is crowned, marking the beginning of the Pahlavi Dynasty. The shah's eldest son, Mohammad Reza, is named crown prince.
1935 Persia is officially renamed Iran. By the mid-'30s, Reza Khan's dictatorial approach begins to cause dissent.
1941 Although Reza Khan declares Iran a neutral power during World War II, Iran's British-controlled oil interests are largely maintained by German engineers and technicians, and Khan refuses to expel German citizens despite a request by Britain. In September 1941, following British and Soviet occupation of western Iran, Reza Shah is forced out of power. His son, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, succeeds him on the throne.
1949 An attempt on the shah's life, attributed to the pro-Soviet Tudeh Party, results in an expansion of the Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi's constitutional powers.
* Note: The ten-part video on the Fall of the Shah was produced by the British Broadcasting Company. The parts move between the entire history of the Shah Reza Pahlavi's reign and don't always correspond directly to the year under which they are listed.
Iran's legislative body, the Islamic Consultative Assembly is analogous to the United States Congress. The 270 member Assembly is endowed with many of the same powers—it is the main lawmaking body of the country; it appropriates spending and ratifies treaties between nations. The Assembly's members are elected directly by the people, reflecting, at least in this case, a constitutional commitment to democracy.
The Guardian Council
The Islamic Consultative Assembly answers to the Guardian Council, which is roughly analogous in function to the United States Supreme Court (though Iran's highest court is also called the Supreme Court, it does not hold the power of judicial review and bears little resemblance in function to the United States Supreme Court). The Guardian Council is a twelve member body consisting of six experts in law, and six religious men. The Guardian Council is charged with making sure that the laws passed by the Assembly are constitutional and compatible with Islam. The Guardian Council members serve six year terms. The Council differs from the United States Supreme Court in that it reviews legislation as it is passed by the Assembly, rather than waiting for the law to be challenged. It also differs from the Supreme Court in that it judges laws based on both their adherence to the Iranian Constitution as well as to Islamic law.
The President of Iran is elected directly by the people via a simple majority. The Guardian Council must approve the candidates before they are allowed to campaign. Once elected, the President can appoint a Council of Ministers which helps administer the laws. Much like the United States Cabinet, these Ministers are subject to approval by the legislature. He also has the power to appoint administrative deputies, ambassadors and to design the state budget.
The Supreme Leader
This is the most striking difference institutionally between the United States and Iran. The Supreme Leader is selected by the Assembly of Experts, a body elected by the people whose sole duty is to oversee the Selection of the Supreme Leader. The Supreme Leader has the power to appoint people to many important offices, including the Supreme Court, military leadership and the Guardian Council. Furthermore, the Leader has unilateral power to declare war, as well as the responsibility of "delineation of the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran," granting him broad editorial power over both foreign and domestic policy.
Although many offices are elected by the people, much of the power to determine policy is vested in The Supreme Leader, who is chosen not by the people but by the Council of Experts. Furthermore, the appointed Guardian Council must ratify the laws drafted by the Assembly, further distancing policy making power from the people. That so much power is vested in offices not held accountable by the people suggests a weak commitment to democracy. Additionally, it leaves little incentive for Iranian leaders to adhere to democratic principles, as the recent events surrounding the election suggest.