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Haj Ali Razmara

In office
26 June 1950 – 7 March 1951
Preceded by Ali Mansur
Succeeded by Hossein Ala'

Born 1901
Tehran, Iran
Died 7 March 1951
Tehran, Iran
Political party Military
Religion Twelver Shi'a Islam
Military service
Allegiance IAI
Years of service 1927-1951
Commands General and statesman

Sepahbod Haj Ali Razmara (Persian: حاجیعلی رزم‌آرا Ḥājī`alī Razmāra) (1901 - March 7, 1951) was a military leader and Prime Minister of Iran.

Razmara (an adopted name loosely translated as "war planner" or more accurately "battle organizer") was born in Tehran and studied at the military academy of Saint-Cyr in France and climbed his way up and eventually became Prime Minister in 1950.

He was assassinated by 26 year-old Khalil Tahmassebi of the Fadayan-e Islam organization with 3 bullets in Tehran at the age of 49. Razmara was the first Iranian Prime Minister to be assassinated.


Anglo-Iranian oil negotiations

Ali Razmara came closer than any other prime minister to ratifying the Supplemental Oil Agreement between Iran and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC). The Supplemental Agreement drew the ire of most Iranians and Majlis of Iran deputies because it provided far less favorable terms than the Venezuela agreement between the Standard Oil of New Jersey and the Venezuelan government, and the agreement between the Arabian-American Oil Company and the Saudi Arabian government. In addition, it gave continuous control of Iran's oil industry to a foreign company and country; the living and working conditions of its Iranian workers were extremely poor; it refused to allow Iranians a greater voice in the company's management; and it denied them the right to audit the company's books. The AIOC did, however, offer a few improvements: It guaranteed that its annual royalty payments would not drop below 4 million pounds; it would reduce the area where it would be allowed to drill; and it promised to train more Iranians for administrative jobs. Razmara asked Anglo-Iranian to revise some of the agreement terms, namely to allow Iranian auditors to review their financial activities, offer Iranians managerial jobs, and pay some of the royalties to the Iranian government in advance. The British refused and lost the opportunity.[1]

It is important to note here that the very reason Razmara was in office was a direct result of the urgings of the British Foreign Office and the AIOC to the Shah who wanted a stronger figure than his predecessor, Prime Minister Mansur, to ensure the success of the Supplemental Agreement. "Only a man with [Razmara's] fierce determination, they believed, would be strong enough to face down Mossadegh and the National Front."[2]

Premier of Iran

Razmara promoted a plan for decentralization of government together with decentralization of the Seven-Year Plan for infrastructure development and improvement. His idea was to bring government to the people; an unheard-of idea in Iran. His plan called for setting up local councils in Iran’s 84 districts to run local affairs such as health, education and agricultural programs. One of his most enduring achievements was the institution of the Point IV Program via Agreement with US President Harry Truman.

Razmara began trimming the government payrolls, eliminating a large number of officials out of a total of 187,000 civil servants. At one stroke he terminated nearly 400 high-placed officials. By so doing, Razmarra earned the wrath of the powerful land-owning and merchant families and most conservatives without gaining the confidence of the radical Tudeh Party. Additionally his opposition to expropriation of AIOC assets at Abadan earned him the wrath of the small but powerful group of Majlis deputies known as the National Front. The National Front was led by Majlis Member, Mohammed Mossadegh, whose leading ally in Parliament was Assembly Speaker Ayatollah Kashani.


Funeral of Razmara

On March 7, 1951, Razmara went to a mosque for a memorial service. The police opened a corridor through the inner courtyard for the Prime Minister. The assassin, in the crowd, fired three quick shots, fatally wounding the Prime Minister. Khalil Tahmassebi, a member of the militant Islamic group Fadayan-e Islam, was arrested at the scene.

Fadayan-e Islam supported the demands of the National Front, which held a minority of seats in Parliament, to nationalize the assets of the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. As Prime Minister, Razmara had convinced the majority that nationalization would be folly, but his assassination eliminated the sole voice powerful enough to oppose the demands of the National Front.

The National Front was led by Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, who became Prime Minister within two months of Razmara's assassination. However, control of the party was held by Ayatollah Seyid Abol Ghasim Kashani, the leader of the country's mullahs. Kashani, along with other National Frontists, defended the act as justified. The National Front declared Prime Minister Ali Razmara an enemy of Islam and a traitor to Iran for his opposition to the terms of the Oil Nationalization Law.

Although it was well known that Ayatollah Kashani controlled the Fedayan, there is no evidence that he or any other National Front member, was ever officially implicated in the assassination of Prime Minister Ali Razmara.

At a public demonstration the following day attended by more than 8,000 Tudeh Party members and National Front supporters, Fadayan-e Islam distributed leaflets carrying a threat to assassinate the Shah and other government officials if the assassin, Khalil Tahmassebi, was not set free immediately. Threats were also issued against any Majlis member who opposed Oil Nationalization.

The second Iranian official to suffer at the hands of the assassins was Education Minister Dr. Abdul Hamid Zangeneh. Zangeneh was dean of Law at Tehran University and was not shy about voicing his opposition to oil nationalization. A few days later authorities uncovered the details of the plot to assassinate the Shah and other officials on the morning of the Persian New Year. This led to the arrests of several Fedayan members, including its leader, Navab Safavi. But the troubles continued with the attempted assassination of the Queen's cousin, Yaya Bakhtiari, who was severely wounded but survived. All of this occurred in conjunction with riots and demonstrations orchestrated by the outlawed Tudeh Party and National Front supporters.

In November 1952, the Parliament voted a full pardon for Tahmassebi. He was hailed as a hero and was granted an audience with Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. Mossadegh barred photographers from the meeting.

Effects on Iranian Government

On March 12, 1951 the Majlis voted to nationalize Iran’s oil. Not one Majlis member voted against the Act. A spectator in the gallery is reported to have shouted "Eight grains of gunpowder have brought this about." This was followed by a vote on March 28 to expropriate the AIOC properties at Abadan.

The Shah appointed Hussein Ala to succeed Razmara as Prime Minister. This move was met by further assassinations, riots, and demonstrations throughout the country. Ala ultimately resigned his post as Prime Minister. The Shah opted to go with former Primer Minister Sayyid Ziya al-Din Tabatabai but the Majlis, led by the National Front, voted on a referendum naming Mohammed Mossadegh to the post.

The nationalization of the oil industry was supported by the vast majority of the Iranian public. Prime Minister Mossadegh and the National Front successfully led the charge to nationalize the oil and expel the AOIC. As this move dealt a severe blow to British interests in Iran, the US and Britain orchestrated the now well-known coup d'état in 1953, code-named Operation Ajax, removing Mossadegh from power and reinstating the Shah. Mohammad Reza Shah was in power until the 1979 revolution, which led to the establishment of the Islamic Republic.

See also


  • 'Alí Rizā Awsatí (عليرضا اوسطى), Iran in the past three centuries (Irān dar Se Qarn-e Goz̲ashteh - ايران در سه قرن گذشته), Volumes 1 and 2 (Paktāb Publishing - انتشارات پاکتاب, Tehran, Iran, 2003). ISBN 9-649340-661 (Vol. 1), ISBN 9-649340-653 (Vol. 2).
  • Stephen Kinzer, All The Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror (John Wiley & Sons, New Jersey, 2003). ISBN 0-471-26517-9
  • Mary Ann Heiss, Empire and Nationhood: The United States, Great Britain, and Iranian Oil, 1950-1954 (Columbia University Press, 1997). ISBN 0-231-10819-2
  • Mostafa Elm, Oil, Power, and Principle: Iran's Oil Nationalization and Its Aftermath (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1994). ISBN 0-8156-2642-8
  • Yousof Mazandi, United Press, and Edwin Muller, Government by Assassination (Reader's Digest September 1951).
  1. ^ Kinzer, Stephen. All The Shah's Men (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003. p. 66
  2. ^ Kinzer, Stephen. All The Shah's Men(Hoboken, N.J.:John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003. p. 72
Preceded by
Ali Mansour
Prime Minister of Iran
1950 – 1951 March 7
Succeeded by
Hossein Ala'


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