Friday, November 25, 2005

A Riveting Memoir

Blood and Oil: Inside the Shah's Iran
Farmanfarmaian, Manucher, Farmanfarmaian, Roxane (Joint Author)

A Riveting Memoir

This book tells the story of one Manucher Farmanfarmaian, son of a Qajar Prince who was procreating among a bevy of wives until he was 80.

Farmanfarmaian sets the story from childhood, and includes many insights into the Iran of the Persian Empire, to the period of the Early Imperialist Era; when Britain and the Europeans were setting stakes in the Middle-Eastern world with Russia. Finally he details the modern era up until the fall of the Shah, and the rise of The Islamic Revolution. Mr.Farmanfarmaian was, among many of his peers, an early student of western internationalist expansion fueled by the very oil found under his nation; he does an admirable job of describing the numerous events of the turn of the century, and details with precision the exploits and outright exploitation of national interests which companies like The Iranian National Oil Company and The Seven Sisters were able to achieve globally by negotiating from strength.

He highlights the outright inequities of royalties payments and the virtual subversive creation of subsidiaries the world over which consolidated oil company control and from which most national interests were cut off or severed. The details describe how some corporations consolidate shareholder interests in commodities; the scale of vertical integration in oil companies is easily explained by the patterns of their growth until nationalization of oil interests globally. Farmanfarmaian quotes Khomeni as having said that foreign influence had "striken Iran", and it can fairly be said that all nations holding oil reserves had been similarly striken.

Feudal, tribal, or even nomadic states, in some cases highly ordered and structured societies, though pre-industrial and non-Christian, were beset by influences under which almost no nation could successfully overcome or maintain a semblance of enacted or actual sovereignty. The impact of the turn of the century was less pronounced; the family of Farmanfarmaian were able to weather through destructive forces through tact and education and under the pronounced negotiation of Farman Farmah, Iran itself was able to maintain some semblance of order despite asassinations. Manucher was among many noble elites far removed from the feudalism of his predecessors, through offshore educations that could last fifteen and twenty years, a paradox of modernization, where local leadership influences might have developed, all appeared to be far removed and localized.

Centralized power was formulated into a standing army of dubious allegiances and questionable hereditary succession in the Shah in Shah's lineages instituted only with American and British support. Farmanfarmaian appears to indicate that without proper representation, the rural areas were unable to process change. USAID and other NGO agencies, only hurried the destruction of the Iranian agrarian economy.
Thus a simmering clash between modernization and secularization on one hand and an initially disparate regionally isolated religious opposition on the other grew unimpeded as local feudal lords had been effectively shut-out and "re-educated" along contemporary lines.

Farmanfarmaian describes his life as a politician, government servant, and diplomat and his views on land reform, the Shah's power or lack thereof and the development of OPEC, for which he shares a significant contribution. He reflects with amazing clarity upon the Gulf States, and oil nations in general, how the overpowering influence of US and European policies impacted upon his nation.

In my collection of books, I have what may be a very rare copy of a wonderfully bound and printed book on the land reform policies of The Shah written by a British academic in the early seventies. I bought it because I had met a beautiful young Irani woman named Leyla in Dubai. Farmanfarmaian confirmed for me some of her comments on the regime in power today. I am fully convinced after reading Blood and Oil that the Islamic Revolution and its effects were of far greater negative influence upon the peoples and aspirations of the nation of Iran than those revolutions and evolutions of the Shah's Era.

However, the entire century could be said to be a tragedy for the nation.

Farmanfarmaian is a ghost of a former time.

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