This chapter focuses on the political role that the military played during three major events in the modern history of Iran: the 1921 coup, which engendered a new order; the 1953 coup, which ended the Musaddiq era; and the 1978-79 revolution, which terminated the Pahlavi regime. This study also includes some observations regarding the impact of the military on Iranian politics, whether by its active or its passive role. Although the military has been a major part of Iranian society since the establishment of the Persian Empire,1 it played a relatively lesser role in modern Iran than in neighboring countries.2 In general, the Iranian military had a mainly instrumental, rather than intrinsic political value. The impact of the military on politics depended on a number of variables, including the structural characteristics of the political system, the historical role of the military, the institutional patterns of the military, and the main domestic and international conditions.
In the final days of the Qajars, the predominant domestic characteristic of Iranian politics was the decentralized, fragile, unstable, and ineffective nature of the government. Without a permanent national army, Tehran was often incapable of responding to foreign and domestic military challenges, protecting its borders, or even effectively maintaining order. In fact, the lack of adequate military means to carry out policy goals paralyzed Tehran's neutrality policy during World War I when the British, Russian, and Ottoman armies clashed within Iran's borders, causing suffering for Iranians.3
Iranian political and military leaders were then faced with an environment conditioned by the traditional rivalry between the British and the Russians in its new context of capitalist-socialist antagonism.4 Soviet Russia enjoyed an