IRAN: Oil, Grandeur and a Challenge to the West

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The Shah has five palaces. Each winter the family skis at St. Moritz from a villa named Suvretta that was once owned by Movie Actress Audrey Hepburn. The Shah moves between his residences by helicopter or JetStar corporate jet, using the national Iranair fleet for larger hops. His recent visit to Australia required three jets, including one Boeing 707 used solely for luggage. Inside Iran, where the alert ears of SAVAK may be tuned toward caustic remarks, there is little open criticism of the way in which the Shah is building his Great Civilization. Outside Iran his development has been praised by the United Nations and the Club of Rome. But there is also skepticism not so much about the laudable end of the Shah's programs but about the means.

Allergic to Caviar. The most pointed criticism is that a nation of 32 million people cannot possibly be drawn into the technocratic 21st century by the fiat of a single man, no matter how good his intentions. The Shah at 55 is in good health—his worst indisposition, ironically, is an allergy that prevents his eating Iran's world-famous Caspian caviar —and he works a 15-hour day with scant time out for family life. But for all the Shah's skill and experience, sooner or later decisions must be shared more than they have been up to now.

One reason why so much power is kept in imperial hands is that Iran has a dangerously small pool of trusted technocrats capable of running the country. The armed forces, which have a lavish pay scale matching those of most corporations, constantly vie with private industry for talent. Universities have room for only one of every ten hopeful students who apply. The Shah's immediate circle of advisers is also surprisingly small. Among them are Premier Hoveida, 54, a dapper man who has held his job nine years; Hushang Ansary, 46, Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance; Amir Assadullah Alam, 55, who acts as the sovereign's right hand as minister of the court; and Jamshid Amuzegar, 51, who until recently served as the Shah's voice and goad at OPEC meetings. Amuzegar last April was shifted to Interior Minister, partly so that he might help ensure more honest elections than have been held in the past. "Even the dead voted," the Shah told TIME, recalling those elections, "and more than once."

Far from having limitless funds to finance both a growing army and an expanding economy, the country will actually soon be capital-short. Says Dr. Abdul Majid Majidi, 46, a technocrat in charge of Plans and Budget Organization, the superagency that draws up and carries out the Shah's five-year development programs: "In three years' time we will be coming into U.S. and European markets to borrow. We can absorb it all."

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