by Lisa Reynolds Wolfe on June 1, 2015



Iran’s constitution, foreign policy, and armed forces changed in the first year after the revolution. The country’s traditional view of warfare changed in the wake of the Iraq invasion.

Rather than the high technology deterrence that the shah’s arms procurement program had been geared toward providing, Iraq’s invasion of Iran called for other tactics.

The war coincided with the new realities created by revolutionary foreign policy and rhetoric. Not only was Iran faced with the practical contingencies of war, but with a need to emerge from the conflict in a manner that would solidify the goals of the revolution.

According to Shahram Chubin and Charles Tripp, the regime had

insisted on the proposition that all the ills of the world — inequality, an unjust international system, exploitation, oppression, the bullying of the weak by the strong — emanated from the ‘arrogant superpowers’ or their agents. In this view, the superpowers were in collusion and were equally guilty. Khomeini saw Iran’s position in particular as the result of a conspiracy between the Shah and the West, to make Iran culturally and politically dependent.

In this view, it isn’t surprising that, in Iran’s view, Iraq’s invasion could only be explained by US complicity and encouragement.

During the first years of the war, low priority was placed on the requirements of the military. Instead, the emphasis was on securing the revolution.

At this time, Iran had a large store of spare parts, and the regime sabotaged its acquisition of arms already paid for but held up by the hostage dispute. Soon, however, because of the almost total reliance on American weapons, Iran found it necessary to look for other suppliers. Still, the country was willing to accept heavy casualties in lieu of superpower assistance.

The Pasdaran controlled military operatios, continuing to reject any sort of relationship with the United States.

At the same time, Iran began to support radical groups like the Islamic Amal, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad. These activities were meant to attest to Iran’s regional importance and the continuing outreach of the revolution. Of course, this meant a clash with the United States over terrorism which, in turn, influenced US willingness to resupply arms.

The US tightened its own leakages and blocked third party supplies in an action known as ‘Operation Stuanch’. This position hardened after the bombing of US marine barracks in Beirut.

By 1985, Iran’s situation in the war had deteriorated. An ‘arms for hostages’ deal with the US became public and the US determined to become directly involved in the Gulf by establishing a US naval presence.

By October 1987, Iran had reframed the conflict to depict American involvement:

If we had won the war last year, everyone would have said that a 50 million strong country was victorious over a 14 million strong country. But if we win this year, everyone will know that we are victorious over the United States.

At the same time, Iran reported that half a million volunteers were prepared for ‘martyrdom-seeking operations’ to resist the American presence in the Gulf. The continued willingness to sacrifice Iran’s human resource potential in battle was quite different from the shah’s determination to employ military-led industrialization as Iran’s development strategy.

Photograph by Alan: Martyrs Memorial at the Mausoleum of Khawje Rabie.


by Lisa Reynolds Wolfe on May 20, 2015


Fidel Castro and the rebeldes met with a fair amount of early success in their drive to improve the quality of life in urban areas of Cuba — especially in Havana.

Rural-urban imbalances diminished a great deal during the decade of the 1960s, although the demographic growth of Greater Havana continued until 1963.

Improvement occurred mainly because of the political-administrative reorganization of Cuba and the creation of new state enterprises. There was also an initial emphasis on improving the city’s existing educational facilities, a policy which attracted numerous students from the interior.

Gradually, the demographic growth of Havana was stabilized, particularly after the implementation of the Urban Reform Law.

In 1963-1964, the first socialist master plan for the city of Havana was created as an attempt to address the problems of the city in a centralized manner. The master plan created six regions which were to be treated as a metropolitan entity. Previously, the six municipalities had worked independently, each with its own mayor and separate municipal agencies.

The master plan took effect when Havana had 1.5 million inhabitants, and one of its main objectives was to strive for a decrease in the city’s rate of population growth.

In an effort to slow migration from the countryside, strategies were devised to redistribute maritime and port activities as well as noxious industries to points elsewhere in Cuba. Development of infrastructure was planned to support these economic activities. This decentralization slowed the rate of Havana’s annual population growth which had previously included the annual arrival of 17,000 in-migrants from the interior of the country as well as a natural increase of 23,000. However, improvement was not uniform.

A reduction in population density in the overcrowded areas of Central Havana was not achieved. The reallocation of resources for infrastructure outside of Havana meant that the area had no new housing construction. Also, physical deterioration accelerated due to the lack of routine maintenance, especially that of streets and buildings which required periodic repair and painting.

Areas left vacant by emigrants such as Country Club, Miramar, Kohly, and Nuevo Vedado provided a situation of privilege for the new residents. These districts were soon identified as ‘frozen zones’. This meant that they were to serve as housing for high-level government officials, dignitaries, foreign experts, and diplomats. Nevertheless, the character of the neighborhoods, known for their high levels of physical segregation was beginning to break down.

Some housing was assigned to those with low income and many of the larger structures were carved up into schools and dormitories.

As students poured in from the countryside, their relatives soon followed, setting up residence in the boarding houses which were established in some of the abandoned housing. Over the decades, the area was impacted by the economic problems which plagued the city as a whole. Isolation and deterioration were the end result, affecting Miramar particularly.

As the decade closed, a humbled Castro determined to shift the revolution in a more conservative direction.

Soviet advisors flocked to Havana, and Soviet economic models became the norm.

The age of Fidelian voluntarism was over  . . . at least for the moment.

In 1972, Cuba joined COMECON and, in 1975, Cuba began implementing the Soviet-directed “System for Economic Management and Planning.”

Havana’s fate would now be dependent on the imperatives of Soviet central planning.

Photograph by Lisa Reynolds Wolfe.


May 12, 2015

  The ‘economic miracle’ of the 1960s led the United States to re-evaluate Taiwan’s need for continued economic and military assistance. Reassessment was logical because, in reality, multinational corporations, the World Bank, and the IMF had replaced US missions as Taiwan’s conduit to the world economy, and the island had become a supplier of labor […]

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May 1, 2015

(CLICK HERE TO BUY COLD WAR UNVEILED ON AMAZON!) COLD WAR UNVEILED lets you learn about the Cold War while you’re on the go! Ever wished you had an easy and FUN way to learn about Cold War History and Politics? Are you a student? A history buff? An erudite conversationalist? Do you want to WOW your […]

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April 27, 2015

From 1965-1974, the United States and Cuban governments administered the Vuelos de la Libertad or Freedom Flights. The two governments jointly determined who would migrate and, as a result, emigration during this period was coordinated, orderly, and focused on family networks. The immediate family of exiles already in the United States received priority. Certain categories of […]

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April 14, 2015

I’m sure that most of you know that the Cold War involved more than proxy wars and revolutions. It was above all ideological, a rivalry between two very different ways of life, a half century struggle pitting “freedom” against “repression.” For many, the conflict was most apparent in what was called the cultural Cold War.  But […]

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April 9, 2015

The video below is the second in a two part series that takes you quickly through the last 50 or so years of Cuba’s political and economic history. Here are the salient points: By 1990, when the Russians were gone, things were really tough. It was becoming very clear that the Cuban people could not […]

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April 9, 2015

As most of you probably know, this week Panama will host the summit of the Americas, an important meeting of heads of state from our Western Hemisphere. The summit, inaugurated by President Bill Clinton in 1992, is a historic happening this year because it is the first time that both Cuba and the United States […]

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