The Privileged American: The U.S. Capitulations in Iran, 1856-1979

Availability: In stock
Published: 2014
Page #: xviii + 160
Size: 6 x 9
ISBN: 978-1568593302
bibliography, index, notes


+ Add to Cart

Quick Overview

In Iran, in 1963, the United States conditioned the continued presence of its military missions on receiving immunity for the members of the missions and their dependents. In 1964, the Iranian parliament passed a law that granted partially the American wish. The enactment served as the lightening rod for much of the pent up dissatisfaction and opposition to the Shah’s reliance on the United States and his reform programs. Following a stinging rebuke by Imam Khomeini, the Shah had the fiery cleric arrested and sent into exile abroad. Upon Khomeini’s return to Iran, in 1979, one of the first acts of the Islamic revolutionary government was to repeal the immunity law—the dreaded capitulations. Based largely on primary sources, this volume chronicles the capitulary rights enjoyed by the privileged Americans in Iran at various intervals from 1856 through most of 1979. Naturally, capitulations in Iran has had a long history. The first three chapters acquaint the reader in general to some salient aspects of that history. Chapter 1 examines how the Iran of the Safavids in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries granted as well as received, on more-or-less equal footing, capitulary rights in the context of international commercial relations and political representation. The subsequent chapters detail the coming of the Russian capitulations (Torkamanchay regime) and along with the extension of similar privileges for the nationals of the other powers, and the dismantling of that regime by Reza Shah is 1928. Chapter 4 traces the establishment of privileges and immunities for the members of one U.S. mission to the next, beginning with an agreement between the Mosaddeq government and the United States relating to the acceptance of American technical assistance. The last chapter analyzes the abolition of the immunity law by the Islamic government in 1979 while a pared down U.S. military mission was still present in the country until the takeover of the U.S. embassy in the November of that year. Not an apologist for capitulary regimes, the author, who views the capitulations as sine quo non of dependency on American assistance, concludes by inquiring whether faced with the same set of urgent needs as the Shah, would not the Islamic government, with or without Khomeini at its helm, have agreed to the continuance of immunity for the American military personnel if their presence in Iran were required by the Iranian government.


Guive Mirfendereski

Born in 1952 to an Iranian career diplomat, Guive Mirfendereski spent his childhood in The Netherlands, India and Turkey, and his adolescent years in Iran and Switzerland, with frequent prolonged visits to the USSR between 1967 and 1971. A graduate of Don Bosco College (Andisheh) in Tehran, Villa St. Jean (Fribourg, Switzerland), and Collège du Léman (Versoix, Switzerland), he began his university studies at Georgetown University in 1971 and graduated cum laude in 1975 with a bachelor of art degree in Government form the College of Arts and Sciences.

Mirfendereski attended The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, where he received an M.A. (1976) and M.A.L.D. (1978) and a Ph.D. (1985). Subsequently, he studied law at Boston College Law School, where he received his J.D. in 1988. His legal career as an associate in the corporate department of Gaston, Snow, Ely & Bartlett in Boston, Massachusetts (1988-1991), included representation of corporate clients in matters pertaining to customs and international trade and investment. Between 1992 and 1994, he served as legal consultant to the governments of Rwanda and

Sierra Leone on their World Bank-sponsored projects, before becoming general counsel to a biotech company in Watertown, Massachusetts.

As an adjunct professor, he developed and taught graduate-level courses at The Fletcher School and at The Lemberg Program at Brandeis University, as well as holding undergraduate teaching positions at Brandeis’s Legal Studies Program, while continuing in private practice of law in Newton, Massachusetts, where he resides. 

Mirfendereski’s major publications include: The Privileged American: The U.S. Capitulations in Iran, 1856-1979 (Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publishers, 2014); A Diplomatic History of the Caspian Sea, Treaties, Diaries and Other Stories (New York & London: St. Martin’s Press/McMillan/ Palgrave, 2001); “Caspian Sea,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Maritime History (Oxford University Press, 2007); “Persian Gulf” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Maritime History (2007); “Abu Musa iii,” in Encyclopædia Iranica (New York: Columbia University Center for Iranian Studies) online edition at https://iranicaonline.org/articles/abu-musa-bu-musa (2006); “Tonb islands,” in Encyclopædia Iranica online edition at https://iranicaonline.org/articles/tonb (2005); “Caspian Sea ii. Diplomatic History in Modern Times,” in Encyclopaedia Iranica online edition at https://iranicaonline.org/articles/caspian-sea-ii-diplomatic-history-in-moderntimes (2004); “The Toponymy of the Tonb Islands,” in Iranian Studies, Vol. 29, Nos. 3- 4 (Summer/Fall, 1996); “The Status of Counterclaims under International Law, with Particular Reference to International Arbitration involving a Private Party and a Foreign State,” in 15 Denver Journal of International Law & Policy 11 (1986) (co-authored with Bradley Larschan); “An International Law of Weather Modification,” in Fletcher Forum: A Journal of Studies in International Affairs (Medford, Massachusetts: The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy), Vol. 2, No. 1 (January 1978).


Abbreviation of Commonly Cited Works


Chapter 1. Shah Abbas, the Great Trader

Chapter 2. The Qajars’ Torkamanchay Regime

Chapter 3. Reza Shah and the End of the Capitulations

Chapter 4. Mohammad Reza Shah’s Cost of Dependency

Chapter 5. Ayatollah Khomeini and Repeal of the Status Law




Login or Create Account