Reza Shah, whose sympathies leaned toward the Nazis at the start of World War II, was forced to abdicate to his son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (1919-1980), in 1941 by Britain and the Soviet Union, which had established a presence in the country in order to block Nazi influence in the region.Some see the first episode of the Cold War in the Soviets' refusal to remove their troops from Iran until forced to do so by the United States and the newly formed United Nations in 1946.Prior to 1900, the destination of all those leaving the Ottoman Empire was officially Egypt, as the West was considered off-limits; upon arrival in the United States, these immigrants were indiscriminately labeled "Arabs." After 1900, when the popular term became "Syrians," and as late as 1930, all Middle Eastern immigrants were both officially and unofficially designated as Syrians.
Most of the population (98 percent) is Muslim, and fully 93 percent are members of the Shi'i sect.
Among Shi'i leadership, this attitude evolved into "a quietist stance," according to David Pinault, which entailed "silent opposition to worldly powers, coupled with spiritual authority among a persecuted and excluded minority." Pinault noted that when the Shi'i leadership took political power in 1979, it was able to tap into the traditional Shi'i stance by "portraying the Iranian nation as a righteous minority menaced by powerful external enemies who seek to deprive it of its proper place in the world." A similarity may be found in Hoffman's description of the attitude of the Iranian high school students in Los Angeles in particular.