MIRJALĀLI, MAḤMUD (b. Tehran, 14 Šaʿbān 1316/28 January 1898; d. Tehran, 20 Rajab 1403/3 May 1983, FIGURE 1), Major General, a leading military figure who served as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, vice minister of defense, a senator for five sessions of parliament from 1960 to 1975, and instructor at the Tehran Military Academy (Dāneškada-ye afsari) and National War University (Dānešgāh-e jang; see Iran Who’s Who 1976, p. 326).

After completing his elementary education at traditional schools and modern secondary schools, Mirjalāli continued his education at the Mošir-al-Dawla Military School (Madrasa-ye neẓām-e Mošir-al-Dawla), which was founded by the reformist prime minister and defense minister, Mirzā Ḥasan Khan Mošir-al-Dawla, in 1917.  Mirjalāli was among the first group of students who graduated in 1920 with the rank of second lieutenant (Biglari, pp. 10-11; Golšāʾiān, I, pp. 32-33).

After serving in the Central Brigade (Berigād-e markazi) of Tehran for over three years and promotion to the rank of first lieutenant, Mirjalāli was sent to France on 3 June 1923 along with a group of 46 officers for further education in military affairs under the supervision of Major General Amān-Allāh Mirzā Jahānbāni (for the list of officers and a collective photograph; see Jahānbāni, p. 276).  This first group of Iran’s military officers, who were sent to France as a part of Reżā Khan Sardār Sepah’s (later Reza Shah) overall plan for the establishment of a modern national armed forces in Iran, included a number of prominent officers, such as Ḥājj-ʿAli Razmārā (later lieutenant-general and the chief of staff of the armed forces, and prime minister), ʿAbd-Allāh Hedāyat (later the first four-star general in Iran’s armed forces and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (raʾis-e setād-e bozorg-arteštārān farmāndeh; see Alamuti, p. 132; ʿĀqeli, I, 1995, p. 177; idem, 2001, III, p. 1583). Most members of this first group of officers, including Mirjalāli, became instrumental in the development of Iran’s modern army following the French model (Sheikh-ol-Islami, pp. 508-14).

After successfully completing a required course in advanced mathematics, Mirjalāli continued his higher education at a military academy in the Paris metropolitan area (École spéciale militaire de Fontainebleau), specializing in field-artillery operation. Upon his return to Iran in 1926, he joined the field-artillery unit of the army.  He soon became one of the main instructors of courses in field-artillery at the Military Academy, teaching new methods of neutralizing or suppressing the enemy by cannon as well as the tactics, techniques, and procedures for the employment of fire support systems.  At the time of his promotion to the rank of colonel in the mid 1930s, he took advanced courses for military commanders in the National War University taught by a group of French instructors in 1937-38 (Biglari, p. 117).  In the late 1930s he became commander of the Mechanized Brigade (Tipp-e zerehi), and in 1940, after his promotion by Reżā Shah to the rank of brigadier general (sartipp), he was elevated to the position of commander of the Mechanized Division (Laškar-e zerehi; ʿĀqeli, 1995, I, pp. 291, 319; idem, 2001, III, p. 1583). 

On 22 June 1942 he was appointed commander of the Khorasan army division and in 1943 as technical-vice minister of Commerce, Industries and Crafts (Wezārat-e bāzargāni o piša o honar).  From 1944 to 1947, during the occupation of Iran by allied forces in World War II and thereafter, he served as the chief of military industries (Tasliḥāt-e arteš, later Ṣanāyeʿ-e neẓāmi; ʿĀqeli, 1995, I, p. 347; idem, 2001, III, p. 1583; Qadimi, pp. 7, 173).  On 22 March 1947, he was promoted to the rank of major-general, and later he served as vice-minister of defense for a few years until 1951 (Qašqāʾi, p. 130; ʿĀqeli, 1995, I, pp. 403, 444).  He also served as the deputy minister of war (moʿāwen-e wazir-e jang) during the short-lived government of Ḥosayn ʿAlāʾ in March 1951 (Šajiʿi, III, p. 256).  On 3 August 1951, when British naval forces threatened to land troops in Abadan under the pretext of securing Iranian oil fields and protecting the British employees of the nationalized oil industries, the prime minister Moḥammad Moṣaddeq gave Mirjalāli, then the commander of the Khuzestan Province Army Division, a special mission to monitor and report any movements of the British forces in full alert (Woṯuq, pp. 96-97; Iran Who’s Who 1976, p. 326).  He also served as head of the Iranian military mission in France and Belgium in 1949-51. In the mid-1950s, when Iran’s armed forces were reorganized and patterned along the lines of the American military, the position of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was adopted in the Iranian armed forces. General Hedāyat was appointed as its first chairman, with Mirjalāli as the vice chair (ʿĀqeli, 1995, II, p. 56; Sheikh-ol-Islami, pp. 508-14).

After his retirement from the armed forces in 1957, Mirjalāli began serving as an elected senator from Kerman in the fourth session of the Senate (Majles-e senā) in 1960, which was formed at the beginning of Moḥammad-Reżā Shah’s White Revolution (Enqelāb-e safid) with land reform as its centerpiece as well as provisions for women’s right to vote and serve as members of the parliament.  This session of both the Senate and the National Consultative Assembly (Majles-e šurā-ye melli) was, for the first time, formed with the attendance of a number of women.  Mirjalāli continued to serve as an elected senator from Kerman in the fifth and the sixth sessions (1967-75).  He served as a member of the Senate Directorate (Hayʾat-e raʾisa) in all its parliamentary sessions (ejlāsia) from 1963 to 1975 (Qahremāni, pp. 370-96; ʿĀqeli, 2001, III, p. 1583; see also ELECTIONS i. UNDER THE QAJAR AND PAHLAVI MONARCHIES, 1906-79).

When the Honor Society of the Royal Order of Scotland was established in Iran with a number of high-ranking political, military, and economic elites in 1970, Maḥmud Human, the well-known professor of philosophy, was elected as its grand master (bozorg farmānravā) with Mirjalāli as its vice-grand master (Ḥaqqāni, pp. 88-89, 91; Ẓohur wa soquṭ-e salṭanat-e Pahlavi II, pp. 413, 415).

Mirjalali’s interests included Persian and French literature, with which he was well-acquainted. He used the period after his retirement to immerse himself more comprehensively in literature and Persian poetry.  A well-disciplined and considerate man, Mirjalāli was always mindful of the needs and feelings of others, and was revered for his honesty and personal integrity by his colleagues in the armed forces and in parliament as well as in the society at large (ʿĀqeli, 2001, III, p. 1583; personal interviews with a number of Mirjalāli’s acquaintances).


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(Ahmad Ashraf)

Cite this article:

Ahmad Ashraf, “MIRJALĀLI, MAḤMUD,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2017, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/mirjalali-mahmud (accessed on 16 August 2017).