How the Shah paved the way for the clerics to come to power


How the Shah paved the way for the clerics to come to power

How the Shah paved the way for the clerics to come to power

Mahmoud Roghani (M. Raha)

Iran Amrouz site

Translated by Adel Hobh

The controversy between proponents of the republic and proponents of monarchy is drawing cyberspace and many outlets outside the country. Unfortunately, the new royalists are evading the Pahlavi era review. This is while the critical review of the past by the various opposition currents makes it easier for them to build bridges of trust and cooperation between them on the road to the transition from the republic of corruption and Islamic repression. Political forces of different leanings have played a role, to varying degrees, in helping Ayatollah Khomeini to ascend to power, which has been carefully addressed in my book entitled “The Rise and Fall of the Separation of Religion and State in Iran” 1. But the Shah’s role was crucial in this regard. This role alternated from the departure of Reza Shah from September 16, 1941 to the February Revolution in 1979, in three different stages, which I wrote about in two separate books.. 1-

   The return of the clergy to public activity and interference in politics

After the forced departure of Reza Shah from Iran, the Allies agreed, on the proposal of the British and with conditions, for Ibn Reza Shah to assume the post. He was told that his ruling would be “experimental” and that he should abandon his father’s plans and rule within the framework of the Iranian constitution. In this probation period, the young shah had to carry out large-scale reforms, the state restored the property and money of his father, which had been forcibly seized, and prevented his brothers from entering Iran. Realizing his precarious situation, the new shah undertook several reforms in health and educational institutions, including returning the lands that his father had seized to the state and returning it to its owners.

But one of his most important steps in order to preserve his throne is to draw close to the clergy and revisit the secular reforms that   Harardha Shah made in the early years of his reign, which would restore the lost power to the clergy. First of all, at the swearing-in ceremony, his speech contained an Islamic scent and propagated “Twelver Doctrine” as one of the Sultanate’s main functions. In this regard, a number of measures have been taken. Iftar is banned during the blessed month of Ramadan in public places and government offices. The governor of Khorasan was also expelled, as it was believed by clerics that during Reza Shah’s time he organized attacks and killed religious opponents in Mashhad. The ban on pilgrimages was lifted and measures were taken to improve religious schools.

This important approach raised hope among the clergy for a major shift in attitude towards religion. The Shah went to Mashhad for a raucous visit and promotional trips, and despite the opposition of the British embassy, ​​Ayatollah Qumi called for his  return from exile. Pollard, the British ambassador to Iran, reminded the shah that his father had made it very difficult to send the ayatollah into exile. But the young shah believed that the clergy were “at the heart of the monarchy” and envisioned the king as a buffer against communism and the secular republic. Therefore, the use of Islam by Muhammad Reza Shah and his followers to combat communism and Dr. Mosaddegh’s danger in strategic plans was of particular importance. The Shah preferred a rapprochement with Syed Zia and the British, relying on conservative clerics who feared the Tudeh’s relationship with the Soviet Union and the potential threat to communism, and were unhappy with the presence of Sadeq and the nationalization of oil. Mr. Dia became a person trusted and consulted by the Shah.

According to this strategy, Ayatollah Qumi, who had previously described Kesravi as an apostate, accepted the king’s invitation conveyed by Kesravi in ​​Najaf, and returned to Iran. Ayatollah Qomi urged Prime Minister Suhail to fulfill the commitments made by the Shah. In response, Suhaili addressed a letter to Ayatollah Qumi promising him the fulfillment of all his desires. Qumi Suhail first called for the abolition of the law banning the headscarf and the freedom of women to choose their clothes. Second, the management of the endowment property is returned to the clergy. Third, the closure of mixed schools, which were established during the reign of Reza Shah, and the raj of legal education at all academic levels Under the supervision of the clergy. The implementation of this request prevented the secularization of the textbooks of the reign of Reza Shah and the spread of religious ideas in education in the country. In this regard, mention may be made of the establishment of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Tehran. Kesrawi openly challenged the liquidation of Reza Shah’s secular moves by the governments that had followed the fall of Reza Shah that were implemented to satisfy the Shi’ite authority.

The young shah found he needed the clergy in the face of prime ministers as strong as the sultanate. In this regard, clerics have been called upon to intervene in politics and “deal with mighty rulers.” Within the steps of rapprochement with the clerics at that time, it is possible to mention the  visit of the Shah to Ayatollah Boroujerdi in a Tehran hospital, which received wide news coverage in government newspapers.

The religious authority was resorted to and used to fight  rivals when the British government decided that it needed a strong prime minister to confront Mossadegh and implement the annex to the Pax-Gul Shaian agreement 2 . In this regard, the Prime Minister of Razmara was imposed on the Shah, who at that time held the position of Chief of Staff of the Army and the Shah feared Razmara’s ability and considered it a danger to him. So he asked Ayatollah Kashani, who had been deported to Lebanon, and told him to return to the country. As soon as Kashani returned, he immediately and publicly declared his opposition to Razmara. In the end, Razmara was assassinated by a member of Fadayan Islam.

Of course, some believe that the king’s dependence on religion and his closeness to the clergy stemmed from his religious convictions. In fact, the Shah emphasized on several occasions the relationship with God and the imams in various situations and considered himself “guarded by them.” For example, in the incidents in Azerbaijan, he believed that he enjoyed  divine help and “spiritual resources”.  This conviction also had the effect of freeing the clergy to intervene in political affairs.

2- The increase in religious tendencies and the growth of the power of traditional clerics after the coup

Ayatollah Kashani, one of the leaders of political Islam in the twenties, announced three weeks after the coup   in an interview with an Egyptian journalist for Akhbar Al-Youm newspaper that he described Mosaddegh as a traitor. His country is dying. ”   Of course, Kashani’s support for the Shah did not lead to positive results. After being interrogated after the execution of four members of the Fedayeen al-Islam group on November 28, 1955, his involvement in the murder of Razmara was proven and he was arrested. At the request of Ayatollah Behbehani and Boroujerdi and the discussions in the council, Al-Kashani, Dr. Baqai and some of the other defendants in this case were released in January 1956, provided they did not leave the borders of the capital, Tehran. When Kashani was lying on his sick bed, the shah went to his house to visit him. Kashani died in March of 1962.

After the coup and the end of the boycott of Iranian oil purchases, oil revenues increased dramatically, and these revenues contributed to the formation of social classes. In this case, we could mention the growth of the traditional middle class, which includes the bazaars. Despite the economic modernization, the bazaar controlled “half of manual production, two thirds of retail sales, and three quarters of the wholesale sector.” The bazaar merchants and kassabs also preserved thousands of mosques, religious institutions, and religious groups. According to Ibrahimian researcher, “The boom in oil revenues provided an opportunity for the traditional middle class to secure funding for religious centers and establish their own high schools in which the importance of Islam was emphasized.” Thus, the oil economy provided the necessary infrastructure for the growth of political Islam.

In addition to the government’s economic policies, including the expansion of religious activities, communism became the focus of unification of the Shah and the clergy. The king was paranoid and paranoid due to the possibility of losing his crown and throne due to the alleged Soviet invasion or activity of left-wing forces in Iran, the political activity of the clergy and the possible victory of a communist government that “did not believe in God”   or even by secular nationalists. Therefore, the Shah deliberately supported the clerics from the first day of his rule, including the use of his social influence, the removal of his powerful rivals such as Razmara and the strength of the Sultanate and approved from the field of politics, and treated the clergy with tolerance and increased the influence of religion in the country. The increasing influence of religion after the Cold War was one of the most important factors in the fall of the Shah in the 1979 revolution.

After the coup d’état that took place on August 19, 1952 (28 Mordad 1332 in the Iranian Hijri calendar) that overthrew the rule of Dr. Mosaddegh, the Shah approached the traditional clerics in order to restore his legitimacy. First and foremost, the Shah turned his attention to the alliance of Ayatollah Boroujerdi-Behbehani. As it was the first telegram sent to the Shah  After I returned from Rome after his escape from Tehran, I was sent by Al-Bahbani in which she said, “Your return will cement the greatness of the country and the security of Muslims.” Behbehani actively participated in the overthrow of Mosaddegh’s government, and Kashani distributed CIA dollars between the opposition and the miserable. Kashani played a major role in this plot. In addition, Ayatollah Ahmad Aftabi, the son of Akhund Mullah Muhammad Kazem Khorasani, also known in Khorasan, joined the circle of supporters of the Shahenshahi regime. In 1953, Ayatollah Sayed Muhammad Ali Hussain al-Din al-Shahristani also traveled to Iran after the fall of Mossadegh from the Shah and the police and praised the role of the Shah and the police in the coup, reflecting the tacit approval of the coup government. The Shah traveled several times to Qom each month and met Borujerdi. This rapprochement aided the Shah in suppressing the Tudeh Party and Fedayeen Islam. Religious seminaries developed in  Qom and Mashhad during this period.

Given the Shah’s close relationship with traditional clerics, the ayatollahs took the opportunity to marginalize secularism in the public sphere as much as possible and enforce Islamic law. On a visit to Mashhad, Behbehani first called on the Shah’s government to close alcohol factories and prevent their consumption and circulation based on an agreement with the government of General Zahedi. In response, the Shah asked the ayatollah to plead with him on behalf of Imam Reza to help him run the country. In the case of alcoholic beverages, the Shah sent a letter to the government, ordering that a bill dealing with this be sent to Parliament. In the meantime  A number of clerics, including Ayatollah Khomeini, asked him during his meeting with the Shah to dismiss the Babis and Baha’is from government departments. Borujerdi also agreed to this request, but wanted it to be done gradually and without bloodshed. The Iranian government, wary of protest from international institutions, has been reluctant to formulate a bill in parliament to meet the demands of the clergy. Therefore, Asadullah Allam (Minister of the Court) promised to use the existing laws to prevent the Babis and Baha’is from activating their activities in the city of Shiraz. Ayatollah Borujerdi, in contact with the Shah, called for the expulsion of all Babylonians and Bahais from the country.

The Shah’s cooperation with traditional clerics had progressed well by 1959, modeled on the cooperation of Reza Shah Sr. with Ayatollah Haeri that brought results for both sides. In 1954, some mujtahids who participated in Ashura ceremonies were prohibited from practicing beatings with qamas and chains, which removed the Shah’s fears from the reactions of foreign newspapers to the consequences of practicing religious rituals in the country. In return, the government took the following measures to preserve the approval of the clergy:

  • In June 1954 , A mosque was built at the University of Tehran.
  • The government accepted the imposition of a share of religion in the school curriculum.
  • Baha’i spread during the month of Ramadan 1954 The headquarters of the Babis and Baha’is in Tehran were destroyed.
  • in a year 1954, It was announced  that the government would establish a religious high school for students to study at the Faculty of Theology.
  • In the same year, the government announced the addition of religious education to its fifth and sixth grade program.
  • In July 1954, all liquor stores were closed during the first 15 days of Muharram.
  • The opinion of the Shah coincided with that of Ayatollah Boroujerdi regarding the appointment  of Majlis deputies. At least the Shah tried to determine the representatives of Qom, Borujerd, Arak, and perhaps Khorramabad and their positions, according to the opinion of Ayatollah Boroujerdi, although not officially and explicitly. For example, Ayatollah Boroujerdi sent a message to the shah or to the government that it was he who chose this person and who should be elected.
  • Boroujerdi was able, under the protection of the Shah, to change the cultural climate in the city of Qom, this city that previously witnessed the establishment of the first secular Rushdia school during the reign of Reza Shah. . The city turned into the center of religious activities with the support of the central government.
  • Between 1963 and 1963, clerics were active against interfering in politics, mosques and schools. During this time, the number of madrasa students increased dramatically, from 3,200 students in 1953 to 5,000 in 1958. In Mashhad, we also saw a significant increase in religious institutions during the thirty and forty years. Haji Mirza Ahmad Babai Hidayat had 15 religious schools. He also formed 260 religious committees to confront the possible occupation of the Soviet Union in this province.
  • The solidarity between the clerics and the Shah during the Cold War became more evident with the government of Abdul Karim Qasim taking power in Iraq, as the government encouraged the activities of the Iraqi Communist Party in the years 1958-1959, which raised the fears of Iraqi clerics, which raised tension between them and the government. Ayatollah Muhammad Kashif al-Ghafa, a resident of Najaf, declared his hostility to communism in a fatwa he issued at the time. The Shah’s government welcomed this fatwa because the activities of the Iraqi Communist Party could have contributed to the expansion of the Tudeh Party’s activities in Iran.
  • Abbas Milani believes that in 1958, General Karni,   commander of the second pillar of the army, was arrested on charges of the coup, and the investigation revealed his relationship with some clerics. And the Shah decided to exile some of them. This angered Ayatollah Boroujerdi and threatened to leave the country if the clerics were deported. The Shah reversed his decision.

It can be said that the   Shah was one of the most important factors behind the Islamic Revolution. Despotism, narcissism, participation in the Cold War, incontinent corruption, the deep gap between the city and the countryside, and most importantly, the suppression of opposition to the cause that   paved the ground for the growth and victory of fundamentalist political Islam. The SAVAK was mainly formed to combat communism and to counter the possible influence of the Soviet Union in Iran, and it put into effect the Anti-Communism Law promulgated in 1921 during the reign of Reza Shah, this law that prohibited socialist activity and the overthrow of the monarchy. In this way, all the efforts made by the security establishment were concentrated on eliminating the left, suppressing liberal forces and secular democrats opposed to royal tyranny and calling for the implementation of the articles of the constitution and the reduction of the Shah’s powers that went outside the limits of the law. All this took place despite the fact that religious propaganda activities were completely free and tolerant.

The influence of the clergy increased in the 1960s

In his memoirs, Shahpour Bakhtiar writes:

 The Shah paved the way for Khomeini in various ways. Part of the active forces of the nation, which closed all roads in front of them, resorted to the religious establishment, given that any gathering of opponents was prohibited. The gate of the patriots was closed while the gate of religion was open. The Americans were not worried about that because they believed that religion is safe and that young people can express their feelings in that square!

For example, at a time when activists, liberal dissidents, secular democrats, and leftists were subjected to brutal repression in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s,  enthusiastic lectures by Ali Shariati, who was considered one of the flags of  “religious modernity” and other Shiite clerics, were freely held at Hosseinieh Al-Irshad. Given the ban on printing and possessing Marxist books in the country, Shariati sought to “condemn Marxism” and promote Islamic socialism to prevent students and alumni from being aligned with leftist groups. Those who became supporters of this trend later became staunch supporters of the Islamic revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.

With the outbreak of the Cold War in the second half of the forties of the twentieth century, we witnessed the growth of religious tendencies in many parts of the world that were directed to confront the Soviet Union. In Iran  , religion was also used as a deterrent against communism. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, the shah responded positively to the demands of traditional clerics and helped Islamize the country. After the death of Ayatollah Boroujerdi and the start of modernization programs  announced by the Shah, the religious activities of religious groups were tolerated on the condition that the absolute authority of the Shah was not challenged. Regardless of religious tendencies, people with radical religious tendencies were welcomed, and they were done The recruitment of a guard in the Shahenshahi Guard of extremist religious tendencies, who later initiated an attempt to assassinate the Shah in 1964. In light of the relative freedom granted to religious activities, the scope of religious currents expanded in the 1960s to reach about 50 religious currents, which practiced their activities especially in the fields Cultural and social. Research conducted in the 1970s by Iranian state television under the title “insight” clearly demonstrated the growth of these trends in society in the form of statistics and field surveys. Here are some data from this research:

In 1974, the number of religious books published reached its highest levels, while the number of religious books published in the years 1952-1955 only ranked fourth. In 1972 he published no less than 490,000 copies of “The Keys to Jinan” by Sheikh Abbas Qumi. In the same year, in Tehran and Qom, 400,000 letters of religious references were published in Qom,  while the average distribution of non-religious books in this year did not exceed 3000 copies. In 1975, Office of Islam magazine published  60,000 copies per month, and if financial and technical resources were available for the magazine, the volume of circulation might reach 200,000 copies per month.

Between 1961 and 1965, the number of mosques in Tehran  increased to 14 times,  from 293 to 1,140. According to the survey conducted in 1965, the number of mosques in the countryside reached 48,900. More than 70 percent of people surveyed attended mosque in the 1970s.

The activities of religious charities increased dramatically in the early 1970s. According to “prospective” research data, over the past five years, 21 Islamic banks (the Good Loan Fund) were established in Tehran, which provided interest-free loans to the poor.

Asadullah Alam, the minister of court and a close associate of the shah in the seventies of the last century, notes that “dozens of girls wearing the chador appeared at the University of Shiraz,” adding that “some educated girls do not shake hands with the university president, as this is forbidden according to Sharia “. This is while the Shah announced in a press interview that there is no cleric in Iran ?? “The Minister of the Court taught the Shah” that the spirituality of the cleric … is exploited by Islamic Marxists. “

Ayatollah Khomeini and the fundamentalist alternative

The name of Ayatollah Khomeini was echoed by the Iranians hearing his opposition to the draft law on regional and local councils, which was not known before. The courage and boldness of this cleric in opposing the bill, despite its reactionary and backward starting point, raised his popularity especially among the seminary and some bazarians, and sparked the traditional clergy’s protests against the law. The Shah’s retreat and knowledge of this law increased the reputation and audacity of this man. Ayatollah Khomeini’s stern opposition to the shah’s authoritarian rule and against the six articles of the White Revolution gradually attracted the forces of national Islamists alongside the Ayatollah, which considered the Shah’s imperial reforms “one of the foreign policy demands and imperialist orders to tighten the military war.”

With J. Kennedy coming to power in America, the policy to confront communism changed in Iran. According to new Cold War architects, the formation of a government of liberals and the implementation of economic and social reforms could be more effective in countering Soviet influence in Iran. The Shah’s reforms, which began with the help of the Amini government, were an important step towards liberation from the underdevelopment of the country and breaking the barrier created by traditions and clerics opposed to social change and the elimination of discrimination against women and religious minorities, but it was not welcomed by Iranian public opinion and was described as a colonial game.

The ayatollah’s exile from the country in 1964, which lasted until 1978, provided him with the opportunity to speak out and make statements without fear of a security attack by SAVAC agents. This opportunity was not available to the liberals, the secular democrats, the nationalist Islamists, or even the moderate clerics. The continuation of Khomeini’s relationship with his supporters enabled him to spread his prayers to him and provided his followers with the opportunity  to publish his political positions through recordings and pamphlets distributed to  followers and mosques who enjoyed freedom of religious activity. During this period Khomeini was in contact with first-row figures in the freedom movement (Rising Azadi), including engineer Mehdi Bazerkan. But, as events later revealed, Ayatollah Khomeini pursued his ideological goals.

Despite his absence from Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini was among those with the most financial resources in the 1970s, and with the help of bazaar merchants who were not opposed to the rule, they ran a huge financial network in Iran. As a result, the revolutionary clergy benefited more financially than other clerics.

Ayatollah Khomeini’s stay in Najaf enabled him to communicate with Islamic student societies in North America, which was one of the axes in the struggle against the Shah. The measures taken by the Shah such as changing the country’s calendar from the solar hijri to the beginning of the imperial era in Iran, cutting the state-funded grant from the government of Asadullah Alam, and the high costs of the celebrations of Emperor Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi marking the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire and the crowning of the Shah, and the celebration With the Shiraz Festival, which was in stark contrast to the culture of traditional Iranian society, it provided Ayatollah Khomeini with all  pretexts and new ammunition to mobilize religious scholars and opponents against the Shah’s regime, especially the urban poor, and pointed his arrows at the pillars of the Pahlavi throne and presented himself as the leader of the opposition.

The threats against the Ayatollah Khomeini, which were planned by the Department of Religious Endowments,   undoubtedly helped  make the ayatollah more famous among opponents of the regime and religious forces. On August 6, 1972, the head of the Endowments Department addressed a letter to Prime Minister Abbas Howayda that included a project aimed at limiting Khomeini’s influence. One of the aims of the plan was to link the ayatollah to the Ba’athist regime in Iraq, and he entrusted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and SAVAK to implement the plan. Another attempt was made to discredit the Ayatollah Khomeini among religious references and portray Khomeini as acting against Iran’s interests and serving the interests of foreign governments. The plan warned the religious authorities that no force like the clergy could stand against the regime’s strategies. The plan also called on clerics in the countryside to declare their positions against Ayatollah Khomeini.

In the second half of the seventies, with the outbreak of the wave of protests by intellectuals and secularists against the dictatorship of the Shah, an insulting article against Khomeini was published in the newspaper Etlaat in 1978, which sparked an uprising led by fundamentalist Islamists in the city of Tabriz. After some were killed in this city, the protests by the religious opposition against the Shah began with demonstrations and clashes with the security forces in major cities, which lasted at least forty days. Thus, protests by secular forces that had begun organizing poetry evenings were marginalized, and Ayatollah Khomeini gradually took over the leadership of the protests..

The Shah lost his golden opportunity to solve the crisis after he relied on corrupt statesmen and generals who admitted before Asad Allah aware of their inefficiency in managing the country’s affairs. I believe that if the Shah had taken the initiative at the beginning of 1978 and   at the beginning of the tense political atmosphere to form a national government of people of good reputation that would be acceptable to the middle classes and academics and give up his extraordinary powers, then there is no doubt that Iranian history will take place in           Another path away from the dark tunnel that the country has gone through over the past decades. Surprisingly, even the military government headed by Azhari lacked the ability to control the fundamentalist leaders of local political Islam. Usually the home of Dr. Beheshti (a follower of the ayatollah inside the country) was surrounded by military forces, but citizens were allowed to go home. Doctor Beheshti recorded Ayatollah Khomeini’s orders and statements at his home and presented them to the visitors, who were distributing them immediately in the mosques.

Khomeini also continued to work in Paris on deceiving the people, and used every opportunity to talk about the “Islamic utopia”, in which everyone enjoys freedom and in which women and men are equal. Finally, during Ibrahim Yazdi’s meeting with the representative of US President Jimmy Carter, the Americans expressed the necessity of continuing oil exports and their concern about the slogan of exporting the revolution and not taking measures to deter the Communists. In return, Abraham Yazdi demanded to stand against the coup attempts being planned by the Imperial army. Inside, audiences at home were happy to see the image of the ayatollah on the moon, and it was described as a harbinger of Khomeini’s return to the country.

In the last months of his rule, the Shah was afflicted with cancer, and it is possible that he was expecting the collapse of the monarchy. He was forced to accept Dr. Shahpour’s choice to form his government and decided to leave the country. Bakhtiar presented his belated government to the king 37 days before the victory of the revolution. It was not his  Only “one or two percent” chance of success, in order to overcome the blind frenzy that threatened the Iranian nation. Bachtiar believed that “Iran’s presence” was in danger and risked his personal life and political future as a result of accepting this mission. The Bakhtiar administration’s program included dissolving the Savak, releasing all political prisoners, launching freedom of the press and peaceful assembly, holding free elections, fighting corruption, and establishing “national democratic rules based on socialism,” trends that are identical to the democratic notifications of the secular movement. In a statement to Agence France-Presse, Shahpour Bakhtiar pointed out that “the Shah violated the constitution for many years, and we now have to prove what we have lost for decades with democratic content .”

Perhaps Bakhtiar was the only one in that difficult historical period in the country, who boldly revealed the goals of Ayatollah Khomeini in a dialogue with foreign and local correspondents, where he declared: “… I have fought for democracy all my life, and I will not compromise on those goals, not with Aya God is Khomeini and not with anyone else. And if Khomeini wants to establish a government in Qom, we will allow him to do so and it will be a wonderful thing. We will have a very small Vatican in our country. Nobody knows what the Islamic Republic is, and if we review the past, we will have chills from this system. It is not. He accepts political pluralism and not democracy. He wants clerics to implement divine law. Everything starts here and ends here. “Unfortunately, his words were not heard, but history has confirmed the validity of Shahpour Bakhtiar’s predictions.

1 – In the book “The Rise and Fall of the Separation of Religion and the State, From the Reign of Ismail Al-Safawi to the Absolute Wilayat of the Faqih”, the procedures of the Shah and other political organizations in support of the Islamists were discussed in detail.

2 The P-Golshaian Agreement was concluded in 1949 with an annex on oil, and it was signed by Abbas Qali Golshaian, the Iranian Finance Minister,   and Sir Noel P, the representative of the Iran and England Oil Company, which aroused Iranian public opinion and was a factor in the public opinion’s demand for the nationalization of Iranian oil, which was investigated by Dr. Muhammad Mosaddegh. 

Editor note: The opinion of the writer is not necessary the opinion of the site and its editors.

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