The CIA’s forecast about the Iranian Revolution – and the revolution prediction tool

This is valuable material not just for students of history, but for those seeking useful tools to understand today’s rapidly changing world.

(a)  The Dionysian Rites of Henry Kissinger’s CIA and the Iranian Revolution of 2010“, Marla Singer and Geoffrey Batt, The Journal of Irreverent Attacks on Conventional Wisdom, Entrenched Dogma and Sacred Cows, January 2010 — “A Modern Examination of Central Intelligence Agency ‘Warnings of Revolution’ Tools c. 1980, Case Study: Present-Day Iran” — Abstract:

Failing to foresee the Iranian Revolution of 1979 is, rightly or wrongly, often cited as one of the most significant and dramatic of Western intelligence failures. After enduring a superlatively ignominious electoral defeat in the history of the United States (Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter with 89.7% of votes in the Electoral College in 1980) and in what may have been the record holder for rapidly published post-presidential memoirs up to that point, Jimmy Carter’s 1982 book Keeping the Faith: Memoirs of a President pointed an accusing finger at the Intelligence Community’s Iranian performance. His recollections lamented the work of the Central Intelligence Agency in particular, citing an analyst report on Iran from August of 1978 indicating that the country “…is not in a revolutionary or even a pre-revolutionary situation.” By January of 1979 the Shah had fled.

As might be imagined, what followed was a full court press, prompted by constant policy-maker pressure as well as the personal intervention of Henry Kissinger, who was badly embarrassed by the failure, to develop an organic revolution early warning system capability within the various appendages of United States intelligence. We review one such system outlined in the Central Intelligence Agency report “Warnings of Revolution,” dated March 1980 and apply the methodology to present-day Iran. We find generally that the methodology’s results are consistent with a finding of probable revolution (as it is defined in the report) in present-day Iran.

(b)  “Warnings of Revolution”, Robert Hopkins, Center for Study of Intelligence, CIA, March 1980.  Page 8 shows a graphic from “Comparative Revolutionary Climate — events and their impact”. It’s known as “Robert’s Rings” — a do-it-yourself intelligence tool!

“The chart shows the degree to which instability is caused by economic problems, social ferment, government repression, or political intrigue. It pinpoints specific events and their impact as revolutionary indicators. When two time periods are plotted it becomes immediately evident whether the revolution is more or less imminent and which sector is aggravating the public tranquility the most.”

2 thoughts on “The CIA’s forecast about the Iranian Revolution – and the revolution prediction tool”

  1. @FM-
    You may have a form error here. The link titled “Pg 11 is a graphic of Compartive Revolutionary Climate — events and their impact” is the exact same link as “Warnings of the Revolution”. Nither link has an eleventh page.
    FM reply: Fixed! Thanks for catching this!


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