In this detailed political history of Iran from 1953, Ali Rahnema seeks to answer one question: How did the Shah become a modern despot?
Against the background of power plays made by the Shah and successive US administrations, Rahnema focuses on the internal tug of war between the Shah, his political opposition, and a nation in search of greater liberty. He shows how the legislature, the judiciary, the executive and the media were gradually brought under the firm control of the monarch.
While presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy both attempted to prevent the Shah from achieving absolute rule, eventually they were persuaded that his non-democratic regime was to their benefit. In the end, the Shah outlawed all opposition activities, and criminalised political ideas different from – let alone opposed to – his own. As Rahnema shows, the consequences of Iran’s turn to despotism would be far-reaching.