The King and Us

Why a biography of the Shah now?


The King and Us
by Abbas Milani

Publishers Weekly on The Shah a biography by Abbas Milani: Over the course of almost 40 years, Mohammad Reza Shah was a colossus in Iran, the one constant in a swirl of changing loyalties, political fortunes, and pressures both domestic and international; by the end of his reign, virtually no state decision could be taken, save by him. But as this biography reveals, this accumulation of authority was more a function of the Shah's lifelong distrust of all around him than it was any indication of skill in governing, or of genuine control. Milani paints a richly detailed picture of a complex man plagued by demons and paranoia (much of it well-founded), at once insecure and megalomaniacal. Yet the thicket of biographical detail can leaves the reader longing for more analysis.

EXTRACT (from pgs v-vi and 3-4)

Why a biography of the Shah now? There have been at least a dozen books on his life. Most have been “commissioned,” written to lionize or demonize him. Even those that were dedicated to finding and reporting the truths of his life were stymied by the fact that much remained hidden in still-classified documents, mired in adulating or acrimonious whispers, or marred by conspiracy theories concocted by his friends and his foes, or by himself.

He was one of the pivotal figures of the second half of the twentieth century, and certainly one of the most tragic. The passion and pathos of his thirty-seven-year tenure on the Peacock Throne first turned Iran into one of the fastest-industrializing authoritarian countries in the world, comparable to Taiwan, South Korea, and Turkey. But the pathologies of his rule ultimately begot a revolution that turned the country into a center of Islamic radicalism.

The Cold War began in Iran when the Shah was but a novice king, and his fall more than three decades later heralded the beginning of its end. The failure to predict his fall must be considered one of the great intelligence failures of the twentieth century. The aftershocks of his fall in 1979 continue to be felt not just in Iran but in the Middle East and the rest of the world. Understanding his life, and mapping out the contours of his fall, are possible only now, when thousands of pages of hitherto classified documents in British, American, and Iranian archives have been made public.

In fact, a new look at the Shah’s life, free from the excesses of his overzealous defenders and detractors, is now not only possible but more than ever necessary.

The revolution that overthrew him in 1979 was democratic in its nature and demands. Sadly, it begot a regime more despotic than the Shah’s own modernizing authoritarianism. The continuous tumult in Iranian politics over the last three decades is rooted in the fact that the democratic dreams and aspirations of that revolution were aborted and remain unrealized. Understanding the forces that overthrew the Shah, then, helps us understand the dynamics of Iran’s current democratic movement. Like all histories, this one is as much about the future as it is about the past.

Some of the Shah’s supporters today praise his demeanor in the heady days of revolutionary upheaval as consistent with his stoic devotion to nonviolence and his respect for human life; he could have easily retained his power, they argue, had he been willing to shed blood and use the full force of his mighty military. The Shah championed this argument himself when, in his last book, Answer to History, he wrote, “A sovereign may not save his throne by shedding his countryman’s blood.”10 But this was, at best, only one of the many reasons for his stoic behavior. With the onset of the crisis, the Shah lost his resolve. The man who only months earlier had taunted the West as lazy and dismissed democracy as only befitting the blue- eyed world; the King who had previously stood up to pressures from U.S. presidents—including Richard Nixon, with whom he had a particularly close relationship—to reduce the price of oil was suddenly unable to make any decisions without prior consultation with the British and American ambassadors. Adding to the Shah’s distress was the fact that these ambassadors had made it clear that their governments would not support a military crackdown against the opposition.

Some of the Shah’s supporters conceded that, in his last months of rule, he suffered from inaction, even vacillation, but they attribute it all to the debilitating side effects of the drugs he had been taking for his lymphoma. They conveniently overlook a long history that underscored, long before the beginning of the new wave of protests, the Shah’s inability to withstand pressure and his storied indecisiveness in times of crisis. For the Shah, character was destiny, and many of his weaknesses as a leader were his virtues as a human being. In 1978 the cancer that ate away at his body and the side effects of the drugs he took to battle it only reinforced behavior patterns that were in fact rooted more in his personality than in any of his physician’s prescriptions.

The Shah is available at major bookstores and


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Singn of Maturity and growing up

by siavash1000 on

"Siavash1000, you haven't grown up at all. You are still koochooloo!!" norouz

The fact that I mentioned frequently "monarchy is only solution for  prosperity and success of our country" is the result of being grown up and singn of maturity.  I am surprised that you can't see it my friend. Over the years I became convienced that Shah is the symbol of our unity and strength. Our history has been intimated with monarchy and kingdom (Shahanshahi)  for over 5000 years. That has been the wish of our ancestors and we have to respect that wish. Crown Reza Pahlavi is the only way we get ahead and modernize our country as we were during shah days. We will gain our respect once again when monarchy re-establish. I was not thinking this way when I was being deceived by these stinky rag head Islamic thugs back in 1979. Are you able to see how I was being improved? why don't you grow up? I am sure you will be able to do so if you are not on payroll by these bastards who unlawfully occupied our Aryan Land for last 31 years.  



by norooz on

The subject here is Shah and the even involves Shah, that is what shoushtari asked and I answered.

You didn't answer the question. Why firemen and policemen didn't cut the chain for about 30 minuted and let people burn? 

You wrote, Years later we learned that was mullah's trick.

How did you learned and what proof do you have?

You also wrote. when you were koochooloo, you were laying down in front of the university and the bullets were flying over your head and you were almost killed.  Well, you just admitted that people were getting shot at and many were killed by Shah. You were a lucky one who didn't. That is what i was saying.  These are not something that can be denied.  You can lie about Dr. Mosaddegh and some people might fall for your lies because they haven't seen it, but we have witnessed these events. Siavash1000, you haven't grown up at all. You are still koochooloo!!!

maziar 58


by maziar 58 on

va namak shenas .

norooz = shab ast.

MOKBA 1917 also claims similar that since it happened more than 30 yrs. ago......

So what should be done ? Nothing ?          Maziar


بابا شاه تمام شد و رفت، ۳۰ سال قبل!


حالا شما هنوز نشستید اینجا تو سر و کله همدیگه میزنید، گوش میدید و جر او‌ بحث می‌کنید با یک نفر که ادعا میکنه "کمونیست دو آتش هست" ، یا با یکی‌ دو تا جوجه بسیجی سر اون خود بیامرز و سینما رکس. در ضمن این مادر جنده‌های اسلامی، جلوی چشم دنیا بهترین جوانان ایران رو دارن قتل عام. می‌کنن. متوجه نمیشید که این "کمونیست" و بردار بسیجیش دارن سر شما رو گرم می‌کنن وقتی‌ که داره رژیم اسلامی ملت رو لات او‌ پار میکنه؟ 


The Case of Cinema Rex

by divaneh on

I still remember the horror of the day that I woke up to the wailing cries of our neighbours who had lost their son in the burning of the cinema Rex. Cinema Rex was famous in Abadan for soft porn films but that evening it was screening the Gavaznha by Masoud Kimiaie. Abadan had not taken part in revolution. People of Abadan are generally not religious, and they enjoyed a relative comfort. There was nothing to make them rise. After the incident many thought it was the Akhonds who did it. Later after the revolution there was a public trial which was televised (at least in Abadan) and the main suspect Takializade who was a young man confessed that he was influenced by religious figures and that his co-defenders also had religious tendencies and no relation to Savak. The public trial was only carried out after months of sit-in in Shahrbani by the relatives of the victims.

Most victims (if not all) were young men due to the reputation of the cinema Rex, and the fact that it was the late show. They died from suffocation, inhaling the dangerous fumes from burning plastics, and probably a stampede. The doors opened inward and when they finally opened the door found the victims piles up in front of the doors. That was probably why it was almost impossible to open the door after the chain was cut.

The Molas' despicable crime started the unrest in Abadan where people demanded a public enquiry, which later resulted in strike by oil workers.

Now Norooz, be quiet and go wash your mouth.


"monkey who introduce himself as an Iran president "-Cinema Rex

by comrade on

Next time we go Brad Pitt, for sure. But in the meantime we should remind our mind's selective memory that Big Revolution of '79 had many decades in the popular making before screening. 

Never increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything.



Cinema Rex Abadan

by siavash1000 on

It was a hot summer night in 1978 as I was driving from the city of Rasht toward Tehran. The breeze of Caspian sea touching my cheeks creating sense of joy and happiness. All of the sudden I heard the shocking news from state radio about Cinema Rex in Abadan. The news was about 500 children and families were burned to the ashes inside cinema. Some people set the fire and locked the doors so no one could escape. People inside turned to the ashes in 2 hours. The first thing came to my mind  "Who did it"? Just few days after incident rumors spread around Tehran that was Shah and his secret police S.A.V.A.K  planed it. Mullahs propaganda machine was working 24/7 sending flyers all over blaming shah for that horoble crime saying shah wanted to make oppositions look bad so he burned Cinema by his secret police S.A.V.A.K. I was incensed at shah. Kayhan news papers published picture of the families who were outraged and angry at shah at it's front page. Cinema Rex fuel the flame of the revolution and brought thousand and thousand people to the streets. it was outrages and tramatic experience that shocked our nation in those days.  I decided to fight with shah's regime till the end so I took an active part in the revolution. One day, I was laying down on the ground in front of the Tehran university once the shah's army bullets contstandly travelling over my head. I was like a frozen corpse. I stil have flash back from that day. I was about to get killed.

Years later we learned that was mullah's trick. They mater minded the plan and blamed it on Shah.  I  was also a victim of mullah's propaganda and I was about to lose my life for that. What a big mistake our nation did. The whole revolution was hoax and deceptive.

Just few months ago while that monkey who introduce himself as an Iran president had a speech in U.N and blaming U.S for master minding 9/11 I started to laugh. The same trick they used 32 years ago to defeat shah's gov. Now, they are using for American people. Back then it was cinema rex in Abadan, now it is twin tower in New York. Back then they killed about 500 innocent people, now they killed thousands. But one difference,  Back then audiances was Kocholoo Siavash,  Now audiances are westerners.  It worked back then and I was naively betrayed. But this time the audiance is not Koochooloo siavash. they are westerners. Much smarter than koochooloo siavash and they won't buy those garbages.




by shushtari on

I feel for you my brainwashed basiji!

after all these years, you must be the only person left who believes savak burned down cinema rex !

 read my avatar, genius!   I'm from khuzestan....and I WAS THERE IN 1978!   it is you who has no clue of what is going on in iran....or, wait, you do-  that's what they are paying you for to write this stuff, isn't it?

why would they do such a thing!!!

READING BACHE AKHOOND COMMENTS like your's makes is very fun!!!

keep yapping some more 



by norooz on

You are not a Pahlavi lover? You haven't read my comments before? You are a liar! 

You don't think what i wrote happened?   That just tells me you were not there and are not aware of what was going on in Iran. 

Shah wasn't a very smart man, but he had an ounce of brain. He knew killing Khomeini would make things worse. 

You wrote, I bet you're going to claim savak burned those poor 400 souls in abadan also!

We have discussed this before. What do you think happened? Do you think in 1978 when Shah was in power Khomeini supporters locked the doors to cinema REX and then stood in front of the doors for 30 minutes and didn't let the firemen and police cut the chains to get people out?   It took the police and firemen 20 minutes to get to cinema REX from a distance of a block or two.  

I really like reading you Pahlavi lovers comments.  Please write more!



by shushtari on

I have never read your comments before, but it seems that you, yourself, are quite biased in favor of the mullahs.

the propaganda 'figures' of soldiers slaughtering people on the streets, is the same ol' load of you know what that ain't gonna fly anymore- I bet you're going to claim savak burned those poor 400 souls in abadan also!

I am not a 'pahlavi lover' as u claim.....but if the shah was half the monster khomeini was, he would have unleashed hell and let gen oveissi take care of business.  But what did he in fact do? he left country- despite the pleas of his army brass

In fact, there were multiple offers to shoot khomeini's plane out of the sky, and he even refused that!.....

The facts are solidly with mr mostofi.....

btw, the very name you are using here- is hated by your beloved mullahs! 


It seems to be

by statira on

a great book by a great intellectual.



by norooz on

I have read in some documents stating such pay for this specific reason, considering Iranians savages. I can research and find the document, but then, you think torture and killing prisoners by shah are also some lies.  So it will do you no good.

You wrote it was cold war and communist, what would you do? I wouldn't torture and execute people. If you think Shah had no choice and had to do it, then why complaining about IRI? 

Jenabeh Mostofi,

Bring 50,000 troops to keep peace? Do you really mean peace or you mean more crackdowns and slaughter. Have you forgotten the shootings on the streets and at the universities by troops? Have you forgotten troops stopping people who were going from other cities to Tehran for demonstrations and slaughtered them on the road?  and many more in prisons and other places?  He tried, it didn't work. It was 90% against 10%. If he knew it would work, he wouldn't have hesitated to kill more, but at some point he realized it was too late and he had to run and leave it up to his masters to decide.  


You wrote, we should cleanse the country from within to have a chance to fight the enemy without.  That is what IRI did with MEK and many others and it was very wrong.  

I am not surprised at all to read this kind of logic from Pahlavi lovers and you want people elect you to the office? Please write more!!!     


Flawed logic and/or

by Hovakhshatare on


flawed conclusion: 

"But the pathologies of his rule ultimately begot a revolution that turned the country into a center of Islamic radicalism". 

'pathologies of Shah's rule', to 'center of islamic radicalism' is a revealing leap of faith and along with subliminal comparison of Shah and islamist, is a look ahead at what we can expect to see in this book.

Shah had to go. Timing was a function of oil contracts (// ); and a radical regressive islam was the only alternative that could support key regional objectives including oil. Therefore, khomeini's global PR campaign was supported aggressively and in coordination, starting slowly but well in advance of 79… say 1973  // 

There are no secrets here except Iranian people got duped; the enemy within was planted and supported by the enemy without. There are no lessons for democracy from Shah's character, albeit flawed. 'We the people are the problem'. Only lesson here is 'don't be stupid and use your head'; and if Iran survives this cancer, be sure to cleanse Iran of all enemies within so you have a chance against foreign ones.



As an Astrologer HIM fall

by alimostofi on

As an Astrologer HIM fall was predicted by both an ancient Iranian Astrologer called Jamasp and recently by Nostradamus. Of course none of you would know or believe any of this.

Now here are the two reasons why the regime got power. The Shahanshah was overdosed. The Generals were fooled by Fardoost, to believe that the country is not threatened by an outside enemy as stated in the Constitution. In fact the Constitution does not say it has to be from outside. The threat can be internal. As it happened Khomeini managed to sustain his coup d'etat, as General Gharabaghi and his 50,000 men were not allowed to march into Tehran to keep the peace.

Ali Mostofi





by afshinazad on

NOROOZ: You mentioned about foreign workers were getting extra for working in Iran because of,  Iranians savages and paid extra to their employees for working among Iranians.That is not completely true and if you working in Iran or any country as a foreigner you will be paid extra because you are out of your area or in other word far from home, even this applies in Iran itself and if you are serving in military and if you are serving in border cities your service will be shorter than you are serving in your own province. Even today if you are commissioned to go and work in France or Germany or Italy , your company will pay you more than you get paid in state or the city currently you are working. These false information and garbage was given to Iranian during 1979. Those who are still living with lies and deception about shah and prisoners and savak issues, must understand what would you would have done in cold war time when soviets are brainwashing people and they are promising false freedom of communism  and what would you have done with clerics who hungry for power and spreading hate and false freedom which every one of us witnessing now. When it comes national security there is no freedom and if any one doesn’t understand it should examine their thoughts. Shah was not an angle but he was key for better future and democracy is not what you get promised, democracy what is you built in your circle and extend that democracy to the top. Shah was not imagining that nation has not been evolved yet and he had some idea but he didn’t think those who get scholarships and study in America or England for free will become Islamist and communist and they will be the enemy that he never imagined. Who were Bani sadr or gotbzadeh or yazdi or many more people like them? Most of all, who was the Khomeini? Poppet for landlords and zealous Arab people, British and American, he was the main spy and enemy of our nation.

SarGooz Bazandeh


by SarGooz Bazandeh on

Thank you for your first post & stating the facts


dr milani is one of the best

by shushtari on

 researchers of our time...

he has done a great service for our nation by documenting the shah's life in an objective and non-biased way.

dr milani, who was a political prisoner himself during the shah's rule(along with khayenei) could have easily painted a very biased and distorted picture of the shah.....but he's stuck to the facts, just like his other great books


thanks again for all your contributions 

Esfand Aashena

I agree that Shah's problem started long before his cancer.

by Esfand Aashena on

Shah's illness was a major issue that could've resulted in another outcome than Khomeini's take over had he been healthy.  But that means that everyone thought he was going to live forever and no one including him bothered to think ahead.

So yes the problems and the revolution that followed started long before with his policies.  He could've taken steps to solidify his rule.  He knew he had a large age gap between his son and himself.  Not thinking ahead was just another mistake.

Look at Jordan, Syria and now North Korea when they prep their successors.  Even Lybia and I'm sure others that I'm missing.

Everything is sacred


Historical facts

by siavash1000 on

"Could Iranians have been respected in US and other places because those traveling to west were mostly from the upper class "  norooz

Shah was warmly welcomed in Romania in 1973. Romania was communist country at that time and he was received honorable doctora degree from the hand of Romanian President for his intelligent and being good politician. Iran didn't have relationship with communist country such as travelling upper middle class to that country, but they were being respected by Romanian people and Romanian president. It has nothing to do with upper middle class coming to Europe, it had something to do with our intelligetn leader. His smart diplomacy throughout the middle east and Europe. Needless to say that foreigners were being harrassed by Iranian when they were in Iran. These harrassment were mostly sexual by touching their butts or other part of their bodies on streets. I remember vividly a group of women sticking together one day in Park -e-Shahr in Tehran and they were trying to avoid contact with Iranians. They were afraid being raped. I was eye witness.  Again the fact remain the same. Shah left soon and usage of military forces was at marginal level. Why? we can speculate thousands and thousands thoughts. Is that true? It may be yes or it may be no. Right after shah left, Iraqis invaded Iran territory. Something that never dare to do when shah was on power. According to Khomaini public speech, shah saved enough weapons and arms so our military service men could defend our country. Khomaini confessed this fact on state run T.V.  Our poilots (Homafars) were well trained in U.S and we were able to use U.S weapons that shah bought us with oil money to defend our country. All came from shah wisdom and his vision about our foreign policy.  Blood shed is the massacre of 30,000 of our brothers and sisters during summer of 1988 according to the law of lizard eater Arab so called "FATWA". That was blood shed. These are historical facts and no one can change it. The rest is just thoughts and fantasy.



by Shemirani on

"The revolution that overthrew him in 1979 was democratic in its nature and demands"

Nothing about this revolution in 1979 was Democratic

In nature : from the very first day revolutionaries behaved like wild pirates plundering the north of the city,happily stealing people's house, Only one word was enough to attack, kidnap, jail and KILL iranians ....One word only taghooti (and no matter who was who)

In demands: 79's Intellectual (with kgb money) followed one utopia no matter anything but their dogma and at the same time this people were very narrow minded religious ! The claim for democratic party was just a slogan to reach they aim (getting to power no matter what)but nothing was plan to build a better iran !

"Bargh o ab majani" the biggest joke we heard at that time even a kid could understand its a lie !!

the only tiny winy democratric mouvement came from woman with the" no roosari no toosari " but it was too late, pirates were already in power !

This excuse of "enghelab dozdidand....Havar havar bordan" Its a very cheap way to denie responsability. why is it so difficult  to admit that ignorant intellectuals  leaded people to chaos and we still are paying a huge price !!




by norooz on

If Iranians were respected so much, then why they considered Iranians savages and paid extra to their employees for working among iranians? This is a fact.

Could Iranians have been respected in US and other places because those traveling to west were mostly from the upper class and the circle around Shah, who were spending the savages money and gaining respect.  Because back then very few lower or middle class could afford to go to US and Europe or any other country unless they had scholarship.

You answered my question when you wrote, Shah could have killed alot more. So you agree he killed, he couldn't have been nonviolent and had no respect for human life.   


Please don't speculate. Get the real historical facts

by siavash1000 on

"Had Shah known he would be gone for good, he wouldn't have hesitated to slaughter more people to save his throne"  norooz 

The fact remains the same as it was happened. Shah left the country without blood shed. Use of military force was at it's marginal level. Blood shed is the one Islamic criminals are using against our people since they took power. Now, was it because shah's illness or was it because he was hoping to come back to power as it happened in 1953 ? These are all speculation or hypothesis. That may be true or that may Not be true.  Not historical facts. What we do know for sure, Iran became mornized as if it was part of Europe in the middle east during shah days.  Great military power and diamond of Persian Gulf. Any Arabs dare to change the name of our Persian Gulf ? , he would be wacked in a heart beat. Any Arab such as Saddam ever dare to invade Iran?  He knew better and he knew what happened when he did it in early 70's.

 Iranians were well respected arournd the globe including communist countries such as Romania where shah was honorable received doctora degee from Romanian president for his intelligent and his leadership in 1973.

  In south Africa Apartheid regime, (the most racist country on the face of earth in those days)  Iranians were classified a first class citizen. They were receiving full previliage and benefits of European counterparts. At the same time Arabs, Indians and pakestani were classified as 2nd or 3rd class citizen and they were not allowed to use schools and public areas. They were restricted to enter or hang around down town area in Cape Town or Johansburg. Only Europeans and Iranians. In Rhodizia(later on called Zimbobvai) Indians, pakestani and arabs had to travel many miles out of town to go school where Europeans and Iranians were using top schools in the capital. 

  In France, upon Genera de Gaulle death, shah made a trip to France to show sympathy to his widow. Shah well represented Iranians to the French people. Shah's friendly gesture reflected in French magazines and media. As a result, French were highly respecting Iranians in those days.

 In U.K, NO Visa for Iranians. Iranians were travelling to England without getting visa. Travelling to England for Iranians were as easy as travelling to Isfahan. Iranians were all respected around the globe. That included communist countries.

These are historical facts. The rest is fantasy.  


The Shah

by Reviver on

I received the book jsut hours ago and read only one chapter of it. I am fairly familiar with Mr. Milani's background, and have had semiprivate conversations with him at a mutual friend's home before he attained fame. I do not expect Mr. Milani's perfect neutrality in writing this biography, but unlike Oktaby I am weary that he may have overcompensated for his former stance in striving for neutrality. For that reason, I started reading from chapter 15, covering the events of 1962, when I believe Mr. Milani was in high school, where his sociopolitical sentiments were provenanced. The book is very well-written.


Some of the Shah’s

by norooz on

Some of the Shah’s supporters today praise his demeanor in the heady days of revolutionary upheaval as consistent with his stoic devotion to nonviolence and his respect for human life;

Yes, many Iranians experienced that including the Rezai brothers and thousands more.

he could have easily retained his power, they argue, had he been willing to shed blood and use the full force of his mighty military.

The answer to the above statement is in this blog.

the ambassadors had made it clear that their governments would not support a military crackdown against the opposition.

Shah was hoping for the repeat of 1953, but IRI had already taken some notes from 1953 and made some changes and applied to 1979 revolution.  Had Shah known he would be gone for good, he wouldn't have hesitated to slaughter more people to save his throne.  Shah, nonviolence? Respect for human life?  What a joke. How many humans one must kill to be considered violent?  I tell you, these pahlavi lovers are something else. 



by oktaby on

Mr. Milani,

True that, "In fact, a new look at the Shah’s life, free from the excesses of his overzealous defenders and detractors", but you hardly qualify as that person (no disrespect intended) given your own view and history with Pahlavi regime.

Also true, and Shah proved it with his conduct that “A sovereign may not save his throne by shedding his countryman’s blood.”  but he was already check mated by former allies and his own indecision.

"Adding to the Shah’s distress was the fact that these ambassadors had made it clear that their governments would not support a military crackdown against the opposition.".. True that they told Shah they would not support a crack down, but perhaps they conveniently omitted to mention their other plans from Green Belt & Soviet focus, dual containment... and certainly the real ground was not concern for Iranian people because an order of magnitude greater number of death and 32 year crack down by a radical state of terror has barely bothered the same crowd. Indeed, without it, the current business model for ME could not hold.

"Shah’s inability to withstand pressure and his storied indecisiveness in times of crisis" is an accurate statement but not new and well documented by several authors.

Overall, I think revelation of true global and Iranian context of events leading to 79 (not just a focus on Shah) is a good idea and expect yours will ad value to Shah portion only. I look forward to reading it as your works have quality. 

However, I will be mindful of timing, Hoover association, (am not anti-Stanford, have studied there ), your history, and the brief overview you provide here, this book may be detailed but is not going to be all fresh or neutral, or reveal true drivers & operators of the 79 devolution.