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The Rise of Modern Despotism in Iran

The Shah, the Opposition, and the US, 1953–1968

Published by Oneworld Academic
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

How did the Shah of Iran become a modern despot?

In 1953, Iranian monarch Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlavi emerged victorious from a power struggle with his prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddeq, thanks to a coup masterminded by Britain and the United States. Mosaddeq believed the Shah should reign not rule, but the Shah was determined that no one would make him a mere symbol.

In this meticulous political history, Ali Rahnema details Iran’s slow transition from constitutional to despotic monarchy. He examines the tug of war between the Shah, his political opposition, a nation in search of greater liberty, and successive US administrations with their changing priorities. He shows how the Shah gradually assumed control over the legislature, the judiciary, the executive, and the media, and clamped down on his opponents’ activities.

By 1968, the Shah’s turn to despotism was complete. The consequences would be far-reaching.

‘A brilliant history of late Pahlavi Iran and the fatal entanglements of the shah, the opposition and the United States.’

– Stephanie Cronin, Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Research Fellow, University of Oxford

‘Richly detailed yet exceedingly accessible… The significant insights Rahnema offers into Mohammad Reza Shah’s rise and political trajectory make the book an important read for students not just of modern Iran but of despotic politics more broadly.’

– Ali Mirsepassi, Albert Gallatin Research Excellence Professor, New York University

More books from this author: Ali Rahnema