The Rise of Modern Despotism in Iran

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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.