The Rise and Fall of the Shah
“When we think of where Iran is, its place in history, going back 2,500 years, its place geographically, where it is the bridge between Europe and Asia, where it is the opening ot the Indian Ocean and South Asia, and also to the Mideast, when we thinkg also of the very strategic place that Iran occupies in that critical area of the world which many believe is potentially the most explosive part, the whole area of the Mideast and the Indian Ocean, I can only say that those who want peace, as you want it and as I want it and as all of us in this room want it, those of us who believe in peace, we are fortunate that Your Majesty occupies the place of leadership that you occupy today.”
-President Nixon in a toast to the Shah of Iran, July 24, 1973
Those were the words of President Nixon at a time when he and the Shah of Iran were important strategic partners during the Cold War, working together to keep the Soviet Union from dominating the Middle East and Persian Gulf. President Nixon’s words resonate today, as the Middle East remains a critical source for the world’s energy needs and Iran commands priority on the U.S. foreign policy agenda.
Andrew Scott Cooper, historian and author of “The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran,” spoke at the Nixon Library on September 19, 2016, to share his insight on the final days of one of the world’s most legendary ruling families, the unseating of which helped set the stage for the current state of the Middle East.
Drawing from his extensive research and exclusive cooperation of the late Shah’s widow, Empress Farah, Iranian revolutionaries and U.S. officials from the Carter administration, Cooper has delivered a magnus opus documenting the rise and fall of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.
Cooper’s indelible work has been the subject of controversy of late, with the New York Times book review calling it an attempt “to rehabilitate the shah,” while exhibiting a “reflexive hostility toward Islamism writ large.”
“I think that blaming me is a distraction from the real issue,” Cooper responded during his talk from the East Room replica at the Nixon Library, referencing the slew of negative backlash he has received since the book’s publication. “Which is that some have grown too comfortable with a historical narrative that they would prepare to defend at all costs rather than revise or reconsider.”
Professor Andrew Scott Cooper is a contributing columnist to Foreign Policy and the Guardian newspaper’s Tehran Bureau website. He is affiliated with Columbia’s Center for Global Energy Policy and is a member of the UK Energy Institute.