INTERESTING BOOK REVIEW

Of a book that intersects Cold War history, intelligence and Iran -The Rise and Fall of the Pahlavi Dynasty: Memoirs of Former General Hussein Fardustreviewed by Hayden B. Peake for Studies In Intelligence.

“Hussein Fardust was a childhood friend of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last shah of Iran, one of the few non-family members Reza trusted throughout his life. They attended schools together in Iran and Switzerland, and after the prince assumed the throne in 1941, Fardust was sent to Britain for intelligence training. On his return he became head of the Special Information Bureau, an organization akin to Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). At one point he was also deputy chief of the SAVAK (Iran’s secret police) and was responsible for its reorganization.

Fardust’s memoirs give a detailed look at some familiar and less familiar events in Iran’s history from the other side. He begins with the Anglo-Iranian oil relationship, moves to the 1953 coup and the background to the overthrow of Mossadeq, describes the shah’s extensive cooperation with Western intelligence— mainly CIA and MI6—and Iran’s relationship with its Middle East neighbors, including Israel, and the long war with Iraq. There are several chapters on Iran’s intelligence services in which their organization and operations are described in greater detail than in any other English-language source. In 1977, public protests began in part because of the shah’s corrupt government, the “use of torture and political persecution” by SAVAK, and near 50-percent inflation. (377) Whether the shah grasped what was happening is unclear, though Fardust does say, “No one dared to tell the truth to the Shah.” (543).

The politics of the frustrating but inevitable collapse of the regime are described, as is the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini, which led to the revolution and the shah’s permanent departure. The takeover of the American embassy is barely mentioned (Fardust was gone by that time). In a bid to escape the executioner he went into hiding, though he was arrested after five years and confined to his house. It was then that he wrote his memoirs, but he died in 1987 of a heart attack before finishing them. The translator has added some details about Fardust’s final days and in the process noted that the Islamic regime was quick to establish its own Intelligence Ministry. This book is filled with essential background on Iran, a country that is often hard to understand.”

This one will have to be interlibrary loan as I do not expect it to be on the shelf at Border’s and in any event, I’m not shelling out $ 56 for a new copy, cheap bastard that I am. As if I don’t have a three foot high bookpile….

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