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Nixon, Kissinger, and the Shah: The United States and Iran in the Cold War

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Roham Alvandi
Oxford University Press (June 2014)

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last shah of Iran, is often remembered as a pliant instrument of American power during the Cold War. In this book Roham Alvandi offers a revisionist account of the shah's relationship with the United States by examining the partnership he forged with Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger in the 1970s. Based on extensive research in the British and U.S. archives, as well as a wealth of Persian-language diaries, memoirs and oral histories, this study restores agency to the shah as an autonomous international actor and suggests that Iran evolved from a client to a partner of the United States under the Nixon Doctrine. Nixon, Kissinger, and the Shah offers a detailed account of three key historical episodes in the Nixon-Kissinger-Pahlavi partnership that shaped the global Cold War far beyond Iran's borders. First, the book examines the emergence of Iranian primacy in the Persian Gulf as the Nixon administration looked to the shah to fill the vacuum created by the British withdrawal from the region in 1971. Then it turns to the peak of the partnership after Nixon and Kissinger's historic 1972 visit to Iran, when the shah succeeded in drawing the United States into his covert war against Iraq in Kurdistan. Finally, the book focuses on the decline of the partnership under Nixon's successor, Gerald Ford, through a history of the failed negotiations from 1974 to 1976 for an agreement on U.S. nuclear exports to Iran. Taken together, these three episodes map the rise and fall of Iran's Cold War partnership with the United States during the decade of superpower détente, Vietnam, and Watergate.

  • Roham Alvandi is Assistant Professor of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science

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Reviews

“Knowledge of the 1970s, when Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was one of Washington’s closest global allies, is essential for anyone wishing to understand why it is so difficult for the US and Iran to overcome their differences. Alvandi throws new light on the period by showing that Iran’s last shah was more than just President Richard Nixon’s cat’s paw in the Middle East.” 
Tony Barber,  Financial Times, who picked the book as one of the FT’s summer books of 2014

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