THE SHAH: Abbas Milani at the Commonwealth Club (Jan 31, 2011)

THE SHAH: Abbas Milani at the Commonwealth Club (Jan 31, 2011)
by Darius Kadivar

The Shah, the Ayatollah and Iran's Nuclear Program -- Double Talk or Double Standards? Conference and Q&A moderated by Dr. Jaleh Daie at the Commonwealth Club on Jan 31, 2011

Abbas Milani:

Director of Iranian Studies, Stanford; Co-director, Iran Democracy Project, Hoover Institution; Author, The Shah

The life of Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlevi, the last Shah of Iran, continues to resonate today. Milani looks at the monarch who shaped Iran's modern age and with it the contemporary politics of the Middle East. He reveals the complex and sweeping road that he says has brought the U.S. and Iran to where they are today.

Dr. Jaleh Daie:

Dr. Jaleh Daie has extensive executive experience in private and public institutions and academia. She is managing partner at Aurora Equity, a Palo Alto-based investment company financing technology start ups.

She is also Treasurer of the U.S. Space Foundation and a member of the Band of Angels. Most recently, she was director of science and senior advisor to the president at the Packard Foundation where she provided executive and technical direction for a $120 million annual budget and managed a diversified portfolio of science and technology.

Daie has been both faculty and administrator at two major universities. While at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Daie took on special assignments in Washington D.C. and served as science liaison to the President.


more from Darius Kadivar

Weak presentation by Milani

by aynak on

Amazing how poor his English is, even though he has spent most of his adult life in U.S.   Not the accent but basic grammer.

A great deal of his statements are speculations.   What were Shah's true intentions in aquiring nuke?   He is also playing it like he was born yesterday, or thinks we were.    Shah's cancer was known both to French government and the US as early as 1974!   The French doctors knew it, then the darbar knew it, how could US not know it?  Sure it was convineint to say they didn't know he is ill and deny him entry to U.S when he was ill, but really?

The stupitdest part of the question and answer session is when Milani is asked what question he would pose to Shah if he had a chance:

His first question is, why were you in such a hurry to leave (I am assuming he meant in 1979)?   Well, if Millani was not so deeply emersed in his own speculations, and creating his own narrative of history, he would have known the simple answer:

In 1953 I left, and came back by the order of U.S.   In 1978, I did the same, and hoped for the same outcome.

How about Milani asking, if Shah had any regret in turning back on Mashroteh?

The reason the date and knowledge of Shahs cancer is so important is because, knowing he was going to die, U.S (Cater time) wanted to have a suitable alterntaive in place to prevent the then Soviet Union's influence in Iran.   Remember this is at the height of the Cold War.

Then apparently, Mr.Millani has forgotten about 2 elements that joined hands to make 53 coupe possible:   Kashani (black) and Shah (white).   How could Shah not allow freedom for the same force that was the difference between Mossadegh/National government winning or losing?(Clerics).

The funniest part of the interview is when Milani talks about Iran, replacing  the British as an economic power had Shah remained in power?!   I guess Milani bought Shahs Great Civilization (Tamdon Bozorg) story too much.

Bulk of Shah's economic program was developed in Ramsar in early 70's by semi-functioning parties like Iran-Novin.   In effect by creating Rastakheez shah destroyed that plan as well.

At the time of revolution, Iran enjoyed a mere 40 KM of high way from Tehran to Karaj!!   Economic data from that period shows pretty much the same relience on oil as now, under this regime.

Milani is not able to understand the huge flow of oil income since late 60's had to create a middle class in Iran.  Even countries without such income, like Turkey were able to do so.   Just because we have an even more backward system of government in Iran now, does not mean Shah could take credit for what was effectively the benefits from oil nationalization that trickled in.  Not to mention what we witnessed in Iraq or Kuwait.   To attribute the improvments to Shah, does not seem justified.

BTW, am I the only one who does not understand what "a virtual nuclear power is"?





May we all have good dreams.

Darius Kadivar

Milani is reliable on some sources less on others ...

by Darius Kadivar on

I am currently reading his book and it is definitively a good read, hope I can write a review at some point although I feel that to respond to Milani's conclusions one needs to write another book in response ;0

Except that I have no Mogaddam Family to finance such a publication:



Hamid and Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies |





Milani's attempts to take an unbiased look at the Shah's reign and Personality are commendable but he tends to jump to quick conclusions and often his interviews contradict much of what he writes in his book which is strange.

I think his book would have benefited had he worked more in detail on the CIA reports which were only available shortly prior to the book's publication ( which was delayed as a result so that he could include what he learned from them).

I share much of his assessments on the circumstances surrounding the 1953 events:


The  Myth of Operation Ajax by Abbas Milani



THE PAST IS A FOREIGN COUNTRY: How Would You Evaluate Iran's Democracy Index in 1953 ? by DK


But he tends to be carried away by some of his conclusions and presents some of the people he met to write the book as the most "reliable" sources on that era. Having met some of them personally I can assure you that claiming that they are the most reliable is a little far fetched. 


Also I feel that his reading of IRan's history is very much written from an "American" Academic perspective hence his rapid dismissing of the Monarchy as an "obsolete" institution at odds with the principles of modernity.


Since when was Modernity a sign of progress ? 


American Girl thinks Europeis a Country an Budapest in France


Miss Teen USA 2007 -South Carolina answers a question

One interpretation I fundamentally disagree with Milani on is when he say's the Monarchy in Iran ended the day Muzzaferedin Shah signed the first draft of the Constitution:


PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY: Mozaffaredin Shah Signs First Draft of the Constitution (1906) 



PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY: First Public Gathering of the Iranian Majlis (1906)



PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY: Shah Delivers Speech to Parliament (1951)


I fail to see how that was incompatible with what Milani see's as Modernity given that nearly all European Monarchies had adopted a Constitutionalist approach in an attempt to modernize their System of government at least several century earlier.

RESTORATION: Britain's 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688 and the 'Bill of Rights'


The above actually equally influenced the American and French Constitutions:


HISTORY OF IDEAS: Ian Davidson on Voltaire's "English Exile" 

Our very own 1906 Constitution was actually inspired by the Belgian:

RESTORATION: Belgium King Baudouin takes Oath Amidst Republican Animosity (31st July ,1950)

ROYALTY: Belgian King State Visit to Iran 1960's


Also a country like Great Britain doesn't even have a written constitution yet is as democratic if not more democratic in practice than Republican France:


How Truly Democratic And Stable Is The British Monarchy?

So again Milani fails to take into account what was taking place in the world governments of the time many of which were Monarchies when he looks at the evolution of the Iranian Monarchy in the past century. That to me is one of the major shortcomings in his book when he draws his rapid conclusions on what he deems as "modern" vs "archaic" which is typically "American".


Much of what Milani writes in his book are not new. They are well known particularly given the fact that much of CIA documents to which he refers were discovered and published in Iranian newspapers shortly after the 444 Days US Hostage Ordeal when the revolutionaries had found confidential documents inside the Embassy in Tehran. Except much of the allegations and documents presented could not be confirmed given that the regime was presenting them not from a serious academic approach but for means of Anti American propaganda.


Milani having been himself an opponent to the Shah's rule and American educated in San Francisco known for it's liberal circles, his judgment is shaped by his academic upbringing.

Nothing wrong with that but I feel that his conclusions would convince an American readership than a European one let alone an Iranian one when it comes to issues related to our Constitutionalist history.


To claim that the 79 revolution or the Green Movement is an extension of the 1906 Revolution is intellectually dishonest. The 79 Revolution was an Interruption of what started a century ago given that the goal of the Constitutionalists was never to topple the Monarch but to force him to accept the rule of law and a Parliamentary democracy.



CONSTITUTIONALIST FORUM: Daryoush Homayoun Political and Journalistic life Honored in Germany


From that perspective Bakhtiar was much more in phase with the Constitutionalist understandings of the dilemmas faced by the nation back in 1979:


pictory: Bakhtiar Denounces Bazargan's Provisionary Government in exile (1979)


Than these clueless ANN TELLECTUALS :


Mehdi Bazargan and the controversial legacy of Iran's Islamic intellectual movement


Which explains why Bakhtiar despite having been himself an opponent to the Shah and imprisoned under his reign was nevertheless a Monarchist and supported the Restoration of the Institution of the Monarchy but in it's Purely Parliamentary Form:


RESTORATION: Shapour Bakhtiar advocates Restoring the Monarchy


Where as Milani presents the concept of Republicanism aka Jomhurykhahy as the only legitimate form of government for Iran.


That to me is a biased conclusion !


It's his right to think so but that does not make him right !


As a matter of fact His book was supposed to be entitled The Peacock Prince and Not the Shah:


THE PEACOCK PRINCE: Abbas Milani's Republican Historical Outlook On Iran's Last Shah



The Choice of "Prince" was already dubious give that it suggests he was not a Real "Shah" aka "King".


But because of the CIA Documents which became finally available to public, he Changed the Title back to "Shah" ;0) 


Other than that his book is a good read and a must read for anyone who has not taken interest in the life and times of the Shah.  


But personally I have not learned more than what I already knew. But then again anyone is free to draw their own conclusions and the book is worth reading.




Related Satire:


SATIRE: Lookalikes Abbas Milani and Nasseredin Shah ;0)







Abbas Milani .....

by R2-D2 on

is one of the few that has credibility amongst a great deal of Iranian people ..... This book is a wonderful account of many of the things that occured in the past 50 years or so :)