Friday Night Dialogue: The Shah of Iran’s last days

COURTESY PHOTO | Andrew Scott Cooper

COURTESY PHOTO | Andrew Scott Cooper

“The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran” is the newest book by noted historian and U.S./Iran relations expert, Andrew Scott Cooper. It is the story of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and Empress Farah, the late Shah’s widow, who currently lives in the U.S. and was a major source for this book. Back in February, 2014, which marked the 35th anniversary of the fall of the Iranian monarchy and the triumph of the revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power, Mr. Cooper discussed his “under construction” manuscript at the Shelter Island Library’s Friday Night Dialogues. 

Mr. Cooper returns to Friday Night Dialogues at the library at 7 p.m. on October 14 to discuss “The Fall of Heaven,” which confronts difficult questions about the controversial Shah – a benign ruler or a tyrant?  Mr. Cooper’s characterization is sympathetic; his is a defense of the late Shah’s attempt to modernize and secularize Iranian life and to emancipate traditionally religious women. It was the dream of an up-to-date and prosperous Iran, still alive today but far from attainable for its largely young and well-educated population — the dream of the late Shah of Imperial Iran whose fall in 1979 helped set the stage for the current state of the Middle East.

100616_webfndthefallofheavenMr. Cooper’s “whisper-by-whisper retelling of the Shah’s final days is often rich in detail,” wrote The New York Times of this enormously human portrait of one of the 20th century’s most complex leaders. The book spans Pahlavi’s life from childhood to his ascension to the throne in 1941 and the fall of his dynasty in the Iranian revolution. The story is told from the perspective of those who were there — leading Iranian revolutionaries, President Jimmy Carter and White House officials, U.S. Ambassador William Sullivan and his staff in Tehran, the Imperial family and, of course, the Empress herself.

Andrew Scott Cooper is the author of “The Oil Kings: How the U.S., Iran and Saudi Arabia Changed the Balance of Power in the Middle East” (2011).  He is a noted historian, a frequent commentator on US./Iran relations, global energy markets and geopolitical risk. He is a contributor to Foreign Policy magazine and the Guardian newspaper’s Tehran Bureau website and is affiliated with Columbia’s Center for Global Energy Policy and a member of the UK Energy Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in History from Victoria University, masters’ degrees in Journalism and Strategic Studies from Columbia University and the University of Aberdeen, respectively and completed an academic sabbatical at the University of Al-Mustafa in Qom, Iran.

Friday Night Dialogues @ the Library, like all library programs, is free with donations gratefully accepted. For further information, call the library, (631) 749-0042.

Next up: Friday, October 21, screening of “Equal Means Equal,” Kamala Lopez’s award-winning documentary which explores how discriminatory attitudes and inadequate laws affect women’s fundamental rights. Sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Shelter Island.