The Last Shah

America, Iran, and the Fall of the Pahlavi Dynasty

Ray Takeyh provides new interpretations of many important events—including the 1953 coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq and the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini—significantly revising our understanding of the United States’ and Iran’s complex and difficult history.

Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

More on:


U.S. Foreign Policy

Middle East


Offering a new view of one of America’s most important, infamously strained, and widely misunderstood relationships of the postwar era, this book tells the history of America and Iran from the time the last shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was placed on the throne in 1941 to the 1979 revolution that brought the present Islamist government to power. This revolution was not, as many believe, the popular overthrow of a powerful and ruthless puppet of the United States; rather, it followed decades of corrosion of Iran’s political establishment by an autocratic ruler who demanded fealty but lacked the personal strength to make hard decisions and, ultimately, lost the support of every sector of Iranian society. Middle East scholar Ray Takeyh provides new interpretations of many important events—including the 1953 coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq and the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini—significantly revising our understanding of America and Iran’s complex and difficult history.

More on:


U.S. Foreign Policy

Middle East


Reviews and Endorsements

An original interpretation that puts Iranian actors where they belong: at center stage.

Michael Doran, Wall Street Journal

Takeyh’s narrative skill, eye for detail, sense of character, and judicious presentation of controversial events make his account as compulsively readable as a novel.


Takeyh . . . delivers a deeply nuanced and eloquent history of the shah. . . . [This] book is, without question, a go to source on [Iran’s] complex and rich history.

Jerusalem Post

[Takeyh] performs a service both to historical accuracy and to American foreign policy by setting the record straight.

American Purpose

Takeyh provides a fascinating account of the shah.

Washington Examiner

Takeyh . . . gives a scrupulous account of the shah’s performance and above all his relationship to American administrations. First the facts, then the moral judgments. This is narrative history at its clearest and its best.

National Review

Books on twentieth century Iran abound, but none deliver the substance or the insight that Ray Takeyh does. For the clearest view of Iran for the last 100 years, this book is it.

Marvin Zonis, author of Majestic Failure: The Fall of the Shah

Ray Takeyh’s astute and provocative study of the last Shah of Iran sheds new light on the Cold-War foreign policy of the United States, the impact of individual personalities on the course of history, and the causes of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, with which the world has now had to live for more than four decades.

Michael Mandelbaum, author of The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth

Ray Takeyh has compellingly written the prequel to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s forty-year confrontation with the United States. He tells this fascinating story with unmatched perspicacity and insight all while restoring the agency of Iranian participants in this frequently tragic tale. Anyone who wants to understand the current impasse with Iran will have to come to grips with the arguments he makes and the issues he illuminates.

Eric Edelman, former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, 2005–2009

Top Stories on CFR


Forget regional integration. Basic diplomacy will remain an uphill battle until the region’s leaders return to a shared definition of democracy.

United States

Now that Congress voted to pass a bill based on the Biden-McCarthy compromise, an immediate debt ceiling crisis appears to have been averted. Still, a much larger debt problem awaits.  

Supply Chains

Feeding the world's eight billion people has never been easy. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine shocked the market for fertilizer, that task has gotten even harder. The fertilizer crisis threatens to exacerbate food insecurity worldwide, especially in low-income countries already reeling from record-high inflation and rapidly depreciating currencies. What is fertilizer’s role in the food supply chain?