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July 30, 2014
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June 1, 1980
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TITLE:AUTHOR:VOLUME:Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617438The Shah's Illness and the Fall of Iran(b)(3)(c)24 ISSUE: Summer YEAR: 1980Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617438 roved for Release. 2014/07/29 000617438INTELLIGENCEA collection of articles on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects of intelligence. ?All strateme_nts of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those ofthe authors. They do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of the CentralIntelligence Agency or any other US Government entity, past or present. Nothing in thecontents should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of anarticle's factual statements and interpretations.1Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 0006174380 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617438(b)(3)(n)A political behavior postmortemTHE SHAH'S ILLNESS AND THE FALL OF IRAN(b)(3)(c)The failure of the U.S. intelligence community to predict the fall of the Shah ofIran has led to a major retrospective examination of the intelligence process and anincreased emphasis on improving the quality of political analysis. Certainly asignificant contribution to the difficulties in estimating the Shah's inability to stem thetide of revolution in his country was an insufficient appreciation of the political powerof the revitalist Shiite movement. Yet many believed that had the Shah exerted moreforceful leadership the outcome might have been different, and Shah-watchers havebeen puzzled by some of the uncharacteristic behavior demonstrated by the Shah inrecent years. The belated revelation that the Shah has been suffering from apotentially fatal malignant disease of the lymphatic system since 1973 suggests makinguse of the retrospectroscope* to consider the impact of grave illness on the Shah'spolitical behavior.Individuals facing death often experience an increasing urgency to accomplishtheir goals. This psychological reaction is vividly described by Montaigne:Especially at this moment, when I perceive that my life is so brief intime, I try to increase it in weight; I try to arrest the speed of its flight by thespeed with which I grasp it, and to compensate for the haste of its ebb by myvigor in using it. The shorter my possession of life, the deeper and fuller Imust make it.For world leaders, this may translate into an increased urgency to ensure their place in"history.?Wiliave observed in an earlier issue of this journal that Mao Tse-tung'sperception that his time was short may have contributed to the precipitous pace of theCultural Revolution in China.With the wisdom of hindsight, it is suggested that the rapid pace of the Shah'smodernization may have been influenced by the specter of death. Indeed, on anumber of occasions in recent years, he would share with interviewers his dream ofcompleting his mission and turning a stable Iran over to his son in the near future, andhe devoted increasing attention to preparing his son to succeed him. We now knowthat by 1973 he knew his time was short. According to the definitive iredical report(b)(3)(n)  his illness wasfirst diagnosed in 1973. That year was notable in terms of both Iran and theinternational economy, for it was in 1973 that the Shah and Qadhafi broke ranks withthe other oil-producing nations, initiating the spiraling increase in oil prices.Although the Shah was engaged in an expensive and longstanding modernizationprogram for his country, the markedly increased influx of funds from these boosted oil*The retrospectroscope is a medical diagnostic instrument of unerring accuracy, which, unfortunately,can only be aimed backwards.?SteRET-- 61Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617438 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617438The Shah's Illnessprices provided a quantum leap in revenues for which the Iranian economy wasscarcely prepared. Indeed, a major criticism of the Shah has revolved around the paceof modernization?that in his zeal to bring Iran into the 20th century he had not paidsufficient attention to developing a sound infrastructure, with resultant majordislocations in the societal structure and runaway inflation.It is ironic that in trying to improve the lot of his people rapidly, the Shahmagnified their discontent, for he created a rising tide of expectations, especially inthe urban lower and middle classes, which could not be met and ultimatelycontributed to his downfall. Moreover, previously the Shah had carefully monitoredentrance into the elite, but with the massive influx of funds he lost control of thisprocess. The conspicuous consumption of the newly affluent elite magnified thefrustrations of the traditionally conservative bourgeoisie and lower classes. Thiswidespread frustration, in combination with massive social dislocation, provided theideal climate for a revitalist movement, with the Shiite clergy as the rallying point.During these years, the Shah's grandiosity expanded exponentially: his demandsfor advanced weapons systems were insatiable, and his dreams for the future powerand magnificence of Iran reached heroic proportions. Grandiosity was surely a strongpersonality feature before 1973. One need only recollect and contemplate the lavishcelebration of the 25th centenary of the Persian Empire at Persepolis in 1971. But inconsidering the heady days from 1973 on and the Shah's expansiveness, it is importantto observe that one of the ways of dealing with impending death is to deny depression,overcompensating with euphoric grandiosity.(b)(1)(b)(3)(n)The course of this lymphatic disease is highly variable. There may be continuingproblems, requiring continuing chemotherapy, or significant periods of remission.Both the disease itself and the powerful cancer chemotherapy agents can be extremelydebilitating, sapping physical and emotional reserves. And, of course, thepsychological problems of dealing with such a disease and its potentially fatal outcomeare profound.As the troubles in Iran mounted, most Shah-watchers felt, as in the past, that hewould -tough it out," that he would choose "the iron fist" option if he needed to, as hehad in the past. But there was progressive concern over his moodiness and dispiritedreactions, and the observation was shared widely that he was suffering from a "failureof will." Certainly the massive protests against his government were reason enough tobe depressed. But as he was forcibly confronted with the power of the revolutionaryforces he had unleashed, the mortally ill Shah was brought up hard against the realitythat in the short, time left, he would not be able to accomplish his "mission for (his)people." Having sown the seeds of a too rapid modernization, he had reaped thewhirlwind of revolution. If part of the function of grandiosity was to defend againstdepression, then this defense was penetrated, for he became profoundly depressed and62Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617438-JEER-ET-- Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 000617438The Shah's illness?SECltET-(b)(3)(n)disfunctional in his decisionmaking. Thus, it may well be that the different quality inthe leadership he displayed during Iran's final crisis stemmed from his being able togive only part of his energy to fighting for Iran's life, since he was fighting for his own.Without overstating the case, it seems clear that had we known the Shah wassuffering from cancer of the lymph nodes since 1973, our government's judgments asto his ability to deal with the revolutionary forces that swept through Iran wouldprobably have been quite different. Serious doubts would likely have replaced theguarded optimism concerning the Shah's ability to weather the storm.What would the policy consequences of such revised intelligence estimates havebeen? It is hard to say, but it does not seem unreasonable to suggest that some wouldhave more forcefully advocated an earlier accommodation with the Shah's opponents,perhaps forestalling the events which brought about the eventual seizure of the U.S.Embassy.(b)(1)(b)(3)(n)This entire article is classified -seeftErSECRET(b)(3)(n)Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 00061743863