The late Charles Douglas-Home, editor of The Times, once asked me, in 1983: ‘How long before a restoration in Iran?’ He had hired me to be his Iran expert. I replied: ‘Not long now. Perhaps inside ten years. Khomeini has been a total failure, much more repressive than the shah and totally incompetent. The economy has collapsed and thousands of villages along the western border lie in ruins as a result of Iraq’s invasion.’ That was only four years after the revolution that had substituted the mullahs for the monarch and, rightly, I did not convince my boss. He thought it could take thirty years. Needless to say, the ‘expert’, even more than the outsider, underestimated the ruthlessness of the mullahs.
The author of The Life and Times of the Shah was an educationalist and deputy minister of the interior under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and now works at the Foundation for Iranian Studies in Maryland, which is funded by Princess Ashraf, the late Shah’s twin sister. He is