The Late Shah of Iran - effects of his disease

Pahlavi and after (1925 AD - present)

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The Late Shah of Iran - effects of his disease

Postby Liberator » Mon Jan 09, 2006 11:41 am

The question of whether the late Shah of Iran was fit to rule towards the latter years of the existence of the Iranian government is examined here. I have held true that his disease was affecting him significantly and that once the riots orchestrated by Islamists, Communists, and foreign powers began becoming more and more intense he was at no physical nor physcological state to take decisions that would be for the good of the state.


The whole extract regarding the late Shah of Iran: ... l/96/5/325

Diseased, demented, depressed: serious illness in Heads of State
THE Rt Hon Lord David Owen, CH

Based on a lecture to the Autumn Scientific Meeting of the Association of British Neurologists and the British Neuropsychiatry Association, 3 October 2002

As both a physician and a politician, I was first touched by the question of how illness can affect the decision-making of Heads of State or Government when I met the Shah of Iran in Tehran in May 1977.1 He appeared to be at the height of his power: self-confident, and enjoying his global role in helping to determine world oil prices. It would have been a great help to have known then, and particularly a year later, that he had been suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. He had been diagnosed in April 1974 by the French haematologist Professor Jean Bernard, and eventually died from it in Cairo in July 1980. At that time, the Shah's own physician, Dr Abdol Karim Ayadi, asked Dr Bernard and his assistant Dr Georges Flandrin, not to tell the Shah he had cancer, which was then at Stage II and not requiring treatment. The Shah did not take chlorambucil until February 1975. Thereafter, Dr Flandrin flew 35 times in great secrecy to Tehran before the Shah was forced to leave in January 1979. In 1977, his doctors told the Empress he had leukaemia or cancer, but still those two words were never used to the Shah, who was told that he had Waldenstrom's disease. Apart from being tired, he had no obvious signs apart from an enlarged spleen, until he noticed a swollen lymph node in his neck in April 1979, when in exile in the Bahamas. The Shah was then told he had cancer and was given nitrogen-mustard, vincristine, procarbazine and prednisolone. His health deteriorated, and pressure grew for him to leave Mexico and be admitted to an American hospital. He flew to the US on 22 October after President Carter relented, having previously held out against first the advice of his National Security Adviser, Zbig Brzezinski, and later his Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance. They felt that despite risking the wrath of the new regime in Tehran, on humanitarian grounds the US Government could no longer refuse. He was admitted for treatment to New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, and his arrival became public. On 4 November, hundreds of demonstrators in Tehran climbed over the wall into the US Embassy compound and captured 66 Americans. The hostages were eventually only released minutes after Jimmy Carter stepped down as US President on 20 January 1981, and Ronald Reagan took over.


Although there is no evidence that the CIA or MI6 ever knew that the Shah had leukaemia while he was in Tehran, there is some evidence that the KGB knew. The Shah had chosen French doctors deliberately: in the words of William Shawcross, who has brilliantly chronicled the story of the Shah's illness, ‘his distrust of the British was such that he was sure that somehow they would profit from whatever illness he might have. And he thought that if he saw a top American, then there would be a memo on the desk of the secretary of state or the director of Central Intelligence within days. If Washington knew he was ill, he could no longer expect the same unqualified American support he now enjoyed. He would be deserted by his allies’.2 That judgement was correct.

The French Foreign Minister Louis de Guiringaud told me later, when we had both left office, that he had known of the diagnosis. But he never told me when I was Foreign Secretary, or Cyrus Vance, the US Secretary of State.3 Had I known I would have pressed far more vigorously early in 1978, and certainly been adamant in the late summer and autumn of that year, that the Shah should stand down immediately on health grounds. We had already argued for appointing a Regent in our own internal debate in the Foreign Office. Leaving the country would have left the path open for the Shah's son to succeed when he became of age. We were then desperately searching for a way to defuse the personal animosity in the streets against the Shah. However, we were still treating him as an imperial leader, capable of making bold decisions, when in retrospect what he needed was to be told what to do and virtually forced to take treatment in Switzerland. If he had done so, the Revolution in Iran would not have taken place in the way that it did, President Carter might have won a second term, and certainly the history of the Middle East would have been very different.

Ba Sepaas
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable" -J.F.K
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