The Diarist of Iran’s Royal Court

Asadollah Alam was the H.R. Haldeman to the Shah of Iran’s Richard Nixon. Loyal and adoring (‘I would gladly lay down my life for him, even now,’ Alam wrote in the final entry of his diary), he served as Prime Minister (1962-1964), and in 1966 he was appointed Minister to the Court of His Imperial Majesty Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavī (HIM, in Alam’s journals). Alam remained in this position almost until his death in April of 1978. Like his friend the Shah, Alam had cancer, a diagnosis both men’s physicians hid from the patients, who were constantly visiting specialists and trying new treatments and medications. Alam’s fascinating diaries stretch from 1968-1977. Pahlavi was overthrown on February 11, 1979, an event Alam dreaded and came close to prophesying in his journal.

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‘Tuesday, June 21, 1977

Audience… Asked HIM what he made of William Sullivan, the new US ambassador. ‘No hint of the demagogue,’ he said. ‘Strikes me as having his head screwed on.’ Reported that he’s asked to call on me, but that I’ve postponed the meeting for a week so that he won’t think I’m unduly anxious to see him.

It has been hinted abroad that Senator McGovern may head some sort of enquiry into Savak’s activities in the USA. HIM told me that, when I meet the ambassador, I should remark to him pleasantly that our own Senate has likewise decided to investigate CIA activities in Iran… Submitted the Daily Telegraph‘s review of HIM’s latest book. I told him that it struck me as being favourable. ‘What on earth’s “favourable” about it?’, he snapped back, as soon as he’d read it. I told him to look again at the final paragraph. ‘What do you suppose this word, “megalomania” means?’, he said. ‘Greatness,’ I replied. ‘Greatness be damned’, he exclaimed. ‘Greatness to the point of madness.’ I was thoroughly ashamed of myself. I should have read it more carefully, but by then it was too late.

The Shah and I: The Confidential Diary of Iran’s Royal Court, 1968-77, Asadollah Alam, Edited by Alinaghi Alikhani, Translated by Alinaghi Alikhani and Nicholas Vincent, I.B. Tauris, 1991.

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