« Yup, kings in Kaffiristan. | Main | Graham squeals - again. »

23 November 2014


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Ishmael Zechariah

Mr. Sale,

Your article reminded me of a bit of news I had seen a few years ago:


Thanks for the article.

Ishmael Zechariah


Thank you for this. Hope the following is not an irrelevant aside.

Except for the ending, the House of Sand and Fog could have been the story of a friend's in-laws.

Can you tell me, prior to 1977 how much mention was there in Officially Approved Publications of Savak?

First time I noticed that [what I thought was] media omertà had been broken was the summer these in-laws were in Boston looking for real estate "investments." It explained their peculiar intensity and why their usual high courtesy was beginning to fray. When I told the friend that these may indicate that the Shah was on his way out, and her relatives could be in some REAL danger, she said "piffle, can't happen."

Not sure when or how I became aware of Savak. I think I must have read about it in the free tabloids that the Bolshies used to hand out at stop lights. They often contained some of the news that had been deemed unfit to print.


What an amazing experience, akin to going into the lion's den and bearding it.

I spent a couple weeks in Iran a couple years ago. I stayed away from anything controversial. Today the country gives the appearance of being much more developed and prosperous than it was 40 years ago. And it is unrivaled in terms of the art on display in the old palaces and mosques.

But I wonder how much has really changed in terms of the pervasiveness of the surveillance state. Certainly, there is much to criticize today, but as your piece spells out there was also much to criticize back when the Shah reigned with substantial backing from Israel and the US.

William R. Cumming

Richard! Many thanks as always for this great post. What is the relationship of Court Persian to FARSI?

Charles I

Thanks very much Richard, I recall your writing about your early riot experience.

I also read The Shah's assassins at Truthout. I hope you'll write more at length about your ME experiences, this very human level ground reporting exposing big workings the nitty gritty of which I remain so very ignorant This kind of thing is one of my favourite bits of SST.

The Beaver

Mr Sale

Is that 6-part series from 1977 available on the WaPo site?


Mr. Sale,
I recall being a graduate student at the University of Chicago about that time (1971-1978)and the potential gift from the Shah to donate several millions to dedicate a center in his name to study the area. I cannot recall many of the details, but his offer was not accepted after after protests and petitions by students and faculty. It came to me as no surprise when I came to Greece in 1978 that his regime and legitimacy were under fire due to the protests and the history from the early 1950s and in 1953, due to Kermit Roosevelt's coup. Back in those days, (the 70s)the foreign press had a great deal of coverage of it especially from France, but we read it on dead trees a week or more later.


" The ordinary U.S. view of Iran saw the Shah as the modernizer of a backward society, a benevolent despot, like Frederic the Great. He was plagued by Communists, but he was ruthless in destroying them. He was America’s GREAT ALLY in the Middle East. No one in the U.S. press had ever contracted that view. But his real opposition was Islamic. And no one had ever said that."

--- The U.S. government had to have known. Maybe things were different in the 70s, but otherwise that means the top echelons of press had to have known.

--- I wonder if there was Facebook and Twitter after world war 2, just how long the cold war would have actually lasted.

Babak Makkinejad

Same obtains in Israel, but God forbid that there would be any critical comments ever written about the poor treatment of dogs in Israel.

We will never see an "Israel Dog Refugee Act of 2014" that would admit all those ill-treated Israeli dogs into the United States.

p s c

A curious rich boy goes to Iran. The people he investigates (SAVAK) are eventually killed by people who are more barbaric than SAVAK.

After the Eagles game today, I was browsing the website of the now defunct Northeast Catholic High School for Boys (Philadelphia) Alumni website. The list of graduates killed from WW2 Through Afghanistan was quite long, especially for the classes of 1940-1944. An uncle of mine was from the class of 1944 and survived his short stretch of war.

Sale's article embodied self-importance. Sale's detailed description of his acting-out, playing a fool, so that the SAVAK stooges would think he was just another dumb American.

The men from North Catholic from neighborhoods like Kensington, Port Richmond, and Fishtown just did their duty. Much more interesting.

Charles I

Can you post their reports for us, or your own for that matter, as I say I'm ignorant, can use it all.


"A curious rich boy goes to Iran?" "The men from North Catholic from neighborhoods like Kensington, Port Richmond, and Fishtown just did their duty. Much more interesting?"

Do you think you could be more dismissive? Or wrong...not to mention illogical?

Sale was a reporter working for the Washington Post. His family ties greased the wheel, and no doubt played some part in his editor's decision to send him there in the first place. He was there to file a story *per his job*. He says so in the lede above. There is zero comparison between the war duty you sentimentalize from reading an online listing of dead you perused after a boozy football game today, and the reporting of a professional journalist on the last days of a foreign leader’s reign.

The Shah fell in late January 1979. I was at an ambassadorial cocktail party in Morocco five months later when two 'State Department” guys plied with six too many seven-and-sevens bragged they had trained Khomeini in Provence how to effect his coup. Taught him how to have people make five-mile circles with the same people carrying suitcases for western television cameras. Taught him how to hang transistor radios on light poles to broadcast his messages. They crowed how they had to educate the “non-political Khomeini” so that the US could run Iran’s oil business after Khomeini took over, until they encountered what came to be known as “blowback.” Jimmy Carter fired 4,000 CIA agents as a result.




Richard Sale, thanks very much for this fascinating remembrance. RP

Edgar Grana

Richard I missed your third installment re Israel could you point me to it love to read it

Ishmael Zechariah

Dr. Makkinejad,

I was under the impression that US treated granted asylum and access to all sorts of beasts from Iran and Israel.

Ishmael Zechariah

Babak Makkinejad

I think you are ill-informed; Israel is "Jerusalem" and US is the "New Jerusalem" - by definition everything is Perfection in Israel.



So today's children's crusaders have a long and illustrious (snark) ancestry! One hopes we don't get a Khomeini or worse, a Lenin, out of all these...



This is why the man who saved him was assassinated then.


A great read.Thank you.

Medicine Man

Thank you for sharing, Mr. Sale. Your stories are always fascinating.


Great piece like always!


"The US government had to have known . . ."

Today, the US government knows that KSA is not democratic, that Israeli gov. kills Palestinians and has nukes, but they, like the Shah's Iran in 1976 +-, spend lavishly, and in cash, in the case of Iran, on US weapons and technology. The year before Richard Sales was in Iran compiling this fascinating material, my husband was working for a contractor to the US Navy, under contract to the Shah, designing radars. The Shah of Iran, and therefore the Iranian people, signed the checks that paid for our first house and our first child.

We did not know that our paymaster was also a torturer.

Today, that first child works for a corporation that builds weapons for US government, an entity that engages in torture and illegal wars. Twitter, Facebook, iPhones, high-speed internet and the most sophisticated means of communication money and brains can devise are at the disposal of that child, and parents, and corporation, and government, and media. But it does not seem to make a difference.

Horses can fly but that does not make the world a better place.


Interesting MRW. One never stops to be surprised, if you are telling the truth, that must have happened under POTUS Carter.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

June 2020

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30        
Blog powered by Typepad