To some degree, Mohammad-Rezâ Shah’s failings were masked by the progressive nature of some of his reforms (improving the status of women, for example) and by the undeniable explosion of wealth brought about by the oil boom. Under the surface, however, there was growing opposition on both the Marxist left and the religious right of the political spectrum.

By fall, the various opposition groups had united under the leadership of the exiled Khomeini and pledged to keep up their strikes and demonstrations until the shah was forced to abdicate. The shah was both ineffective and inconsistent in dealing with the unrest, whether because of problems deriving from his terminal illness, his hope that Washington would tell him what to do, or darker conspiracies against him, is impossible to say. To his credit, he did steadfastly avoid turning the full weight of his military on the crowds; of course, the rank and file might have refused to obey if he had given such orders. By the end of 1978, it was obvious that the shah’s position was hopeless; he left Iran for a so-called vacation in January 1979, after entrusting a regency government to Shâhpur Bakhtiâr.