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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2009
This is a mighty little book. I found this work highly enlightening, and filled with information that gives the reader a view inside Iran. The book focuses not only on the leadership, but also on the Iranian people. This book really brings home the fact that Iran is in no way a monolithic nation in which a population is united behind a unified and central authority. Suzanne Maloney does a great job showing readers just how fluid and ever changing is Iranian society. This makes predicting how this society is going to act or react to the world (and US policy) a very dangerous and risky business.

Suzanne Maloney gives us a look into a rather dysfunctional government that is having difficulty fulfilling the promises made to the populace. Whether that be the government of the modestly liberal and reformist Khatami and his glacial move toward more open and democratic government, or whether it's the hardline, radical regime of Ahmadinejad and his promise of economic reform and opportunity there is a restless population that is very young and educated, but also impossible to predict. With Iran's high literacy rate and educated population, and its almost nonexistent economic opportunity for these young people Iran is ensuring either a long and enduring brain drain that will be devastating for its future, or a very large group of possible restive, dissidents. The problem facing the Iranian theocracy though is how to reform its economy without losing its own authority and power. As the author asserts this young population is difficult to predict, but something is going to happen whether that be a voluntary opening up of the society and government or something much more volatile happening.

The one topic the author expounded upon that I was very interested in was the contradictions within the Shia faith and the theocratic government set up by Khomeini and extended under Khamenei. The Iranian government in no way has the approval of the entire Shia community, and it has a difficult time ensuring its own legitimacy in the wider Muslim world and within the narrower confines of Iran's own border. I was really pleased to see this topic discussed, and the books referenced in the work introduced me to some authors who I needed to know.

The one small problem I had with this book is its US-centric approach. The book reads as a potential guide for professional US policy makers. So the discussion of Iran's relationship with Hezbollah and Hezbollah generally seemed simplistic. While I agree with the general assessment that Hezbollah is dangerous and the relationship with Iran is dubious, I disagree that Hezbollah is simply a proxy of Iran's. I see Hezbollah to be a largely independent group that has alliances with several bad actors, but they are not just a militant, terrorist group either. Hezbollah has been instrumental in pushing for reform of Lebanon's confessional system, and in some ways has had a stabilizing affect on this historically destabilized nation. This US-centric approach was nothing but a minor problem, and is one that most people will not have a problem with.

This was a great little book. Any one interested in Iran or the Middle East should give this book a read. Iran is such an instrumental player in this area now that they cannot be ignored, and this nation is in a position to be a huge focus of US policy for a long time to come. This is essential reading for everyone interested in the future of US policy in this region.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2009
As scary as it is, much of the Muslim world looks to Iran for leadership much as much of the Western world looks to the United States. "Iran's Long Reach: Iran as a Pivotal State in the Muslim World" is an honest and frank examination of Iran's political system and its high influence on the world of Islam. More importantly, it studies what it means for today's America and how Iraq's foreign policy is quickly making it a major power regardless of its intents on the world stage. "Iran's Long Reach" is a must for anyone who wants to fully understand Iran.
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