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The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America Paperback – August 9, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 539 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (August 9, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812973364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812973365
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #427,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Pollack, formerly director for Gulf affairs at the National Security Council and a military analyst for the CIA, wrote The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq in September 2002, he both shaped the debate over the imminent invasion and helped persuade many reluctant Democratic policy makers to support the war. This time around, he is much more cautious, concluding that although "Iran is on the wrong path and marching down it quickly," invasion would be a serious mistake. Part history lesson, part current affairs primer and part party policy memo, Pollack's new book about the second Axis of Evil member revolves around an extremely pressing question: would the acquisition of nuclear capabilities prompt the Iranians to disregard the threat of American intervention and pursue a more aggressive, destabilizing and dangerous foreign policy? Pollack cautions that there are two ticking clocks: the first is internal regime change in Iran and the second is how long it will take Iran to go nuclear. Ultimately, and with many codicils, Pollack decides that the U.S. can live with a nuclear Iran, postulating that through strong multilateral engagement we can effectively deter Iran, if not yet welcome the country into the world community. Analyzing the assumptions behind both American and Iranian foreign policy, Pollack reminds us that behind Iran's tendency to blame "everything but the weather on foreign subversion" lies a kernel of truth. The CIA did, in fact, overthrow Mossaddeq in 1953, although Americans, conveniently, "are serial amnesiacs; as a nation, we forget what we have done almost immediately after doing it." For anyone wanting to understand the stark choices the U.S. faces concerning Iran, and how to respond to them, this is the place to start.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The U.S. is understandably fixated on nation building in Afghanistan and Iraq. Meanwhile, Iran, with nearly four times the territory and three times the population of Iraq, continues to sponsor terrorist groups, seeks expanded influence in Iraq, and may be close to obtaining nuclear capability. Although Iranian "moderates" seemed ascendant a few years ago, the conservative, rabidly anti-American mullahs are now firmly in control. Pollack, a director of research at the Brookings Institute, regards Iranian-American relations as complicated, fraught with danger, and unlikely to be improved by so-called decisive actions. Pollack begins with a superbly written summary of several millennia of Persian history, then describes the ups and downs of our relations with Iran since American involvement intensified during World War II. He takes a balanced approach, indicating blunders and missed opportunities by both sides. As for solutions to the puzzle, Pollack suggests possible options while stressing the impossibility of a quick fix. This is a sharp analysis that must be given serious consideration by our foreign-policy establishment. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

If you're looking for a good summary of the relationship between the U.S. and Iran as well as a policy book, this is it.
I also think that just because he was wrong about one thing (and his company in this group is quite vast), doesn't mean this book is not helpful.
Lee L.
What I most appreciated was Mr. Pollack's frequent objective dissection of the causes for negative feelings or misunderstandings.
Linda B.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By J. Bancroft on March 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I am halfway through this book and find it quite fascinating. The history of how Iran was abused through the ages is unheard of in our hemisphere.

Knowing how England and Russia played games with Iran helps understand the paranoia that Iran had thinking that we were pulling the strings of the Shah: Iranians had a right to be paranoid.

I just wish we were as powerful as they thought, we would have either propped up the Shah or brought down Khomeni.

This book is an easy read, well written, filled with facts and quotes from the time periods mentioned.

It is a scholarly book, not one for a sunny day unless you want to sit down and study it, it is a serious history, not a novel.

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Robinson on November 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I approached this book not knowing really what to expect, i.e.: does the book try to justify past US policies or is it a rational discussion. It is the latter. The author tries to clear the political air in the introduction and set the record straight on why we have problems with Iran. He uses a direct quote from the Iranians regarding a speech from Secretary Albright who acknowledges the over 25 years of US interference in the politics and leadership of Iran starting with the shah in 1953 and ending with the aid to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq conflict in the 1980's. This of course is contrary to public posture at home that our actions are about promoting democracy abroad. It is clear that past actions against Iran were to promote US commercial, trade, and strategic defense interests at the expense of the Iranians. So that admission up front is refreshing. Many Iranians had expected help from the US, not a new imperial power to replace Britain and Russia that had dominated Iran for most of the 19th century and half of the 20th century. So the question now is simply this: can we build a new relationship, especially with that 200 history of mistrust with Russia, Britain, and America?

The book is somewhat long and can be described as comprehensive; it is well written suitable for the average reader and it is a fairly quick and light read. The pages seem to whiz by like a Jack London novel. It has about 428 pages of main text with five maps, and is followed by 60 pages of notes and a bibliography approximately 25 pages in length. It covers 13 subjects including a history of Iran, the shah, the rise of US influence in Iran, the hostage crisis, the Iran-Iraq war, and the post 1980 political developments in Iran.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Osman Din on July 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
Just finished reading it -- great book!

The author's analysis is objective & professional. Probably 50% of policy books today have some kind of serious bias, but I found Mr Pollack's assumptions to be fair & his conclusions to be well-reasoned. He seems to have a good command on different sociological, psychological, political and religious aspects of the Iranian society, and he presents his case without relying on guess work or unsubstainted/dishonest assertions.

I do think, however, that Mr. Pollack should have included more material on the role of Sunni-Shiite tension within the Islamic world, and its effect on Iran's policies. In addition, the author could have focused more on the perceptions Muslims in other countries have about the US & Israel. After all, while devising a strategy for relations with Iran, it is imperative that such basic complexities are considered.
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61 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Mark H. Gaffney on December 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand it represents an enormous amount of research. Parts of it are well written and constitute an important resource for anyone who wants to better understand the US-Iran relationship. But the reader should be aware that it's also a flawed book. The author can't seem to make up his mind if he's a progressive or a conservative. He supported the US invasion of Iraq -- and continually attempts to justify that failed policy in this, his latest opus. The reader therefore needs to be alert.

There are numerous problems with the book. Here are some:

*The author contradicts himself on the second page of his introduction when he arrogantly states "I will say very bluntly that I don't think the US needs Iran..." The author then spends the better part of the next 500 pages presenting powerful evidence that the US in fact does need Iran, very much. For how in heaven's name will we ever succeed in resolving the matter of Iran's nuclear ambitions, what the author refers to as the "problem from hell" without the cooperation -- if not the good will -- of Iran? Answer: we won't.

*The author seriously underestimates the figure of Mossadegh, the vastly popular Prime Minister of Iran overthrown by the US CIA in 1953. Pollack refers to him as reckless and thinks he was an extremist -- not true. The reader would do better to check out Stephen Kinzer's excellent book All the Shah's Men for a clearer look at Mossadegh. In fact he was the Iranian Gandhi, and while he made mistakes he was never the tyrant or dictator described by Pollack. Nor was he inept as a lawyer, which Pollack also implies. Mossadegh was capable enough to plead his case against the Anglo-Persian oil company in the world court -- and to win it in grand fashion. Not bad.
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