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.
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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 FreemanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved