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Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the U.S., and the Twisted Path to Confrontation Paperback – Bargain Price, January 6, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
The American-Iranian relationship has been fraught for years—indeed, for far longer than most Americans realize—USA Today diplomatic correspondent Slavin shows. Interweaving history with current events, she demonstrates how decades-old American perfidy continues to color Iranian expectations, much as the 1979 hostage crisis continues to affect Americans today. Without losing sight of the brutality with which the Islamic Republic was established—and is often maintained—Slavin skillfully presents its surprisingly multifaceted culture and political establishment, where mullahs are sometimes on the side of reform, and Western-minded businessmen might support systematic corruption and repression. The driving theme, however, is one of decades of missed opportunities, on both sides, to achieve rapprochement. Providing little-known details of the various contacts and arguments both between and within the American and Iranian leaderships, Slavin argues that the Bush administration badly misjudged Iran's leadership; by the time it offered to talk with Iran about its nuclear program, Iran had been so emboldened by other U.S. policies that it felt little pressure or inclination to accept. This articulate study helps clear the fog between two nations that have long and systematically demonized each other. (Oct.)
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"Rarely has a book been more necessary or more timely. Drawing on decades of experience in the Middle East, Barbara Slavin has produced a masterful study of today's Iran. From the dusty streets of Qum to the highest government offices, Slavin has used her finely honed reporter's instinct to gain access to every level of Iranian society. Often surprising, always accessible, it is an indispensible book for anyone concerned with the direction of United States foreign policy."-- Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of March
Praise for Barbara Slavin
"Barbara Slavin has had a unique opportunity to follow the difficult recent history of the United States and Iran and extraordinary access to high-level officials on both sides. She is a seasoned journalist and foreign policy expert whose insights about Iran should help Americans understand Iran and U.S. options for dealing with a fascinating, complicated, and crucial country."--Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State
"Barbara Slavin is uniquely qualified to address in-depth and with insight a uniquely complex and significant challenge facing U.S. foreign policy." --Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. National Security Advisor
"I know Barbara Slavin as an accomplished, well-sourced journalist, who not only has a way with written words, but is equally eloquent when discussing foreign affairs during her frequent appearances on television."--Caryle Murphy, Washington Post reporter and author of Passion for Islam
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She points out, as others have done, that Iran is a very young and very Westernized country. Although the clerics have the upper hand in the halls of government, they hardly have the upper hand with the predominantly young men and women on the streets. Their eyes, for the most part, look to something other than Shia fundamentalism for excitement and inspiration. This should be good news to Western readers. Although, young Iranians' drug and alcohol problems are truly lamentable, it is somewhat re-assuring that they are more--"like us." Not, for the most part, frothing at the mouth jihadists eager to disembowel and burn Americans. Such caricatures are the stuff of Fox news, neo-con spokesmen, and other various shades of political hucksters on the right.
The author presents a strong case through interviews and corroborative supporting evidence that the Iranian people--the young in particular--do not want war with the US. Instead, they want a better, more modern and prosperous life. Bombing these people will do nothing but play into the hands of the fundamentalist clerics. Intelligent diplomacy with the skilled use of carrots and sticks (preferably of the non-bomb variety) should be the most fruitful approach with this country. An approach which she obviously endorses....
She goes into some detail of describing the complexities of the very idiosyncratic political structure in Iran. For me, it was a very informative presentation of this aspect of Iran. Hopefully, more people will read it in the upcoming months and add their voices in opposition to any Iranian military adventures by Bush and Cheney during the waning months of their administration. Highly recommended.
Our newspapers, television, radio and online sources are busy quoting outrageous statements from the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and America's fear about their nuclear program. Jingoistic sound-bites on both sides have dwarfed sensible, thoughtful and fact based commentary.
Thankfully, Barbara Slavin has written a book that presents a holistic view we Americans are typically not exposed too. Using her remarkable access to people such as Madeline Albright, Condelezza Rice, Iranian reformers like former President Mohammad Khatami, longtime establishment figures such as Ali Rafsanjani, as well as dissidents like Akbar Ganji and everyday citizens, allows Slavin to shed sunlight on a nation most Americans know very little about. She was the first newspaper journalist to interview Iranian President Ahmadinejad.
We also learn about the tantalizing opportunities for reconciliation not seized by three successive American administrations.
Overall, Slavin's prose is anecdotal but fact based. Her book makes truth accessible and truth about Iran has been in short supply. Hopefully, her book will also make truth fashionable again.
For more information about Slavin's book and insights into Iran, listen to a podcast interview I had with her at the weblog, Intrepid Liberal Journal.