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Confronting Iran: The Failure of American Foreign Policy and the Next Great Crisis in the Middle East 1St Edition Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465003501
ISBN-10: 0465003508
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Preoccupied by Iraq, America paid little attention to its vastly larger and wealthier neighbor until Iran announced resumption of its nuclear program in the past year. This scholarly but lucid account by a prominent British historian begins with the Persian empire's 19th-century decline, as it lost territory to Russia and economic independence to Britain. Iran-American relations remained friendly until after WWII, when the U.S. aligned with British policy. After Mohammad Mosaddeq nationalized his nation's oil industry, the CIA engineered his 1953 overthrow—an event remembered in Iran as an outrage similar to Pearl Harbor. There followed 25 years of rule by Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, who sent an avalanche of oil money to the U.S. to finance a high-tech military force that proved useless in the revolution that ousted him. Humiliated by the revolutionists' 1979 takeover of our embassy, the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein during the brutal 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq war. As vividly as he portrays American blunders, Ansari does not ignore Iran's tortured politics and its national myth of victimization. American readers may wince at Iran's wildly distorted view of Western culture, but those who persist will realize the enormous barriers to understanding that both nations face. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Ali M. Ansari is a highly regarded specialist in the field of Iranian history and politics. Currently a member of the Modern History faculty at the University of St. Andrews, he holds a doctorate from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. He has written for periodicals, including the Financial Times and the Independent (London). This is his third book. He lives in Fife, Scotland.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1St Edition edition (June 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465003508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465003501
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,366,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rolf Dobelli HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This slightly convoluted book provides tremendous background to help advanced readers understand the complex motives and machinations that shape U.S.-Iranian relations. Unfortunately, professor Ali Ansari has a definite point of view that affects his presentation about Iran's stated nuclear threats and terrorist financing, even as he chides the "trigger-happy Americans" in Iraq. He may be right that the U.S. missed several opportunities to reduce tensions with Iran, but he admits that Iran's overtures were oblique and unpopular. His baroque interpretations of Iran's motives and the relationships among its factions is dizzying, and open to question - ultimately adding to Iran's mystery. Despite its biases, we consider this important for those seeking a comprehensive overview of Iran and its complex U.S. relations. The book goes well beyond any discussion available in the mass media.
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Format: Hardcover
Although Confronting Iran has some merits (albeit only a few), the shortcomings of this book are what unfortunately stand out. Had I not just finished Trita Parsi's book Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States, I would have reacted more favorably to Ansari's book, but at the end of the day, if you're only going to read one book concerning Iran and the U.S., there is absolutely no excuse to pick up Confronting Iran.

To begin, the title is somewhat misleading. It implies a history of the interaction between the U.S. and Iran, which is not necessarily what you'll find. A little more than halfway through the book, it seems as if the title was merely an attempt to grab attention in order to sell more copies since Iran is in the news as much as it is. A large part of the book focuses on domestic Iranian politics. This is only problematic because it strays from what the book allegedly sets out to do, and in any case, the author doesn't convincingly connect the domestic parts of the book to the overall theme. One of the highlights of the book is the context provided behind Ahmadinejad's election and that it was not the result of the Iranian public overwhelmingly choosing him, but rather that fraud was rampant, and that with four reformist candidates also running, the splitting of their votes helped a hard-liner come to office.

Something that made me wary of the domestic Iranian portions of the book though, is that Ansari's narrative of the relationship between the U.S. and Iran was nothing more than a rehashing of conventional wisdom. Again, had I not just read Parsi's book, this would not have seemed as glaringly obvious, but the contrast between the two books are nothing short of stunning.
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Format: Hardcover
Iran possesses the second-largest reserves of oil in the world, as well as the second largest natural gas reserves. Thus, their importance is hard to overestimate.

U.S. recent involvement in Iran began with our participation in the overthrow of its democratically-elected leader on 8/19/53 because of his decision to nationalize the oil industry - with payment and the intent to retain most/all workers. Subsequently, we further aggravated our relationship by pushing for exempting U.S. citizens from Iranian laws, and our support for land reform as a defense against Communism.

In 1974 the U.S. signed a ten-year agreement to supply Iran with enriched uranium, while Iran planned to order 5 nuclear power plants from France. Meanwhile, the U.S. supported Shah eventually turned the populace against him by stifling dissent, and when the U.S. allowed the deposed Shah into the U.S. for medical treatment (Britain had prohibited), the U.S. began to be viewed as the Great Satan and the Iranian hostage situation followed.

Our alliance with and support of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War became another problem, while U.S. political support for Iran was undermined by the Iran-Contra affair (weapons and parts to Iran for hostages being released in Lebanon and cash - the cash was then funneled to Nicaraguan Contras). The Vincennes affair (guided missile destroyer that negligently shot down an Iranian airliner), followed by our initial efforts to cover-up the error and Reagan's awarding the Captain a medal further soured our relationship.

Other problems included the Navy ship Stark - hit by an Iraqi missile, the U.S.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was good for both its take on current events with regards to Iran, and also for the historical dealings layout. I've read various authors on the history of the Middle East, but when dealing with the Middle East as a whole, anyone is bound to overlook key details just because of necessity. Writing about the unique nations is important because Iranians don't look at themselves as just another one of the Middle Eastern nations that the west thinks are all the same.

Ansari's analysis seems very fair to me. America has made some mistakes and they shouldn't deny that. But he is upfront about the mistakes Iran made also

It is difficult to read any book on this subject without forming an opinion one way or another. The fact that anyone is reading it suggests they already have an opinion on Iran. Ansari portrays a country whose leaders are, as of 1979, relatively hostile to the West/USA, and have very little desire to amend themselves with Americans. But it also shows contrasting citizenry who respect the West and want to patch things up.

The question now becomes what to do about Iran. Ansari didn't touch on this much, and that probably wasn't the intention of his book. This book is good for getting a solid reference point and then working from there. More knowledge about this complex nation and region would not hurt anyone, and such ignorance seems to be rampant among talking heads today.

The one area I would criticize the book is in its characterization of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It seems Ansari purposely avoids mentioning how completely whacko this guy is and how bad he is for Iran. Scholars cannot keep ignoring and glossing over all the "incinerate the Jews" talk and holocaust denying as simple rhetoric of Middle Eastern leaders.
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