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Guardians of the Revolution: Iran and the World in the Age of the Ayatollahs Reprint Edition

2.7 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199754106
ISBN-10: 0199754101
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Since the 1979 revolution that transformed Iran, some U.S. decision makers have treated the Islamic Republic as a political monolith, ignoring internal disagreements and political factions in favor of broadly painting Iran's leadership as evil. Takeyh (Hidden Iran) argues credibly that this approach has been to our own peril, as the foreign policies of Iran are often an expression of domestic politics, no matter how opaque these politics may seem to outsiders. Rather than continue to try to contain Iran by means of a broad-based Arab alliance, an approach that's been failing for decades, Takeyh argues that the U.S. must instead conceive a situation whereby Iran... sees benefit in limiting its ambitions. In his previous book, Takeyh expressed an unassailable optimism that Iran will change and was on an inexorable path to greater openness—almost regardless of who was in power. Takeyh is more pessimistic in his predictions now, writing that Iran has confounded the West's anticipation of a forward historical progression. By failing to acknowledge his own shifting understanding of the situation, Takeyh misses an opportunity to provide a genuinely honest—however inconsistent—assessment. (June)
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.


"Superb...anyone wishing to understand why restored American-Iranian ties are so elusive, but also so critical, should turn to this important work, a riveting and consistently insightful study of revolutionary Iran and its still troubled place in the world."--New York Times

"Elegant anatomy of Iran's foreign policy since 1979."--Malise Ruthven, New York Review of Books

"An excellent, straightforward primer for anyone who has not explored Iran's history before and wants a fair and unsparing portrayal of its ambitions and a keen understanding of its internal politics."--The Jerusalem Post

"Lucidly written... Recommended for students and general readers who are tracking the U.S.-Iranian relationship."--Library Journal

"Guardians of the Revolution is a "must read' for policy makers in Iran, in the United States, and throughout the world. Thirty years after the Revolution, this is the only comprehensive book in any language on the dynamics of change in Iranian domestic and foreign policy since the revolution. Timely and balanced, it should command the attention of the Obama administration in reviewing America's policy toward Iran."--R. K. Ramazani, Edward R. Stettinius Professor of Government, University of Virginia

"Ray Takeyh is one of our country's most insightful observers of Iran. In this book, he offers an interesting portrait of how and why Iran's approach to the world has evolved since the revolution. His explanations of the interplay of different groups within the elite and the rise of the new right are thought provoking and raise important questions for policy-makers. If one wants to understand the different forces affecting Iranian foreign policy, Takeyh's book is a good place to start."--Dennis Ross, author of Statecraft: And How to Restore America's Standing in the World

"Ray Takeyh has given us a succinct, well-written, and cool-headed analysis of Iran's foreign policy since the 1979 revolution. This book should be read by academics working on contemporary Iran as well as by foreign-policy experts in Washington grappling with the issue of how to deal with Tehran."--Ervand Abrahamian, author of A History of Modern Iran

" A useful aid.... [This book] provides a narrative background to the insights in his earlier Hidden Iran. Takeyh's two books together offer as instructive a portrait as one can find of politics in Tehran and why it generates sometimes maddening Iranian postures toward the outside world."--The National Interest

"Anyone who wants to understand whats going on in Iran must read the terrific ... Guardians of the Revolution ... a lucid, clear-headed explanation of Irans perplexing foreign policy since 1979."--Daily Beast

"An excellent way to take the measure of revolutionary Iran today is to read this up-to-date, well-researched, and perceptive history of its foreign policy since 1979."--Foreign Affairs

"[An] excellent history of Iran's foreign and security policies in the three decades since the revolution.... A highly successful balancing act between breadth and depth...[and] a first-class book."--Middle East Journal Review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (April 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199754101
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199754106
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.9 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #420,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Author Ray Takeyh is an Iranian-American whose family fled Iran in 1979. He is also a State Department adviser to the Obama administration. Consequently, he brings to the subject of Iran an unusual combination of scholarly analysis and empathy. The latter is important, according to Takeyh, because relations between Iran and the United States have long been afflicted by the bitter emotion secreted by decades of reciprocal grievance and Iran's self-perception: "A combination of righteousness and victimization constitutes a core part of Iranians’ national identity, and they are acutely sensitive to perceived slights" (p. 154). Among such “slights,” of course, none loom larger than America’s, not least the C.I.A.-backed 1953 coup that overthrew Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and the mistaken 1988 shooting-down of Iran Air Flight 655, in which 290 people perished. "Great Satanism" -- the weekly vilification of the United States at Friday prayers -- has been a pillar of the revolution since the shah was overthrown.

A core question now confronting Iran’s establishment, more divided today than at any time since 1979, is whether the maintenance of this anachronistic hostility (most Iranians have a positive view of the United States) is essential to the survival of the revolutionary order, or whether the Islamic Republic needs to move beyond its broken ties with Washington to prosper. Can Iran do what China did in 1972: normalize relations with the United States, despite ideological differences, while maintaining its system? Takeyh says yes, and argues persuasively for a strategy of curbing and reducing disruptions and normalizing relations with Iran.

Takeyh provides an invaluable guide to the forces on either side of that vexed question.
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Format: Hardcover
Iran seems to be a topic that provokes strong, if not extreme, responses in readers. Hence the terse, highly unfavourable reviews already posted here on Amazon. I have given this book 5 stars because I strongly disagree with the abuse contained in those reviews, although if they had been more reasonable and considered, instead of hysterical, I would probably give the book 4 stars: very good but not ground-breaking.

Dr Takeyh has written a book with the policymakers in Washington very much in mind, focussing as he does on post-revolutionary Iran's foreign relations and its relations with the US in particular. I'm not interested in whether the author is an adviser to Obama, Sarkozy or Putin: what interests me is what he has written. If I were an American policymaker, or American Iran wonk, I might have different views on the book, but the book's great value to me is its succinct account of the development of Ayatollah Khomeini's thinking on the role of the clergy in an Islamic state, his role in forging the 1979 revolution, and the force of his personality that created a powerful legacy that resonates today, in the Iran of the 2009 presidential elections and their aftermath. Unlike Con Coughlin's recent "Khomeini's Ghost", which is written in a free-flowing, somewhat journalistic style (which is not to criticise it), Takeyh's approach is measured, considered, bordering on the prescriptive. Concurrently with the foreign policy considerations, he examines Iran post-1979 as falling into four distinct periods, more or less coinciding with the period up until Khomeini's death, the the three presidencies that followed: Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Ahmadinejad, each showing different approaches to the world and to the internal business of government in a revolutionary society.
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Format: Hardcover
"Guardians of the Revolution" provides useful analysis of the Iranian regime since the founding of the Islamic Republic. Takeyh does a good job describing the various factions within Iran's government and the challenges that moderates faced when trying to normalize relations with the West. I have not read any other books on Iran, so I can't really judge the accuracy of Takeyh's portrait of Iran. But my impression is that he does know Iran very well.

My main complaint about the book is that Takeyh fails to properly set the stage for the benefit of readers who don't already know the history of Iran prior to the revolution. While he does provide some background on the father of the revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, he says very little about the regime of the Shah which the United States supported. Doing this would have helped readers better understand the antagonism that many in Iran feel toward the United States. While the policy makers in the West who this book is targeted to might already know the full history of Iran, the average reader probably does not.
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Format: Kindle Edition
The book is a good one, but the narration is terribly confusing! How many ways can you pronounce Ruhollah Khomeini? It's really confusing, in that there are other major players in Iran with similar names...
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Format: Hardcover
This book provides a strong history of Iran since the revolution of 1979. Takeyh tracks political developments through the last thirty years, providing a textured look at the country's political and clerical leadership. He also explains the Iranian regime's complex blend of revolutionary idealism and pragmatism. Understanding the various decision-makers adds context to the recent Iranian election controversy and Iran's nuclear aspirations. Worth a read for anyone who want to understand U.S. relations with Iran.
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