Synopses & Reviews
For over a quarter century, Iran has been one of America's chief nemeses. Ever since Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the Shah in 1979, the relationship between the two nations has been antagonistic: revolutionary guards chanting against the Great Satan, Bush fulminating against the Axis of Evil, Iranian support for Hezbollah, and President Ahmadinejad blaming the U.S. for the world's ills.
The unending war of words suggests an intractable divide between Iran and the West, one that may very well lead to a shooting war in the near future. But as Ray Takeyh shows in this accessible and authoritative history of Iran's relations with the world since the revolution, behind the famous personalities and extremist slogans is a nation that is far more pragmatic--and complex--than many in the West have been led to believe. Takeyh explodes many of our simplistic myths of Iran as an intransigently Islamist foe of the West. Tracing the course of Iranian policy since the 1979 revolution, Takeyh identifies four distinct periods: the revolutionary era of the 1980s, the tempered gradualism following the death of Khomeini and the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1989, the "reformist" period from 1997-2005 under President Khatami, and the shift toward confrontation and radicalism since the election of President Ahmadinejad in 2005.
Takeyh shows that three powerful forces--Islamism, pragmatism, and great power pretensions--have competed in each of these periods, and that Iran's often paradoxical policies are in reality a series of compromises between the hardliners and the moderates, often with wild oscillations between pragmatism and ideological dogmatism. The U.S.'s task, Takeyh argues, is to find strategies that address Iran's objectionable behavior without demonizing this key player in an increasingly vital and volatile region. With its clear-sighted grasp of both nuance and historical sweep, Guardians of the Revolution will stand as the standard work on this controversial--and central--actor in world politics for years to come.
"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)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In this exploration of the relationship between Iran and the world since the Shah was overthrown in 1979, Takeyh shows that behind the famous personalities and extremist slogans is a nation that is far more pragmatic--and complex--that many in the West have been led to believe.
About the Author
is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of Hidden Iran
and The Origins of the Eisenhower Doctrine
. He lives near Washington, DC.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Through the Looking Glass: Iran's Approach to the World
Part One: The Revolutionary Years
Chapter 1: Khomeini's Ideology and Iran's Grand Strategy
Chapter 2: Relations with the "Great Satan"
Chapter 3: Turmoil in Levant: Iran, Israel and the politics of Arab East
Chapter 4: Iran-Iraq War
Part Two: The Rise of Pragmatism and the New Priorities
Chapter 5: Pragmatic Restraint: Iranian Politics during the Rafsanjani era
Chapter 6: Reconciliation Diplomacy and its Limits
Chapter 7: The Satans
Part Three: The Age of Reform
Chapter 8: The Odyssey of the Reform Movement
Chapter 9: September 11th and the Politics of Fear, Hope and Necessity
Part Four: Hegemony at last?
Chapter 10: The Rise of the New Right
Chapter 11: The Ahmadinejad Era