The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America

10 thoughts on “The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America

  1. Bethany Bethany says:

    Great book with fantastic information but very dry and hard to get through

  2. Nate Cooley Nate Cooley says:

    Kenneth Pollack's The Persian Puzzle is probably the best and most comprehensive analysis of the Iran that has received mainstream and widespread acclaim Pollock known for his prior unabashed support of an Irai invasion The threatening Storm has followed up that work with his most recent book At the outset in outlining a strategy for dealing with Iran it is important to note that the author has shied away from his previously hawkish outlook with regard to Ira Whether he is gunshy literally because of positions he previously advocated or whether he truly believes that the decision to use force against Iran deserves considerably caution is not uite clear Nevertheless I completely enjoyed his book and appreciated his research In my opinion Pollock is undoubtedly one of the seminal writers and policy wonks with regard to the Middle East His analysis of Iran especially its history and his compact description of how the United States found itself where it stands today is incredibly focused and prescient Particularly Pollock masterfully outlines both the overthrow of the Shah Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and particularly the subseuent Iranian Revolution initiated in 1978 In describing these events the author focuses specifically on America's involvment in each episode and importantly the Iranian's contempt for America with regard to each incident From an Iranian perspective these two events seem contradictory In 1953 the United States along with Britain ousted someone who was perceived as a dictatorial leader un receptive to classical liberal ideals ostensibly sweeping the globe Huntington's Second Wave Then in somewhat contradictory fashion in the late 1970's Iranian elites cracked down on liberalization thus allowing Ayatollah Khomeini to assume the position of Supreme Leader and impose revolutionary Islamic rule Though these incidents seem at odds from an Iranian perspective Pollock ellucidates one constant that exposes itself throughout recent Iranian history Contempt for the United States brought on by the Iranian perception that America has unnecessarily and repeatedly injected itself into Iranian internal affairs Pollock predictably points out though somewhat intelligently that recent Iranian history is filled with examples of the Iranian government and thus society rapidly regressing while attempting to beat back the United States With this framework in mind Pollock outlines a number of policy options Tracks with which the United States is currently faced 1 hold open the prospect of the 'grand bargain' Iran abandoning its support for terrorism and nuclear weapons in exchange for the US lifting unilateral sanctions and normalizing relations with Tehran; 2 a true carrot and stick approach; andor 3 preparing for a new containment regime In outlining the potential strategies for delaing with Iran Pollock seemingly concludes that any policy in and of itself is a Catch 22 Though trite sounding the ball has been in the Iranian court for decades yet they have refused to return service as a result of their helter skelter recent history The problem with any Washington policy implemented with regard to Iran is not the details of the policy itself but the problem is seemingly the actual presence of any policy in and of itself

  3. Shawn Shawn says:

    Pollack's first book the best selling The Threatening Storm was released in the run up to Operation Irai Freedom and instantly made waves as the moderate Democratic case for war against Saddam Hussein's Ira Never mind that Pollack during his tenure as Director of Persian Gulf Affairs in President Bill Clinton's National Security Council had played a central role in formulating the policies and official positions that resulted in the weakened sanctions regime he would later lambaste in his private capacity He became an instant celebrity appearing freuently on the talk show circuit and in the book review pages of leading papers and scholarly journals Timing as they say is everythingPollack's follow up endeavor The Persian Puzzle is similarly prescient The Islamic Republic of Iran now steadily marching toward an offensive nuclear capability represents the next big foreign policy challenge for the Bush administration—and a pivotal turning point in the War on Terror How the United States chooses to tackle Iran's strategic advances in the Persian Gulf Central Asia and the Caucasus will go a long way toward determining the success or failure of long term American strategy in those regionsPollack begins his assessment in antiuity His sweeping rapid fire account of Iran's serpentine history—from the rise of the Safavids to the turbulent politics of the late 19th Century to the rise of Reza Khan—is definitive and should be studied by students of Middle Eastern history everywhere His detailed personal portrait of Iran's last pro American leader the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi is eually insightful providing a realistic measure of a man torn between competing impulses the desperate need to be loved by his subjects and the need for strong sometimes draconian measures in order to weather the intrigue and great power politics that typified the Cold War in the Middle East

  4. Catherine Catherine says:

    Phew This is no light readingAfter reading All the Shah's Men by Stephen Kinzer about the CIA's coup of Iranian elected leader Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 I wanted to understand about the Iranian American conflict from that time until the present He provides an overview of Iran's history up through the Pahlavi dynasty including WWII and how the stage was set for Iran to be an important pawn in the Cold War But most of his focus is on the relationship between the two countries between the late 1970's and the 2000's The book was dense with information regarding the hostage situations during Regan's administration after the Iran Hostage Crisis and how US's reaction helped to embolden Iran why unilateral sanctions have failed to change Iran's behavior Iran's chronic paranoia that the US will invade and how that has driven some of their aggressive actions the Iran Ira war as well as the US's role in attempts to dissuade Iran from obtaining nuclear capability Kinzer was previously the director for Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council and a military analyst for the CIA and clearly is familiar not only with USA's foreign policy but also with Iran and political atmosphere He has no easy answers although at the end of the book he gives his three pronged recommendation on how the US should deal with Iran especially considering they have made great strides in obtaining nuclear weapons

  5. Phil Phil says:

    Prior to writing this book Pollack wrote The Threatening Storm The Case for Invading Ira This book should have been subtitled The Case for Not Invading Iran It provides excellent background on the history of US Iranian relations getting into the gritty details of energy interests resource nationalization the Iran Ira war and present political maneuvering Thankfully it goes beyond the simplistic Shah goes away Mossade elected Mossade thrown out Shah comes back Shah falls islamists take over US Embassy sacked hostages taken Reagan sworn in hostages released things suck for the foreseeable future Although all it's good for clear readable general background Pollack should really have made of a point than US Iranian relationswhat can I saythey're complicated Yeah Ken I'm guessing that's why it's the Persian PUZZLE Because it's a PUZZLE Get it? A puzzleA good read for background Has an extensive bibliography which is good for in depth follow up reading The maps are kind of neat

  6. Roland Roland says:

    Good introduction to the history of USwestern and Persian relations Allows one to see how foreign policy scholars actually think Many of his proposals for dealing with Iran are slightly outdated and I think that he would take a slightly hawkish approach if the book took recent events into account

  7. David Harris David Harris says:

    I consider myself to be reasonably well informed about the Middle East since I have lived in three Arab countries and have both Arabic and Persian language skills I'm not a big fan of what I perceive to be a history of American and European bungling in that and other regions of the globe but this book gave me a lot balanced perspective on the history of Iran and the West than I had previously had This review is a uick recap of what I came away with after having read the book But you need to read the book yourself to get the real gist of it And if you disagree with some of my thoughts below I think you will find that there is evidence in the book to back up all or most of themCertainly Iran has many valid grievances against both Britain and Russia who for many years leading up through the Second World War manipulated and took horrible advantage of Iran both politically and economically For example they put into power the first Pahlavi shah and divided up the country's oil reserves between themselves and wrote up one sided contracts which assigned miniscule percentages of the oil revenues to the country Yet Russia and Britain enjoy diplomatic relations with Iran and have for decades while America has been maligned and excoriated ever since the beginning of the revolution when our citizens were taken hostage and held for well over a year without due processWhen Mohammed Mosadde was deposed in 1953 it's true that the CIA was involved However Britain which has never publicly acknowledged its own role in this incident was the primary beneficiary of the deed That said it is estimated that between 300 and 800 people were killed as a result of the coup so America and Britain need to step up and take responsibility for that Yes it is an outrage that Iran was behind bombings in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia during the '80s and '90s which killed hundreds of Americans And yes Iran was behind kidnappings murders and other heinous crimes outside its borders during that same time But that doesn't change the fact that we as Americans and Britons have a responsibility to call our own governments to account for our crimes against Iranians In fact given that Iran and the West have many goals in common it seems like a good first step forward would be to mutually acknowledge shared responsibility for these past misdeeds and use the momentum from that effort to start pushing for reconciliationAnother similarity between Iran and the US is that democracy has been subverted at the hands of powerful people in both countries who are determined to push their own agenda on a largely unwilling public I believe groups in both countries could generate international goodwill by coming together to discuss this shared problem and how to solve it in a way which would benefit both countriesThe book points out that Truman and Kennedy pushed the shah to undertake important reforms to rein in poverty and push education in the rural areas Britain and Russia had never done any such thing With the assassination of Kennedy Johnson continued these programs But Nixon and earlier Eisenhower had never been particularly interested in Iran and took no great efforts to learn much about it and they did not push the shah to improve the lot of Iranians Conseuently the shah took horrible advantage of his countrymen and was able to pin a lot of the blame on America because we were his closest ally yet knew little about what was going on in his countryThis shah who like his father was also installed with the help of outsiders was a horrible dictator and Iranians had every right to despise him for his brutal secret police SAVAK and for his refusal to allow virtually any democratic speech or activity in the country His White Revolution was a halfhearted attempt at land reform and it made enemies out of the landed gentry who were probably his only real fans ever He was evidently very jealous of JFK and tried to project the image of a young successful leader but his lavish palaces and his family's expensive trips abroad did not particularly endear him to his subjectsWhen Carter came along his administration likewise didn't put a lot of effort into understanding Iran and they got America into a lot of trouble by just assuming that the shah was doing good things for the country while continuing to work with him Meanwhile Khomeini who was obsessed with maligning America specifically despite the fact that Britain and Russia were the primary villains throughout the modern history of Iran's relationship with the West was happy to let out of control agitators take over the US Embassy and hold 52 people hostage for over a year shortly after his ascension to the new position of supreme leader in the new revolutionary government Which of course ultimately led to the cutting off of relations between the two countriesKhomeini was particularly proud of himself for influencing the outcome of the American elections by holding the hostages over Carter's head thereby ensuring that Ronald Reagan ousted Carter Good for him If he thought that Reagan and the Republicans were going to be easier for Iran to work with he was obviously a foolWhile it's true that Sunni Muslims have treated Shi'ites mostly horribly throughout the history of Islam it's sad to note that the recent rise of ever uglier and uglier Sunni terrorists movements has at least some of its roots in Khomeini and the early days of the Shi'ite Islamic Republic when he was training suicide bombers and dispatching terrorist suads to Lebanon and Israel and the occupied territories and later to Saudi Arabia I suspect that Iranian leaders today realize what a shortsighted strategy that was given the out of control violence against Shi'ites in Ira todayMoreover the repressive rules imposed on Iranians since the beginning of the Islamic revolution are likewise a forerunner of totalitarian groups like da'esh today In fact some consider Khomeini's rule as a Sunnification of the Shi'ite clergy And some prominent Shi'ite clerics in Ira vociferously opposed Khomeini's religious innovation of velayæt e feih believing instead that the role of clerics was purely an advisory role and that they should not ever rule or reign politicallyOne frustrating theme that is repeated throughout the book is the shortsightedness of Europe and Japan in continuing to trade with Iran when it was clear that its bad behavior was spilling across international borders and threatening to create disorder or even destabilize certain regions And no matter how you might feel about Israel there's certainly nothing constructive about Iran's efforts to derail the peace process at every stageA number of reviews here have suggested that the final chapter is out of date now I disagree In the wake of the nuclear accord that has recently passed lots of uestions remain about what will happen in the future ifwhen Iran eventually has the capability to build a nuclear weapon I believe that chapter offers a lot of thoughtful ideas for how the world can work against that scenario but if it should come to pass deal with it sensiblyI'm sorry that my review comes across as fairly blatantly pro American As I tried to point out above I'm perfectly aware that both America and Europe have done plenty to create havoc in that part of the world One obvious example is that we continue to prop up a corrupt Saudi Arabian regime given their hostile treatment of their minorities and their women and their very thinly veiled hatred of us And I believe our history of almost unconditional support for Israel has created an untenable situation for that country and for the Palestinians whose destiny is closely connected with Israel's own But I think we have a lot to offer Iran and the Arab World in terms of ideas for how to increase the personal liberties of the citizens of those countries

  8. Grindy Stone Grindy Stone says:

    A top notch primer on Iranian history and the country's relation with the United States though the part that genuinely sizzles is the first 200 pages ending with the death of the Ayatollah Khomeini The Ayatollah is the pivotal figure in the history of the two countries and is a good example of the author's thesis that neither country understands the other For such a pivotal historical figure he was never than a caricature in the US

  9. Paula Paula says:

    This is this most authoritative book I’ve read on the history of Persia and US relations with modern day Iran I rely upon it while teaching graduate students at Georgetown University and in my own research I highly recommend it

  10. Bennett Neuhoff Bennett Neuhoff says:

    You will learn a lot about Iran and US relations but it will be a grind

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The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America ➳ [Reading] ➶ The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America By Kenneth M. Pollack ➩ – In his highly influential book The Threatening Storm bestselling author Kenneth Pollack both informed and defined the national debate about Ira Now in The Persian Puzzle published to coincide with the In his highly influential book Puzzle: The Kindle Ô The Threatening Storm bestselling author Kenneth Pollack both informed and defined the national debate about Ira Now in The Persian The Persian PDF/EPUB or Puzzle published to coincide with the twenty fifth anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis he examines the behind the scenes story of the tumultuous relationship between Persian Puzzle: The PDF/EPUB å Iran and the United States and weighs options for the futureHere Pollack a former CIA analyst and National Security Council official brings his keen analysis and Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Epub / insider perspective to the long and ongoing clash between the United States and Iran beginning with the fall of the shah and the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran in Pollack examines all the major events in US Iran relations–including the hostage crisis the US tilt toward Ira during the Iran Ira war the Iran Contra scandal American Iranian military tensions in and the covert Iranian war against US interests in the Persian Gulf that culminated in the Khobar Towers terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia and recent US Iran skirmishes over Afghanistan and Ira He explains the strategies and motives from American and Iranian perspectives and tells how each crisis colored the thinking of both countries’ leadership as they shaped and reshaped their policies over time Pollack also describes efforts by moderates of various stripes to try to find some way past animosities to create a new dynamic in Iranian American relations only to find that when one side was ready for such a step the other side fell shortWith balanced tone and insight Pollack explains how the United States and Iran reached this impasse; why this relationship is critical to regional global and US interests; and what basic political choices are available as we deal with this important but deeply troubled country From the Hardcover edition.