by John D. Stempel ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 1, 1981
More alongside the revolution, than inside. Stempel was in the political section of the US Teheran embassy from 1975 until July 1979, when he left Iran and so avoided being taken prisoner the following November. As Deputy Director of his section, he was responsible for gathering information; but he doesn't have much to impart that we don't already know. An introductory chapter flashes back to the overthrow of the Qajar dynasty by Reza Shah, and then Stempel focuses on the political and economic programs of his son. Emphasizing, as others do too, the dislocations caused by rapid economic development--the late Shah's ""White Revolution""--Stempel observes that this upheaval does not fully explain the Shah's troubles, since similar programs (albeit on a more modest scale) have not toppled regimes elsewhere. Instead, Stempel emphasizes the style of personal rule adopted by the Shah, which tied both political and military leaders personally to him without any intervening structures like political parties. The one party that did exist--except for a short-lived official opposition party created by the Shah himself--had no chance to develop its own political mechanisms, since the Shah moved politicians around at whim. When the Shah then became indecisive--partly on account of his cancer and the medication he took for it--there was no rational organization capable of dealing with a crisis by its own lights. Hindsight is perfect; but so much embassy effort went into economic affairs, Stempel notes, that political information-gathering and analysis suffered. Written while Bani Sadr was still president, Stempel's discussion of the internal dynamics of the revolution is necessarily out of date; but his prognosis that the fractured political identities and loyalties within Iran today will probably lead to another ""dashing figure on horseback,"" still stands. For an introduction to the Iranian revolution, Stempel's book beats that of his boss, ex-Ambassador William Sullivan (Mission to Iran, p. 1284); Sullivan, though, has personal vignettes on the US role that make for juicy reading.
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1981
Page Count: -
Publisher: Indiana Univ. Press
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1981
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