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NEST OF SPIES by Amir Tahari

NEST OF SPIES

America's Journey to Disaster in Iran

By Amir Tahari

Pub Date: March 31st, 1989
ISBN: 394-57566-0
Publisher: Pantheon

Tahari (The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution and Holy Terror: The Inside Story of Islamic Terrorism) documents the history of America's relations with Iran from FDR through Irangate. Tahari's account is evenhanded with, if anything, a sense of irony concerning US/Iran relations--an irony well suited to a situation wherein one year the US is seeking accommodation by selling arms to the Ayatollah while the next we are involved in reflagging in the Persian Gulf. Analyzing a mass of documents seized at the US embassy in Tehran, Tahari concludes that the precipitous decline that led to the 1979 hostage crisis did not represent, as is commonly thought, a failure of American intelligence. Rather, "the diplomats dispatched to Iran frequently did a good job of gauging the mood of the country and offered generally sound advice." The problem, as he sees it, developed more as a result of lack of public interest, which, in turn, was an outgrowth of lack of media concern. Tahari also goes easy on the US concerning the CIA involvement in the 1953 overthrow of Mossadeq. Operation Ajax, as it was called, represented only an investment of one million dollars by the CIA--which, Tahari argues, was a junior partner in a primarily British plot against Mossadeq. By overemphasizing its own role for ego purposes, the CIA unintentionally "helped create an anti-American sentiment that had not previously existed in Iran." The "nest of spies" referred to in the title is reflective of the Reagan Administration policies that emphasized covert action over classic diplomacy. Generally, Tahari is optimistic about future Iranian-Western relations, seeing the stresses of the past decade as an aberration: "More than eight years after the Islamic revolution more than 85 percent of Iran's trade was still with the West and Japan. . ." An intelligent and well-written exegesis that should find a hearing in Foggy Bottom as well as in the homes of general readers angered and confused about US-Iran ties.