PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS: The American Experience and Iran by Barry Rubin
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PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS: The American Experience and Iran

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Neither a whitewash nor an indictment of the U.S. role vis à vis Iran, this does manage to be objective--and still not to waffle too much. Beginning with the usual summary of 2500 years of Persian/Iranian history in one chapter, Georgetown University scholar Rubin then focuses on British influence in Iran during and after World War II. The crucial events leading up to the CIA's involvement in the Shah's move to topple the government of his nationalist rival Mossadegh are properly set in context. Rubin explains that FDR's policy of opposition to prewar colonialism and determination to combat communism through social reform got the U.S. involved in Iran while Iranian nationalists were fighting the British grip on Iranian oil. The Truman/Acheson policies, in Rubin's view, followed those of Roosevelt, but the Eisenhower/Dulles version of the Cold War took a different line, opposing reforms for fear of destabilization and relying on authoritarian regimes as a bulwark against the Communists. But the CIA's move to sweep the Shah back in and Mossadegh out, in accord with this policy, is muted by Rubin who stresses that Mossadegh's intransigence had created instability and provided the popular support the CIA's plan needed (not that the money spent by CIA man Kermit Roosevelt to buy the services of street thugs hurt). So while starting with the ""good intentions"" of FDR, Rubin winds up tacitly supporting the unwholesome thoughts of John Foster Dulles. Once secured on the throne, the Shah started having grandiose thoughts about ""modernization"" and military strength. Rubin emphasizes the American media's support of the Shah's modernization plans, while noting that the State Department was less sanguine. As for the military aspect, Rubin notes that it was in 1966 that LBJ, straining U.S. military resources in Vietnam, decided to go along with the Shah's plans and build up his military forces as a surrogate for U.S. power. The Nixon/Kissinger axis turned this policy into a faith, and Rubin narrates the ever-increasing habit such aid became. So despite the cash flow between the U.S. and Iran--here to there for oil; there to here for arms--Rubin takes the edge off U.S. actions by relating them to the exigencies of world strategic needs and the Shah's fabled megalomania. After that, he runs through the now-familiar sequence of events from the growth of opposition to the Shah's too-fast (according to Rubin) modernization to his death last month. Rubin is right to see the events around Mossadegh as the critical period in U.S.Iranian relations--that's where the current hatred and fear of America comes from--but his version of them still leaves much to be said. Still and all, the most thorough account of these developments available.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press