Forget Stalin, Mao and Reagan. The world leader with the greatest influence on the course of the here and now may be the Ayatollah Khomeini, architect of the 1979 Iran revolution.
Khomeini, writes Takeyh (Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, 2006), merits consideration as “one of the most successful revolutionary leaders of the twentieth century.” He also casts a shadow over current events as the tutelary spirit of Iran’s current regime, and its shadow arm, Hezbollah, which has been doing so much damage elsewhere in the region. Iran’s influence, writes Takeyh, owes a great deal to the Bush administration, which, by way of self-fulfilling prophecy, so demonized the Iranian government that a strange element came into power, exemplified by its Holocaust-denying president. “Iran has been offered unprecedented opportunities as its principal American nemesis finds itself unsure how to proceed in the Middle East,” writes Takeyh, “while its oil wealth has provided it with sufficient revenues to offset Western financial pressures.” Yet, the author counsels, Iran is not monolithic. It is full of pragmatists and even peacemakers, and it must be dealt with not as an arm of an imagined axis of evil but as a nation of considerable influence—one whose hard-line government may be forced to relax if an America that does not spoil for war or dominance suddenly figures on the scene. A friendlier Iran may, in the end, be of more influence in regional affairs than even a negotiated peace between Israel and Palestine. Two paths remain open to the younger conservatives who are now in power, Takeyh concludes: either “a more tempered relationship with the United States or open confrontation with the ‘Great Satan’ ”—a choice that will likely depend heavily on American actions.
Policy wonkish in tone, but will appeal to followers of events in the Middle East.