Former CIA agent Baer (Blow the House Down, 2006, etc.) examines Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East, fundamentally challenging commonly held U.S. views.
America doesn’t recognize or understand this rising superpower, the author argues. Dissecting Iran’s rapid evolution, the Baer notes numerous examples of modernization—use of the Internet, a burgeoning youth culture, sexual freedom—that are rarely reported outside the country. His central aim is to establish how Iran has maneuvered into a dominant position in the Middle East, largely thanks to the war in Iraq. By weakening the Iraqi army and decimating the moderate Shia clergy, Baer contends, the United States has unwittingly opened the gateway for Iran to seize control of Iraq’s oil resources. As evidence of this, he points to the Afghan city of Herat, now full of Iranian goods, including gasoline. A radical new approach is required, the author suggests, if America is to gain leverage with Iran. This will involve negotiating with the country to turn it into an ally, not an enemy. The book’s most intriguing passages analyze the mind-set that has enabled Iran to attain such a powerful position. Iran’s leaders keep their military authorities hidden, they don’t keep important paperwork, and they have learned valuable lessons from past mistakes, particularly those made during the bloody 1980–88 war with Iraq. Terrorist tactics have waned, Baer notes; there have been no known instances of Iranian suicide bombers since 1988, and behavior typified by notorious Iranian terrorist Imad Mughniyah has become a thing of the past. Many of the author’s interviewees, including a former aide to Ayatollah Khomeini, believe that Iran is already a superpower, and Baer concludes by emphasizing the urgent need for the United States to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the country’s leaders.
An important text studded with keen insights into a nation about which America remains dangerously misinformed.