A bold assessment of both the troubled past and, potentially, more harmonious future of the Middle East.
Chamanara’s (Perplexity of Iran, 2012, etc.) book bucks the current trend of seeing peace in the Middle East as a childish fantasy contradicted by a long, relentless history of ethnic and sectarian conflict. On the contrary, the author argues, the history of the region—particularly of Iran—demonstrates that it already contains the promise of a new, less contentious future. Chamanara sees Iran as being on the precipice of wholesale transformation, its youthful citizenry distempered by simmering unrest and emboldened by increased education and technology. They’re close to fed up with authoritarian rule, he says. Chamanara envisions a future Iran that adopts a new constitution, secularizes the law, and joins an economic pact with Israel and Armenia. This revolution, particularly the diminishment of theocratic rule, will begin a domino effect that sweeps across the whole of the Middle East. “Once the influence of religion is removed—specially, when the government and religion are one, and when there is no economic pressure—people show their true feelings towards each other,” he writes. “The true feeling of people counts. Otherwise, throughout history, one sees people behaving differently and badly in cruel periods of time.” In addition to offering a helpful introduction to the history of the Middle East, Chamanara makes intelligible the differences among Shia, Sunni, and Salafi; explains the rise of the Islamic State group; and questions the real political significance of the Iranian presidency. Unafraid of controversy, he also contends, with no shortage of evidence, that the Jewish people count as Iran’s “natural ally.” Underlying the entire book is an important reminder that Iran, now a political backwater, was once the crucible of world civilization and a leader in art, science, and commerce. Historically informed and fundamentally optimistic, this plainly written book is a refreshing contribution to Middle East studies.
A timely, provocative study for both novices and experts in Middle Eastern affairs.