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Pollack - The Persian Puzzle (2004) - Synopsis

Pollack - The Persian Puzzle (2004) - Synopsis

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Published by Mark K. Jensen
Synopsis of Kenneth M. Pollack, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict between Iran and America (New York: Random House, 2004). Discussed at Digging Deeper (www.ufppc.org) on June 19, 2006.
Synopsis of Kenneth M. Pollack, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict between Iran and America (New York: Random House, 2004). Discussed at Digging Deeper (www.ufppc.org) on June 19, 2006.

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Published by: Mark K. Jensen on Jun 02, 2009
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UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) Digging Deeper: June 19, 2006, 7:00 p.m.
Kenneth M. Pollack,
The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict between Iran and America
(New York: Random House, 2004).
“My principal goal is to discuss U.S.-Iranian relations, how they have beenshaped by their history, and ultimatelyhow best to treat them in the yearsahead” (427). Much of the book seemsto have been written in the late summerand early fall of 2004. Published inNovember 2004. Tough-minded policy analyst, combinesliberal & realist approaches tointernational affairs.
By Strobe Talbott. Presidentof the Brookings Institution praisesPollack’s “impeccable sense of timing”(ix). “[S]huns simple answers . . . offersa diplomatic way forward” (x).
List of Maps.
Iran; Ancient Persia; IraqiInvasion of Iran, 1980; Iran’scounteroffensives, 1981-1982; Iranianoffensives, 1986-1987; Iraqi offensivesvs. Iran, 1988.
Introduction: The Persistence of Memory.
Importance of history (xix-xx).“. . . I don’t think the United States‘needs’ Iran”; a non-apologetic tone (xx-xxii). The present moment (xxii-xxiii).Sec. of State Madeleine Albright’sapology and Supreme Leader Khamenei’sresponse, March 2000 (xxv-xxvi).
Ch. 1: From Persepolis to thePahlavis.
History of Iran up to WorldWar I (3-26).
Ch. 2: Reza the Great.
Reza ShahPahlavi, modernizer (27-39).
Ch. 3: The Ugly Americans.
Aftermath of WWII (40-48). Backgroundto crisis (48-53). Oil nationalizationframed as unreason on both sides (53-57). U.S. portrayed as regretfully“step[ping] in” at the demand of “bothsides” (57-58). Mossadeq portrayed aseccentric, unreliable, xenophobic (58-60).Mossadeq’s political maneuveringcharacterized as “effectivelyoverthrow[ing] the shah” (60-62). 1953coup framed as a “countercoup” (63-67).Legacy of the coup (67-71).
Ch. 4: The Last Shah.
The Shah afterthe 1953 coup; the U.S. has only goodintentions.
Ch. 5: Come the Revolution.
Revolution ascribed to a combination of circumstances: oil boom, U.S. “TwinPillars” of Gulf Security according to theNixon Doctrine of relying on proxy states,“malfunctioning” economy, urbanization,
discontent, resentment at SAVAK (“‘only’ thousands” of deaths [116]), andregime isolation (101-17). Mullahsantagonized (117-19). Carter createdthe impression he had provokedliberalization, then seemed to betrayIranians (120-27). Attack on Khomeini inthe press sets of riots; 40-day cycle of 
(memorial services for thedead) (127-31). U.S.’s & Shah’sperspectives (132-35). Causes of therevolution: Pollack says they areindeterminate, yet asserts: “The shahbrought the Iranian Revolution onhimself” (137). Denies the U.S. had theupper hand; improbably claims it was in“a subordinate position” to Iran (138);equally improbably, claims “no evidencehas ever been produced that the UnitedStates directly aided SAVAK. . . .Ultimately, the United States was notculpable in the crimes committed by theshah’s regime against the Iranian people;we were simply indifferent to them”(139; note that Pollack does not deny theclaim
 per se
). Accepts “a portion of theblame” (140).
Ch. 6: America Held Hostage.
Post-revolutionary institutions (149-52). Thehostage crisis (153-80; “The hostagecrisis has left a terrible scar on theAmerican psyche. . . . few Americanshave ever forgiven the Iranians for it. . . .We never discuss it openly, but theresidual anger . . . has colored everydecision made about Iran ever since”[172]; but there was nothing, really thatthe U.S. could have done better [179]).
Ch. 7: At War with the World.
Iran-Iraq war (181-216; vigorous denial “thatthe United States colluded with Iraq onits invasion of Iran” [466 n.81]). Iran-
principally caused by Reagan’sconcern for hostages (208-16).
Ch. 8: The Imam’s Legacy.
Accountof end of Iran-Iraq war presents it as‘vanquishing’ of Iran (217-31).Complacent account of Iran Air 655disaster, shot down “in the heat of battle” (231-33), Under Reagan,Washington “dragged kicking andscreaming” into “an undeclared war withthe Iranians,” but the U.S.’s reluctance isproved by the fact that it could havednoe “more more” to support Iraq (233-35).
strengthened (235-27).Rushdie affair used by Khomeini tooverturn liberalizing trends (237-40).Khomenei drops Montazeri, reducesreligious qualification for supreme leader(240-41). Khomeini-Khamenei transition, June 1989 (241-43).
Ch. 9: Collision Course.
Iraqovershadows Iran (244-49). Rafsanjani’spragmatism (249-59). DualContainment” (Iraq and Iran) policy of U.S.; EU “Critical Dialogue” policy towardIran (259-65). “Increasingly rabid”confrontations between U.S. & Iran 1992-1996; May 6, 1995, sanctions blockConoco deal (265-73). Gingrich getsanother $18m for U.S. covert actionprogram to overthrow Iran’s government(273-77).
Ch. 10: To the Brink.
Iran considersU.S. to have declared war on Iran (278-80). Bahrain riots (280-81). Khobar Towrs bombed, Jun. 25, 1996, by Iranian-backed group (282-83). No response[Richard Clarke says U.S. made “chillingthreat” (
NY Times
, Apr. 16, 2006)] (283-85). D’Amato’s Iran-Libya Sanctions Act,Aug. 5, 1996 (286-89). Verdict inGermany in Apr. 1997 when Iran is linkedto the Mykonos Restaurant murders inBerlin (290-92). Sudden turnabout inIran’s behavior in mid-1997 (292-93).Reflections on “containment” policy;“Americans have an inherent dislike of containment (294-9
Ch. 11: The Ecstasy and the Agony.
Khatami’s reformist presidency; U.S.overtures; “hard-liner” attacks in 1999;infighting; Khatami backs down on 6
day of rioting, July 1999 (303-41).
Ch. 12: Coming Full Circle.
EarlyBush administration thinking on Iran(343-45; rejects term ‘neoconservative’[485 n.4]. Considerable cooperationfrom Iran in Afghan war, including use of airfields (345-49). Israeli intercept on Jan. 3, 2002, of the
Karine A
Iranian armsfor Palestinians (350-52). Axis of evil”(352-53). Iran “not unhelpful” in Iraq war(354-57). MEK and terrorism (358-61).Revelation of Iran’s nuclear program(363-66). “Ultimately, all Iran really hadto do was play for time” (366-67).Internal divisions in Bush administration(368-69). Iran’s “China model”: politicalrepression, social liberalization (369-72).Disqualification of reformists for Feb.2004 elections; return to status quo ante(372-74).
Ch. 13: Toward a New Iran Policy.
Iran cannot be ignored (375-76). Iran’srulers probably tractable (376-69).Review of policy options (379-82):Invasion rejected (382-86; cf. commentson “the willingness of the Iranian peopleto make sacrifices” [178]). Prospects for

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