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Trita Parsi, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S. (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2007).
Preface. “This is a book about foreign policy . . . not . . . internal developments” (xii). “Based on 130 in-depth interviews I’ve conducted with Iranian, Israeli, and American officials and analysts,” including thirty key figures (xii). All accounts have been “cross-checked”; “[n]o argument in the book is dependent on one or two quotes alone” (xiii). “The Iranian perspective, in particular, has largely been unknown to Western audiences . . . A key reason why the analysis of this book differs greatly from the conventional wisdom regarding the U.S.-Israel-Iran triangle is because it is based on the perspectives and accounts of high-level decisions-maker from all three countries” (xiv; emphasis in original). Acknowledgments. Primary debt to Francis Fukuyama, Parsi’s advisor at Johns Hopkins (xvii). Charles “Doran’s power cycle theory constitutes the book’s analytical bedrock” (xvii [cf. Andrew W. Mellon Professor of International Relations Charles Doran, “Power Cycle Theory of Systems Structure and Stability: Commonalities and Complementarities,” ch. 4 in Handbook of War Studies, ed. by Manus I. Midlarsky, which notes on p. 86 that “The United States has been an ascendant power in the international system since the middle of the nineteenth century and a member of the central system since the first decade of the twentieth century, and empirical evidence suggests that it is at or just past the apex of its power cycle”; Doran first developed his “power cycle” theory in The Politics of Assimilation: Hegemony and Its Aftermath (1971). His basic idea is that the “power cycle” itself is a major cause of war; he has extended it to the area of political risk analysis, and advised many businesses and governments]). “[F]orever indebted to Ruhi Ramazani, the dean of Iranian foreign policy studies” (xvii). Help on ms. from Chris Rogers of Yale and Nikki Keddie [of UCLA]. Ch. 1: Introduction: An Eight-HundredPound Gorilla. (I.e. the Israeli-Iranian rivalry.) Portraying what is a “fundamentally strategic conflict” between Iran and Israel as an ideological clash has been part of Israel’s strategy―democracy vs. totalitarianism (1-3). Iran had its own reasons for desiring an ideological frame; the ideology is effect rather than cause, as is also the case for Israel (3-4). In reality, Israelis and Iranians have much in common and have ancient ties (4-9), as well as many differences, exemplified by the difference between taarof (insincere politeness) and chutzpah (gall): “Getting a nuanced answer from an Israeli can be as tricky as getting a straight answer from an Iranian (11; 10-13). The July 2006 Israel-Lebanon war was widely viewed as warm-up for clash between Iran & Israel/U.S. (1315). PART ONE: THE COLD WAR ERA Ch. 2: An Alliance of Necessity: The Secret Friendship of the Shah. Despite official nonrelations between the two states, “By the late 1950s, an Israeli-Iranian entente had taken shape,” based on common threats (22; 19-28). Ch. 3: Rise of Israel, Rise of Iran. Israel’s military victories raised concerns in Iran, which moved closer to Egypt (29-34). U.S.-Soviet détente and Vietnam (U.S. “Twin Pillars” policy) led to opportunities for Iran 34-38). Ch. 4: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy. Historically, Iran has been a regional hegemonic power (39-40). In a position of strength, it attempted the “Arab option,” which led it to distance itself from Israel (41-44). In the Yom Kippur War, Iran helped both sides (44-48). Ch. 5: Sealing Demise in the Moment of Triumph. After the Yom Kippur War, Israel cultivated Iran despite Iran’s criticism of its quest for land; Israel believed it still needed Iranian support against the Arab world; Uri Lubrani headed mission to Tehran (49-52). Israel persuaded Iran to help back Iraqi Kurds & so did the U.S., but in March 1975, without consulting Israel or Iran, Iran signed Algiers Accord with Iraq and abandoned the Iraqi Kurds (52-58). The Shah was making a bid to win Arab support for Iranian regional hegemony, but it proved to be “a major strategic mistake” because it facilitated Iraq’s bid for power (58-60). Ch. 6: Megalomania. Though widespread in Iran, “for most Iranians, anti-Israel sentiments did not reflect a deeper anti-Semitism” (63; 61-64). Iran voted for U.N. Gen’l Assembly Res. 3379 (Zionism = racism) in Nov. 1975 (64-65). In mid1970s, the Shah’s autocratic tendencies increased; Israeli officials considered him a megalomaniac (65-67). Ch. 7: The Rise of Begin and the Israeli Right. The right’s victory in Israel in 1977 was bad news for Iran(68-74). But Likud hoped to reach accommodation with Iran, and fear of Iraq led to Project Flower (1977-1979), in which Israel secretly helped Iran to develop a missile with a range of 200 miles that “included American-made inertial navigation equipment and a guidance
system that Tel Aviv was forbidden to make available to other countries”; the U.S. was kept in the dark (75; 74-78). Ch. 8: Enter the Sign of God. The Iranian Revolution ended Israel-Iran relations (79-82). The Ayatollah Khomeini was an ideological Islamist (82-83). Iran’s relations with the PLO quickly degenerated (83-86). Ch. 9: Ideological Shifts, Geopolitical Continuities. Despite their radically different ideologies, the strategic goals of the Shah and Khomeini were “remarkably similar―regional leadership and primacy” (88; 87-89). Losing Iran was “a disaster” for the U.S. and “a great strategic setback” for Israel (89-92). Geopolitical factors pushed Israel and Iran together malgré eux (92-96). Ch. 10: Saddam Attacks! Iraq attacked on Sept. 22, 1980; Iran’s fight to survive forced pragmatic moderation of its ideological zeal (97100). “Out of Iran’s strategic dilemma, with ideological and strategic forces pulling its foreign policy in different directions, emerged a multilayered strategy that continues to bewilder political analysts and foreign leaders alike. . . . On the one hand, Iran collaborated secretly with Israel on security matters, and, on the other, it took its rhetorical excesses against Israel to even higher levels to cover up its Israel dealings” (100; “Shi’ism permits contradictions” [304 n. 14]). Iran’s anti-Israel policy was almost entirely confined to words (100-04). The U.S. feared Iranian victory, but Israel feared Iraqi victory, and supplied “over $500 million worth of arms” to Iran in the 1980-1983 period, even as the Ayatollah Khomeini angrily denied receiving any (107; 10409). Ch. 11: Scandal. Hezbollah gave Iran a foothold in Lebanon (110-12). Israel favored IranIraq war stalemate (112-13). Operation Staunch: U.S. program to prevent U.S. allies from reselling arms to Iran (113-14). The Iran-Contra scandal, originally hatched in late 1984 by the Israeli foreign ministry and arms dealers; Iran’s aim was to reestablish relations with Washington (114-26). Ch. 12: The Dying Gasp of the Periphery Doctrine. (Ben-Gurion’s “doctrine of the periphery” held “that the improbability of achieving peace with the surrounding Arab states forced Israel to build alliances with the non-Arab states of the periphery―primarily Iran, Turkey, and Ethiopia―as well as with non-Arab minorities such as the Kurds and the Lebanese Christians” .) Israeli strategists remained fixated on IranIsrael rapprochement, a hope revived by Khomeini’s death in June 1989 (127-31). Pushed by Rafsanjani camp, Iran’s foreign policy began to shift to “looking at states rather than masses”
(133 [Javad Zarif, Iran’s U.N. ambassador]; 13135). PART TWO: THE UNIPOLAR ERA Ch. 13: The New World Order. In 1990-1992, the defeat of Iraq & collapse of the Soviet Union were “shocks of unprecedented magnitude” to the Middle East (139-40). U.S. pressure to keep Israel out of Gulf War led to bad feelings in Israel; Iran, on the other hand, earned points by allowing the U.S. to use Iranian airspace (140-42). End of USSR led Iran to focus more on U.S., now a regional power (142-44). Iran developed a longrange missile, “slowly restarted the Shah’s nuclear energy program” in early 1990s (144; 144-45). Iran hoped for better relations with the U.S. and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (14547). Meanwhile, Israel resisted U.S. efforts to settle Israeli-Arab conflict (147-51). Failure to invite Iran to Oct. 1991 Madrid peace conference disappointed Iran and strengthened Iranian rejectionists (151-56). Ch. 14: Trading Enemies. June 1992 saw Rabin’s Labor landslide in Israel; Peres called for a “New Middle East”; his strategy, adopted abruptly in the fall of 1992, was to “make peace with the Palestinians and depict Iran as a threat to the region and the world,” which represented an historic rejection of the periphery doctrine (159; 157-65). But “Iran was more prominent on the Israeli radar not because it had become more antagonistic toward Israel but because all previous threats had more or less evaporated” (166; 165-70). In the spring of 1993, the U.S. was on board, endorsing “Dual Containment” (17071). Ch. 15: From Cold Peace to Cold War. Iran was surprised by the new anti-Iran campaign (172-74). Iran reacted strongly against Oslo (Sept. 1993), seen as an effort to “push Iran to the fringes of regional politics” (175; 175-76). In Oslo’s aftermath, Iran began to operationalize its anti-Israel rhetoric “[f]or the first time” (176; 17680). Israel’s interest in isolating Iran because “Israel itself couldn't offer Tehran anything it needed” (181; 181-82). AIPAC demonstrated its clout by scrapping $1b Iran concession to Conoco in April 1995 and pushing through the Iran Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) (voted 415-0 in House) in August 1996 (182-89). Ch. 16: With Likud, the Periphery Doctrine Returns. Iran pursued its strategic interest by opposing the Israel-Palestine peace process (19091). Rabin’s assassination in Nov. 1995 intensified Israel-Iran opposition (192-93). Brief 1996 Iran-Israel thaw under Netanyahu (193201). Ch. 17: Khatami’s Détente. Khatami, elected president of Iran with a reformist platform in May 1997, reached out to U.S. (202-06). But Israel
remained resolutely anti-Iran, developing a “periphery-plus” doctrine reaching out to India and Turkey (206-10). Khatami worked to reintegrate Iran into the international community (210-14). Under Barak, Israel withdrew from Lebanon in the spring of 2000 (214-19). Iran kept low profile but was pleased the 2000 Camp David negotiations failed (219-22). Ch. 18: Betrayal in Afghanistan. Early efforts of the G.W. Bush administration to improve Iran relations failed in the U.S., largely through AIPAC’s efforts (223-25). Iran helped the U.S. in the aftermath of 9/11, esp. at the Bonn Conference of Dec. 2001 (225-31). Israel alarmed at Washington’s cooperation with Iran (231-33). The mystery of the Karine A affair (Iranian arms intercepted on Jan. 3, 2002, heading for Palestine), which was followed by Bush’s “Axis of Evil” declaration on Jan. 29, 2002; Iran is outraged (233-37). Ch. 19: Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory. U.S. did not decide to go to war with Iraq for Israeli security, but in spring 2002 Israel began arguing that “Iran should be the real target,” even as the U.S. reopened the Geneva Channel for discussions with Iran (238-43). In May 2003, after Baghdad fell, Iran, feeling encircled, offered a comprehensive proposal for discussions, stunning in its comprehensiveness, using Robert Ney (R-OH 18th, the only Persianspeaking member of Con-gress) to ensure it reaches the White House (see Appendix A) (24348). The U.S. ignored the proposal and responded by rebuking the Swiss who delivered it (248-50). Iran made a simi-lar offer to Israel (250-51). Neoconservatives kept pushing for confrontation with Iran and regime change (25157). But the in-surgency in Iraq made Iran the winner of the Iraq war (257).
PART THREE: LOOKING AHEAD Ch. 20: Facing the Future, Facing Reality. U.S. and Iran have many common interests (26163). Iran follows its strategic interests (263). Even Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric serves strategic interests by playing to the Arab street (264-66). Analysis of Iran’s nuclear program, which may seek not nuclear weapons but “the capability to go nuclear in case [Iran] faces an imminent threat” (268; 266-70). Discussion of Iran’s rationality (270-72). Even in the event of regime change, Iran would pursue regional power status (273-74). The July 2006 Lebanon war demonstrated the failure of containment (27478). The U.S. military option is extraordinarily unappealing (278-79). “[R]egional integration through dialogue and engagement” proposed as a possibility (279-84).
Notes. 55 pp. (Ruholla K. Ramazani of the Univ. of Virginia is “the foremost expert on Iranian foreign policy” .) Appendix A: Iran’s May 2003 Negotiation Proposal to the United States. (341-42). Appendix B: Original U.S. Draft Negotiation Proposal. (343-44). Appendix C: Letter from Ambassador Guldimann to the U.S. State Department. (345-46). Index. 15 pp. [On the Author. Born in 1974 or 1975 in Ahvaz, Iran, brought up in Sweden since age of four. Degree from U. of Uppsala. President, Nat’l Iranian American Council. Has worked for Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH). Adjunct prof. of international relations at Johns Hopkins Univ. School of Advanced Int’l Studies. Book based on Parsi’s 2006 Ph.D. dissertation at Johns Hopkins, advised by Francis Fukuyama. Writes for Inter Press Service and has appeared on Democracy Now! Wild denunciations of him as paid agent of the Islamic Republic easy to find on Internet.]