ZenPundit
Sunday, January 15, 2006
 
THE PERSIAN POST

Helpfully, Marc Schulman at American Future has done a one-man round-up on posts on Iran's nuclear program and it's confrontation with the West. Plus subsequent posts on the IAEA chief and the EU Foreign Commissioner ( or whatever the title is - regardless, it is Javier Solana, the former NATO Secretary-General).

My post on Iran from last week ( I'm always ahead of the curve here at Zenpundit). Dave Schuler's range of options post is here. T.M. Lutas has his post here and Dr. Barnett's grand strategic commentary is here.

Basic Book Recommendations:

Oddly, outside of the university press type monographs and studies there's not a whole lot that's good and also written for a popular audience on Iran compared to, say, Iraq, China or Russia. I'm sure the general rarity of Farsi as foreign language of study in the U.S. and limited commercial relations betwen Iran and the U.S. account for much of the absence. Then again, I don't recall much of an Iranian studies cottage industries during the Shah's time either. So, with some hesitation, I give you:

The Persian Puzzle by Kenneth Pollack

Pollack was the former Clinton NSC man and CIA analyst for Iraq and Iran and author of The Threatening Storm. He does not speak Farsi, if I recall correctly - or at least not with any fluency, he has a caveat in the book which I read when it first came out- but he had years of classified intel crossing his desk on a daily basis. I found Pollack was more guarded this time around but that's to be expected. The book also has a good description of poor CIA-SAVAK relations and why that was the case. A point that was independently confirmed to me by one of the CIA officers who had been assigned in Teheran at the time ( and who was, if I may add, understandably bitter).

The Iranians: Persia, Islam And The Soul of A Nation by Sandra Mackey

Mackey is the more general intro but is very readable. I thought her book on the KSA was less informed in terms of historical accuracy than Robert Lacey's but that is part and parcel of the journalistic approach to books on other nation's history or cultures.

Perhaps Collounsbury, Marc Lynch or Juan Cole will come up with something better. Or readers can nominate some book choices of their own in the comments section.
 
Comments:
My dear Zenpundit

Sadly, my expertise in regards to Iran is rather limited - a reason I tend not to comment on Iran very much. I have very little personal or book exposure to the country, and I try to avoid as much as possible merely blithering on issues where I don't have direct expertise or experience.

My instinct, however, is that the current paranioa over our dear little looney tuney President is a bit overdone. But it's merely an instinct.

Now, if you want blithering on about Muslim minorities in Europe, the Arab world generally or Islamic Africa....
 
And of course all the poor spelling was deliberate.
 
dear z,

forget the mackey book - it's shite.

as for pollack, i do distrust policy wonks on principle, but haven't read his particular volume.

the question is: what kind of "books on iran" are you looking for? there are some very good ones by iranians on the transformation of society in the 80s/90s ("reading lolita in tehran" comes to mind).

or are you looking for ones on current political affairs and "understanding the political elite"?

do let me know (best via e-mail: ashrafalmansur@yahoo.com) & i'll see if i can find anything. needless to say - if you can get juan (cole) to answer your query, you won't need me anymore...

cheers,

--raf*

www.aqoul.com
 
Thank you very much Raf - I will be sending you an email within a day.
 
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