Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

A History of Modern Iran

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

A History of Modern Iran

Article excerpt

A History of Modern Iran. By Ervand Abrahamian. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 228 pp. $24.99, paper.

The basic left-wing view about Iran is that Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was truly evil while the Islamic Republic is a mixed bag - and the United States bears heavy responsibility for all Iran's problems, including the failure of the recent democratic movement. Abrahamian, a history professor at City University of New York, has produced a history firmly situated in this paradigm, almost to the point of parody.

Consider two issues about the Islamic Republic and Mohammad Reza' s rule, issues that are deeply related to the important impact each had on the lives of ordinary Iranians. First is the Iran-Iraq war. Abrahamian devotes less than two pages to the war. He spends more space analyzing the shah's military buildup than on the war itself, in which hundreds of thousands of Iranians died. Long paragraphs deplore the social dislocation caused by the rapid growth of the shah's era, but Abrahamian does not find it worthwhile mentioning the millions of Iranians forced from their homes by the war. He tells the reader nothing about events seared on the souls of Iranians, such as the use of chemical weapons or the "war of the cities" in which millions fled Tehran each night in fear of missiles.

The second issue is the extraordinary economic growth under Mohammad Reza and the economic decline that took place under the Islamic Republic. Even a careful reading of Abrahamian' s text fails to show that, from 1960 to 1976, the rate of growth of Iran's national income was among the fastest of any country in the world - faster than the Chinese economy has grown in the last fifteen years, for example. …

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