Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower

Article excerpt

The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower. By Robert Baer. New York: Crown, 2008. 288 pp. $25.95 ($15, paper).

Part geopolitical tour d'horizon, part behind-the-scenes travelogue of a CIA operativeturned-author, The Devil We Know aspires to chronicle Iran's ascent to power. But intelligence fieldwork is one thing, strategic forecasting quite another. Baer, a former CIA case officer and a columnist on intelligence for Time.com, may be a savvy observer of regional trends with much experience in the Middle East, but his views are colored by interactions with questionable characters, from jet-setting businessmen to shadowy power brokers. What emerges is a less-than-faithful rendering of regional realities.

Baer argues, for example, that the Iranian regime - confident in its ability to project power asymmetrically via regional proxies - places little real value on its nuclear program. This, despite the billions of dollars Iran's leaders invested over the past quarter-century in atomic capabilities and the prominence that nuclear status has assumed in their political lexicon and strategic planning. His analysis makes little sense.

But on his larger point, that the past decade has seen Tehran formulate a comprehensive strategy for regional hegemony, Baer is considerably more convincing. …

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