CONFRONTING IRAN: The Failure of American Foreign Policy and the Next Great Conflict in the Middle East

By Leonard, Steve | Military Review, March/April 2007 | Go to article overview

CONFRONTING IRAN: The Failure of American Foreign Policy and the Next Great Conflict in the Middle East


Leonard, Steve, Military Review


CONFRONTING IRAN: The Failure of American Foreign Policy and The Next Great Conflict in the Middle East, Ali M. Ansari, Basic Books, New York, 2006, 280 pages, $26.00.

In the midst of a global war on terror in which Iraq could very well represent the first cog to fall in what President George W. Bush referred to as the "Axis of Evil," author Ali Ansari offers a thoughtful examination of American foreign policy efforts in the supposed linch-pin of the axis, the Islamic Republic of Iran. The result is a work that is as timely as it is captivating. In Confronting Iran, Ansari questions not just the role of consistently fundamentally flawed foreign policy in maintaining a dysfunctional relationship with the troubled nation, but our own inevitable culpability in spawning a modern extremist state.

According to Ansari, most Americans believe that Iran is "not just a member of the Axis of Evil, but the founding member, the chief sponsor of state terrorism . . . ." From the outset, he lays bare the increasing fallibility of our policies while at the same time exposing many of the myths that have perpetuated U.S. perceptions of Iran. Beginning with the U.S. role as a benevolent sponsor of emerging Persian nationalism in the aftermath of World War II, U.S. foreign policy has been confused, incoherent, domineering, and antagonistic. Such inconsistency, according to Ansari, eventually alienated most Iranians and was ultimately the root cause of the 1979 hostage crisis.

Initially, when our policy focused on ensuring that Iran retained the ability to explore its nationalist desires with its British patrons, Americans were viewed as benefactors. However, shortly after taking office in 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower put America on a path that would alter the future landscape of the Middle East. Under the auspices of growing concern about the spreading threat of communism, Eisenhower authorized the fateful coup of 19 August 1953 that overthrew the government of Iran's popular premier, Mohammad Mosaddeq. …

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