Ali M. Ansari's Confronting Iran

Ali M. Ansari'sbook Confronting Iran (2006) is especially timely given the current discussion of Iran and its future and concerns about what the U.S. may do to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and becoming a much greater threat.Of course, also in the news is the recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stating that Iran is not the immediate threat President Bush has been implying it is and that Iran ended its nuclear program several years ago.None of this means that Iran is not a threat or that a confrontation with Iran would not be the sort of devastating action critics believe it might be.Ansari considers the nature of Western diplomacy in the region primarily form 1953 to the present and suggests a number of reasons for the failure he discusses.
For thefirst two decades or so, relations were good enough because the country was under the rule of the Shah, rule that was largely imposed by the West.This rule also created great resentment among the population and would contribute to the angry reaction once the Shah was deposed.The taking of the American hostages at the embassy in Tehran was one of the consequences of the failure of diplomacy in thefirst period, while the subsequent history has been largely more failure to make any inroads into the country, usually based on an American refusal to speak to Iran for one reason or another, as if not talking at all would produce the best outcome, which clearly it has not.
American involvement with Iran actually extends back into the nineteenth century, and as Ansari notes, the failure to recognize the nature of the society in that region and to find a way to accommodate it and communicate with its leaders began at the same time and has continued ever since.Essentially, a pattern was set with thefirst relationships, as Ansari notes when he writes,
These formative experiences were crucial in shaping Iranian attitudes to the West.It was increasi…

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