The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America
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The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  298 ratings  ·  31 reviews
In his highly influential book The Threatening Storm, bestselling author Kenneth Pollack both informed and defined the national debate about Iraq. Now, in The Persian Puzzle, published to coincide with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis, he examines the behind-the-scenes story of the tumultuous relationship between Iran and the United States, and weigh...more
Paperback, 576 pages
Published August 9th 2005 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

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Catherine
Phew. This is no light reading.
After reading All the Shah's Men by Stephen Kinzer (about the CIA's coup of Iranian elected leader Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953), I wanted to understand more about the Iranian-American conflict from that time until the present. He provides an overview of Iran's history up through the Pahlavi dynasty including WWII and how the stage was set for Iran to be an important pawn in the Cold War. But most of his focus is on the relationship between the two countries, between...more
Nate Cooley
Kenneth Pollack's "The Persian Puzzle" is probably the best and most comprehensive analysis of the Iran that has received mainstream and widespread acclaim.

Pollock, known for his prior unabashed support of an Iraqi invasion ("The threatening Storm"), has followed up that work with his most recent book. At the outset, in outlining a strategy for dealing with Iran, it is important to note that the author has shied away from his previously hawkish outlook with regard to Iraq. Whether he is gunshy...more
Phil
Prior to writing this book, Pollack wrote "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq." This book should have been subtitled "The Case for Not Invading Iran." It provides excellent background on the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, getting into the gritty details of energy interests, resource nationalization, the Iran-Iraq war, and present political maneuvering. Thankfully, it goes beyond the simplistic "Shah goes away, Mossadeq elected, Mossadeq thrown out, Shah comes back, Shah falls,...more
Patrick Farrell
I thought this book was fantastic. It laid out the history of U.S.-Iranian relations over the past 60 or so years. The basic premise that the author presented was that constructive relations are difficult between the two countries because of massive paranoia mixed with an ignorance of American policy towards Iran and others in the Middle East on the Iranian side coupled with a certain level of indifference to Iran on America's side.

Pollack also wrote an outstanding conclusion that offers several...more
Emily
Incredibly enlightening - well written and easy to follow. The novel gives a history of American relations with Iran and clearly explains the convoluted perspectives of each country regarding the other. The author gets into the specifics of how each American president dealt with Iran such as the ways some pretty much ignored Iran (to our detriment) and others tried (sometimes in vain) to establish a better relationship. It helped me better understand the political structure of Iran and why curre...more
Jon
One of my professor's books on the history of US-Iranian relations, examining the internal and international historical-political issues that shaped the mutual antagonism between America and Iran since the early 1900s. Extensive detail is given to the schizophrenic Iranian historical attitude toward the outside world: although strongly convinced of the innate superiority of Persian culture against Arabism and Westernism, a century of imperial domination at the hands of the British and Russians--...more
Jennyb
Iran is a fascinating topic to me, one that I return to again and again. Persian Puzzle is an authoritative examination of Iran's history and how it affects the country's current attitudes, Iran's twisted relations with the United States and what interactions made them that way, and what's the best to hope for (or worst to dread) in future between our two countries. Pollack is hugely knowledgeable on the topic, and this is, by consequence, very dense reading. The level of detail is probably too...more
Ryan
A brief history of the various issues between Iran and the United States over the years. The author has a lot of knowledge of Iranian politics and history, even though he admits he's never been to Iran himself. However, the book is not really about Iranian culture, but about the diplomatic back-and-forth between the Islamic Republic and America: The 1953 Mosaddeq coup, the 1979 Revolution, the hostage crisis, the Beirut bombing, Hizbollah, the Iran-Iraq War, Iran Air Flight 655, the Karine A, Kh...more
Mark
This a fantastic book covering the historical events between Iran and the United States, up to 2004. It is an unbiased fact based book explaining the sources of the tensions between the countries. It's refreshing to hear about the overt and covert errors that the U.S. may have made in the past in dealing with Iran. It's much different than reading slanted news articles where the U.S. is always the good guy, or where publications are just out to bash a specific politition.

I think it is a great pr...more
Meepspeeps
I chose to read this book due to the current attempts by the USA to negotiate with Iran. The book convinced me once again that it is virtually impossible to negotiate with Iran. The best we can do is containment, including containment of their nuclear arsenal assuming they eventually develop one. This book is a good history of why anti-Americanism is so strong in Iran in particular. I think the book could have skipped some details and still gotten its main points across; the tedium of parts caus...more
Brian S.
This book gives you an understanding of the tension between Iran and the United States over the last 50 years. Both nations need to put the past in the past in order to achieve a reasonable future. However, Iran's very identity is based on being angry with the United States. If Iran were not geographically located where it is, I think the US would just ignore them for the most part.

Any student of the Middle East should add this to their reference library.
Steph
I read this book in a Political Science class. The premise behind this book is to familiarize readers with the history of conflict between Iran and America dating back to the mid-20th century, not just beginning with the '79 Revolution as most people might think. The idea behind this historical context is to give perspective on the current conflict between Iran and America, and to offer solutions for how to move forward.
Scott Martin
If you want a single book that describes the history between Iran and the US, this is it. While it was written in 2005 and a lot has changed since then (now that we are in 2010), the history is informative and explains how Iran went from one of our Middle East Pillars against Communism to major adversary. While you might find more detailed information from other sources, if you want one volume, this would be the one to have.
Ryan
Mar 19, 2008 Ryan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who want to know more about the conflict
Great background on the current relations between the two countries. Obviously, their are viewpoint differences between the author and others on forces that were at work, but a great history. Admittidly, it is a U.S. centric viewpoint, but not one that is easy on U.S. actions in Iran. I would stop before the last chapter, the author's views on the future, because it is outdated by this point.
Roland
Good introduction to the history of US/western and Persian relations. Allows one to see how foreign policy scholars actually think. Many of his proposals for dealing with Iran are slightly outdated, and I think that he would take a slightly more hawkish approach if the book took recent events into account.
Carolyn
Okay, honesty time. I haven't actually finished this book. It's a lot of great information, but it's a bit dull, hard to slog through at points. I'd like to finish sometime, but surely there's another book that can provide this level of information in a more entertaining manner.
David Smith
Interesting read, especially the historical background but peters out when it turns to speculation. The author might need to take a few steps back from his subject. Thanks to Zarir for the recommendation - perhaps you will be able to deal with my doubts and concerns when you visit.
Joe
This book is a pretty good analysis of the relationship between Iran and the United States, written by a very intelligent author. Probably a book that anyone who is interested in, responsible for, or concerned about American foreign policy should read.
Mr.
I read this when it came out, and should probably re-read it now. Very good look at the entire history of Iran, as well as the current crisis that exists between the U.S. and Iran.
Kim Rhoads
Excellent book on the history of Iran and Iranian/American relations. I would recommend to anyone who is concerned about the future of the Middle East and nuclear weapon proliferation.
Alex
Jul 28, 2012 Alex added it
This is a great book describing a myriad of seemingly unrelated events as you experienced hearing of them while watching the news. Presented in a unified story. Chilling.
G.T. Almasi
Oh-h-h, _that's_ why all this crap is happening!

Four stars. Recommended for anyone who wants a sense of perspective on the world we're muddling through.
Colin Hinde
The author is a bit of a hawk, but I had never been exposed to the history of Iran US relations. It was worthwhile and well written.
Stephanie
Interesting depiction of our relationship with Iran and thorough background of Iran's history of conflict. Met the author-smart man.
Dave
learned a lot abouth history of the middle east, the rise - and fall - of persia - and the current state of affairs in Iran
Brian
Well researched, a must for anyone interested in the dilemma of US-Iranian relations.
Steven
Dec 17, 2010 Steven added it
Expert analysis. Good detail on a oft misunderstood subject. Good read.
Denise
yea, all reading for leisure on hold while campaigning . . . .
Tara
Feb 25, 2008 Tara rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: mine
He has a much better knowledge of Iraq than Iran.
Hamid
1st half was not interesting. second half was interesting.
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The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991 (Studies in War, Society, and the Military) The Arab Awakening: America and the Transformation of the Middle East (Saban Center at the Brookings Institution Books) Which Path to Persia?: Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran

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