The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower
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The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  673 ratings  ·  76 reviews
Over the past thirty years, while the United States has turned either a blind or dismissive eye, Iran has emerged as a nation every bit as capable of altering America’s destiny as traditional superpowers Russia and China. Indeed, one of this book’s central arguments is that, in some ways, Iran’s grip on America’s future is even tighter.

As ex–CIA operative Robert Baer maste...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 18th 2009 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Will Byrnes
Nearly everything the average American has been told about Iran is wrong.

This is a compelling analysis of one of the major players on the world stage. For those who have read much about the Middle East there is not a whole lot of new information here, but Baer has the ability to gather the strings of information and weave them together into a coherent tapestry. Iran has been growing as a regional power. This will continue and there is pretty much nothing we can do about it. This raises serious q...more
Tripp
Robert Baer has an answer for you in his latest book, the Devil We Know. The good news is that he has a good, if difficult to achieve, answer. The bad news is that he often buries it with digressions and some sweeping assertions. Still, he has proposed something I doubt the Obama administration will do, but I greatly hope they consider, which is to ally with Iran.

Sounds crazy, yes? Baer spends a good number of pages arguing that Iran is not some addled theocracy run by maniacs, but is in fact a...more
Josh
It is of vital importance that we, as Americans, understand our bitter history with the Islamic Republic of Iran (1979-current), and there is no more important time than now to get down to it. With the war drums beating in Washington and Jerusalem it is imperative that every citizen take a good look at who Iran is, what they were and what they are now, and be able to differentiate the early Republic which took US hostages, blew up US military installations and fomented attacks on Israelis and Am...more
Zahir
With the current political situation today, and the politicians beating the war drums about Iran, Robert Baer seems to be a very drowned out voice of reason, but also a speaker of truth. His experience as a CIA agent who is extremely familiar with Iran, it's culture and history, he lays out a very very well reasoned analysis as to why our positions toward Iran are counterproductive, and why war with Iran would be an absolutly terrible idea.

Even thought it was written in 2008, the general truths...more
David
This book is quite interesting and its central thesis--that we can and should do business with Iran as a regional power in the Middle East--is worth exploring. In particular, he says, the Shia are disciplined because they have a clerical hierarchy, and the Iranians have an imperial tradition. The Sunni, on the other hand, are undisciplined and unreliable.

Baer, and ex-CIA agent, has some interesting stories to tell, but the analysis is infuriatingly inconsistent and often superficial.

In short, he...more
Andrew
I can't say enough about this book. I would recommend this to anyone who even remotely cares about politics, foreign policy, anthropology, sociology, etc. Baer is a former CIA agent, and one of the foremost authorities on the middle-east. The author does a remarkable job of dispelling a whole slew of misconceptions that most Americans have been led to believe regarding Iran.
Tyler
it lacks a strong thesis and is forced to rely on digressing anecdotes that aren't really compelling enough to save it. and the prose is generally pretty obnoxious.

also, with no central character or narrative to follow its really hard to keep reading.
Muhammad
Robert Baer’s The Devil We Know is the most original and riveting documentary on the Middle East this decade has seen. As a former CIA agent operating deep within the bowels of the Persian Gulf, perhaps none will be as qualified to make the commentary and observations that he espouses in this timely classic-in-the-making.

Baer comes with a dire message in this book: Iran is growing to be a world superpower and America is too helpless to do anything about it.

According to the author, the invasion o...more
David
This book surprised me. Given the title, I expected Baer to delve into the true evil lurking behind the mysterious nation of Iran. Instead, he exposed the true rationality in much of their foreign policy. That being said, this book was written before much of the upheaval caused by the democracy movement in Iran. I would be very interested in Baer's take on Iran given those events.

That being said, the book gives a very different picture of Iran than I epxected, certainly based on my own memories...more
Robert
Baer doesn't know much about Iran
The New York Times

The Devil We Know Dealing With the New Iranian Superpower By Robert Baer 279 pages. Crown Publishers. $25.95.

As the end of the Bush era draws near, it is clear that its policy of treating Iran as a country that must be weakened, punished and perhaps even overthrown has failed. Suddenly it has become fashionable to say that Iran must be recognized, respected and dealt with as the increasingly powerful nation that it is.

Earlier this month Henry Ki...more
Ryan
Bob Baer is to geopolitics what Stephen J. Gould was to evolutionary biology: easily accessible with only an introduction to the relations at hand, while giving the reader a thorough dousing of the complexities hidden behind the headlines. Baer was a CIA operative for a classified number of years, gathering information in some of the most remote and inhospitable places on the planet who now consults for movies, books, business ventures and probably the CIA and other intelligence services as well...more
Megan
I had my doubts in the beginning of the book. It seemed to me that the author was making sweeping generalizations without statistical data or even flimsy facts to back it up. And while his inferences continued throughout the book, his experiences in the Middle East allow him to interpret actions and words of other players in the Middle East.

His view of Iran and how the US should deal with it is alarming, then insightful, then so obvious I wanted to write my congressman AND senator to share my 'n...more
Greg
Excellent book about the middle east, and in particular, Iran. Talks about the growth of Iran's power, and how our failures in Iraq have strengthened Iran into the new super power of the east. However, despite the media's portrayal of Iran as a bunch of crazy terrorists, the truth is that Iran is one of the more moderate countries in the middle east (especially when compared to the dictatorial regimes that are our official allies, like Saudi Arabia). Iran is not like the rest of the middle east,...more
Michael
Baer argues for recognizing Hezbollah and a reapprochement with Iran, inevitably including a downgrading of relations with Israel. I'm not sure how realistic this is; a country's foreign relations are not a Risk-game of picking and choosing partners, they reflect economic and social relationships. To the degree that the "Israel lobby" exerts influence over Congress, any Congressperson suggesting the US switch its Middle-East alliance to Iran over Saudi Arabia and Israel is probably going to comm...more
Phil
While I found his examination and commentary enlightening, I found myself skeptical of a lot of his assumptions. I base this on the fact that, while he has a great deal of first-hand experience in the Middle East and Iran, he is not an accomplished or recognized scholar on the subject. Baer does paint a pretty complicated picture of Iranian foreign policy and modus operandi. Something tells me that it's even _MORE_ complicated than he has boiled it down in 260 pgs.

In short, his recommendation is...more
Dmitri
The premise of this book is that Iran has come out of their 1979 revolution as a regional power, and the US is in a position in which it must deal with this in one way or another. I was temped to give the book two stars for making this point. However a good portion of the book is dominated by meaningless similes, vague notions, over simplifications, contradictions, and anecdotes. And the remaining pages are a love letter to Shiism.

Some examples:

Page 156- "The Palestinians' embrace of Shia Iran...more
Corey Toomey
Raises alot of crucial points to ponder about the real face of Iran and why we shouldn't underestimate their military and diplomatic capabilities.

However, Baer's case appears to be a bit fallacious and self-defeating in some places as he seems prone to state incorrect facts and contradicting assertions. Especially those regarding Islam and terrorism and why Muslim terrorists do what they do. He's also even bungled to some extent when educating us about the history of Iran and how its political...more
Tom Schulte
This is book is a bit dated in that it tackles the question of U.S. withdraw from Iraq, but it is very valuable for the years of experience Baer gained on Iran from his years in the middle east. The title of this work is loaded and layers of meaning are not fully clear until the audacious (enlightened? visionary?) epilogue. Baer builds up a tale of a misunderstood Iran with astute geo-political machinations bearing success at positioning it as a regional hegemon and leader of a Shia-dominant, oi...more
Matt
Not a bad book, but this book was published in a time when, basically, everything Robert said looked like it was about to happen. But subsequent events have reduced the credibility of this book - Iran was on the ascendancy in terms of regional power....until it wasn't, after it killed its own people and exposed its true colors as just another typical Middle East dictatorship bent on reserving its power. While American actions have clearly given it a freer hand in the Middle East, the Sunni/Saudi...more
Kent
Robert Baer has written a book which challenges the conventional wisdom of Middle East politics and power dynamics. This is a must read for anyone interested in the central foreign policy challenge of our time. Baer presents Iran and Midddle East diplomacy through the realpolitik lens of a former CIA agent. This is not a "think tank" book. His analysis and policy prescriptions are rooted in on the ground actions and intelligence gathering. In so doing, he brings new perspective to the actions of...more
Ray
A book I highly recommend to people thinking about the future of the Middle East. Iran is a major player, clearly desires to become an even larger factor in the region, and its influence is only growing following the weakening of Iraq. Baer's work with the CIA gave him important insights into the Middle East, and he takes care to provide an understanding of Iran and its policies. Our Country's most recent policy has been to isolate Iran and not to participate in discussions between the two count...more
Maria Sundai
This book was selected by my book club. I was very interested to read it and learn more about Iran. I found some of the content to be very interesting. However I wonder about the validity of the theories as it is one man's opinion. I found the book to be very difficult to read - the topic is complex and the content is dense. Seems to me it could have been streamlined - but perhaps this is just because I don't have much background in middle east matters and had a difficult time getting through ea...more
Brian
He raises some interesting questions, but is inconsistent and relies heavily on anecdotal evidence.
Chris
I really think this is a must read. I know people say this all the time, but our policies in the Middle East will have profound affects on our lives and the lives of our children. If only half of what Robert Baer is true, we still are doomed to failure in the Middle East. I know my views of Iran were based on what transpired in the 1980's and more recently with the rantings of Mahoud Ahmadinejad who holds no real power in Iran. Looking at what Iran has accomplished in the Middle East, it would b...more
Judith
Nov 07, 2008 Judith rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: politians
Recommended to Judith by: on line
Too complicated for me.
I needed to read a Middle East for Dummies first.
He talks about people, places and groups like I already know them when I never even heard of them before.
The object of reading this book was to get to know what's REALLT going on in the Middle East. I took out an old Global book and believe me the Middle East is VERY COMPLICATED and that's why the US needs to get out because in my opinion we'll never win. Like Baer says it'll be a 100 year war. I think we already wasted enou...more
Cheri
Robert Baer writes a clear and insightful account of Iran's involvement with proxies Hezbollah and Iraq, the country's growing nationalism and it's expansionist goals. Using a minimum of bombast and strong on historical facts, Baer makes a strong case for US involvement with Iran. I would have liked a little more statistical data to be included and greater coverage of the possible ramifications on Israel if the US were to more actively do business with Iran. Still, a most worthwhile read for any...more
Altonmann
An essential book about Iran and the Middle East written by someone who understands the history, culture and outlook of that region from first hand experience. Robert Baer's other books, See No Evil and Sleeping With the Devil are both first rate, but this one tops this others, especially because its focus is on contemporary issues that bear directly on the United States and Iran. It should be at the top
of Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's reading lists (assuming, of course, that they have re...more
Glen Demers
Baer seems to have an Iran-centric view of the middle east and his predictions run counter to those prophesied by George Friedman in his book "The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century", but overall this book is a thorough look at the region. He does a good job of explaining the various groups involved in the struggle over there, their ideologies and who's pulling the strings behind the scenes. A good book to read to help you discern the differences between the Shia and Sunni branches...more
Adam
This book is a synopsis of Iranian-American relations from an ex-CIA agent. It was written in 2008 so it doesn't take into account the most recent developments in the Middle East. Although Baer likely overestimates Iranian power, he puts assymetrical warfare in context and offers realistic analysis of what the US must do to reconcile with Iran in the long term. The pacing varies throughout the book, but for essentially a think-tank type political analysis it's an enjoyable read.
Brian
p180
"For the last fifteen years, Iran has demonstrated a consistent, coherent strategy: It tests its strategy, vets its proxies, judges who is serious and who isn't, and makes plans accordingly. Whereas the United States, especially under George W. Bush, threw money at untested and unreliable exiles, governments and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, who mostly pocketed it. The money is beyond audit, and no one knows how much ended up in the hands of America's enemies."
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featured on CBS Sunday Morning--Feb. 15, 2009 1 11 Feb 15, 2009 06:52AM  
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“On one level, Americans are too distant from the Middle East, too naive to understand its complexities and history. On another, it's the people who show up in Washington-Iranian and Arab exiles nursing a grudge, with time on their hands and money to pay for a hotel-who influence U.S. policy by default. They color Washington's view of the world, drawing us into foreign adventures we have no business being in.” 4 likes
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