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The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,028 Ratings  ·  96 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
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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
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Josh
Oct 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tripp
Jan 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Zahir
Mar 18, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Mack Hayden
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the better books I've read about the interplay between Middle Eastern and United States politics and aggression. This was written while the Iraq War was still in full swing, Bush II was on his way out of the picture, and neocons were setting policy. So I'd love to get his take on where the Obama Administration took things because most of his prescriptions for better relations with Iran line up with where things wound up (only to now be under threat of disavowal). There's a perfect smatter ...more
Sky
Sep 29, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
First thing to note is that this book is ~5 years old and during that time there have been substantial shifts in both the Middle East and domestic US politics. Unfortunately, many of these shifts counter Baer's assertions and thereby undercut a substantial amount of the faith that you can put into the predictive capability of the rest of the text.

The first 90% of this book was an interesting, albeit somewhat formulaic counter-intuitive 'smart take' on US policy towards Iran. While there were por
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Sean Sharp
The Devil We Know reads mostly like an opinion piece from top to bottom; the book’s complete lack of any footnotes or references underscores this point. I suppose that the author, Robert Baer, holding significant credibility, having spent two dozen years with the CIA, might be an acceptable basis to skimp on citations. Still, the author’s ulterior motive of painting Iran as a new, and potentially dangerous, world power is clear. The “history” within (remember, facts are not cited here) is always ...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
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Andrew
Dec 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Robert
Apr 18, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Erwin
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting. Detailed history of Iran from the 1980's - 2008.

Argues that in the middle east, the US would be best served geopolitically by exchanging our unreliable Saudi Arabian allies for Iranian allies, similar to when we shifted our relations between Taiwan and Mainland China.

However, the US agreed it would guarantee the survival of the House of Saud, provide military security for the Saudi oil fields, as well as sell arms weapons to the Saudi government.

In return, Saudi Arabia would us
...more
Maria
Baer, a retired CIA Middle East operator, explains the secretive motives and actions of Iran. He highlights their regional goals, strategy and standard operating procedures. He also points out that unlike Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Jordan... Iran has been a country for thousands of years and has the history and power to be a stable partner in our Middle East policy.

Why I started this book: It never rains but it pours. I received 4 library holds this week, and I need to work thru them... I don't want
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Bernard M
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I ordered my copy from Amazon of The Devil We Know, Robert Baer’s 2008 book on Iran, I was surprised but delighted the book was on back order. This meant there were readers eager to acquire a copy of this gem of an introduction to Iran, its ambitions and perspectives.

Though some facts and figures require updating, the work still provides a compelling account, informed by Baer’s seasoned observations and insights of Iran’s present circumstances. Baer, a former CIA operative, fluent in severa
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Dean Outerson
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-books-bangkok
Insightful analysis of Iran. Granted, it's 9 years old, but it provides some deep background and history of the country from an ex-CIA officer. If you like Baker's other books, you'll like this one.
Dmitri
Apr 15, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Muhammad
Jun 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Megan
Jul 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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David
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
S.
Aug 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hookah
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
Ryan
Mar 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Greg
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Phil
Mar 30, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
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
Tom Schulte
Nov 15, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: terrorism
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
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
Sohail
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is old, so we have to judge it by its context.

The author has a relatively good understanding of Iran, but the understanding is not complete. He tends to overestimate, exaggerate and overdramatize a bit. He also fails to see the deeper layers of Iranian psychology. The author makes the mistake of looking at Iran just like most other Americans do: a Shia country that its first distinction is being Shia. He fails to grasp the massive gaps and inconsistencies in the cultural texture. He al
...more
Kent
Nov 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Matthew Trevithick
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
Ray
Oct 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sundai Valcich
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
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ROBERT B. BAER is one of the most accomplished agents in CIA history, and a winner of the Career Intelligence Medal. He is the author of four New York Times bestsellers, including See No Evil—the basis for the acclaimed film Syriana, which earned George Clooney an Oscar for his portrayal of Baer. He is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Middle East and frequently appears on ...more
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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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