"The challenge of Iran has never been greater, and the ability of the United States to manage the surging power of the Islamist state will go a long way toward stabilizing the Middle East," says CFR Senior Fellow Ray Takeyh in Guardians of the Revolution: Iran and the World in the Age of the Ayatollahs. Takeyh was recently senior adviser to the special adviser for the Gulf and Southwest Asia at the U.S. Department of State. In this book, he explains that the task at hand is to create a situation where Iran sees benefit in limiting its ambitions. "Dialogue, compromise, and commerce, as difficult as they may be, are a means of providing Tehran with a set of incentives to adhere to international norms and commit to regional stability."
Tracing the course of Iranian policy since the 1979 revolution, Takeyh explores four distinct periods in his book: the revolutionary era of the 1980s; the death of Ayatollah Khomeini and the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1989; the "reformist" period from 1997 to 2002 under President Mohammad Khatami; and the policies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei. From this account, Takeyh illustrates that Iran's policies are, in reality, a series of compromises between conservatives and moderates.
Looking ahead, Takeyh says that "Iran has entered the twenty-first century in an enviable position…[and] has now emerged as a leading power of the Middle East, whereby its preferences and predilections have to be taken into consideration as the region contemplates its future." He urges the United States to collaborate with Iran on preventing the civil war in Iraq from spilling outside its borders. "Resumed diplomatic and economic engagement between the two states and collaboration on Iraq may presage an arrangement for restraining Iran's nuclear program within the limits of its Nuclear Proliferation Treaty obligations."
Further, Takeyh posits that an engagement strategy with Iran need not jeopardize the United States' relationships with other nations. "Instead of militarizing the Persian Gulf and shoring up the shaky alliances on Iran's periphery, Washington can move toward a new regional security system that features all of the local actors. Such a framework can involve a treaty that pledges the inviolability of the borders, arms-control pacts that proscribe certain categories of weapons, a common market with free-trade zones, and a mechanism for adjudicating disputes."
A Council on Foreign Relations Book