Guardians of the Revolution

Iran and the World in the Age of the Ayatollahs

Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

Read an excerpt of Guardians of the Revolution.

"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."

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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."

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Reviews and Endorsements

Anyone who wants to understand what's going on in Iran must read the terrific ... Guardians of the Revolution ... a lucid, clear-headed explanation of Iran's perplexing foreign policy since 1979.

Daily Beast

An excellent way to take the measure of revolutionary Iran today is to read this up-to-date, well-researched, and perceptive history of its foreign policy since 1979.

Foreign Affairs

An excellent straightforward primer.

Jerusalem Post

Superb ... Anyone wishing to understand why restored American-Iranian ties are so elusive, but also so critical, should turn to this important work, a riveting and consistently insightful study of revolutionary Iran and its still troubled place in the world.

New York Times

An elegant anatomy of Iran's foreign policy since 1979.

Malise Ruthven, New York Review of Books

Guardians of the Revolution is a 'must read' for policy makers in Iran, in the United States, and throughout the world. Thirty years after the revolution, this is the only comprehensive book in any language on the dynamics of change in Iranian domestic and foreign policy since the revolution. Timely and balanced, it should command the attention of the Obama administration in reviewing America's policy toward Iran.

R. K. Ramazani, Edward R. Stettinius Professor of Government, University of Virginia

Ray Takeyh is one of our country's most insightful observers of Iran. In this book, he offers an interesting portrait of how and why Iran's approach to the world has evolved since the revolution. His explanations of the interplay of different groups within the elite and the rise of the new right are thought provoking and raise important questions for policymakers. If one wants to understand the different forces affecting Iranian foreign policy, Takeyh's book is a good place to start.

Dennis Ross, author of Statecraft: And How to Restore America's Standing in the World

Ray Takeyh has given us a succinct, well-written, and cool-headed analysis of Iran's foreign policy since the 1979 revolution. This book should be read by academics working on contemporary Iran as well as by foreign-policy experts in Washington grappling with the issue of how to deal with Tehran.

Ervand Abrahamian, author of A History of Modern Iran

A useful aid. ... [This book] provides a narrative background to the insights in his earlier Hidden Iran . Takeyh's two books together offer as instructive a portrait as one can find of politics in Tehran and why it generates sometimes maddening Iranian postures toward the outside world.

National Interest

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