Hidden Iran: U.S. Cannot Isolate Iran, Says Ray Takeyh in New Book

“Getting Iran wrong is the single thread that has linked American administrations of all political persuasions,” writes Council Senior Fellow Ray Takeyh in his book, Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic.

September 29, 2006

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“Getting Iran wrong is the single thread that has linked American administrations of all political persuasions,” writes Council Senior Fellow Ray Takeyh in his book, Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic. Critical of the undiplomatic discourse that has defined U.S.-Iranian relations since the 1979 revolution, Takeyh argues that “the real root of the estrangement [is a] profound and frequently mutual misunderstanding of the enemy.”

While Takeyh acknowledges Iran’s hostility toward the United States, he claims Bush’s inclusion of Iran in “the axis of evil” ignores Iran’s political complexities and cultural struggles. Hidden Iran illustrates these nuances, emphasizing how “Iran’s democratic transition must come on its own terms, and at its own pace.”

Takeyh warns, “It is likely that the Islamic Republic’s durability will once more defy the latest Washington truism” that regime change is possible and would neutralize Iran as a threat. Ultimately, Takeyh argues, “In dealing with Iran, it is time for not just a policy shift but a paradigm change.”

At the very least, Washington cannot isolate Iran, argues Takeyh; it should “commence direct negotiations with the Islamic Republic on the issues of critical importance—Iran’s nuclear program, its sponsorship of terrorism, and the future of Iraq.” In doing so, he concludes, the United States could draw lessons from its relations with China, with which the United States has had a wide-ranging dialogue, despite serious disagreements over China’s internal politics and aspects of its foreign policy.


“Much of what is said and written about [Iran] these days is grounded in emotion, ideology, or wishful thinking. But Ray Takeyh knows the country—the culture and the language—and adds to these strengths an acute mind. The result is a book of facts, logic, and analysis. It is the single best guide to understanding modern Iran.” —Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International and author of The Future of Freedom

“Ray Takeyh is one of the best of the new generation of Middle East scholars and anything he writes on the topic of Iran is automatically a must-read. Hidden Iran [provides] a concise, penetrating account of contemporary Tehran that answers the questions that every American ponders in the midst of our latest confrontation with the Islamic Republic.” —Kenneth Pollack, author of The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America

“This succinct and cool-headed book should become a must read for those, especially policymakers, concerned about the looming nuclear crisis with Iran.” —Ervand Abrahamian, Distinguished Professor, City University of New York

“[Hidden Iran] is thoughtful and well-timed, and it should be widely read at this critical juncture.” —Robin Wright, author of The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran

“An important and timely insight into the complexities of contemporary Iran, which not only refutes the simplistic and war-mongering slogans about Iran of those who recently pushed America into the war with Iraq, but also points the way to a more constructive relationship.” —Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser and author of The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership

“In this well-constructed sketch of American-Iranian relations, Takeyh…. provides a well-argued, seldom heard viewpoint.” —Publishers Weekly


Published by Times Books, 259 pages, $25

ISBN: 0-8050-7976-9

Contact: CFR Communications, 212-434-9888 or communications@cfr.org


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