Confused by today’s Iran?

This cogent briefing spans centuries

There’s no use pretending Iranian politics can be boiled down to simplicities. It’s not just the bad, old conservatives vs. the good, new reformers (although it’s that to a fair degree). This review of three key recent books on Iran provides some urgently needed background. It digs into the centuries-old roots of Iran’s Shiite religious establishment, then moves briskly to the present. Among the intriguing nuggets: Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons in his war against Iran underpins Tehran’s stubborn nuclear policy; Iran’s impressively high literacy rates for both sexes, with women a majority among college students, suggests why women are so key to the current pro-democracy push; George W. Bush blew a chance to improve U.S.-Iran relations during a brief rise of relative moderates opposed by the clerical elite.

The New York Review of Books

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