Review: Shah of Shahs

cvr_shah-of-shahs-by-ryszard-kapuscinskiShah of Shahs, by Ryszard Kapuściński, William R. Brand (Translator), Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand (Translator), and Margaret Atwood (Contributor: “Afterward”)

MY RATING: 4/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book (both times)

REVIEW: “Only a few months ago it was an achievement, like winning a lottery, to get a room in this city. Despite the many, many hotels, there was such an avalanche of people that new arrivals had to rent beds in private hospitals just to have a place to stay. Now the boom of easy money and dazzling transactions is over, the local businessmen are lying low, and the foreign partners have fled, leaving everything behind (5). Tourism has fallen to zero; all international traffic has frozen. Some hotels were burned down, others are closed or empty, and in one of them, guerrillas have set up their headquarters. Today the city is engrossed in its own affairs, it doesn’t need foreigners, it doesn’t need the world” (5-6). Everything has suddenly changed: welcome to Iran’s Islamic Revolution

When Iran’s last shah fled his country, he terminated approximately 2,500 years of monarchy and a few decades of significant progress in women’s rights, religious freedom, the arts, technology, business, oil and nuclear energy, plus military might. Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński had been assigned to Iran cover Ayatollah Khomeini’s return and events surrounding the revolution. As he watched the television to see the initial speech, the author noted the following: “Nothing in that murderous climate would seem to favor reflection and contemplation, yet Qom is a place of religious fervor, rabid orthodoxy, mysticism, and faith militant.  It contains five hundred mosques and the nation’s biggest seminaries.  Koranic scholars and the guardians of tradition quarrel in Qom; the venerable ayatollahs convene their councils there; Khomeini rules the country from Qom.” (6).

Kapuściński authored “Shah of Shahs” as a way to communicate timelines via dagguerotypes (photos and cassette recordings). The journalist’s contemplative and wise voice definitely came through as the reader took in descriptions of images and circumstances. The approach seemed distant, yet intimate, as he described Iran’s vast history, the lead-up to revolution and as well as a psychological profile of the country’s leadership and sociological make-up of its citizenry…the latter of which appeared to be significantly misunderstood by the Pahlavis. He designed the book as a travel log, an approach consistent with another work of his that I recently read, about his travels through one of Iran’s neighbors: the Soviet Empire. Its corresponding compendium titled “Imperium,” reveals a consistency in the author’s qualities; one must read both works to recognize how true they were to the author’s writing style and in their paralleled histories, which made sense given their intertwining relationship(s). “Shah of Shahs” heavily focused on the following themes:

*Fervent nationalism: mandated unique language—Farsi.
*Petroleum business: so much money, so little for the people.
*Regime change.
*Inertia of revolution.
*Societal changes: progression, regression, repression.
*Power-struggles and hierarchy: familial, governmental, international.
*Paradoxical histories: lessons of opposites.

Shah of Shahs” was the first book containing the great lessons of Ryszard Kapuściński. In 2013 I rated the book an easy five stars. On this re-read, and after reading so many more works dealing with the same topics, my excitement seemed a bit tempered; then (early 2017) I gave the book a four-star rating. Please note that he book remained as recommendable as before. It did an excellent job of taking a large amount of information and condensing it into nuggets of the most important data points necessary to understand the ascension and reign of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. The author’s voice and format remained unique when compared to many other reading experiences I had in the four years between the first and second reads. I simply did not find myself as impressed with the work as before. One could combine the two ratings, to yield four-and-a-half starts, then round them up to five stars…I guess; but, the gusto just did not seem to still be there on the second read. What it did lead me to was the intent to read more Kapuściński in 2017 (which was exactly what I did with his book, “Imperium).

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Review: Why Israel Can’t Wait: The Coming War Between Israel and Iran

Why Israel Can’t Wait: The Coming War Between Israel and Iran by Jerome R. Corsi

MY RATING: 2/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Purchased Book.

REVIEW: I always admired people who supported Israel, and I believed that Dr. Jerome R. Corsi meant well when he wrote, “Why Israel Can’t Wait: The Coming War Between Israel and Iran.” His intentions were certainly as praise-worthy as his high level of formal education (PhD.), extensive work experience and vast knowledge. However, this piece did not sufficiently achieve his stated goals; the first of which began with addressing the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“Prior to the June 12 (2009) election, Iran expert Michael Ledeen of the “Foundation for the Defense of Democracies” claimed Mousavi was not a revolutionary but rather “a leader who has been made into a revolutionary by a movement that grew up around him” (14).  “But the impression in the United States that Mousavi was a reformist is entirely wrong” (14)..the real revolutionary is Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, and the real question is why Ayatollah Khamenei allowed her to be positioned that way in the 2009 presidential election” (14). This was an excellent question, one which led specifically to the “regime change” discussion, seemingly regardless of who won the election.

However, during Iran’s 2009 post-election protests, Obama possibly missed an opportunity for regime change, according to Dr. Corsi. My issue with that specific point rested in the fact that the United States conducted a coup d’état in the 1950s with its overthrow of Iran’s democratically-elected Mohammad Mossaddeq, which restored Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to his thrown. (“Patriot of Persia: Mohammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup” by Christopher De Bellaigue served as a biographical account of the aging Prime Minister and devout oil nationalist, though its not my favorite account). The regime change gave the appearances that the over-throw worked. Some books that covered this topic in greater detail included: “All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror” by Stephen Kinzer; “Blood & Oil: A Prince’s Memoir of Iran, From the Shah to the Ayatollah” by Manucher Farmanfarmaian (a Qajar prince) and Roxane Farmanfarmaian, PhD.; “The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran” by Andrew Scott Cooper, PhD.; and, “The Shah” by Abbas Milani, PhD. (Research Fellow at Hoover Institution (as of this writing) and whose brother served as prime minister to the last Shah and was later assassinated by Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime).

The Shah’s status, however, became temporary, and its long-run consequences spread themselves throughout the globe with particular vitriol pointed toward the United States of America (who conducted the operation as a special favor to one of its historically favorite allies: the British). Corsi seemed to encourage another regime change, as well as additional America-driven modifications to the region, as a solution to a wide range of problems for the USA and Israel with the goal of returning stability to the greater Middle East. Central themes existed as the following:

*Iran’s 2009 post-election protests.
*Regime change dynamics.
*Nuclear weaponization: “A credible nuclear program must have three components: (1) weapons-grade enriched uranium/plutonium source; (2) Medium/Long-range missile system capable of delivering a nuclear weapons payload reliably; and, (3) technology to weaponize into a miniaturized warhead capable of being delivery (29).”
*Regional stability and hegemonic interests.
*Iran and Hamas in the Palestinian Authority.
*Arab-Israeli conflict core issues: “Netanyahu strongly disputed the contention that territory was at the start of the heart of the conflict with the Palestinians” (69).

I thought that the Arab-Israeli conflict could not simply be resolved with border issues being quelled nor re-negotiated and agreed upon by the parties as well.  in fact, Netanyahu’s statement reminded me that the root cause of the conflict was not about borders at all anyway; much of this dispute originated during the Palestine Mandate era and the trouble caused by Yasser Arafat’s uncle, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, (then “The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem”). He willingly and excitedly served as Hitler’s proxy to export Europe’s Holocaust to the Palestine Mandate making a major component of the original conflict about RACISM, RACISM, RACISM not land.  “Icon of Evil: Hitler’s Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam by Rabbi David G. Dalin adeptly covered this history, and I repeatedly recommended this book to encourage others to view the history of “The Conflict” with either more knowledge or a different perspective than that of a land-grab. As far as said conflict goes, until the parties can agree that their negotiations for specific sessions or summits are on a focused few (ideally one at a time) topics, then no positive movement toward peace can truly be achieved.

While Dr. Corsi did an excellent job of detailing why the Arab-Israeli Conflict could not be simply resolved with the resolution of land boundaries, it seemed that the rest of the book was slammed together and utilized hyperbole. He shared some interesting information and uncommonly-known revelations; but, the work did not really contain anything new (even for its publication time). I wished that the author had shared greater context and perspective.  The piece contained choppiness in its going back-and-forth while trying to put the reader in a constant panic with sweeping generalizations. I felt greatly disappointed that the closing statement under the subchapter name (which mimicked the book’s title) “Why Israel Can’t Wait” led to nothing more than two mini-paragrphs, each containing two sentences. Its over-simplicity revealed incoherence, causing the overall product to present itself as nothing more than than an rushed-to-publish “Op-Ed” in lieu of a quality piece of literature that the author historically-supported reputation provided.

Review: The Oil Kings: How the U.S., Iran, and Saudi Arabia Changed the Balance of Power in the Middle East

cvr_the-oil-kings-how-the-u-s-iran-and-saudi-arabia-changed-the-balance-of-power-in-the-middle-east-by-andrew-scott-cooperThe Oil Kings: How the U.S., Iran, and Saudi Arabia Changed the Balance of Power in the Middle East by Andrew Scott Cooper

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Purchased Copy

REVIEW: This is the second piece I have read by Andrew Scott Cooper, with the first one being “The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran.” I purchased “The Oil Kings” as part of an extensive book haul in late 2015, and this piece sat in rotating loads of books from my local library system and other occasional ARCs that always, immediately, went to the top of my “To Read” stack. Had I known then what great work this book contained, I would have read it much sooner! How could I ever have delayed reading about the importance Middle East oil prices with their crude mix of politics!

The Oil Kings” revealed some jaw-dropping, pertinent micro-histories:
*“Asking the National Security Adviser to rig a defense contract” (71).
*Gilda (“the most dangerous of the Shah’s paramours” (100)).
*Corporate empire fixing.
*Money laundering from Iran, via Mexico, to support Nixon’s campaign/Watergate.
*Iran’s supply of fighter jets to South Vietnam during the war.
*Instability of worldwide economic systems.
*Scathing, SAVAK-caused “Charles Jourdan Incident.”
*Kissinger’s ambitions gone too far.
*Follow the oil; it shifts the power.
*Algiers Accords: a deadly domino effect.

My jaw dropped when I read about how “1975 Algiers Agreement” (246) shifted the balance of power in the Middle East: it betrayed the Kurds, empowered and emboldened Iraq, and weakened both Iran and the United States…immediately. Secondary consequences occurred in countries outside of the region as well. This book significantly underscored the entanglement, or interdependence, of every country with another, regardless of its location on this planet. There was no where to hide from the economic fall-out.

The Shah attempted to hide his cancer diagnosis to prevent political fall-out; I had read details surrounding its secrecy several times throughout the years. Cooper included new information and wrote about it with an unforgettable analogy: “In the spring of 1974, Iran’s supreme leader and his closest aide had both contracted incurable cancers. Shakespeare could not have imagined a more exquisite tragedy of state: unbeknownst to each other, the empire’s two most experienced helmsman were mortally ill. It brought to mind another empire whose fated Romanov dynasty and the deadly hemophilia suffered by Czarevitch Alexei, son and heir of Czar Nicholas II” (167).

While the Shah’s illness progressed, his country became more politically isolated…though one did not directly create the other; the possibility existed that the ruler’s behavior drastically changed as a result of his terminal diagnosis. By “December of 1974…it should have been abundantly clear that the Shah was pulling away from Washington to pursue a foreign policy based on independent nationalism, as Ardeshir Zahedi had been advocating since the late 1960s. Years earlier the CIA had warned that as the Shah became more assertive the chances would increase that Iranian foreign policy goals would diverge from those of the United States. Whereas Saudi Arabia was making inroads in Washington, Iran was increasingly identified as a source of tension and instability” (228). The American intelligence failure pertaining to knowledge surrounding the Shah’s lymphoma diagnosis allowed for the following situations: “…no policy adjustments made, no contingency plans drawn up, no legwork asked of the intelligence community. The transfer of high-tech weaponry to Iran did not slacken. The negotiations to sell Iran nuclear power technology remained on track. No steps were taken to reduce the number of expatriate personnel. In short, the United States continued its march to folly in Iran” (280).

This folly included targeted assassinations and generalized attacks on Americans in Iran. The warning signs and predictions were in place and well-known…but they were ignored. Everything led up to the Islamic Revolution, where this book tastefully ends but includes a follow-up to what happened to some of its key players. “The Oil Kings: How the U.S., Iran, and Saudi Arabia Changed the Balance of Power in the Middle East” contained compelling writing, great analogies, and interesting stories with just the right amount of “smut” factor. This piece easily earned its place on my “Favorites” shelf.

Review: Unveiled Threat: A Personal Experience of Funamentalist Islam and the Roots of Terrorism

cvr_unveiled-threat-a-personal-experience-of-funamentalist-islam-and-the-roots-of-terrorism-by-janet-tavakoliUnveiled Threat: A Personal Experience of Funamentalist Islam and the Roots of Terrorism by Janet Tavakoli

MY RATING: 4/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from Author (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW: Do not allow the small size of this book fool you into believing that it is not big on content. This is the first piece I have read by Janet Tavakoli, MBA, who utilized this work as a delivery vehicle to share her experiences when she found herself suddenly trapped in the middle of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. In one day she went from being an Iranian man’s, American-born, wife to becoming his property under that nation’s newest laws. “Unveiled Threat: A Personal Experience of Fundamentalist Islam and the Roots of Terrorism” delved into the author’s experiences, connected religious institutions to terrorism, and expounded upon the issues that developed due to the creation of a politically-correct world that began producing a global, fundamentalist, terrorist threat to the United States of America (USA).

Unveiled Threat” began with a focus on Iran and touched on tangentially-related topics in other countries due to their effect on the USA. Prevailing themes included the following:
1. “Poor men want to be rich” (1)
2. Political hypocrisy.
3. Hypocritical use of chador.
4. “Stalkers for Islam” (43)
5. Honor killings.
6. Female genital mutilation (FGM).
7. Islamic rule.
8. Muslim apologetics.
9. Sex abuse scandals.
10. Freedom of artistic expression and speech.

Ms. Tavakoli gave one example that specifically dealt with Muslim outrage pertaining to freedom of artistic expression/speech; I felt that it lacked sufficient context, causing me to be in disagreement with her. The story’s lack of details pertained to the year 2006, when a Pakistani cleric issued a death fatwa on a cartoonist who drew satirical images of Mohammad. I did not find their context to be fatwa-worthy nor good cause for riots. The situation created by the editors appeared repulsive and malicious. I associated this example with the Charlie Hebdo incident, though it was not clearly defined in the book.

The incident involved artistic representations of tied-up Muslims being raped by dogs (as had reportedly occurred to incarcerated people of the same faith). Dogs were utilized because due to their consideration as being the most disliked, lowly creatures in Islam. Other highly-inappropriate, disgusting, and insensitive illustrations went to print. I could not begin to imagine the uproar that would take place in a Westernized nation if, in the same context, there was a contest to draw a likenesses of God, Jesus Christ, or any other holy icon, in order for them to be printed amongst cartoons of children being raped by religious or other authority figures. In this situation, described as artistic expression and/or freedom of speech, moral and philosophical boundaries melted.

Unveiled Threat made for a compelling read that, at its core, focused on personal boundaries being legally melted by changing societal norms. This book contained elements of stories shared by Nonie Darwish, in her book titled, “Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror.” Plus, Ayaan Hirsi Ali stressed similar warnings in the three pieces I have read of hers: 1.) Nomad–From from Islam to America: a Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations; 2.) Infidel; and, 3.) The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam.

Tavakoli’s book made me hold my breath quite a bit. At times I felt my eyes racing from one sentence to the next because of the energy that the author’s writing style created. The reading enjoyment factor caused the book to easily earn five stars; but, what I thought were minor historical discrepancies did cause me to reduce the work’s overall rating by that of one star. These minute differences in no way diminished the author’s experiences nor intensity of the situations covered in the piece. The most important factual fabric of this book maintained its integrity.

Review: The Fall Of The Shah

cvr_the-fall-of-the-shah-by-fereydoun-hoveyda-roger-liddell-translatorThe Fall Of The Shah by Fereydoun Hoveyda, Roger Liddell (Translator)

MY RATING: 4/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

REVIEW: This passionately-written book written was created as a tri-faceted account of “The Fall of the Shah” by Fereydoun Hoveyda, an Iranian Diplomat, under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Hoveyeda adeptly delved into core themes to support the book’s title; and, I enjoyed reading the up-close perspective and how Hoveyda (and others) reached a point where they recognized that the Shah no longer wished to hear the truth from his court. The author’s brother, Abbas, Iran’s former Prime Minister suffered as a result. I found myself impressed by how well the writer wove a tapestry of parallel histories: foreign intervention to create the rise and fall of the Shah, momentum of the Islamic Revolution, and Abbas Hoveyda’s assassination.

“No matter what one believes about the theories of foreign intervention in Iran’s affairs, there is no denying that the Shah did all he possibly could to bring about the collapse of his dynasty. His armaments policy, the corruption in his entourage, his ruthless repression and stifling dictatorship gnawed like a cancer at his whole system, especially during his last two years in power. Blinded by his own dreams of grandeur and walled off from the realities of the country, the Shah ignored popular aspirations, despised the clergy, and antagonized both the world and his own people simultaneously…with the help of his family he was the true and certain author of his own downfall” (215-216).

The author expertly crafted the final component of this book by leaving the reader with a a few strong and intriguing points for consideration. I did not wish to spoil the book for anybody, but felt compelled to extrapolate one of the arguments. An issue surrounded the events of the 1953 coup: it involved the overthrow of Mohammad Mossaddeq. The question essentially became “What if the coup had failed?” It almost did, but Hoveyda did not want his readers to think about the coup results in the same way that we have since its occurrence. What if Kermit Roosevelt continued with his efforts for the United States government (on behalf of British interests), but the last Shah of Iran decided to not return to his country anyway? Essentially, it would have been an incomplete intervention.

One of my favorite authors, Stephen Kinzer, specialized in the subject of American interventions into foreign countries to protect U.S. “interests.” His book, “All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror ” covered the details of this significant historical event quite well. Hoveyda’s book left me wondering, “What would Kinzer think would happen without the return of the last Shah? How would it possibly have altered Iran-US relations? Would the timeline to Islamic Revolution have possibly sped up, stayed the same, or whittled down to nothing? I encourage people to read both Hoveyda’s and Kinzer’s renditions of the the Shah’s decline to decide for themselves.

Review: The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran

cvr_the-fall-of-heaven_the-pahlavis-and-the-final-days-of-imperial-iranThe Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran, by Andrew Scott Cooper, PhD.

MY RATING: 4/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from Library Thing Early Reviewers Program (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW:  At first glance (and final review), I loved the layout and research elements of this “The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran,” by Andrew Scott Cooper. Prior to the “Introduction,” the reader encountered a list of key people and their roles, a “Revolution Timeline” and a 1979 map of Teheran, Iran (a critically important inclusion for any book focusing on Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Each chapter included two short, pertinent, and impactful quotes from different sources. History buffs, analysts, investigative personality types, and nerds at-hearts can greatly enjoy that the author shared his detailed research notes. He “constructed a 242-page, color-coordinated timeline that spanned the crucial twenty-month period from January 1, 1977, through August 31, 1978, that decided the Shah’s fate. The timeline expanded to include everything from weather reports and traffic conditions to movie and theater listings—anything to help me re-create daily life on the eve of the revolution. The timeline meant that I could follow the Shah, Queen Farah, President Carter, Ambassador Sullivan, and other personalities on a daily and even hourly basis during a critical two-year stretch. The timeline yielded unexpected patterns, trends, and turning points forgotten, neglected, or otherwise overlooked by other scholars” (15).

Dr. Andrew Scott Cooper, an expert in U.S.-Iran relations, wrote this text to serve as a correction of historical records. His qualifications included being a: “former researcher at Human Rights Watch, the US organization that monitors human rights around the world” (11). Perhaps it was this specific life experience that motivated him to write this compendium, which focused on following:

1. Iran’s human rights record within the context of the behaviors of other nation’s Cold War era dictators/rulers.
2. The scene that set the final stage for the revolution, revealing “two different revolutionary narratives” (15).
3. Farah Diba’s as a non-stereotypical model of a ruler’s wife.

The Shah’s human rights record included rumors that SAVAK held thousands of political prisoners. The last Shah countered that the numbers were greatly inflated. Dr. Cooper specified that “the lower numbers do not excuse nor diminish the suffering of political prisoners jailed nor tortured in Iran in the 1970s. They do, however, show the extent to which the historical record was manipulated by Khomeini and his partisans to criminalize the Shah and justify their own excesses and abuses” (11). The author deconstructed false analogies that compared the Shah to “Chile’s General Augusto Pinochet, blamed for the deaths of 2,279 people and 30,000 torture victims, and also to the Argentine military junta, held culpable for 30,000 deaths and disappearances” (11). Further details revealed that “within the context of the Cold War battlefronts in the Middle East and southwestern Asia, the Pahlavi state was not particularly repressive, especially when we consider that Saddam Hussein, in neighboring Iraq, was credited with the deaths of 200,000 political dissidents, while in Syria, President Hafez al-Assad crushed an Islamic uprising with 20,000 casualties. That Iran never experienced violence on such a scale suggests the Shah was a benevolent autocrat who actually enjoyed a greater degree of popular support among the Iranian people than was previously assumed” (11). Several explanations throughout the book included how Khomeini and his followers slandered the regime to gain his own political power; he was quoted as follows: “I can summon a million martyrs to any cause” (103)—and he did.

While the author did debunk rumors regarding Pahlavi regime behavior and the context in which the stories developed, the questions that must be asked include whether or not the uncovered facts carried enough weight to alter the world-view of the Pahlavi regime; and, would the Islamic Revolution still have occurred? Or, were they simply historical little white lies in the whole grand scheme of things? Readers must also determine whether or not such clarifications were worthy of a several-hundred-page compendium. Andrew Scott Cooper’s collection of micro-histories kept its promise to the readers; but the writing style at times seemed a bit disjointed; and, coupled with seemingly unnecessary minutiae, the piece became a bit dry at times…slowing down the reading and enjoyment of this text. Where the author truly gained writing cohesion and an energetic traction that created reading momentum revealed itself after 400 pages. Had the author utilized the same writing style more pervasively, this text easily would have earned five stars in lieu of four of them.

Review: Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West

cvr_reconciliation-islam-democracy-and-the-west-by-benazir-bhuttoReconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West, by Benazir Bhutto

MY RATING: 3/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Purchased Book, 2016 Library Thing Santa Thing

RELATED MOVIE(S): Bhutto (2008) Trailer (IMDB)

REVIEW: “I return to Pakistan after eight years abroad on October 18, 2007, and was greeted in Karachi by crowds estimated by Sindhi press and party officials to be up to three million people. It was a moment I have dreamt of for so many years. I was overwhelmed by emotion as I touched the land of my birth and saw the love of the people. It was a love I returned with all my heart and soul.  Politics started out as a duty for me. Over the years of pain, suffering, sacrifice, and separation, of young men and women tortured and killed, it had become an all-consuming passion” (218). An equal level of commitment resulted in “Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West,” becoming the last book written by the first-ever, female prime minister of a Muslim country; her name was Benazir Bhutto.

Reconciliation” was divided into six chapters with clearly defined elements: Islam’s saga, democratic ideals, Pakistan’s internal strife and dichotomous relations with the United States (who she repeatedly asserted as a nation pursuing arbitrary democracy), “clash of civilizations”, the need for a changed vocabulary, and fear of her nation being disintegrated from within. She successfully argued that “to understand Pakistani politics, an understanding of Pakistan’s provinces and their characteristics is necessary” (158). Over time, the reader could recognize that the author became stuck in a political quagmire; and, despite the fact that Bhutto needed the USA, she seemed to dedicate a good portion of her book to rant against her greatest ally.

Overall, I recognized that “Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West,” served as a plea for dialogue, understanding, change, help and recognition. Unfortunately, this book’s preachy and academic approach caused me to skim some of the material. Sometimes I felt like the author was speaking down to the reader; yet, fragments reflected how she wrote so beautifully, so passionately, that you could visualize where she was and feel what Bhutto felt in that moment. It set my expectations for the rest of the piece. Ultimately, the writings could not maintain a significant quantity of that communication style to reflect a higher star rating.

Review: All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror

cvr_all-the-shahs-men-by-stephen-kinzerAll the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer

MY RATING: 4/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

REVIEW:All the Shah’s Men” serves as the second book I have read by Stephen Kinzer, and it was full of intrigue, micro-histories, and biographies that left me with the desire to research and read more about the Middle East as well as additional books by this author.

It is not unusual for history books to discuss timelines and people; but, what I appreciated most in this text was Kinzer’s differing approach to historical data. He was generous with details about a significant array of people that were involved with multiple coups. There were names of people in his book that I did not recall seeing in other compendiums pertaining to Middle East history and/or Iran. Kinzer shared what their individual philosophies were and how they affected their decisions and the resulting behaviors.

One challenge I experienced while reading this book, and that which prevented me from giving it five stars in lieu of four of them, was that there was too much going back and forth in history. A political leader’s history and interactions with others was/were very well described; but, at the end of that history, the reader was then re-introduced to a character at the beginning or middle of the previous history and all within the same chapter. Segmentation via a few extra and short chapters would have helped.

Despite the back-and-forth of histories, Stephen Kinzer has a great way of making a reader take a look at a situation and evaluate what could have been done differently. Unfortunately, he waited until over 200 pages into the book for any analysis or extrapolation to occur. This was coupled with a whole series of “if” and “if” and “if-then” and “if.” In doing so, Kinzer inadvertently de-valued what he was trying to accomplish, and the history could no longer be evaluated as a reality. Thankfully I had already read another book by Kinzer, called, “Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future,” so I knew what he was trying to accomplish, and I didn’t want him to think that this was lost on me. He wanted the reader to imagine how things could have been done differently; what would have happened if one or all of these things did not occur?

The author is also quite talented when it comes to creating imagery. He does this thoughtfully, purposely, and respectfully. Kinzer shares the details of his trip to Iran and his visit to Mossadegh’s final home. There are descriptions of colors, flowers, and buildings, and he places them in the context of what they experienced and looked like in history and how they had changed by the time of his visit. There is a certain romanticism about how he goes about interviewing people who were employees, villagers/neighbors, friends and family of Mossadegh. Stephen Kinzer makes it clear that with the Mossadegh name, there is a legacy, and there is a responsibility to keep the name pure.

Purity and the instability of relationships were prevalent themes in this book. The intelligence that the American government received was not consistently pure. There were people who wanted to make a name for themselves and leveraged “The Cold War” and its threat of spreading communism as a way to convince an American president that it was time to start supporting the British government in its efforts to take back Iran’s newly-nationalized oil company. Kinzer did a good job of “calling out” these people, namely The Dulles Brothers.

There were good people on all sides who had good intentions, and they were coupled with individuals or groups filled with mal-intent, which ultimately led to a surpise coup of Mohammed Reza Shah and the promotion to leadership and ultimate power of and for the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran. There were well-described changes in alliances that ultimately put the United States in an unsavory position with countries in the Middle East…definitely an unfortunate stance and one that can hopefully be corrected.