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BOOK - The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis

Will the Bush Administration bomb Iran?
  • Half the warships in the U.S. Navy currently sit within striking distance of Iran.
  • Rhetoric is heating up in Washington.
  • Journalist and author Reese Erlich takes a look at the real story behind the looming confl ict.
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Journalist and author Reese Erlich shows how the Bush Administration plans to subvert the Iranian government and lie about it to the American people. He traces the troubled history between the two countries that has led to the current showdown over nuclear technology, and he reports from Iran and northern Iraq to uncover details of how the U.S. has funded ethnic minorities to carry out guerrilla raids and terrorist bombings inside Iran.

In addition to covering the political story, Erlich offers firsthand insights on Iran’s domestic politics and diverse population. He also interviews the son of the former Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, and members of Southern California’s large Iranian expatriate community, and reports on their efforts to shape Iran’s future.

In his previous book, the best-selling Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You, (co-authored by Norman Solomon, and with contributions from Howard Zinn and Sean Penn) Erlich presciently exposed the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or Al Qaeda ties to Saddam Hussein. He showed how the U.S. media failed to report the full spectrum of facts to the public.

Erlich produced the 2001 radio documentary, “The Struggle for Iran,” narrated by Walter Cronkite and broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR) stations.

Erlich reports regularly for NPR and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio. He also writes for Mother Jones, the San Francisco Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, and St. Petersburg Times. He is the winner of a 2006 Peabody Award for his work as a segment producer on Crossing East: Our History, Our Stories, Our America, aired on Public Radio International.

Publication Date: October 2007
$14.95, soft cover
220 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9778253-5-6
Buy Online or at Your Local Bookstore

Reese Erlich discusses his book at Google
Foreward by Robert Scheer
Historical mischief has stark consequences, not at all mitigated when world leaders, including Americans, claim the best of intentions. Steeped in the mythology of innocence since our own revolt against British imperial rule, the United States has consistently presented its own imperial drive as an effort to extend rather than suppress the freedoms of the peoples conquered.

The pattern has repeated itself many times since the Second World War, but it has never been clearer than in the persistent but disastrous effort of the United States to direct the politics of oil-rich Iran. Never admitting to an overriding interest in controlling that nation’s and the region’s precious resource, U.S. leaders have always insisted that they care only to expand the universe of peace and freedom. That charade now stands exposed since the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But despite that debacle, the longer-standing goal of dominating Iran remains all the more compelling to the United States.

In this perceptive analysis, Reese Erlich writes in the spirit of Graham Greene, whose classic The Quiet American captured the naive but nonetheless murderous impact of U.S. intervention in the “third world” of the Cold War era. Like Greene, Erlich blends an on-the-scene familiarity with everyday life in the target country with a piercing critique of the purportedly high motives of the foreign invader.

The United States has interfered with Iran for more than fifty years, and the consequences of that sorry history will continue to haunt us well into the future. Our capricious disregard for the nationalist and religious complexity of Iran began with the 1953 overthrow of its last democratically selected leader, the secular populist Mohammad Mossadegh. His crime was to begin the nationalization of foreign oil companies. He assaulted our sacred faith in the divine right of corporate plunder that trumped all other concerns, including the will of the Iranian people to control their own resources, and hence their own destiny.

After a well-documented coup paid for and engineered by the CIA, the United States replaced Mossadegh with the self-proclaimed Shah of Shahs, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who based his legitimacy on a highly questionable royal lineage. Despite U.S. and Israeli support, the shah’s regime eventually collapsed under the weight of its own corruption and selfish opulence, which wasted oil revenues on an array of unnecessary purchases, including U.S. military hardware. The shah was replaced by religious fanatics who claimed the mantle of incorruptibility. Because the shah had governed in the name of modernization, it is no wonder that the ayatollahs’ appeal to the glories of a fundamentalist world found a following among those whom the shah had ignored.

It is also no wonder that the theocrats who ascended to power should prove hostile to Israel and the United States. But of course, given the general acceptance of American virtue in foreign policy, the 1979 taking of hostages by the Iranian revolutionaries was interpreted as a totally unprovoked attack. American politicians and media figures have accepted this interpretation uncritically. Although the Iranian leadership has undergone many changes since then—from militant to somewhat reasonable and back again—most Americans have never wavered from the view that Iranian leaders are nothing but treacherous.

Call it the cartooning of Iran, in which the motives and actions of Iran’s various (and sometimes competing) leaders are never plumbed for profound explanations but rather dismissed as the pure caprice of the malevolent. Hence, we see the all-too-easy classification of Iran as part of the "axis of evil" by the incoming Bush Administration. That designation is now an embarrassment, given that Bush’s invasion of Iraq has left the Iraqi disciples of the Iranian ayatollahs very much in power in Baghdad.

Erlich provides an invaluable insight into the contradictions that drive U.S. policy toward Iran and threaten to take us into yet another disastrous war in a region that has ample reason to question U.S. motives. He questions the demonization of Iran’s leadership without underestimating the theocracy’s record of suppressing the people it rules. Having witnessed modern ideological wars, he brings a nuanced and—dare one say it? — objective view of the contending forces attempting to define modern Iran. The book is particularly useful in dissecting the trite, politically motivated threat assessments of Iran’s nuclear program and its alleged support of international terrorism. In both instances, there are painful reminders of the phony case made to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Erlich’s analysis opens up possibilities for change other than those that rely on the military option, which has proved so disastrous in neighboring Iraq. Indeed, Erlich questions the value of a belligerent U.S. stance when its primary impact is to enhance the popularity of hardliners and undermine those working for genuine reform in Iran. For that reason, this is a hopeful book, as well as a well-written work on a difficult subject, for it suggests the truly revolutionary prospect that the Iranian people might be trusted with the difficult task of engineering their future. After a half century of heavy-handed U.S. interference, they can hardly do a worse job on their own.

But Iran is not some banana republic to be toyed with as a matter of whim; it is rather the historic seat of a major civilization whose legacy, both politically and religiously expansionist, cannot be ignored. A U.S. foreign policy based on ignorance of Iran’s rich history and preoccupied only with U.S. interests has wrought horrible consequences. Those consequences — unintended as they sometimes were, and authored by politicians oblivious to the complexity of the world upon which they intruded — now dominate the key drama of international politics. The value of this excellent treatise is that it exhibits rare humility in attempting to grasp why modern-day Iranians have proved so difficult for the U.S. government to deal with. While critical of the clerical tyranny that has controlled Iranian politics since the anti-shah revolution, Erlich avoids the path of crude demonization that has characterized most popular writing on this subject. Instead, he skillfully melds personal observations with a scholar’s insight into the historical record that informs today’s passions—passions that we ignore at our peril.
Media Inquiries:
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