Revolutionary guards chanting against the Great Satan, Bush fulminating against the Axis of Evil, Iranian support for Hezbollah, and President Ahmadinejad blaming the U.S. for the world's ills-the unending war of words suggests an intractable divide between Iran and the West. But as Ray Takeyh shows in this accessible and authoritative history of Iran's relations with the world since the revolution, behind the famous personalities and extremist slogans is a nation that is far more pragmatic-and complex-than many in the West have been led to believe. Takeyh explodes many of our simplistic myths of Iran as an intransigently Islamist foe of the West. He shows that three powerful forces-Islamism, pragmatism, and great power pretensions-war against one another in Iran, and that Iran's often paradoxical policies are in reality a series of compromises between the hardliners and the moderates, often with wild oscillations between pragmatism and ideological dogmatism. The U.S.'s task, Takeyh argues, is to find strategies that address Iran's objectionable behavior without demonizing this key player in an increasingly vital and volatile region.
Updated with an afterword that covers the momentous protests following the 2009 Iranian elections, Guardians of the Revolution will stand as the standard work on this controversial-and central-actor in world politics for years to come.