Saturday, September 06, 2008

Book Review of 'The Iran Threat' by Alireza Jafarzadeh

This is the first of what will hopefully be many book reviews intended for an Objectivist audience.

The Iran Threat by Alireza Jafarzadeh offers an extensive political history of modern Iran with a special emphasis on why it poses a threat to the Western world. In particular, this book offers detailed information on Iran's uranium enrichment activities and a deluge of facts corroborating why Iran's activites are surely not for peaceful purposes. This book also details the structure of the government of Iran, a brief history of the Iranian Revolution and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's professed infatuation with the ideals of the Iranian Revolution. In terms of presenting a large amount of facts against Iran, there is much value to gain in reading this book.

This book is written by the very terrorism expert who blew the whistle on Iran's underground uranium enrichment program back in 2002. The author is an Iranian exile, a Middle Eastern affairs analyst and a Fox News Foreign Affairs Analyst. He is also the president of Strategic Policy Consulting Inc. in Washington D.C. and is also the former media director for the Washington D.C. office of the parliament-in-exile, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI). Jafarzadeh is probably one of the foremost experts on what is happening in Iran.

The author details many important points regarding the Islamic Republic including:
  • The Iranian Revolution of 1979 and how Ayatollah Khomeini converted Iran into a brutally fanatical theocracy.
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's shadowy rise to power, his regular meetings with Ayatollah Khomeini as a student and his connection with the student organization that helped orchestrate the 1979 hostage crisis.
  • The oppressive, anti-Western reforms of the Ahmadinejad regime.
  • The stated radical and globally ambitious ideology of the Iranian mullahs.
    Iran's role in the Iraqi insurgency.
  • The history and present capability of Iran's Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Nuclear Weapons Capability.
  • The extensive measures Iran has made to defend their underground enrichment facilities (e.g., spreading them out, placing them deep underground, strategically positioning anti-aircraft technology).

Jafarzadeh also offers his opinion on what policy actions should be taken against Iran. Despite making a few decent observations. Jafarzadeh does identify that the current theocratic regime must go and that it is "beyond negotiation". He promotes "regime change", specifically meaning handing over the keys of Iran to the NCRI. According to their platform on their website, the NCRI stands for the separation of Church and State, capitalism, human and minority rights, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and democratic elections. This sounds like a considerable improvement over the current Iranian regime. However, the NCRI's leadership is intertwined with that of the militant group MEK, which has several cultish/irrational aspects. Thus, Jafarzadeh's proposed solution is unfortunately more pragmatic than principled.

Another significant concern of mine is that, although this work is dense with citations, the author often attributes vital information to "his sources", which makes it difficult to accept this information as truth. However, we also must recognize the reality of the author's situation, as he is probably not able to safely reveal all of his sources at the time of his writing. These vague attributions are not too frequent, and when they are made, the allegations are consistent with the overall character of the Iranian regime. As a whole, I think the factual content of this book is pretty sound.

In summary, I highly recommend this book for its factual content, especially to those with strong interests in foreign policy who are seeking a deeper understanding of Iran.

You can read the version of my review of The Iran Threat, which is intended for a general audience, on Amazon.com here.

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jafarzadeh is a terrorist and so is the NCRI, and every single Iranian knows that the NCRI sided with Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war. And while the MEK (NCRI) tries to take credit for "exposing" Iran's nuclear program, they didn't. The program was already known to the US, and in fact the program started in the late 1970s with the participation of the USA.

Burgess Laughlin said...

> "Jafarzadeh is a terrorist and so is the NCRI, . . ."

Proof?

Doug said...

Alireza Jafarzadeh is affiliated with the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) whose leadership intersects that of the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (MEK). The MEK is a militant group that openly wants to overthrow the theocratic government of Iran. Since the MEK is a non-government group that wants to use violence to achieve a political end, they do indeed meet the US and EU's definition of a Global Terrorist Organization (GTO). Nevertheless, none of this changes the fact that the government of Iran is a brutal theocracy that has no right to exist.

However, notice underlying the form of the criticism of Jafarzadeh's book. The author A is affiliated with group B, group B is affiliated with group C, group C is sketchy, therefore (implied message that A's book is untrustworthy.)

If you want to criticize this book then you either need to present specific evidence on why the specific claims within are wrong or demonstrate that Jafarzadeh has a history of supplying misinformation on crucial matters of intelligence. Jafarzadeh has a regular online column with FoxNews.com [1], he is a Fox News foreign affairs analyst and he has appeared on a slew of generally respected media stations such as CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC and NPR. His commentary appears in plenty of columns and videos on the internet, so there is plenty of information to reference to make specific claims against the veracity of his research. Until I encounter specific evidence that discredits Jafarzadeh's findings, I see no reason to doubt the information in The Iran Threat.

On another note, I just wanted to clarify that the MEK is pretty sketchy. According to [2], they have a number of cultish aspects about them (e.g., members taking vows of celibacy, weird rituals of self-criticism, some non-totalitarian Islamic elements, possible brainwashing). In addition, they were a Marxist group in the 1960s (but they now claim to embrace a mixed bag of Western values such as democratic elections, women's rights, minority rights, a mixed economy, free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and the like. [3]) Moreover, they did form an alliance with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War and allegedly aided in Hussein's brutal crackdown on Iraqi Kurds (even though the NCRI today explicitly supports "the autonomy of [an] Iranian Kurdistan.")

Lastly, I revised my book review to give a more accurate portrait of Jafarzadeh's proposed strategy for Iran. Specifically, I changed

"Upon further exploration, one can tell that the NCRI is far from calling for an ideal, laissez-faire capitalist government. Nevertheless, if the NCRI were to take power, it would surely be a substantial improvement over the current Iranian theocracy."

to

"However, the NCRI's leadership is intertwined with that of the militant group MEK, which has several cultish/irrational aspects. Thus, Jafarzadeh's proposed solution is unfortunately more pragmatic than principled."

[1] http://www.foxnews.com/column_archive/0,2976,171,00.html

[2] http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C02E4D6173DF930A25754C0A9659C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1

[3] http://ncr-iran.org/content/view/27/158/