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Iran under the Ayatollahs.

Iran Under the Ayatollahs.

Iran Under the Ayatollahs. Dilip Hiro. Routledge & Kegan Paul, $39.95. For most Americans, following Iran the last few yers has been like whale watching. Every so often the mysterious form breaks the surface with a spectacular leap, makes a huge splash, and then disappears into the deep again. The overthrow of the Shah, the capture of the U.S. embassy, the war with Iraq, the terrorist attacks by Iranian allies in Lebanon--in each instance, Iran captured our attention, and then we forgot about it, until the next leap. But what has been going on beneath the surface?

Iron Under the Ayatollahs is a detailed account of events inside Iran since the revolution. Dilip Hiro is an Indian-born, Western-trained journalist who does not have the jaundiced view of Iran that colors so much reporting on that country. He provides an exhaustive portrayal of the turmoil in Iran since 1979 and places into context those moments when U.S. interests became entangled. Hiro details the power struggles within and among the groups that overthrew the Shah, demonstrating how the taking of the U.S. embassy was part of the internal Iranian conflict. Hiro also argues convincingly that Iraq's invasion, meant to destroy Khomeini's regime, may in fact have saved it.

Hiro describes Iran as thoroughly transformed by the Islamic revolution. Under the Shah, the Westernized aristocracy and upper classes enjoyed all the power. Khomeini's rise has served the interests of the lower-middle and working classes, from which most members of the ruling clergy are drawn. The continuing popularity of the Khomeini regime, which so puzzles Westerners, is rooted in this empowerment of Iran's less wealthy citizens. Khomeini has also succeeded by giving Iran a political ideology true to its own history; he has made his people feel like an independent nation. Thus, no matter who succeeds Khomeini, Islam and the clergy will remain central to its government. For similar reasons, Hiro argues that the nationalist character of the revolution makes it difficult to export. Islamic revolutionary movements in other Middle Eastern countries, most of which are Sunni, do not look to Tehran for leadership.

Iran Under the Ayatollahs illuminates a country few Americans have bothered to learn about, despite its powerful effect on our own interests.
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Author:Rayfield, Gordon
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1985
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