Contemporary Iran is not an easy country to understand, as this first-rate collection of essays makes clear. For some, Iran is still a potential threat to gulf stability, a state to be contained by America allied with other status quo powers. Most of the authors here, however, see Iran as evolving into a status quo power in its own right, albeit one with hegemonic ambitions. There is no consensus among the authors, but the editor joins the optimists in foreseeing a time in which Iran will cooperate with its neighbors to bring stability to the gulf. The most intellectually rewarding of the essays is by Roy Mottahedeh, who provides a fine account of the dilemmas created by Khomeini's notion of the guardianship of the jurist.