In This Review

Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies; Iran, the U.S., and the Twisted Path to Confrontation
Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies; Iran, the U.S., and the Twisted Path to Confrontation
By Barbara Slavin
St. Martin's Press, 2007, 272 pp
Purchase

This book, by the USA Today diplomatic correspondent Slavin, ties together two closely related subjects. There is, first, a description of the Iranian polity presented in a series of chapters starting with a depiction of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This is followed by an explanation of how several diverse government bodies are orchestrated by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Thereafter come chapters on the Revolutionary Guards, epitomized as "part military, part mafia," followed by chapters entitled "The Reformers," "The Mullahs," and "The Opposition." Last is a discussion of "the children of the revolution," the majority of the population born since 1979, who are now often disaffected and despairing of politics. Having outlined these separate groups as defining the mainsprings and limitations of Iranian foreign policy, Slavin proceeds to her second subject, an account of the stormy relations between Iran and the United States: how the promise of a U.S.-Iranian détente during the years of President Muhammad Khatami and President Bill Clinton came to grief, how post-9/11 cooperation between Tehran and Washington against al Qaeda and the Taliban was jolted by President George W. Bush's January 2002 speech naming Iran as a member of an "axis of evil," how a mid-2003 tentative probe by Iran seeking a "grand bargain" was never pursued by the Bush administration.