Negotiating With Iran: Wrestling the Ghosts of History

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Negotiating With Iran: Wrestling the Ghosts of History
By John W. Limbert
U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 2009
200 pp. $40.00
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Using four crises spread over four decades, from just after World War II to the 1980s, Limbert appraises the negotiating style of Iran and of those it confronts. The 1945-47 Azerbaijan crisis pitted Iran against the Soviet Union, with the United States playing a limited role. The 1951-53 oil nationalization crisis and the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq marked the moment the United States replaced the United Kingdom as the dominant Western power in Iran. The last two crises -- the 1979-81 Iranian hostage crisis and the U.S. effort throughout the 1980s to free Americans held hostage in Lebanon -- were bilateral confrontations between Washington and Tehran. Drawing on these four cases and more, Limbert offers advice on negotiating with Iran and addresses the need to overcome "mutual myth-perceptions" in U.S.-Iranian relations. Now serving as a senior official on Iran in the State Department, Limbert was one of those held hostage in Tehran from 1979 to 1981. Yet as this splendid study of U.S.-Iranian relations demonstrates, he emerged from that bitter experience with an ability to bring to his appraisal a rare combination of insight, dispassion, and empathy.