As Iran, disclaiming an intention to build a bomb, seemingly moves toward a nuclear capability and Israel states that this will be unacceptable, the United States tries to halt Iran's nuclear program and forestall Israeli military action. This three-way confrontation is even more complicated. Any settlement or military action must involve other countries, including European states, Russia, China, and Arab states that fear Iran's expanding power but are reluctant to line up with Israel, which is seen as suffocating the Palestinians. In the midst of this ticking-bomb crisis, Allin and Simon have organized all these complexities and produced a readable, short book that fairly presents the positions of all involved, evokes the historical context, details the intertwining of domestic politics with the ongoing international crisis, and even takes on what might be dubbed "the psychology of leadership" in the final chapter, "Obama's Words." Not only is the book the best description available of "the sixth crisis" that Washington has faced in the Middle East since World War II; it also suggests a U.S. policy: given the likely failure to reach a negotiated settlement, a regional variant of the Cold War containment policy might be the best default position.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.