In This Review

The Iran Primer: Power, Politics, and U.S. Policy
The Iran Primer: Power, Politics, and U.S. Policy
By Robin Wright,editor
United States Institute of Peace Press, 2010, 300 pp

The Iran Primer presents 50 articles on topics including governing institutions, the opposition, the military, the nuclear controversy, international sanctions, and the economy. It covers the tortuous diplomacy of every U.S. presidency from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama (with the essay on each administration written by someone who served in it), as well as Iran's relations with its neighbors and with China, Russia, and the EU. Fifty short biographies sketch the Iranian political elite, including those in power, those in opposition, and significant figures no longer living (such as the ayatollahs Ruhollah Khomeini and Hossein Ali Montazeri). Concise (almost every contributor was held to around three pages), comprehensive (it includes unexpected entries, such as one on bazaars), and well organized (with six separate thematic timelines), this is a beautifully wrought handbook. It is also an ongoing project, with its own Web site (, where new material is added.