Let the Swords Encircle Me: Iran -- a Journey Behind the Headlines

In This Review

Let the Swords Encircle Me: Iran--A Journey Behind the Headlines
By Scott Peterson
Simon & Schuster, 2010
752 pp. $32.00
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Peterson draws on over 30 trips to postrevolutionary Iran to paint a portrait of the country during the presidencies of Muhammad Khatami and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He introduces readers to a handful of representative Iranians, including fervent supporters of the "system" (nizam), reformers, rebellious youth, and one often-evoked anonymous source, dubbed "the sage." Integrated into these accounts are fine aperçus distilled from sources free from control by the nizam -- blogs, traditional media, political exiles, and scholars inside and outside Iran. Peterson even gets into such illuminating minutiae as hard-liners fighting the insidious cultural influence of Barbie dolls. A chapter on "the messiah hotline" offers a nuanced treatment of not just Ahmadinejad's views but also the larger socioreligious import of Mahdist thinking in modern Iran. Peterson's coverage of the 2009 election, meanwhile, may well rank as the most thorough and balanced available.