In This Review

Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran
Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran
By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett
Metropolitan Books, 2013, 496 pp.

The Leveretts, former U.S. National Security Council staffers, argue that the Islamic Republic is a powerful, rational actor in the Middle East. In their view, it enjoys political legitimacy internally and is faithful to its constitution and accountable to its people. It is also the main impediment to the United States’ hegemonic dominance in the region. Iran’s nuclear program aims to force the United States to deal with it on an even footing. The Islamic Republic has sought a grand bargain but has been repeatedly rebuffed by Washington, which is intent on regime change. The Leveretts conclude that the United States needs a “Nixonian moment,” in which Washington would seek strategic accommodation with Tehran, as it did with Beijing. The argument has merit, but the authors overargue it, straining the reader’s credulity. To the Leveretts, the Iranian regime and its supreme leader are models of good political practice. They report unblinkingly that the establishment of the Islamic Republic was approved by 98 percent of voters in a 1979 referendum. They dismiss as groundless the allegations of fraud in Iran’s 2009 presidential election. They insist that Iran’s regional posture is purely defensive. Most telling, the Leveretts’ list of those who get Iran wrong, from neoconservatives to liberal internationalists, leaves out almost no one except themselves.