In This Review

Iran Resurgent: The Rise and Rise of the Shia State
Iran Resurgent: The Rise and Rise of the Shia State
By Mahan Abedin
Hurst, 2019, 272 pp

Abedin packs an extraordinary amount into this compact and lucid survey of regime dynamics and grand strategy in Iran. The author is a British Iranian journalist who writes with the style of an insider. He riffs on the regime’s internal politics and traces the roles and decision-making of key players. Much of the book is devoted to Iran’s foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East. Abedin stresses that Iran’s relationship with Syria is no mere tactical alliance. To force Iran out of Syria is “an impossible task.” Syria is Iran’s only formal ally and the linchpin of Iran’s “axis of resistance,” an anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli alliance spanning Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iraqi militias, and the Houthis in Yemen. With or without nuclear weapons, Iran can project power through much of the Arab world. What it lacks in advanced weaponry it makes up for in granular knowledge of the region, experience fighting various kinds of wars, and superior intelligence gathering. Although Iranians are weary of sanctions, the government remains strong, and in the absence of an invasion by an outside power, regime change seems unlikely.