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An important, urgently needed book--a hugely ambitious, illuminating portrait of the two-century long entwined history of Iran and America, the first book to examine in all its aspects, the rich and fraught relations between these two powers, once allies, now adversaries. By admired historian, author of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil ("he would do Graham Greene pr An important, urgently needed book--a hugely ambitious, illuminating portrait of the two-century long entwined history of Iran and America, the first book to examine in all its aspects, the rich and fraught relations between these two powers, once allies, now adversaries. By admired historian, author of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil ("he would do Graham Greene proud" --Kirkus Reviews). In this rich, fascinating history, John Ghazvinian traces the complex story of the relations of these two powers back to the eighteenth-century's Persian Empire, the subject of great admiration of Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams and for the Iranians, an America seen as an ideal to emulate for its own government. Drawing on years of archival research both in the US and Iran--including access to Iranian government archives rarely available to western scholars--the Iranian-born, Oxford-educated historian leads us through the four seasons of US-Iran relations: the 'spring' of mutual fascination; the 'summer' of early interactions; the 'autumn' of close strategic ties; and the long, dark 'winter' of mutual hatred. Ghazvinian, with grasp and a storyteller's ability, makes clear where, how, and when it all went wrong. And shows why two countries that once had such heartfelt admiration for each other became such committed enemies; showing us, as well, how it didn't have to turn out this way.


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An important, urgently needed book--a hugely ambitious, illuminating portrait of the two-century long entwined history of Iran and America, the first book to examine in all its aspects, the rich and fraught relations between these two powers, once allies, now adversaries. By admired historian, author of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil ("he would do Graham Greene pr An important, urgently needed book--a hugely ambitious, illuminating portrait of the two-century long entwined history of Iran and America, the first book to examine in all its aspects, the rich and fraught relations between these two powers, once allies, now adversaries. By admired historian, author of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil ("he would do Graham Greene proud" --Kirkus Reviews). In this rich, fascinating history, John Ghazvinian traces the complex story of the relations of these two powers back to the eighteenth-century's Persian Empire, the subject of great admiration of Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams and for the Iranians, an America seen as an ideal to emulate for its own government. Drawing on years of archival research both in the US and Iran--including access to Iranian government archives rarely available to western scholars--the Iranian-born, Oxford-educated historian leads us through the four seasons of US-Iran relations: the 'spring' of mutual fascination; the 'summer' of early interactions; the 'autumn' of close strategic ties; and the long, dark 'winter' of mutual hatred. Ghazvinian, with grasp and a storyteller's ability, makes clear where, how, and when it all went wrong. And shows why two countries that once had such heartfelt admiration for each other became such committed enemies; showing us, as well, how it didn't have to turn out this way.

30 review for America and Iran: A History 1720 to the Present

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rowena Abdul Razak

    A readable and accessible history of US-Iran relations. It attempts to understand why relations haven’t been restored since the revolution but also points to how much There is to gain for both if diplomatic relations were re-established. All in all an enjoyable read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    I. David

    A Historical Context Behind the Endless Hostility Between America and Iran Please visit I. David’s blog at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... In America and Iran: A History 1720 to the Present author John Ghazvinian describes the history of the relationship between America and Iran. Ghazvinian is a historian, author and former journalist who was born in Iran and educated in England. He is currently the Executive Director of the Middle East Center in the School of Arts and Sciences at the Un A Historical Context Behind the Endless Hostility Between America and Iran Please visit I. David’s blog at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... In America and Iran: A History 1720 to the Present author John Ghazvinian describes the history of the relationship between America and Iran. Ghazvinian is a historian, author and former journalist who was born in Iran and educated in England. He is currently the Executive Director of the Middle East Center in the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. He wrote this history to provide context for the current status of the relationship between America and Iran. And he has done as excellent job. America and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since 1979 when, after the Islamic Revolution, Iranian students stormed the United States embassy in Tehran and held American diplomats hostage for more than 400 days. Efforts at rapprochement since then have been unsuccessful with each side blaming the other for increasing hostility. Ghazvinian’s warm feelings for both Iran and America are clearly evident in this book. He seems like a man who cannot understand why two beloved feuding relatives cannot put their petty differences behind them and just start to get along. Ghazvinian asserts that, from a historical perspective, there was every reason to believe that America and Iran should have had friendly relations. He explains that, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Iran was dominated by Russia and England. Iranians thought that America, a former colony that had obtained its own freedom from England, would be sympathetic to Iran’s plight and would help Iran wrest its freedom from the two European imperialists. America, however, took little interest in Iran until the early 1950s when, to retain its rights in Iranian oil, England convinced American diplomats that Iran’s newly elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, was going to align the country with the Soviet Union. In the shadow of the Cold War the Central Intelligence Agency, working with England, engineered a coup that replaced Mosaddegh with Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. America supported the Shah and his ruthless dictatorship for the next 26 years until he was finally overthrown by the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Ghazvinian explains that America’s participation in the 1953 overthrow of Iran’s freely elected government and its continuing support of the Shah have made Iranians suspicious of virtually every American action. Because of the 1979 hostage crises and the subsequent belligerence of Iran’s leaders, Americans have been equally suspicious of every Iranian action. But this endless dispute between America and Iran appears to be as much a matter of perception as it is a matter of reality. Ghazvanian demonstrates this difference between reality and perception through Iran’s recent effort to develop a nuclear capability. The reality is that Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear capability. The perception in America, according to its government and the media, is that Iran is hell-bent on developing a nuclear bomb which it could use to destroy Israel or even the United States. The perception in Iran, as described by Ghazvinian, is that Iran is only interested in using its “nuclear capability” for peaceful purposes, that Iran would not be interested in building a bomb because such a weapon would be against the principals of Islam, and that the position of the American government and the American media is based largely on influence from Israel which is mostly concerned that improved relations between America and Iran would cause Israel to lose its position as America’s most important ally in the Middle East. Because America and Iran have lacked diplomatic relations for so long each country has been forced to develop its own interpretation of the other’s words and actions. Misunderstandings and misrepresentations are unavoidable. In describing the combustible relationship between the two countries authoritative resources are likely to provide conflicting viewpoints. Therefore, while America and Iran: A History 1720 to the Present is a highly readable book that comprehensively covers the history of the relationship between America and Iran it should be viewed as an excellent starting point for further understanding of that relationship. I give it a 4 star rating. Thanks to #netgalley and to Alfred A. Knopf for my early release copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Zach Clark

    Great primer for those uninitiated with Iran's complex history but fails with some of its post 1979 observations. The objective eye of a historian begins to flail in the latter chapters, seemingly falling for the trappings of a less informed geopolitical analyst.The author seems to intentionally mischaracterize Iran's strategic decision to support terrorism abroad. This is apparent in a lack of input on Iran's decision to provide safe harbor to al-Qaeda'a senior most leaders, directing the Khoba Great primer for those uninitiated with Iran's complex history but fails with some of its post 1979 observations. The objective eye of a historian begins to flail in the latter chapters, seemingly falling for the trappings of a less informed geopolitical analyst.The author seems to intentionally mischaracterize Iran's strategic decision to support terrorism abroad. This is apparent in a lack of input on Iran's decision to provide safe harbor to al-Qaeda'a senior most leaders, directing the Khobar Towers attack, and the successful and attempted assassination of several diplomats to name a few.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Miguel

    Thorough and very engaging history of Iran and the impact that the US has had (and vice versa) over the past 200 years. There’s so much ‘new’ here for someone not well versed in the topic. Standouts for me were early involvement of American Christian missionaries as well as the somewhat ham fisted initial stabs at diplomacy from the US in the mid 18th century. Perhaps the best section is the one about Mosaddegh which the author does an admirable job in teasing out just the right amount of backgr Thorough and very engaging history of Iran and the impact that the US has had (and vice versa) over the past 200 years. There’s so much ‘new’ here for someone not well versed in the topic. Standouts for me were early involvement of American Christian missionaries as well as the somewhat ham fisted initial stabs at diplomacy from the US in the mid 18th century. Perhaps the best section is the one about Mosaddegh which the author does an admirable job in teasing out just the right amount of background on this interesting character and leads one to think about a lot of what-ifs had the coup in ’53 not been successful. The meatiest section is of course on the revolution and the ousting of the Shah, but this isn’t before touching on the Shah’s tenure. There’s also quite a bit on the nuclear negations and the US shortcomings in partnering with Iran in the wake of 9/11. The writing is top notch and though the author is clearly very sympathetic to Iran, it doesn’t feel dogmatic or solely one sided.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Eric Siu

    A real eye opener and one of the most engaging history books I've ever read. A real eye opener and one of the most engaging history books I've ever read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Wyatt

    Fabulous, timely, incredibly well-written and accessible. I had so many misconceptions about Iran and Ghazvinian methodically dismantled them.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Don

    (FROM MY BLOG) I suspect that any average American who visits Iran for the first time is impressed by the friendliness, openness, and sense of humor of the average Iranian. Our own press has prepared us to encounter a closed, hostile society, something along the lines of Soviet Russia. Despite the hostility of our respective governments, however, Americans and Iranians tend to enjoy each other's company. How did it all go so wrong diplomatically? Iranian-born writer John Ghazvinian -- who earned h (FROM MY BLOG) I suspect that any average American who visits Iran for the first time is impressed by the friendliness, openness, and sense of humor of the average Iranian. Our own press has prepared us to encounter a closed, hostile society, something along the lines of Soviet Russia. Despite the hostility of our respective governments, however, Americans and Iranians tend to enjoy each other's company. How did it all go so wrong diplomatically? Iranian-born writer John Ghazvinian -- who earned his Ph.D. from Oxford, and who writes for a number of influential American magazines -- has tried to answer that question in his recently-published book, America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present (2021). Ghazvinian begins the heart of his study with the appearance of Protestant missionaries in northwestern Iran in the 1830s, and gives a detailed account of the generally high esteem in which America and Americans were held for many years. Iran was a weak power, under continuing pressure from both Russia and Britain for favors and "capitulations" -- similar to the demands made by the colonial powers on China. America appeared to be an idealistic new power with little interest in or ambitions toward Iran. Iran hoped that a close friendship with America would help avoid partition of their country between the two large European powers. The subsequent story has been sad and increasingly tragic. America's fall from grace dates most memorably from 1953 when, under pressure from Britain and its Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the CIA joined in undermining the popular and liberal government of Mohammad Mossadegh. I have a vague memory of this episode from my childhood. I was under the impression -- an impression fostered by the CIA -- that Mossadegh was a Communist. He wasn't. From Ghazvinian's description, he was in fact the very sort of democratically-supported ruler that America purported to support in every nation. Except when oil was involved. Because the Mossadegh government had nationalized the Anglo-Iranian assets in Iran. Americans have forgotten that episode, and how it restored to absolute power the Pahlavi Shah. Iranians never have. The Shah ruled -- increasingly despotically -- as a firm American ally until 1979, when he was overthrown by a popular revolution, backed by devout Muslims, Western-oriented liberals, and extreme left-wing radicals. Since that date, Iran has become an Islamic Republic, with government functions divided between an elected president and a religious ruler (the ayatollah). In the last half of his book, Ghazvinian describes in detail the times since 1979 that our two countries have come close to resolving their differences. Each time, the attempt failed because of conservative and religious opponents in Iran, Republican and conservative and/or hawkish Democratic opponents in America, and the strong diplomatic efforts of Israel (and to a lesser degree, and with different motivation, Sunni Arab states) to avoid any successful reconciliation between the two. If Iran has been willing to forget that America supported Iraq's Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran from 1980-88 -- a war that devastated Iran and cost it about a quarter million deaths -- America can surely forget that an Iranian mob held 52 Americans hostage in 1979. The book is long and complex, but Ghazvinian is a good writer, and writes in a colloquial, non-academic style. The book is aimed at the average reader, although it will no doubt be of interest to academic readers as well.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    (Audiobook)This book attempts to look at the longer view of the relationship between the US and Iran. Ties between the two nations go back to the 18th century, and for much of that history, relations have generally been positive between the two nations. Granted, that changed dramatically after the 1979 Revolution, but even after that time, there was a chance to improve relations between the two nations. There is a lot of good history in there, especially the first 3rd of the book that covers are (Audiobook)This book attempts to look at the longer view of the relationship between the US and Iran. Ties between the two nations go back to the 18th century, and for much of that history, relations have generally been positive between the two nations. Granted, that changed dramatically after the 1979 Revolution, but even after that time, there was a chance to improve relations between the two nations. There is a lot of good history in there, especially the first 3rd of the book that covers areas that most Americans would not know or consider about Iran. However, the book promises to focus on areas not usually covered by other sources, but after the 1st 3rd of the book, the rest of the work focuses on World War II and beyond, of which there is a plethora of book and literature covering. Still, even as it rehashes well-worn territory such as the tumultuous 1950s when the Shah was deposed, only to be put back into power by the US in a coup and the 1979 Revolution, there are moments in this work where there are newer/less understood revelations. In particular, the early 1990s, after the death of the first Ayatollah, there was an opportunity for the US and Iran to perhaps improve their relations/standings, but the US, under various domestic and international pressures, didn't take advantage of that opportunity. Thus, the long-standing tensions continue to hurt the nations. While this work attempts to look at the US/Iranian relations in a "neutral" perspective, there are some fairly significant flaws/cherry-picking in the facts. The US is not completely innocent in its dealings with Iran, and pressure from pro-Israeli lobbying groups do have a significant role to play in the relationship. Yet, the author seems to ignore the various cyber attacks and other efforts of Iran to lash out against the US. While that could have been explained by the irrational view of the US, to ignore the various Iranian efforts which have been documented in the press to counter the US and antagonize America is a foul on the author in this work. The quality of writing and the insight is good, but there are enough oversights/errors to lower the rating of this book. It is almost disappointing, because the topic/subject is good, as is the research and writing, but too many blatant omissions that make this work kinda disappointing. Take the 1st 2/3rds as a good read, but the gaps in the latter part of the book really hurt the rating. The rating is the same for any version (audio or e-copy/hard copy).

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    This book came so close to 5 stars. Although the author has some favorite expressions that he uses a bit too often, the book was generally well written and very informative--a great overview of the foreign relations conundrum we have with Iran. It was the epilogue that lost a star. After demonstrating throughout the book that both parties--every president, every Congress-- have gotten Iran wrong, he finished with "The Republicans are one of the biggest problems." In fact, I think what he establi This book came so close to 5 stars. Although the author has some favorite expressions that he uses a bit too often, the book was generally well written and very informative--a great overview of the foreign relations conundrum we have with Iran. It was the epilogue that lost a star. After demonstrating throughout the book that both parties--every president, every Congress-- have gotten Iran wrong, he finished with "The Republicans are one of the biggest problems." In fact, I think what he established is that presidents seeking second terms are one of the biggest problems.

  10. 5 out of 5

    B. Kermani

    A treasure of fantastic collection of information. Unfortunately, the cheers stop there ! The author has failed to remain impartial in presenting information. When it comes for post revolution era specifically, he insists on presenting the Iranian leaders as nice guys. ( e.g. Ahmadinejad’s funding program for newly weds but no word about rape of 13 year olds before executing them as it’s against their law to execute a virgin. There is no mention of Iran’s horrific human rights ( second worst afte A treasure of fantastic collection of information. Unfortunately, the cheers stop there ! The author has failed to remain impartial in presenting information. When it comes for post revolution era specifically, he insists on presenting the Iranian leaders as nice guys. ( e.g. Ahmadinejad’s funding program for newly weds but no word about rape of 13 year olds before executing them as it’s against their law to execute a virgin. There is no mention of Iran’s horrific human rights ( second worst after China),....etc

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Short of reading a generation's worth of Foreign Affairs articles, this is the most comprehensive work on American/Iranian relations that I have ever come across that makes an honest attempt to give a citizen a look at what has gone well, and badly, in the relationship. It may well deserve a fifth star; perhaps on a second listen and whatever current US administration has taken up ANY of Ghazvinian's recommendations. Short of reading a generation's worth of Foreign Affairs articles, this is the most comprehensive work on American/Iranian relations that I have ever come across that makes an honest attempt to give a citizen a look at what has gone well, and badly, in the relationship. It may well deserve a fifth star; perhaps on a second listen and whatever current US administration has taken up ANY of Ghazvinian's recommendations.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Wilde

    Having read a few histories of Iran, this one was especially interesting, probably because of the author's research in Iranian archives. It included a few events and historical figures I hadn't heard of, was weighted more heavily toward developments of the last 50 years, presented a much more Iranocentric view of US-Iranian affairs than previous texts, and concluded with a strong argument for repairing relations and seeking allyship. Having read a few histories of Iran, this one was especially interesting, probably because of the author's research in Iranian archives. It included a few events and historical figures I hadn't heard of, was weighted more heavily toward developments of the last 50 years, presented a much more Iranocentric view of US-Iranian affairs than previous texts, and concluded with a strong argument for repairing relations and seeking allyship.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    Excellent. Very accessible and readable account of the relationship between America and Iran. Brilliantly and thoroughly researched. An important and vital book in the study of international relations

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bookworm

    Beautifully written, gripping right from start! History doesn’t have to be boring! So easy to read! A five star book for me!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Arun

    Excellent, readable history of the relationship between Iran and America, with a balanced look at events before 1953 as well as after. Good companion book with All the Shah's Men. Excellent, readable history of the relationship between Iran and America, with a balanced look at events before 1953 as well as after. Good companion book with All the Shah's Men.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ben

  18. 5 out of 5

    Maggie Fazeli

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Bommarito

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mahin

  21. 4 out of 5

    James

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Schultz

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ken

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jack Taylor

  26. 5 out of 5

    T. Timusk

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  28. 5 out of 5

    Paul Morris

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lori

  30. 5 out of 5

    Eileen Makoff

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