What to Read on Iranian Politics

June 12, 2009

Suzanne Maloney examines Iran’s internal and international relations by offering an annotated syllabus on Iranian politics. Focusing on serious analysis, Maloney offers suggestions ranging from the formation of the Islamic Republic to the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The agony and ecstasy of Iran’s 1979 revolution, and the Islamic Republic established in its wake, have inspired a profusion of literature. In literally thousands of books and articles, academics, pundits, historical figures, and even cartoonists have dissected Iran, its convoluted politics, its rich culture, and its troubled relationship with the rest of the world. This breadth of material reflects not only the captivating drama of recent Iranian history but also one of the Islamic Republic’s many paradoxes — that for a supposedly closed society, contemporary Iran is surprisingly open to journalists, researchers, and occasional travelers. Despite this abundance, understanding Iran presents a perpetual challenge for external observers, thanks to the layers of complexity and contradictions beneath Iran’s surface and the country’s proclivity for unpredictability. The difficulty is magnified in the United States, where long estrangement has deprived most Americans of direct exposure to Iran and generated an appetite for sensationalism or sentimentality in place of serious analysis.

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