Editor’s note: Michael Doran reviews America’s Great Game, by Hugh Wilford, a book that examines the role of a front group created by the CIA in 1951 to promote an anti-Zionist view of the Middle East and weaken American support for Israel.
Kim Philby, the British turncoat who spied for the Soviet Union, described Kermit Roosevelt as “a courteous, soft-spoken Easterner with impeccable social connections, well-educated rather than intellectual, pleasant and unassuming as host and guest.” Theodore Roosevelt’s grandson, Philby thought, was “the last person that you would expect to be up to the neck in dirty tricks.”
Roosevelt, who headed the CIA’s Middle East division in the Eisenhower administration, is best remembered today for engineering the coup that toppled Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953. But in “America’s Great Game,” Hugh Wilford reminds us that Roosevelt was also deeply involved in the Arab world. Indeed, he was the agency’s foremost “Arabist.” The term usually refers to State Department regional experts who were the intellectual, and often biological, descendants of American missionaries in the Arab lands. These officials were fiercely anti-Zionist, convinced that American support for Israel was a strategic blunder of the first order. This was because, as Mr. Wilford writes, they believed “in the overriding importance of American-Arab, and Christian-Muslim, relations.”
[Trump has] given Iran the moral high ground and that is an exceptionally difficult thing to do given the history and reality of Iran's misdeeds at home and in the region. It's just malpractice on the part of an American president.
The way the Trump administration is moving forward [with its Iran policy] is just so hostile to all aspects of Iran that it’s unlikely to produce any traction with the Iranian people or to encourage divisions within the system.
The intent of [any U.S. action] to do with the IRGC is basically to cast a very broad shadow over sectors of the Iranian economy and exacerbate the compliance nightmare for foreign businesses that may be considering trade and investment with Iran.