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Baer's on-the-ground sleuthing and interviews with key Middle East players, everyone from an Iranian ayatollah to the king of Bahrain to the head of Israel's internal security, paint a picture of the centuries-old Shia nation that is starkly the opposite of the one normally drawn. For example, Iran's hate-spouting President Ahmadinejad is by no means the true spokesman for Iranian foreign policy, nor is Iran making it the highest priority to become a nuclear player. Even so, Baer has discovered that Iran is currently engaged in a soft takeover of the Middle East, that the proxy method of war-making and co-option it perfected with Hezbollah in Lebanon is being exported throughout the region, that Iran now controls a significant portion of Iraq, that it is extending its influence over Jordan and Egypt, that the Arab Emirates and other Gulf States are being pulled into its sphere, and that it will shortly have a firm hold on the world's oil spigot.
5 stars for the narrator. He reads with matter-of-fact authority that's never monotonous. Effort has clearly been made on foreign name pronunciations. Such a reading style and work ethic is sadly missed in audio versions of history books.
This is a helpful starting point for anyone trying to make sense out of events in the Middle East from 1979 to 2008. Baer spins a clear and straightforward narrative; by the end even a casual listener can understand the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah, Khomeini and Khamenei, and many more. This was extremely valuable to me as someone who has tried seriously to follow the news, without really managing to sort out the players in the Middle East.
Baer also gives an answer to the question of why links between Iran and terrorism were all over the news in the 1980s but have largely disappeared. The Iranian government learned that when trying to run a large country, making terrorism a key element of one's foreign relations just makes the job more difficult. "The Iranians" have changed their main strategy to building ground-level support for Iran in as many parts of the Middle East as possible. Baer never explains exactly what "Iranians" are in charge, but in his account they never make mistakes, building up their regional power base by schemes that always work perfectly.
Baer purports to explain in detail the machinations of all kinds of shadowy organizations. He does get around, describing his meetings with Kurdish guerrillas in Northern Iraq, Iranian agents, and officers of seemingly every Palestinian and Lebanese paramilitary group. In every conversation Baer is told nothing substantial, yet somehow only he understands exactly what each group is up to and how each has secret Iran connections. I wouldn't believe half of what Baer says, but it's definitely worth hearing: he's certainly been closer to the action than most of us.
16 of 17 people found this review helpful
Robert Baer does a great job discussing the history of the region...but he (Baer) proposes some 'unique' and uncomfortable solutions to a very dangerous situation. Much as I enjoyed the history lesson, I'm not completely 'sold' on his recommendations to end the bloody stalemate in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I do recommend this as a 'must read' for anyone interested in a very real view of Middle East events.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful