One of the many merits of Lawrence Wright’s book Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David is its evocation of the psychological dueling, in a closed setting, of men veering between fury and fear of failure. They scream; they pack their bags; they reconvene—again and again. Another is to demonstrate, at a moment when the Israeli–Palestinian conflict looks more intractable than ever, how unswerving commitment allied to imagination and boldness can make something of nothing.
Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett are unusual among former staffers of the CIA, the State Department, and the National Security Council in their deep affection for the Islamic Republic of Iran. This attraction, which knows few bounds, finds its apotheosis in Going to Tehran. Their stated goal is “the most objective analysis of Iranian politics.” Yet they find that Iran embraces, “more fully and openly than Turkey, the project of building a state that is simultaneously Islamic and democratic.”
Muhammad Mossadegh, the Iranian prime minister overthrown by US and British agents in 1953, was a man who declined a salary, returned gifts, and collected tax arrears from his beloved mother. Frugality was allied to punctiliousness in this droopy-nosed aristocrat who enraged the West by insisting that Iran, not Britain, should own, sell, and profit from Iranian oil. A member of the princely Qajar family, he retained a noblesse-oblige gentility even as he became the symbol of postwar Iranian assertiveness. He fainted, he swooned—and was often pajama-clad. When he saw a hole, he had an irrepressible inclination to dig deeper. High principle trumped judicious compromise too often for Mossadegh to be a successful politician.
Christopher de Bellaigue was once a Kemalist. Living in Istanbul as a foreign correspondent he absorbed the views and prejudices, subtle and less so, of the Turkish Republic and its founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. This modern state, created in 1923 through an act of ferocious will, has shown a fetish- …
The least that could be said, in the sunny morn after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s emphatic reelection as president of Iran, was that festivities of the kind associated with a victory by two thirds of the vote were on hold, discarded in favor of a putsch-like lockdown. Baton-wielding riot police in thigh-length black leg guards swarmed from the shuttered Interior Ministry in the early hours of June 13. They went to work beating people. Voting had closed the previous night in Iran’s tenth presidential election of the revolutionary era. Within hours, the national news agency, IRNA, had announced a landslide first-round victory for Ahmadinejad. Tehran was changed, changed utterly, and there was no beauty to the terror born.
A festive city awash in revelers and agog at the apparent vibrancy of democratic debate in the thirty-year-old Islamic Republic had morphed overnight into a place of smoldering eyes, insidious fear, and rampaging state-licensed thugs.
Kenya, despite being composed of some forty different ethnic groups, has long been known for relative stability. Its breathtaking Rift Valley and extraordinary game parks have drawn droves of international tourists, just as they once attracted British colonialists with a taste for gin and hunting lions. Through only three presidencies …