The Washington Post
Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Futureby Stephen Kinzer
The bestselling author of Overthrow offers a new and surprising vision for rebuilding America's strategic partnerships in the Middle East
What can the United States do to help realize its dream of a peaceful, democratic Middle East? Stephen Kinzer offers a surprising answer in this paradigm-shifting book. Two countries in the region, he argues,/p>/b>/i>… See more details below
The bestselling author of Overthrow offers a new and surprising vision for rebuilding America's strategic partnerships in the Middle East
What can the United States do to help realize its dream of a peaceful, democratic Middle East? Stephen Kinzer offers a surprising answer in this paradigm-shifting book. Two countries in the region, he argues, are America's logical partners in the twenty-first century: Turkey and Iran.
Besides proposing this new "power triangle," Kinzer also recommends that the United States reshape relations with its two traditional Middle East allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. This book provides a penetrating, timely critique of America's approach to the world's most volatile region, and offers a startling alternative.
Kinzer is a master storyteller with an eye for grand characters and illuminating historical detail. In this book he introduces us to larger-than-life figures, like a Nebraska schoolteacher who became a martyr to democracy in Iran, a Turkish radical who transformed his country and Islam forever, and a colorful parade of princes, politicians, women of the world, spies, oppressors, liberators, and dreamers.
Kinzer's provocative new view of the Middle East is the rare book that will richly entertain while moving a vital policy debate beyond the stale alternatives of the last fifty years.
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A broken line of terrified schoolboys, laden with rifles and homemade grenades, crept through the streets of ancient Tabriz as dawn broke over the starving city. Weakened by hunger after months of siege, many of them sick, these young men nevertheless understood that they were the vanguard of Iran's struggle for democracy. Above all they were inspired by the man they followed. He was not, like other guerrilla leaders, a defiant officer, a bandit turned patriot, or the product of a long line of Persian fighters. Instead he was as unlikely a revolutionary as could possibly have emerged in this proud and ancient land: a twenty- four-year-old schoolteacher from Nebraska named Howard Baskerville.
Neither the inspiring figure of their leader nor the invigorating spring breeze blowing down from the nearby Sahand Mountains, however, was enough to persuade most of these boys and young men that this day, April 20, 1909, was their day to die. A hundred followed Baskerville as he set out at first light. By the time their column approached the city wall an hour later, fewer than a dozen remained. Nonetheless Baskerville pressed on.
Patriots in Tabriz were resisting a counterrevolution aimed at crushing Iran's new democracy and restoring the de cadent Qajar monarchy. Royalist forces had surrounded the defiant city. Their siege was terrifyingly effective; hunger and disease killed people every day, and many of the living were reduced to eating grass. They could survive and continue to resist only if someone, somehow, could break through the siege line, reach a nearby village, and return with food and medicine. Baskerville volunteered to try.
"Be careful," one of his American friends begged him before he set out. "You know you are not your own."
"No," he replied. "I am Persia's."
Born in the Nebraska prairie town of North Platte and raised in South Dakota's Black Hills, the son and grandson of Presbyterian preachers, Baskerville was an improbable candidate for martyrdom. As a teenager he was pious, sober, and studious enough to win admission to Princeton University. There he studied religion, excelled in horsemanship, and became a modestly successful boxer. He also took two courses taught by Woodrow Wilson, one called "Jurisprudence" and the other "Constitutional Government." Wilson's lectures stirred the passion for democracy that shaped his short life.
After graduating in 1907, Baskerville decided to postpone his entry into Prince ton's theological seminary and work for a time as a missionary. That autumn he arrived in Tabriz, a two-thousand-year-old city in northwest Iran that is the supposed birthplace of the prophet Zoroaster and was built, according to legend, on the site of the Garden of Eden. There he taught history, geometry, and English to mixed classes—he insisted on accepting girls as well as boys—at the American Memorial School. He also became the school's tennis coach and riding instructor, directed a student production of The Merchant of Venice, and closed his first Thanksgiving sermon with a stirring verse from Sir Walter Scott:
Breathes there a man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
"This is my home, my native land!"
Baskerville's students would have found those words excruciating. For de cades their prostrate homeland, heir to a great empire led by heroic kings like Cyrus, Darius, and Xerxes, had been misruled by a dissolute dynasty and looted by rapacious outside powers. In 1907, Britain and Russia signed a convention dividing Persia— as Iran was then known— into "spheres of influence." Britain took the southern part of the country, Russia the north. No Iranian participated in or even knew about the negotiations that produced this agreement.
Yet the early twentieth century was an age of ferment and rebellion as well as imperial power. The Boers overthrew British rule in South Africa. Russian insurgents forced Czar Nicholas II to establish a legislature. The Russo-Japanese war ended with victory for Japan, suggesting that Europeans were not fated to dominate Asians forever.
None of these shattering events went unnoticed in Iran. Anger at the docile Qajar dynasty, and at the foreign powers it served, sparked waves of protest. In 1906 these protests achieved their unimaginable goal: democratic revolution. The king, Muzaffer al-Din Shah, was forced to make concessions like those King John had made seven centuries earlier when he signed the Magna Carta. He agreed to permit the proclamation of a constitution, the holding of elections, and the establishment of a parliament. Under the new constitution, freedom of speech and press were guaranteed, monarchs were forbidden to sign treaties or borrow money without approval from Parliament, and all citizens were declared equal before the law.
Forty days after reluctantly accepting this constitution—the pain may have been too great for him—Muzaffer al-Din Shah died. His son and successor, Mohammad Ali Shah, described by one contemporary as "perhaps the most perverted, cowardly and vice-sodden monster that had disgraced the throne of Persia for many generations," loathed the new democracy. Determined to crush it, he dissolved Parliament and then, on June 3, 1908, sent Russian-led artillery units to bomb the building where it met. Scores of deputies were killed. Protests broke out across the country, but the shah ruthlessly crushed them. The only city he could not subdue was Tabriz, which, because of its location near the borders with Russia and Turkey, was the portal through which democratic ideas had been streaming into the country for years.
Howard Baskerville was in Tabriz when royalist soldiers imposed their siege at the beginning of 1909. He was instinctively drawn to the constitutional cause and spent many evenings with volunteer brigades bringing food to fighters defending the city. Slowly he came to conclude that this was not enough. News of the Anglo-Russian Convention outraged him, and he delivered withering tirades to his students aimed especially at Sir Edward Grey, the British foreign secretary, whom he scorned as a hypocrite for spouting the platitudes of democracy while supporting the slaughter of Iranians who were fighting for it. One of his closest Iranian friends, Hussein Sharifzadeh, became a leader of the Tabriz resistance, and when Sharifzadeh was assassinated, Baskerville's outrage reached new heights. In the spring of 1909 he decided to raise a volunteer force and join the defense of Iranian democracy.
"I cannot watch calmly from a classroom window as the starving people of this city fight for their rights," he told his students on his last day at school.
A few days later, Baskerville was asked to speak at a dinner honoring officers who were leading the defense of Tabriz. "I hate war," he told them, "but war can be justified in pursuit of a greater good—in this case, the protection of a city and the defense of constitutional liberty. I am ready to die for these causes!" The audience broke into applause and cries of "Long live Baskerville!" He responded by singing a chorus from his favorite song, "My Country 'Tis of Thee."
By this time, Baskerville was spending his days drilling schoolboys in the arts of war and his evenings poring over encyclopedia articles that explained how to manufacture grenades. This horrified the American consul in Tabriz, Edward Doty.
"I am compelled to remind you that as an American citizen, you have no right to interfere with the internal politics of this country," Doty told him one day in front of his young recruits. "You are here to act as a teacher, not as a revolutionary."
"I cannot remain and watch indifferently the sufferings of a people fighting for their rights," Baskerville replied. "I am an American citizen and proud of it, but I am also a human being."
On the night of April 19, 1909, Baskerville shared his last meal with Reverend Samuel Wilson, the principal of the American Memorial School, and his wife, Annie, who had been born in Iran and passionately loved its people. They drank milk, and joked about how odd it was for this to be the last drink a man would want before setting off to battle. A few hours later Baskerville met his hundred volunteers and began leading them toward the outskirts of Tabriz. Every few minutes, another handful of them lost their nerve and deserted.
Baskerville pressed on. Just after he passed through the city wall, a sniper's bullet whizzed by his head. He fired back, then paused until he felt satisfied the sniper had retreated. That was his fatal mistake. When he stood to wave his boys ahead, the sniper reappeared and fired twice. A bullet pierced his heart and killed him.
"The boys rushed to the gate to carry him in, all of us sobbing and lamenting," Annie Wilson wrote the next day in a tormented sixteen-page letter to Baskerville's parents. "We carried him to our room and laid him out on our own bed, and Mrs. Vannemen and I washed the dear body, with blood staining through his shirts and covering his breast and back. . . . We dressed him in his black suit, and when all the sad service was done, he looked beautiful and noble, his firm mouth set in a look of resolution and his whole face calm in repose. I printed a kiss on his forehead for his mother's sake. A white carnation is in his buttonhole, and wreaths of flowers are being made. Our children made a cross and crown of the beautiful almond blossoms now in bloom. The governor came at once, expressing great sorrow, saying, ‚ÄòHe has written his name in our hearts and in our history.' "
Thousands gathered silently to watch as Baskerville's coffin, covered with sixteen floral wreaths, was drawn through the streets of Tabriz to the Presbyterian church. A leader of the embattled Parliament that Baskerville had died to defend, Sayyed Hasan Taqizadeh, was among the eulogists.
"Young America, in the person of young Baskerville, gave this sacrifice to the young Constitution of Iran," he said solemnly.
Five days after Baskerville's death, Tabriz fell. Royalist troops and their Russian allies stormed into the city and disarmed every resistance fighter they could find. Their victory, however, was short-lived. As soon as citizens returned to health, they resumed their fight for democratic rule. So did others across Iran. Their defiance grew into a national movement, and finally Muhammad Ali Shah's counterrevolution collapsed. He abdicated on July 16, 1909, just three months after Baskerville's martyrdom. Parliament reconvened, constitutional government was reestablished, and Iran resumed its march toward democracy.
Today Howard Baskerville is an honored figure in Iran. Schools and streets have been named after him. His bust, cast in bronze, commands a salon at Constitution House in Tabriz. A plaque beneath it says, "Howard C. Baskerville—Patriot and Maker of History."
Baskerville is more than just an Iranian hero. He embodied the shared values that bind Iranians to Americans. Long before many other Middle Eastern nations had come into existence, the Constitutional Revolution brought modern ideas to Iran. These ideas have produced a nation that has more in common with the United States than almost any of its neighbors in the world's most troubled region.
Only one other country in this region shares Iran's long history of struggle for democracy: Turkey. The Iranians rebelled against and deposed their servile monarchy during the first decade of the twentieth century. So did the Turks.
The spread of egalitarian ideas among the Turks dates to the early nineteenth century. In 1839 the enlightened Ottoman Sultan Abdul Mecit proclaimed a series of reforms known as Tanzimat, including a list of civil rights to which all citizens were entitled, regardless of religion or group identity. The reform period culminated with the proclamation of a constitution in 1876 and the election of a parliament soon afterward. Within a year, however, the new sultan, Abdul Hamid, suspended the constitution. He closed Parliament and ruled by decree for the next three decades, suppressing dissent, directing an army of spies, and casting a paralyzing pall over society.
In Paris and other Europe an cities, groups of Turkish radicals nurtured the democratic flame. They formed committees, published newsletters, and studied the history of past revolutions. Some of them tried to overthrow the sultan in 1896. They failed, but their radical ideas captivated many young patriots.
One of these idealists was an ambitious cadet named Mustafa Kemal. After entering the Ottoman military academy in 1902, Kemal began reading broadsides smuggled into the country from Europe. He and a handful of other cadets even started a clandestine newspaper of their own. They were quickly discovered, and escaped punishment only by the intercession of the academy's director, who was himself unhappy with the absolutist regime.
Soon after graduating, Kemal landed in trouble again; an informer named him as part of an illegal cell devoted to studying books by Voltaire and Tolstoy. He spent several weeks in military prison. Finally a sympathetic judge agreed to ascribe his crime to youthful indiscretion. He was released and posted to faraway Damascus.
Until this moment, Kemal had known only vibrant, cosmopolitan cities. He was born and grew up in the cultural cauldron of Salonika— modern- day Thessalonica, the second-largest city in Greece— surrounded by Turks but also by Greeks, Jews, and expatriates from across Europe and beyond. As a cadet he lived in Istanbul, one of the world's most dazzlingly diverse capitals. On his way to his new post he stopped for a time in Beirut, "the Paris of the Middle East," where energy and excitement crackled through the air. Damascus was a stark contrast to all of this, the somnolent heart of old Arabia. Most of its people lived as their ancestors had for a thousand years: illiterate, caught in a deadening web of orthodoxy, untouched by the outside world and largely unaware of it. Damascus repelled the twenty-four-year-old Kemal. Later he wrote that he found it "all bad."
"For the first time he came to know a city which still lived in the darkness of the Middle Ages," one biographer has written. "Damascus was a city of the dead. The narrow streets, which he paced after dark, were deserted and silent. Not a sound came from within the high shuttered walls of the houses. One night, to his surprise, he heard the sound of music floating from a cafv©. He looked in, to find it filled with Italians, workers on the Hafez Railway, playing the mandolin, singing and dancing with their wives and girls. As an officer in uniform, he might not enter. But on an impulse he went home, changed into rough clothes, and returned to join them in their gay and uninhibited Western pleasures. . . . Here in Damascus, Kemal felt imprisoned. He longed to break his bars, to bring life to this moribund community. The remedy, of course, lay in political action."
One day while wandering through the back streets of Damascus, Kemal stumbled into a shop that sold books in French, which he had learned to read. Among them were novels and collections of social criticism.
"What are you," he asked the shopkeeper in surprise, "a tradesman or a philosopher?"
The shopkeeper turned out to be both. A couple of nights later, he invited Kemal to his home, and Kemal brought a couple of like-minded officers. They talked for hours. One of the officers blurted out that he was willing to "die for the revolution." Kemal had a different idea.
"Our aim is not to die," he said simply. "It is to carry out the revolution, to turn our ideas into reality."
In the autumn of 1905, Kemal and a small group of comrades formed a secret society called Vatan (Fatherland), dedicated to overthrowing absolutism and bringing self-rule to the Turks. Over the next few months, while ostensibly traveling for military duties, he established branches of Vatan in the Ottoman outposts of Jaffa, Beirut, and Jerusalem. Each initiate pledged to fight for the revolutionary cause until death, then kissed a pistol to symbolize his commitment.
Soon afterward, in a rotation of officers, Kemal was transferred to his home city of Salonika. Few places on earth have such conspiratorial traditions. Saint Paul created clandestine Christian cells in Salonika nearly two thousand years ago. Since then it has welcomed all manner of plotters, dreamers, and rebels. Kemal's revolutionary society and several others merged into a coalition called the Committee of Union and Progress, known abroad as the Young Turks. In true Salonika tradition, CUP leaders initiated new members with elaborate rituals involving blindfolds, swords, and oaths. They even designed a coat of arms, dominated by the image of a book, representing the short-lived Constitution of 1876, and a crescent bearing the motto "Fraternity, Freedom, Equality, Justice."
The dying Ottoman Empire was ablaze with the fire of revolution. People in a dozen cities erupted in protest, sometimes over local matters like grain shortages but always with demands for a less distant, more responsive government. Anger rose over the loss of three key Ottoman territories—Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Crete—in the space of just a few weeks in the spring of 1908.
That same spring, several hundred soldiers in Salonika rebelled against Ottoman authority, looted armories, and took to the hills. Sultan Abdul Hamid ordered his local commander to crush their insurrection, but the commander was assassinated. Then the sultan sent troops from the Turkish heartland. They not only failed to defeat the rebels, but joined them in a defiant march on Istanbul.
Young Turk leaders skillfully wove these protests into a unified movement with a single demand: the sultan must reopen the Parliament he had closed thirty years before. A group of them sent the monarch an ominous ultimatum warning that if he did not agree, "blood will be shed and the dynasty will be in danger."
Like their brethren across the border in Iran, the Turks were fed up with absolutism and intoxicated by the Europe an ideas of liberty, self- rule, and the rights of man. Sultan Abdul Hamid had to face the reality that these ideas had infected much of his own officer corps. Rather than risk his throne, he agreed to allow elections for a new parliament. This was a shattering collapse of absolutism. Istanbul exploded with jubilation.
"The city's Muslim holy men, Christian priests and Jewish rabbis paraded arm in arm in a joyous mood," according to one account. "Calls from the minarets mingled with sounds of church bells, celebrating the dawn of the Young Turk millennium."
Turkish life changed almost overnight. Newspapers stopped submitting their articles for review by the royal censor. Forbidden books appeared for sale, and the subversive ideas that sprang from their pages became political rallying cries. Long- exploited laborers staged strikes. A young feminist writer, Halide Edib, founded the Society for the Elevation of Women, and in Istanbul and other cities, Muslim women not only walked on the streets unveiled but attended political meetings and established pressure groups. The power of the sultan, revered for centuries as "the shadow of God on earth," was crumbling.
The Turkish people had not been allowed to vote for more than a generation, and they poured out for the election of 1908. The new Parliament convened amid great pageantry. A few months later, troops loyal to the democratic regime, calling themselves the "Action Army," suppressed a royalist counterrevolution. That further inflamed the surging reform movement.
On April 28, 1909, after a series of impassioned nationalist speeches, Parliament gave four of its members—an Armenian, a Jew, and two Muslims—a historic mission. They rode to Yildiz Palace, demanded entry to its inner sanctum, and announced that "the people" had decided the sultan must abdicate. He had no choice but to obey.
For a few hours, Sultan Abdul Hamid believed he would simply be moved to the smaller but still luxurious váiraƒüan Palace, which had served for years as a golden prison for unwanted royals. That night, however, military officers told him he had to leave for exile immediately. Accompanied by two of his sons and a handful of concubines, he boarded a carriage, was driven to the train station and conveyed to exile in Salonika. He had been in power for thirty-three years, during which time the Ottoman Empire lost wars, suppressed democracy, and became "the sick man of Europe." His doddering brother replaced him, but never again would an Ottoman sultan be more than a figurehead.
The Young Turk revolution of 1908 and the overthrow of Sultan Abdul Hamid a year later set off a burst of reform unlike anything the Turks had ever known. Political parties emerged, new magazines and newspapers sprang up, the royal family's fortune was confiscated, laws restricting business were repealed, banks opened in many towns, roads and bridges were built, the education budget was increased sixfold, and girls were encouraged to attend school. The constitution was amended to give Parliament more power. Because the Young Turks were concerned above all with salvaging the state, they were wary of democracy and did not hesitate to restrict public freedoms when they wished. Nonetheless their revolution was profound. Perhaps its greatest achievement was inspiring a generation of visionary patriots who, over the coming years, would produce a radically new order.
These tumultuous events were the product of Turkish history, and not directly related to the upheaval in neighboring Iran. Yet it is more than coincidence that both nations won their democratic revolutions at the same time. On the day Howard Baskerville was killed in Tabriz, Turkish soldiers of the "Action Army" were fighting the sultan's power in Istanbul. Within a couple of months, almost unbelievably, the Turks and the Iranians had liberated themselves from dissolute monarchies. Their path to freedom was suddenly and brilliantly illuminated.
A century has passed since Iran and Turkey turned toward democracy. It has been a century of unsteady progress. The Iranians and the Turks have won epochal victories but also suffered bloody defeats. From their long struggles, both peoples have developed an understanding of democracy, and a longing for it, that makes them good soul mates for Americans.
The stories of modern Turkey and Iran suggest that democracy can take root anywhere, but only over the span of generations. It cannot be called to life simply by proclaiming a constitution or holding an election. Democracy is not an event but a way of facing the world, an all-encompassing approach to life. Only long years of experience can make it real. In the Muslim Middle East, just two countries have this experience: Turkey and Iran.
Turkey has become the world's most democratic Muslim country, vivid proof that Islam and freedom can thrive side by side. It has for de cades been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and closely tied to the United States. Today it is embarking on the most ambitious diplomatic project in its history, seeking to project power by resolving regional conflicts through dialogue and compromise. This style fits well with America's new, more cooperative approach to global politics.
In only one other Muslim country in the Middle East does the democratic heart beat as passionately as in Turkey. It is also the only country that might suddenly emerge to rival or even surpass Turkey's level of political freedom: Iran. The explosion of protest after Iran's disputed 2009 presidential election brought down fierce repression, but it was also thrilling confirmation that the ideals of democracy have taken deep root in that country. Beneath the heavy veneer of theocratic rule, a vibrant civil society thrives there. No generation in the world understands democracy better or wishes for it more fervently than young Iranians. Their ardor is part of a bridge of values between Iran and the United States that provides the basis for a sound future partnership.
Although these countries have been enemies for more than a quarter century, they have vital interests in common. Both want a stable Iraq, a stable Afghanistan, and a stable Pakistan. Both detest radical Sunni movements like al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Both would like to limit Russian influence in the Middle East. Iran needs massive investment in its collapsing oil infrastructure; American companies are ideally placed to provide it.
Reaching an accord with Iran would not be easy, for cultural as well as political reasons. It might well require the emergence of a new regime in Tehran. But because the two countries' political cultures as well as their strategic interests overlap so fully, logic pushes them together.
A partnership that unites Turkey, Iran, and the United States makes sense for two reasons: they share strategic interests, and their people share values. This is the tantalizing "power triangle" of the twenty-first century.
The old triangle— actually two bilateral relationships, the United States with Israel and the United States with Saudi Arabia— served Washington's interests well during the cold war. It has not, however, produced a stable Middle East. On the contrary, the region is torn by violence, hatred, terror, and war. Yet for economic as well as strategic reasons, the United States must remain engaged there. Its dilemma can be simply stated: America wants to stabilize the Middle East, but its policies are having the opposite effect. What new policies could America adopt to replace those that have failed?
Here is one answer: First, build an ever-closer partnership with Turkey and, in the future, with a democratic Iran. Second, reshape relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia in ways that will serve their long-term interests and those of the United States—even if they protest.
Israel deserves special treatment from the United States, both for historical reasons and because there can be no regional peace without a secure Israel. America, though, has at times treated Israel in ways that weaken Israel's own security. The bond between the two countries has become distorted. As a result, the United States has failed to promote policies that will assure Israel's long-term stability. Instead it lurches helplessly from crisis to crisis, hostage to the hothouse clamor of Israel's domestic politics. It is right for America to stand by Israel, but not the way it does now.
The long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has, for better or worse, become the world's conflict. It permanently destabilizes the Middle East, blocks the settlement of urgent crises, and intensifies looming threats to the West. Yet it has become painfully clear that if the task of finding peace is left to the warring parties, there will be no peace. A settlement to this conflict cannot emerge from within. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian society has the cultural, political, psychological, or institutional resources to make the compromises that peace requires. The paradigm of conflict has become too deeply embedded in too many minds.
Allowing a friend to careen toward self- destruction is not friendship. That is a habit the United States needs to break as it pursues a richer and more deeply supportive relationship with Israel.
Saudi Arabia presents America with an entirely different challenge.
Washington's decision to embrace this religious kingdom was among its most bizarre twentieth-century gambles.
The family that has ruled Saudi Arabia since it was created in 1932 relies on support from two vital allies: the United States and the clergy of Wahhabi Islam. To America, it offers a steady supply of oil and a rich market for defense contractors. The fundamentalist Wahhabis get something quite different: a stifling religious order at home, and backing for a global network of mosques and religious schools where generations of lost boys learn to chant the Koran and hate America. Such deeply contradictory policies had to produce an explosion. It came on September 11, 2001. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers who seized planes that day, as well as the terror leader who sent them off to kill, were Saudis.
During the cold war, Washington's partnership with Saudi Arabia seemed logical. The Saudis were both militantly anti-Communist and unfathomably rich. Wherever the United States wanted money to fight Marxism, from Angola to Nicaragua to Afghanistan, the Saudis paid. Their message to the United States was irresistible: We have huge amounts of money, and you can have as much of it as you want. Just don't look too closely at what is happening inside our kingdom.
The end of the cold war led inevitably to a gentle distancing between the United States and Saudi Arabia. The attacks of September 11 gave the relationship another, sharper shock. They made it difficult for Americans to continue to overlook Saudi Arabia's role in fomenting global terror.
Saudi Arabia and the United States share some approaches to global politics; both are suspicious of the outside world, both thrive on exaggerated views of their own power, and neither is known for gentle diplomacy. Almost nothing in the way of values, however, ties America to a desert kingdom where dating is illegal, women are forbidden to drive, and a royal family rules by decree. The United States and Saudi Arabia have been allies of convenience, partners in a loveless marriage. In the twenty- first century they will continue cooperating, but each will prosper by distancing itself from the other.
The ties that bind America to Israel and Saudi Arabia cannot be reshaped with the stroke of a pen. A new "power triangle"—the United States, Turkey, and Iran—cannot emerge overnight. In order to become a reliable American partner, Iran would have to change dramatically. Turkey would also have to change, although not nearly as much. So would the United States. Our world, however, advances only as a result of strategic vision. First must come a grand concept, a destination; once the destination is clear, all parties can concentrate on finding the way to reach it.
Nowhere in the world is an overarching strategy more glaringly absent or more desperately needed than in the Middle East. For years, outside powers—especially the United States—have staggered through the region's forbidding deserts, steppes, and oil fields with policies that are manifest failures. During this period, threats emerging from the Middle East have become steadily more urgent and terrifying. Remaining wedded to failed policies is not simply unwise, but deeply dangerous.
Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. That is what the United States is doing in the Middle East. What would be the alternative? This book proposes one.
The pages that follow seek to explain the past and then propose a way to reset American policy in the world's most volatile region. First comes an account of the modern histories of Turkey and Iran, showing how long and passionately these two countries have worked toward democracy. Then comes an exploration of the two oldest relationships in the Middle East: the one binding the United States to Saudi Arabia and the one binding the United States to Israel. These lead to a logical conclusion, albeit one that may seem startling because it pushes beyond the narrow policy options that too oft en stifle America's global imagination. It summons the logic of history to address the future.
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