The Rise of Nuclear Iran
By Dore Gold
390 pages; $27.95
Israel's continuing confrontation with Iran serves as an endless source of material for books. Dore Gold's The Rise of Nuclear Iran thus joins an already loud chorus. However its author's credentials as a former ambassador to the UN and its well-argued position set this book apart from the rest.
American-born Gold's background is primarily academic. In the 1990s he served as an adviser to the Israeli delegation at the Madrid peace conference which laid the groundwork for the Oslo Accords. He authored several studies on American policy in the Middle East and subsequently became a close adviser to Binyamin Netanyahu, under whose auspices he served as ambassador to the UN. Since leaving that post in 1999, he has devoted himself to writing several polemical but persuasive books on the UN and Saudi Arabia. His latest focus is the Iranian threat to Israel and the West.
While the major concern of the book is to examine the nature of Iran's threat to Israel and the world, Gold begins his discussion by noting that Iran "defies the West" and shows that to "avert the [diplomatic] failures of the past, it is critical to examine what happened during these past efforts at engagement." But Gold's real belief is that negotiation with Iran is almost useless, that the ayatollahs are set on a path of acquiring the bomb and spreading terror and that apparently only force will likely deter them.
Furthermore Gold shows that negotiation has been an Iranian tactic, one in which they have played the West for fools, using the European desire and love for councils and committees and talk to draw out the process until they can present the West with a fait accompli. Anyone who has paid attention in the last four or so years, since revelations about Iran's nuclear program became acute, must have come to the same conclusion. The Rise of Nuclear Iran merely provides a wealth of detail and evidence of the ins and outs of the Iranian nuclear game.
The main problem with this polemic is that it is ham-handed in laying out its case. While the book is made up of chapters, the reader is guided through them by an endless number of talking points that highlight every other page. Some of them are clumsy, such as "Iran challenged the United States and the West with impunity," while others seem to remind one of a check-your-knowledge "did you understand" from grade school as in "Who controls the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force." This type of setup makes for easy reading, but it takes away from the overall narrative and never allows the author to develop his point in an artful manner. It is as if we are getting a briefing on Iran.
Where Gold excels is in his description of the numerous nefarious Iranian penetrations of states throughout the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere. Some of the information provided is indeed surprising. It is often forgotten that Iran helped provide support for terrorists targeting the Paris Metro in 1985. Neither do most recall that Iran was behind the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996 which was carried out by the Saudi Shi'ite Ahmad al-Mughassil and a team he had assembled. Iran also helped arm Croatia in its war against Serbia in the 1990s and, according to Gold, 2,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards fought alongside the Bosnians in their ethnic-cleansing campaign of Serbs during the same period.
The degree to which Iran has penetrated the Middle East is extraordinary. With a wealth of evidence Dore Gold concludes that the world now faces an "Iranian octopus" that is undermining regimes throughout the region, has caused widespread terror and destruction worldwide, bankrolls militias and militants from Afghanistan to the Gaza Strip and now is on the verge of acquiring the bomb. The author concludes that in the wake of the Iranian election protests, "if the West has a choice between negotiating yet again with the regime in Teheran or undercutting it further, it should clearly seek to promote a process that leads to its collapse and replacement."
Unfortunately the domestic unrest in Iran seems to have subsided, which means a return to the negotiating table, the acceptance of a nuclear Iran or reliance on the military option.
The writer is a PhD student in geography at the Hebrew University and runs the Terra Incognita Journal blog.