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Tim Boxer : BOOKS

by Tim Boxer, August 29, 2013

Accept Iran For What It Is

RIGHT from the beginning, even before you open GOING TO TEHRAN you know where the authors are taking you. The subtitle tells it all:  Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran. This from a couple of Iran’s most vigorous apologetic supporters in the west..

It appears that Flynt Leverett, who served in the CIA, the State Department’s National Security Council and is now professor of international affairs at Penn State, and Hillary Mann Leverett, who served at the National Security Council and negotiated for the U.S. with Iranian officials and is now lecturing at American University, believe that the U.S. must change its policy radically, stop acting like a global bully, and seek to engage with the Islamic Republic of Iran on an equal basis.

Remember when Nixon (and Kissinger) trekked to China and reconciled with the world’s greatest communist power? "It is time for an American president to go to Tehran," the authors insist. Obama, in all humility, must journey to Tehran to end 30 years of enmity and "come to terms with the Islamic Republic" as an equal partner in the family of nations—whether Supreme Leader Khamenei continues to develop a nuclear bomb or not. Don’t wait for Iran to transform itself through a "reformation," into a western style liberal democracy with a clear separation of religion and state.

The authors have produced a powerful book that seamlessly presents the cause of Iran as a legitimate stable nation grounded not in western values but shari’a fundamentalism. It is Iran’s right, as a sovereign state, to reject the idea of separating religion and politics, to reject liberalism and secularism. For shari’a religious law encompasses every single aspect of life.

The book warns: If we don’t accept a postrevolutionary Iran and its political Islamism, "the United States is courting strategic disaster."

So what prevents Washington from seeking an accommodation with Tehran? Blame Israel. Seems that everything bad in that region is Israel’s fault. The authors depict the influential "Israel lobby," comprising an estimated 75-90 organization—among the most prominent being the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)—as spearheading "efforts to impose ever tougher sanctions" on Iran to blunt its nuclear enrichment program. Iran has every right in the world, the authors maintain, to fulfill its nuclear goals no matter the consequences.


All in all a well-researched, highly intelligent and very readable exhortation of the Islamic Republic’s right to pursue its national destiny even if that includes support of terrorist organizations. Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 479 pages, $32.00 Price: $21.69)


The Lesson Of Afghanistan

THE main lesson you will learn from RETRUN OF A KING: THE BATTLE FOR AFGHANISTAN 1839-42 is that history will repeat itself. It will come back and bite you in the ass. The British expanded their India empire in the Punjab, the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush. The first battle for Afghanistan in 1839. Some 20,000 troops poured in from India to re-establish the Shah Shuja on the throne as their puppet. The natives rose in jihad and in two years the lightly equipped tribesmen demolished the Brits to bits—just one soldier survived the slaughter. This was the First Anglo-Afghan War. Two more wars followed until the British were decisively defeated.

Moscow, in an attempt to broaden their Soviet empire, invaded Afghanistan in the 1980s and installed their own communist puppet. The Mujehedin, with clandestine western support, drove the Soviet tanks out of the country, inflicting a humiliating defeat which some claim led ultimately to the collapse of the Soviet empire.

You’d think the west would think twice before invading Afghanistan again in the late 20th century. Western troops (the U.S. and allies) are now engaged in another jihad, this time by Taliban foot soldiers and again it doesn’t look so good. Heavily western armed troops are being whacked by lightly equipped native foot soldiers.

William Dalrymple, a contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, who’s written seven works on history and travel, has produced an exhaustive account of Britain’s futile first attempt at conquering Afghanistan in 1839. The lesson to be learned: No people—especially Afghans—want to be ruled by a foreign invader. Alfred A. Knopf, 515 pages, $30.00 Price: $20.49)


Page Turners

THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD If you want to understand the tumult in Egypt, you must get Carrie Rosefsky Wickham intimate volume. This incisive portrayal of the Egyptian political scene — she did 20 years of research during multiple visits in the region — reveals the fascinating background of this tightly organized radical Islamist movement founded in 1928 in Egypt and spreading its gripping tentacles over Jordan, Kuwait and Morocco. As these Islamist groups have grasped the public consciousness in the wake of the Arab Spring, it is too soon to tell how far they will veer from democratic liberal modernizing principles of governance. Expect a sequel to this book, as it was published a few months before the people (represented by the military) rose to depose Egypt’s first democratically elected president for swerving extremely Islamist.  (Princeton University Press, hard cover, 384 pages, $29.95 Price: $22.76)


 EGYPT: A SHORT HISTORY Robert L. Tignor, professor of modern and contemporary history, emeritus, at Princeton, has produced the best, well-written, erudite account of the history of a country that’s been blazing on the front page for the past three years. Written for the general reader, the book is packed with minute detail and expansive descriptions covering seven millennia of a country and its people always in the news. Tignor’s style is readable and enjoyable. (Princeton University Press, soft cover, 371 pages, 24 color illustrations,  $19.95 Price: $17.35)


PHOTOGRAPHIC VISIONS: INSPIRING IMAGES AND HOW THEY WERE MADE This is the book you want if you want to learn how to create superb pictures. All the photos are published on, known as the world’s biggest curated photo website, where photography is promoted as a work of art. Indeed every photo in the book—ranging from nature, portrait, landscape, night, street, architecture, conceptual and children—is sliced and diced, which each photographer explaining what he saw, what he tried to convey, and what equipment he used to achieve his end. This book will help you learn the art of image capture. (Rocky Nook, soft cover, 231 pages, $39.95 Pr

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.