Khomeini's Warriors: Foundation of Iran's Regime, Its Guardians, Allies around the World, War Analysis, and Strategies
by Mehran Riazaty
Bloomington, Ind.: XLibris, 2016. 576 pp. $10
Reviewed by Michael Rubin
Middle East Quarterly
Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has been the leading state sponsor of terrorism for decades, the literature devoted to the country tends to downplay torture, terrorism, or even geo-political strategy in favor of a focus on internal politics or gender and society studies. It is a hole that Riazaty, a political scientist and Iran analyst who worked for the U.S. military in Iraq, seeks to rectify. The result is an authoritative handbook—if not encyclopedia—of the Islamic Republic's leadership, security services, and ideology, all meticulously documented from Persian-language sources.
The author addresses issues concerning what Iranians say in Persian, subjects too often swept under the rug by those who find the reality inconvenient to their worldview. For example, Riazaty discusses a 2005 article by Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister and current advisor to Iran's supreme leader, urging the reconstitution of a Shiite empire across the Middle East. Perhaps if policymakers had paid attention to what such senior officials said and wrote, they would not be so surprised at current Iranian activity in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.
Western diplomats prefer to emphasize factionalism, hoping to encourage reformers over hardliners, but Riazaty painstakingly shows how similar the views of both elements are toward such issues as the nuclear buildup. He does not ignore factionalism, however, and illuminates the debates over theological and political concepts among Iran's top leaders. His section on the Qods Force is especially valuable in its specific detail about that elite organization's various commanders and specific units. He provides similar detail about the paramilitary Basij, reproducing its recruitment brochures, giving biographical sketches of key leaders, and detailing the breadth of its operations.
Khomeini's Warriors is a real find and easily surpasses in practical utility almost every other recent work on Iran. Every serious analyst of Iranian affairs, whether in government, academia, or the media, should have a well-worn copy of this book on the desk.
Related Topics: Iran | Michael Rubin | Spring 2017 MEQ
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