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Eisenstadt provides a detailed and well-documented examination of Iran's military machine, concentrating on the two issues of greatest importance to the United States: Will Iran acquire nuclear weapons? Can it close the Strait of Hormuz? Though careful and guarded in his judgments, Eisenstadt paints a troubling picture. He notes the many ways the Iranians could acquire nuclear weapons as well as the evidence suggesting they are indeed pursuing some of these avenues. As for the Strait of Hormuz, though Iran could not close the Strait entirely for any substantial period of time, it could disrupt traffic and temporarily block shipping. Eisenstadt also surveys Iran's role in terrorism, as well as speculating about to what purpose Iran might put its capabilities.

Eisenstadt does not directly examine the extent to which Iran's military is designed to counter risks facing Iran (rather than engage in foreign adventurism). Such security threats clearly exist: a potential invasion from Iraq, subversion from the newly established radical regime in Afghanistan, or spillover from the Armenian-Azerbaijani war. But his analysis implies that Tehran is not much worried about such threats. The troops are not well positioned to respond to them, nor is Tehran acquiring the equipment to deal with them. Instead, Iran concentrates its efforts precisely on those areas most worrisome to the Americans: covertly on nuclear weapons and overtly on the buildup near the Straits of Hormuz. It could hardly design a course of actions better suited to raising U.S. concerns.

As for U.S. policy, Eisenstadt convincingly argues that it has curbed Iran's troublemaking potential. By setting an inappropriately high standard of success (i.e., inducing Tehran to change policies), Washington has led many to conclude that its Iran policy has been a failure, whereas in fact it has achieved the important objective of weakening Iran.