In my copious free time I'm reading a book called Confronting Iran
by Ali M. Ansari. He's a professor at my old alma mater, St. Andrews University in Scotland. It's subtitled, "The Failure of American Foreign Policy and the Next Great Conflict in the Middle East."
This book rocks. He outlines why our two countries are at odds and how we fix our approach to the current standoff. I simply cannot do this book justice in a single blogarrific review. He takes the reader through the history of our fraught mutual relations from 1911 till today, our mutually failed diplomacy, and the fantastic potential of Iran as an ally of the US. He discusses the geopolitical reality: "[Iran] finds itself sitting astride the two great energy emporiums of the world: the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. It is in many ways the linchpin of the region. Even if Iran had no oil and no gas of its own, this simple geopolitical reality would make it difficult to ignore. Yet this is precisely what a succession of US administrations have sought to do...In the post 9/11 world, this policy of neglect has been replaced by the rhetoric of haste."
One of the most interesting sections discusses the "founding myths" of our two nations and how they affect our approach to each other (ie, myths that underpin our historical identities, held to be true by the majority of citizens even when debated by academics, such as the intentions and lives of the "Founding Fathers," etc.).
His approach is fantastic because it peels away the layers of mutual demonization to get to the real point: that "friendship precedes betrayal," and that today's tension cannot be understood without first understanding the previous intimacy, and that as with all betrayals, "the two parties possess different recollections, suffer from selective amnesia (when the facts are inconvenient), and propose alternate interpretations of their shared experiences."
Buy the book.