H-Diplo Roundtable, Vol. XIX 2018-03-10¢  Roundtable Editors: Thomas Maddux and Diane Labrosse Roundtable

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  • Roundtable Editors: Thomas Maddux and Diane Labrosse Roundtable and Web Production Editor: George Fujii Introduction by James Goode

    Javier Gil Guerrero. The Carter Administration and the Fall of Iran’s Pahlavi Dynasty: US- Iran Relations on the Brink of the 1979 Revolution. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-137-59871-4 (hardcover, $105.00). URL: http://www.tiny.cc/Roundtable-XIX-25


    Introduction by James Goode, Grand Valley State University ...........................................................2

    Review by Christian Emery, University of Plymouth ..............................................................................5

    Review by Blake W. Jones, Ohio Valley University ..................................................................................8

    Review by Matthew Shannon, Emory & Henry College ..................................................................... 12

    Review by Barbara Zanchetta, King’s College London ...................................................................... 15

    Author’s Response by Javier Gil Guerrero, Universidad Francisco de Vitoria Madrid ............ 19

    © 2018 The Authors. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.


    H-Diplo @HDiplo

    Roundtable Review Volume XIX, No. 25 (2018) 12 March 2018

    http://www.tiny.cc/Roundtable-XIX-25 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/ https://www.twitter.com/HDiplo

  • H-Diplo Roundtable Review, Vol. XIX, No. 25 (2018)

    Introduction by James Goode, Grand Valley State University

    eading these four scholarly reviews of Javier Gil Guerrero’s recent study, I am mindful of the continuing question: Did Carter administration policy toward Iran really matter?

    In spite of all the documents that have become available and all the memoirs, monographs, and articles that have appeared over the past almost forty years regarding the fall of the Pahlavi regime and the success of the Islamic Revolution, scholars still disagree fundamentally in their interpretations of that critical (on this at least they agree) period. These reviewers continue the debate. They conclude that the book is well written and a good read, but, beyond that, their opinions differ.

    The most in-depth criticism comes from Barbara Zanchetta, who compares the Guerrero volume to her own recent study. Although she agrees that Guerrero has written a balanced account, she also believes he has not added much to what we already know. “It remains descriptive without any original interpretative angles.” She queries his characterization of National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski as “lacking charm…” More importantly, she challenges the notion that President Jimmy Carter pressed the Shah over the human rights issue. Rather, she writes, he asserted that “the security relationship with Iran took precedence over the concern on human rights.” Finally, she raises doubts about one of “the author’s central aims,” that is, trying to understand the “impact that Carter’s policies had during the Iranian Revolution.” Zanchetta believes that the United States and President Carter “were not actors in the process.” The revolution was largely “an internal Iranian affair.” She is certainly not the first scholar to make that argument.

    In fact, Christian Emery’s review mirrors this and other of Zanchetta’s observations. Although he does not go as far in removing the Americans from the revolutionary process in Iran, he does conclude that Guerrero places too much weight on U.S. policy and that this is a “Western-centric approach.” “The shah lost the confidence of the Iranian people,” and the United States contributed little to that development. He agrees also that the book provides scant evidence that Carter brought significant pressure on the Shah in the interest of human rights. Emery questions the author’s use of solely U.S. primary sources to fathom the shah’s thinking. What exactly, he wonders, have recently released documents added to our understanding of U.S. policy during the revolution?

    Matthew Shannon references the so-called Republican and Democratic narratives, which purport to interpret the coming of the Iranian Revolution—both assuming an important American contribution to that event. Shannon draws attention to the historiography on the subject and to specific works pursuing political motives—both right and left--in the post-Cold War period. Although he does not raise here any question about the significance or otherwise of U.S. policy, he does agree with Emery and Zanchetta that the administration did not push the Shah on human rights. In fact, if human rights had any impact on the weakening of the Shah’s regime, it was because of the ruler’s—and his opponents— misperception of what Washington intended. Shannon cites the need to consider human rights more broadly as a transnational movement composed most significantly of “non-state actors and organizations.” This would add another layer to revolutionary complexities.

    Finally, Blake W. Jones presents the most complimentary review of the Guerrero study, praising this work as a “detailed narrative of events that is sorely missing in the literature.” He sees him as combining the traditional Democratic and Republican narratives, in which the Nixon-Ford punch to the Shah is followed by the Carter knock-out. Unlike the other reviewers, Jones cites Guerrero’s attention to internal “events that


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    galvanized the revolution.” He praises Guerrero for “telling the Iranian side of the story,” and doing this by making effective use of memoirs and diaries from members of the Shah’s court. For Emery and Zanchetta, these same sources raise a red flag.1

    Although Guerrero’s detailed narrative ends with the success of the revolution in early 1979, he briefly mentions the Hostage Crisis, a time when “a deep sense of bitterness against Iran took root among Americans” (193). This bitterness continues today. Thus, what he characterizes as the “End of an Era” (chapter 10) might more appropriately be viewed as the beginning of another; and this, sadly, has no end in sight.


    Javier Gil Guerrero received a Ph.D. in History from the University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain and is Associate Professor Universidad Francisco de Vitoria (Department of International Relations), Madrid, Spain. In addition to The Carter Administration & the Fall of Iran’s Pahlavi Dynasty: US-Iran Relations on the Brink of the 1979 Revolution (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), Guerrero has published a number of article including “Propaganda Broadcasts and Cold War Politics: The Carter Administration’s Outreach to Islam,” Journal of Cold War Studies 19:1 (2017): 4-37. He is currently researching on the Persian Gulf policy of the Reagan Administration during the period 1981-1984.

    James Goode is professor of history at Grand Valley State University. He has written several books on U.S.- Iran relations, including The United States and Iran, 1946-51: Diplomacy of Neglect (1989), The US and Iran: In the Shadow of Musaddiq (1997) and Negotiating for the Past: Archaeology, Nationalism and Diplomacy in the Middle East,1919-1941 (2007). He is currently completing a study of the Turkish Arms Embargo, 1974- 1978.

    Christian Emery is a lecturer in International Relations at the University of Plymouth. He is the author of US Foreign Policy and the Iranian Revolution (Palgrave, 2013) and several academic articles and book chapters on U.S.-Iranian relations. He completed his Ph.D. at Birmingham University and was a Fellow in the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

    Blake W. Jones is an Assistant Professor of History and Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio Valley University in Vienna, WV. He completed his Ph.D. from Arizona State University and has written about the foreign policy of the Carter administration in Diplomatic History and The Companion to Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. His research focuses on role of religion in Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy, especially in areas that experienced conflict driven by religious nationalism.

    1 I should note that only a small portion of the diaries of the Shah’s closest adviser, Asadollah Alam, have been

    published in English in The Shah and I (London: I.B. Tauris, 1991). In the multi-volume, Persian originals (Yad’dashtha-yi ‘Alam), Alam includes some criticisms of the monarch. He has not left a completely hagiographic account as one might presume.

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    Matthew Shannon is an Assistant Professor of History at Emory & Henry College. His first book, Losing Hearts and Minds? American-Iranian Relations and International Education during the Cold War, is under contract with Cornell University Press and is forthcoming in 2017. His original research has also been published in Diplomatic History, International History Review, and The Sixties. He is currently researching and writing a second book that explores the ways in which American understandings of Iran changed during the decades surrounding the Iranian Revolution.

    Barbara Zanchetta is Lecturer in Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the Department of War Studies of King’