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Republics of Myth

National Narratives and the US-Iran Conflict

Hussein Banai, Malcolm Byrne, and John Tirman

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Why does the rift between the US and Iran persist?

Iran and the United States have been at odds for forty years, locked in a cold war that has run the gamut from harsh rhetoric to hostage-taking, from crippling sanctions to targeted killings. In Republics of Myth, Hussein Banai, Malcolm Byrne, and John Tirman argue that a major contributing factor to this tenacious enmity is how each nation views itself. The two nations have differing interests and grievances about each other, but their often-deadly confrontation derives from the very different national narratives that shape their politics…

Why does the rift between the US and Iran persist?

Iran and the United States have been at odds for forty years, locked in a cold war that has run the gamut from harsh rhetoric to hostage-taking, from crippling sanctions to targeted killings. In Republics of Myth, Hussein Banai, Malcolm Byrne, and John Tirman argue that a major contributing factor to this tenacious enmity is how each nation views itself. The two nations have differing interests and grievances about each other, but their often-deadly confrontation derives from the very different national narratives that shape their politics, actions, and vision of their own destiny in the world.

The dominant American narrative is the myth of the frontier—that the US can tame it, tame its inhabitants, and nurture democracy as well. Iran, conversely, can claim two dominant myths: the first, an unbroken (but not for lack of trying) lineage back to Cyrus the Great, and the second, the betrayal of Imam Hussein, the Prophet's grandson. Both Iranian myths feature a detestable outsider as an enemy of the Iranian state and source of the nation's ills and misfortune. The two countries have clashed so severely in part, the authors argue, because their national narratives constantly drive them to do so. Drawing on newly declassified documents and discussions with policymakers, the authors analyze an array of missed opportunities over several decades to improve the US-Iran relationship.

From the coup d'état that overthrew Iran's legitimate premier Mohammad Mosaddeq to the hostage crisis, the Iran-Iraq War, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, post-9/11 antagonisms, and other points of conflict, each episode illustrates anew the weight of historical narratives on present circumstances. Finally, Barack Obama's diplomacy and Donald Trump's determination to undo the 2015 nuclear accord are explored—both examples of the enduring power of America's frontier narrative. Introducing new insights and knowledge in a highly readable narrative, Republics of Myth makes a major contribution to understanding this vital conflict.

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Republics of Myth

Hussein Banai, Malcolm Byrne, and John Tirman

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Reviews

Reviews

By drawing on a broad range of primary and secondary material and utilizing diverse methodological and analytic perspectives this book offers an in-depth survey of different aspects of US-Iran relations. A timely publication and welcome addition to scholarship.

Republics of Myth is an outstanding and balanced review of the difficult relationship between Americans and Iranians. Based on unique research, this timely book addresses the grievances of both sides and pays special attention to the Iran-Iraq War.

This is a detailed, enlightening history of the troubled U.S.-Iran relationship since World War II, which explains why these two countries' adversarial national narratives persist, based on documents and discussions with and among some of the decision makers on both sides of the divide. A thoroughly engrossing read.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
432
ISBN
9781421443317
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Acronyms
Introduction. Foundations of a Conflict
1. The Narrative Trap
2. The Fraught US-Iran Relationship, from Mosaddeq to Khomeini
3. The Iran-Iraq War
4. Rafsanjani and the Post-Khomeini

Acknowledgments
Acronyms
Introduction. Foundations of a Conflict
1. The Narrative Trap
2. The Fraught US-Iran Relationship, from Mosaddeq to Khomeini
3. The Iran-Iraq War
4. Rafsanjani and the Post-Khomeini Order
5. Khatami and the Possibility of Dialogue
6. The Shadow of Khobar in Washington
7. Bush in the Khatami Era
8. The Iraq War and Its Consequences
9. The Nuclear File under Bush 43
10. Obama Enters
11. Rouhani, Zarif, and the Nuclear Deal
12. Trump and Regeneration through Violence
Conclusion. Narratives and National Interests
Notes
About the Authors
Index

Author Bios
Hussein Banai
Featured Contributor

Hussein Banai

Hussein Banai (INDIANAPOLIS, IN) is an assistant professor of international studies at Indiana University. Malcolm Byrne (WASHINGTON, DC) is the deputy director and research director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University. John Tirman (CAMBRIDGE, MA) is the executive director and principal research scientist at the MIT Center for International Studies. The three are the...