Understanding Iran

William R. Polk

Palgrave Macmillan Trade

William R. Polk provides an informative, readable history of a country which is moving quickly toward becoming the dominant power and culture of the Middle East. A former member of the State Department’s Policy Planning Council, Polk describes a country and a history misunderstood by many in the West. While Iranians chafe under the yolk of their current leaders, they also have bitter memories of generations of British, Russian and American espionage, invasion, and dominance. There are important lessons to be learned from the past, and Polk teases them out of a long and rich history and shows that it is not just now, but for decades to come that an understanding of Iran will be essential to American safety and well-being.


Praise for Understanding Iran

Praise for Understanding Iran:
"William Polk has written a superb and insightful historical account of Iran and the evolution of the Persian culture. This should be required reading not just for all those involved in Iranian policy making but for all those interested in understanding this critical nation and society." -- General Anthony C. Zinni USMC (Retired), co-author of Leading the Charge and The Battle for Peace

"A great scholar's brilliant appreciation of Iranian culture and history." -- Dr. Khodadad Farmanfarmaian, former Deputy Prime Minister of Iran

"Essential reading...a study of depth and clarity."--Terrell Arnold, former chairman of the Department of International Studies at the U.S. National War College
“This is an easy read with a very big payoff -- a nuanced understanding of Iran as a complex society whose perceptions and politics are shaped by readily comprehensible history, religious traditions, and recent experience.  Polk's writing is erudite but not academic; his prose is lucid and his policy experience shows.  If you know someone in the United States government dealing with Iran or the Middle East, give that person this book; the prospects of American policy success vis-à-vis both could go up considerably.” -- Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.), former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs
Praise for Understanding Iraq:
"A digestible history of this tortured land is something Americans sorely need....And Polk carefully constructs one."--USA Today
"This book will be informative to two groups scarcely on speaking terms: the supporters of President Bush's invasion of Iraq and those implacably opposed to it....William Polk presents the reader with the full sweep of Iraq's history....He gives us a comprehensive tour."--Washington Times
"Haunting....One of the clearest prescriptions for success in Iraq yet to emerge."--Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • William R. Polk

  • William R. Polk established the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago, was president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs, and helped to organize the “Table Ronde” meeting that laid the groundwork for the European Union. He was called back to the White House briefly during the 1967 Middle Eastern War to write a draft Peace Treaty and to act as advisor to U.S. National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy.






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    Understanding Iran

    William R. Polk