Reset Iran, Turkey, and America's Future

Stephen Kinzer

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

304 Pages



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What can the United States do to help achieve peace and democracy in the Middle East? Stephen Kinzer offers a surprising answer in this paradigm-shifting book. Two countries in the region, he argues, are America's logical partners in the twenty-first century: Turkey and Iran. Besides proposing this new "power triangle," Kinzer also recommends that the United States reshape relations with its two traditional Middle East allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. This book provides a penetrating, timely critique of America's approach to the world's most volatile region, and offers a startling alternative.

Kinzer, with an eye for grand characters and illuminating historical detail, introduces readers to larger-than-life figures, like a Nebraska schoolteacher who became a martyr to democracy in Iran, a Turkish radical who transformed his country and Islam forever, and a diverse group of princes, politicians, women of the world, spies, oppressors, liberators, and dreamers.

Kinzer's book provides a provocative new view of the Middle East and moves a vital policy debate beyond the stale alternatives of the last fifty years.


Praise for Reset

"The United States must befriend Turkey and Iran while loosening its ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia. That is the central message of a new book by Stephen Kinzer . . . The implication of Mr. Kinzer's study is that Turkey could serve as a diplomatic hub for bringing America, Israel and the Palestinians together. The other half of his thesis is that Iran, too, should and could become a true friend to America, despite the bitter mutual hostility that has prevailed on an official level since the Islamist revolution deposed the America-backed shah in 1979. [Mr. Kinzer] backs his proposition with a jaunty potted history of both Turkey and Iran over the past century. He compares the efforts of the two countries' great modernisers, Mustafa Kemal (later self-proclaimed as Ataturk, or 'Father of the Turks'), who ruled from 1923 until his death in 1938, and Reza Pahlavi. Another ruthless military man, Pahlavi assumed the same position in Iran in 1925 (with a crown on his head in lieu of a general's cap) and held it until he was ousted in 1941. Each was fiercely opposed by his respective clerical establishment, though Ataturk did a better job of suppressing his than Pahlavi did. The Islamic regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that swept away the first Pahlavi shah's son still rules the Persian roost despite last year's efforts to remove it or at least to temper its Islamist radicalism. In Turkey, Ataturk's rigid secularism has, only in the past decade or so, given way to a much milder form of Islamism than the Iranian variant . . . Mr. Kinzer describes how Iran, even under the ayatollahs, has long sought an accommodation with the Americans. Both, after all, loathe and are loathed by al-Qaeda. As recently as the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks, Iran's Islamist rulers offered a deal (that was rejected) to enshrine regional co-operation."—The Economist

"[Kinzer's] main thesis [is] provocative: The path to a stable Middle East runs not through Israel and traditional Arab allies but through Turkey and Iran . . . A former foreign correspondent for the New York Times, Kinzer argues persuasively that despite their very different governments—one friendly and free, the other hostile and theocratic—both Turkey and Iran are host to vibrant democratic traditions that make them natural long-term partners of the United States. He deftly interweaves the stories of the Iranian and Turkish democracy movements, whose roots are deeper than most Americans realize . . . [A] lively, character-driven approach to history . . . Kinzer's take on Iran and Turkey is fresh and well-informed."—John Lancaster, The Washington Post

"A stern critique of American foreign policy and a concise, colorful, and compelling modern history of Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel . . . Kinzer is a masterful storyteller. His cast of characters leaps of the page."—NPR

"In Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future, [Kinzer] proposes a radical new course for the United States in the region. The United States, he argues, needs to partner with Iran and Turkey to create a 'powerful triangle' whose activities would promote a culture of democracy and combat extremism . . . Kinzer's U.S.-lranian-Turkish alliance is a longterm project, and the idea has ample grounding in the modern history of the region. Unlike other Muslim countries there, Kinzer shows, Iran and Turkey have at least a century's worth of experience struggling for political freedom . . . [and] share some fundamental values with the United States."—Foreign Affairs

"Because we're so accustomed to bad news out of the Middle East, trouble seems inevitable. Reset suggests that needn't be so . . . Lucid [and] historically grounded."—Chicago Tribune

"Stephen Kinzer is a journalist of a certain cheeky fearlessness and exquisite timing. In his new book he's ahead ot the game again . . . This book is a bold exercise in reimagining the United States's big links in the Middle East."—The Huffington Post

"Kinzer provides a historical narrative and novel argument. [His] style is lively and crisp. He renders a dramatic and engaging story—narrating events while alternating seamlessly between characters and countries . . . One hopes that it is the missing wedge that initiates a serious discussion about America's friends and enemies."—International Affairs Review

"Stephen Kinzer's Reset argues that contradictory U.S. policies in the Middle East are producing serial disasters. He recounts with verve the dramatic historical events and the vivid personalities that brought us to these straits, and argues for a new realism about the rapid rise of Iran and Turkey as regional superpowers challenging the old, dysfunctional bargains struck in the twentieth century. This book is a must-read for anyone concerned with the future of the United States in the Middle East."—Juan Cole, professor of history, University of Michigan, and author of Napoleon's Egypt and Engaging the Muslim World

"Does the United States have nothing but bad choices in the Middle East? Stephen Kinzer says we have attractive choices if our leaders will just abandon the premises of the Cold War and look instead at opportunities in front of their eyes. Kinzer elaborates grand ideas in the conversational voice of a story-teller and challenges conventional wisdom in the most reasonable tones. But let the reader beware: He will make you think, and you may never see the region in quite the same way again."—Gary Sick, senior research scholar, Columbia University, and author of All Fall Down: America's Tragic Encounter with Iran

"A vivid account underscoring the persistent folly of Western, and especially U.S. policy in the Middle East. This is history with bite and immediacy. Yet Stephen Kinzer sees cause for hope: The possibility of change exists if we but seize it."—Andrew J. Bacevich, author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism

"Kinzer re-imagines the world and America's role in it."—Robert Lacey, author of Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Terrorists, Modernists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia

"An original, unsettling critique of America's many blunders in the Middle East . . . journalist Kinzer states bluntly that Iran, along with Turkey, the only Islamic nations in the area with vibrant democratic traditions, should be America's closest allies, replacing Israel and Saudi Arabia. The author makes his case by recounting their recent history. Most readers recognize the name Kemal Ataturk, the charismatic leader who single-handedly revolutionized Turkey after World War I by introducing European institutions. Turkey is prospering and gets along with all Middle Eastern nations including Israel. When Iran threatened to nationalize British oil concession, a CIA-financed coup destroyed its democracy and established Mohammed Reza as absolute ruler. Kinzer reminds readers that after a broad-based—and not solely Islamic—1979 uprising overthrew the Shah, Iran opposed Saddam Hussein, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. After 9/11 it cooperated with the United States in Afghanistan until, in early 2002, President Bush branded it a member of the 'axis of evil' along with North Korea and Iraq. Cultivating Turkey and Iran instead of the reactionary Saudi monarchy and pugnacious Israel makes sense, but Kinzer admits a major barrier: America is also a democracy . . . An imaginative solution to the Middle-East stalemate."—Kirkus Reviews

"Kinzer, columnist at the Guardian, takes an iconoclastic approach in this smart policy prescriptive that calls for elemental changes in America's relationships with Israel and Saudi Arabia, and even more remarkably, for the U.S. to find more sensible and natural allies in Turkey and Iran, the only Muslim countries in the Middle East where democracy is deeply rooted. This radical break from diplomatic convention has its roots deep in the cold war history that Kinzer spends most of the book attentively mining. When he's corralling Middle Eastern history, Kinzer does an excellent job at stitching essential facts into a coherent and telling whole, demonstrating why, for instance, Turkey's recent return to greater religiosity is a victory against Islamist policies and how Israel's willingness to do America's dirty work (e.g., selling arms to Guatemala's military regime) tied the U.S. to Israel and Saudi Arabia so powerfully in the past."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Stephen Kinzer

  • Stephen Kinzer is the author of Overthrow, All the Shah's Men, Crescent and Star, and numerous other books. An award-winning foreign correspondent, he served as The New York Times's bureau chief in Turkey, Germany, and Nicaragua and as The Boston Globe's Latin America correspondent. He teaches international relations at Boston University and is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and a columnist for The Guardian. He lives in Boston.

  • Stephen Kinzer
    Stephen Kinzer