I think this book is well worth reading even though it is seven years old. Granted it is written by a former CIA operative who was stationed, among other places, in Lebanon where he squared off against Hezbollah. So Baer is constantly veering off into statements about Iran's renascent Persian empire. But if you make it into the second half of THE DEVIL WE KNOW, the book really takes off. Baer provides the realpolitik perspective of why we have to come to an agreement with Iran: the Sunni sheikhdoms of the Gulf are rotten to the core, not to be trusted, and are unstable, while Iran cannot be defeated militarily. Baer, though THE DEVIL WE KNOW was written before Obama's election, accurately predicts the future in the Middle East. Either 1) The U.S. garrisons the region forever with 100,000 troops and bankrupts itself in the process; 2) The U.S. foments a "Mad Max" scenario where Sunni kills Shia in a genocidal war for regional hegemony; or 3) We make peace with Iran. As it turns out, we're getting a combination of options 1 & 2. The Gulf sheikhs are backing ISIS and the other takfiri jihadis to lure the U.S. back into Iraq. In the end, Baer is a passionate advocate for Iran, its people and its culture. Basically he says the Islamic Republic is the only honest broker in the region.
Unlike the character in Syriana [played by George Clooney, based upon Baer] Baer will never understand the Big Picture, believing the politicians to be the Big Boys who control everything! Those ISIS terrorists, trained by America at a training center in Jordan, have now effectively rendered Iraq into three separate entities, along with Syria in disarray. But Baer is correct in that the Ayatollahs run Iran, probably thanks to the insurrection and rebellion to the American-supplied Shah who replaced the American-overthrown president Iran once had back in the early 1950s. [Read Desocio's Rockefellerocracy for a more cogent take on this.]
I found “The Devil we Know” to be kind of a difficult read. Perhaps this is because America’s educational system is so Eurocentric that almost nothing about the Middle-east, Africa and Asia is taught in American schools. One thing that I do get from this book though is that Iran is no pushover like the neo-cons try to sell. Baer points out that the Iranian power structure is more complex that the neo-cons would like us to believe and that President Ahmadinejad is just a minor power center and the Ayatollahs and others are the real powers. Baer says that America must find a way to coexist with Iran, no matter how distasteful that may seem today. Armed conflict, sought by the neo-cons would just put us into a war that would last 10, 30, and perhaps 100 years and thus ruin the American economy more completely than it is ruined already with the last two neo-con wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Baer says that Lebanon and Iraq are now controlled by Shiites and Iran with its large Shiite population will be the most powerful Islamic group and the Sunnis (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan?) will be in permanent decline.
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