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Nuclear Iran: The Birth of an Atomic State Hardcover – 30 Aug 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: I.B.Tauris (30 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780761252
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780761251
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 3.5 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 506,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


David Patrikarakos has produced an excellent account of the country's progress towards nuclear status, in which he acknowledges that neither diplomacy nor sanctions are likely to work. Max Hastings, The Sunday Times

What has been sorely missing from the debate about Iran's nuclear program is a serious, reported effort to understand what goes on in the minds of the Iranians. David Patrikarakos fills that void. Bill Keller, The New York Times

... a welcome analysis of Iran's self-perception, its nuclear plans and Western responses. The Independent

...a valuable tool for anyone seeking to get beyond the headlines to the truth of the matter. The Majalla

An interesting and informative window into Iranian thinking ... a unique and fascinating book. Mark Fitzpatrick, Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme, International Institute for Strategic Studies

One of the best and most readable accounts of a programme which has come to define Iran's relations with the West. An essential read for the general reader and specialist alike. --Ali Ansari, Professor of History at University of St Andrews and Director of the Institute for Iranian Studies

An interesting and informative window into Iranian thinking ... a unique and fascinating book. --Mark Fitzpatrick, Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme, International Institute for Strategic Studies

One of the best and most readable accounts of a programme which has come to define Iran s relations with the West. An essential read for the general reader and specialist alike. --Ali Ansari, Professor of History at University of St Andrews and Director of the Institute for Iranian Studies

About the Author

David Patrikarakos is a writer and journalist who has written for the New Statesman, Financial Times, the London Review of Books, Prospect and the Guardian.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By danielz on 9 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an extremely well written book that sheds a lot of light on the inner thoughts of those that have been influencing the Iranian nuclear problem from both within the regime and outside of it. Given that I am no expert on the situation I found this book very informative without being condescending. The writing style of the author is impressive as it gives the facts and then explains the importance of it succinctly.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in the world politics as it shows that the nuclear programme is not as simple a situation as a belligerent country wanting a means to defend itself.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. N. Ezra on 11 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Part of the problem with reading about the Iranian nuclear progamme is that for many, the quality of a what is read is purely dependent on whether or not they agree with the conclusion. Patrikarakos's detailed study on the Iranian nuclear programme goes beyond such polemics. His book is the culmination of six years of research in which h travelled across several continents to speak to key players in Iran, the USA, Europe, the Arab world and Israel, and to make copious use of primary archival sources. The fruits of this research enabled Patrikarakos to piece together a complete history of the Iranian nuclear programme since its beginnings in the 1950s right up until the present day.

In his conclusion, Patrikarikos dismisses the idea as fanciful that Iran's nuclear programme is purely for civilian purposes, but that doesn't mean to say he thinks that they will build a bomb. His opinion is in line with many experts in the field: that Iran wishes to achieve a nuclear weapons capability. He explains: "by which the state has surmounted all the technological obstacles to a bomb without actually proceeding to the final stages of weaponization (which could be achieved quickly if the need arose.)"

Whether someone is new to the subject or already an expert, the book should contain information of use and as such I recommend it being read. This is not least due to the fact that if Iran obtains the bomb, or gets very close to it, it could lead to foreign policy by the USA, the EU, Israel, and the Gulf Arab states being dominated by how to respond.
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By Kabeer on 15 Oct. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Can be quite superficial in parts and is frankly over dependent on certain personalities, while not questioning their perspective in a serious fashion. Also source material is very limited. The book is also uneven in quality and coverage. While the Pahlavi era is primarily dependent on a few oral testimonies and possesses greater detail, the latter section on the Islamic Republic is quite weak all being said with little real historical grunt work being done by the author who relies on cliches at numerous junctures. There are also a number of historical errors.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Best So Far 26 Dec. 2012
By Mooonshinefunk - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is the best history of the Iranian nuclear program from the time of the Shah to modern times. For all the attention that has been given to Iran and its nuclear program, the last real book to look focus on the history of the nuclear program instead of analyzing the nuclear program as part of a larger analysis on Iran and its relationship with the U.S was Chubin's Iran's nuclear ambitions in 2006. This book I found was a lot more thorough than Chubin's work and especially detailed on the years before the full extent of Iran's nuclear program were revealed in 2002. After 20002 the author seems to switch focus to the diplomacy surrounding Iran's nuclear program rather and gives less attention to the progress of the actual nuclear program. This "diplomatic history" is fairly well done but nothing riveting for anyone who's been following this diplomacy attentively. It finally should be noted that Patrikarakos strongly emphasizes the ideational factors and symbolism of the nuclear program for Iran and its leaders. Some attention is certainly given to the security factors driving it but far less of its focus is on the domestic political factors.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Some errors and other problems 22 Oct. 2013
By C. Safdari - Published on
Format: Hardcover
For example, on p. 231 the author notes that after the failure of the Paris Agreement negotiations, Sec of State Rice offered to talk to Iran but encountered Iran's "refusal to negotiate" and a rebuff of the "USA's historic offer to sit down and talk". However, he himself also notes that this offer of talks was saddled with a precondition that Iran first abandon enrichment, though he draws no conclusions from the imposition of that precondition and makes no other effort to judge the sincerity of the offer of talks under terms which basically required the Iranian side to capitulate first. We are simply expected to accept this precondition as divinely ordained and something that Iran was somehow obligated to recognize.

In short, according to the author, Iranian motivations are legitimate area of speculation, but everything the EU-3 or the US does is to be taken at face value as merely legitimately intended to limit weapons proliferation by Iran rather than anything else -- such as using the nuclear issue as a pretext to pursue a policy of imposed regime change in Iran, just as WMDs in Iraq was just a pretext. Even former IAEA head Elbaradei concluded that the West was simply using the nuclear issue as a pretext for an entirely different policy of imposing regime change on Iran, which is why the US ignored or actively undermined Iranian and international (Brazil/Turkey) negotiations, yet this goes unmentioned.

In treatment of the entire Paris Agreement affair, the author fails to make a crucial point clear: the Iranians were assured that permanently giving up enrichment would not be demanded. It was "off the table." And yet that's precisely what the EU-3 ended up demanding of Iran, regardless of the assurances they had been giving Iran that they did NOT seek an end to enrichment. This is a strange point to miss, since Mousavian has written that he specifically requested and obtained assurances from the representatives of the Eu3 that no such demand would be made, and furthermore the EU-3 offer was specifically rejected because it did contain such a demand afterall. Ingoring that yet again, naturally the author lays the blame for the failure of the Paris Agreement on "Iran's abrogation" (p. 219) of the deal, with no mention that the EU offer was simply an "empty box in pretty wrapping" (to quote one analyst at BASIC) -- and yet the author still seems to imply that Iran's view of the West as perfidious is somehow invalid. For more info on this debacle, I suggest reading Peter Osborns's book "A Dangerous Delusion: Why the West is Wrong About Nuclear Iran" as well as Gareth Porter's book, "The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare"

Much of the most relevant and more detailed material is hidden away in paragraph-long footnotes which probably should have been included in the main text. For example, you'd have to read footnote 7 of Chapter 13 to discover that the traces of highly-enriched uranium found in Iran were confirmed to be due to contamination rather than secret Iranian nuclear experiments, and then you'd have to read footnote 18 of the same chapter to realize that Iran took corrective measures with respect to past "failures to report" nuclear activities to the IAEA's satisfaction pursuant to the Iran-IAEA Modalities Agreement, and that the IAEA had declared all nuclear material in Iran to be accounted for with no evidence of diversion for non-peaceful purposes. Yet despite this, the author asserts that Iran's past breaches "clearly" required Iran to be reported to the UNSC -- a legal conclusion which is not so clear at all and is in fact contradicted by legal experts. Note that S Korea, Egypt and other nations which breached their safeguards agreement much more egregiously were not similarly hauled before the UNSC.

To his credit, the author points out that the veracity of the "alleged studies" claims are in doubt, but instead claims that Iran's possession of the "Uranium sphere" documents indicates "an interest in nuclear weapons" -- nevermind that far more detailed information about making nuclear weapons are a matter of public record and can be found in a local library or government reading room of declassified documents. While the author does point out that Iran's plans for enrichment predated the "discovery" of Natanz in 2002/2003, he fails to connect the dots that run counter to the popular thesis of a "hidden enrichment program" in Iran which was dramatically exposed by a dissident organization -- namely crucial facts like the fact that Iran had by then already formally declared the Uranium Conversion Facility to the IAEA in 2000 (completed by Iran, after the Chinese pulled out under US pressure) or that in 1984 the US ended a planned IAEA-Iran joint project to set up the enrichment program there (whcih caused Iran to resort to secrecy to avoid US interference with its nuclear contracts) or that in 1994 the Iranians had opened Iran's uranium mines to visits by IAEA officials -- so the "discovery" in 2002/2003 that Iran was interested in enrichment should not have come as nearly the surprise it was portrayed in the media. Iran's enrichment program was in fact never a secret.

In the end, the author concludes that Iran seeks nuclear weapons "capability" and that this is driven in part by a desire to appear modern and independent as well. This is mere conventional wisdom being repeated without justification, and overlooks the fact that 40 nations already have a nuclear "capability", and it furthermore overlooks Iran's repeated offers to impose additional restrictions on its nuclear program well beyond anything other nations have agreed to, intended to ensure that the program can't even theoretically be used to secretly make nukes.
Great Historical Context 5 Aug. 2013
By rdf - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Covering the full history of Iran's nuclear program(s), it provides contextual understanding for the motivations underlying the effort.

I was surprised at how much continuity existed over the years: many motivations changed, but more (or at least many) remained the same.

As a bonus, it is extremely well written -- a great read.
Wonderful clear political history of Iran's nuclear program. 11 Dec. 2013
By W. James D. Easton - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Beautifully clear discussion of the political history of the Iranian nuclear program. Tells a lot of "truths" that seem to have been lost in the recent controversies, i.e. That the US provided the Shah with weapons grade uranium and a reactor capable of producing plutonium.

Needs updating in light of recent developments, however as background is a refreshing antidote to the superficiality and bias of most current discussions.

Highly recommended.
A Must Read for Those Interested in Iran 29 Oct. 2013
By William Howe - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author has done and incredible job of taking a topic that has been distorted and confusing and laying out the historical progression of Iran's nuclear program. More importantly, his insights show how the West believes Iran thinks about the nuclear program is part of the current problem. Kudos to the author for also taking a very complex topic and making it both easy to understand and enjoyable to read. Not many foreign policy books are a joy to read and this one is.
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