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Khomeini's Ghost: Iran since 1979 Paperback – Unabridged, 5 Feb 2010
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'More than just a standard biography, Con Coughlin's new book sets out to understand the impact and lasting effect of Khomeini's Islamic revolution. This is a fascinating, frightening and tragically trenchant book.'
`If you want to be up to date with what's happening in the Middle East the man to go to is Con Coughlin...I don't know about you, but Khomeini and his legacy frightens me and Coughlin's book does nothing to allay one's fears.' --Nicholas Bagnall, Sunday Telegraph
`The definitive account...the author charts in detail Khomeini's developing interest in terror groups and his considerable influence on the rest of the world.' --Huddersfield Daily Examiner
`A fascinating and sobering read.'
--Mail on Sunday
A compelling, authoritative account of Ayatollah Khomeini and his baleful legacy from the bestselling author of Saddam: His Secret Life - with a new chapter covering the Iranian election and its bloody aftermathSee all Product description
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Coughlin repeats the Bush melodrama of Absolute Good vs. Absolute Evil, with little appreciation for the subtlety and nuance reality actually demands. I suggest you read Moaveni's review in the NYT entitled "Most Fundamentalist" for a more detailed picture and cataloguing of Coughlin's many rudimentary mistakes, omissions and outright lies.
If you're interested in reading an insightful and illuminating primer on Iran read Ervand Abrahamian's A History of Modern Iran,Iran Between Two Revolutions (Princeton Studies on the Near East) or Michael Axworthy's Iran: Empire of the Mind: A History from Zoroaster to the Present Day.
Couglin makes spurious and sensationalist claims on the most tendentious and thin of evidence. Please examine the footnotes. Not a single Persian language source and in a self-referential and somewhat Orwellian fashion he refers to his own newspaper articles in order to vindicate his flagrantly baseless assertions.
Couglin is an incredibly suspect figure. In a report published by the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran the sources of 44 articles written by Coughlin about Iran between 29/10/2005 and 10/10/2006 were examined and the following conclusions were made:
* Sources were unnamed or untraceable, often senior Western intelligence officials or senior Foreign Office officials.
* Articles were published at sensitive and delicate times where there had been relatively positive diplomatic moves towards Iran.
* Articles contained exclusive revelations about Iran combined with eye-catchingly controversial headlines.
* The story upon which the headline was based does not usually exceed one line or at the most one paragraph. The rest of the article focused on other, often unrelated, information.
It also should not be forgotten that Coughlin propagated the claim that the Iraqi army could access weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes. This was the same claim, later discredited, used in the so-called "dodgy dossier" produced by the British intelligence services. Be wary of anything this man writes!
There are many basic factual mistakes such as:
1) It was rangers and delta who fought in Mogadishu, not marines.
2) The war in 2006 between Israel and Hizbollah didn't start with a Merkeva tank but rather with an attack on a Humvee
3) The Oslo process was pretty much dead before Rabin was and the suicide bombing campaign carried out in Peres's brief rule wasn't to get Netanyahu in but rather in revenge for the killing of one of their more senior terrorists
4) We also get the basic lumping of Iran in with people who apparently want to throw the world back to the 6th century or 8th century or 10th century depending on who you feel like quoting. This misses one of the most critical points of Khomeni's vilayet-e faqih which is that under traditional Shi'ism only the 12th Imam can legitimately rule and Khomeni's attempt to interpose someone from outside that direct line is a huge innovation that brings Shi'ism much closer to the traditional Sunni view which is WHY it most of the other clerics didn't support it and to this day has very little theological backup.
These are basic indisputable facts that are wrongly reported here. There are many more. They may also seem relatively small but to my mind they really shred the credibility of the book. Mr Coughlin understandly uses alot of anon sources which is not surprising given Iran's history of arresting and executing those in Iran and killing people abroad who simply are speaking out against the government. This does mean we have to take on trust that he is correctly and accurately reporting what they say and that he has at least done some basic fact cross-checking. In my view, if he can't get the basics right on topics I do know something about then I can see how I can trust him on the other stuff especially as I haven't even got a theoretical way to double check what he says.
The awarding of a Nobel Prize is a publicised, easily checked fact. Yet Coughlin gets it wrong. Such a brazen factual error implies; (i) Coughlin hasn't read his own bibliography, (ii) he doesn't unduly trouble himself with the factual accuracy of his text, (iii) the absence of any basic fact checking during the publisher's editorial process, (iv) the writer has clearly not followed post-revolutionary Iranian affairs as closely as he would have us believe. High-profile international recognition of Ebadi's work was a source of great pride and celebration for many ordinary Iranians. I would expect the publisher's proclaimed expert of world-renown to know such things.
There are other fundamental factual errors in this book, some of which are referred to in the earlier reviews. These, together with the error addressed in this review, leave the reader with a simple question; if Coughlin can't, or doesn't choose, to get a simple fact correct, how much trust should we place in the rest of his text?
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I would recommend this book to anyone interested in what has happened in Iran over the past 20-30 years.