Dr Takeyh has written a book with the policymakers in Washington very much in mind, focussing as he does on post-revolutionary Iran's foreign relations and its relations with the US in particular. If I were an American policymaker, or American Iran wonk, I might have different views on the book, but the book's great value to me is its succinct account of the development of Ayatollah Khomeini's thinking on the role of the clergy in an Islamic state, his role in forging the 1979 revolution, and the force of his personality that created a powerful legacy that resonates today, in the Iran of the 2009 presidential elections and their aftermath. Unlike Con Coughlin's recent "Khomeini's Ghost", which is written in a free-flowing, somewhat journalistic style (which is not to criticise it), Takeyh's approach is measured, considered, bordering on the prescriptive. Concurrently with the foreign policy considerations, he examines Iran post-1979 as falling into four distinct periods, more or less coinciding with the period up until Khomeini's death, the the three presidencies that followed: Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Ahmadinejad, each showing different approaches to the world and to the internal business of government in a revolutionary society. I found his explication of the origins of Khomeini's political "philosophy" (if one can call it that) to be more persuasive and realistic than that of Ervand Abrahamian in "Khomeinism", who seems to be at pains to depict the ayatollah not as a fanatic but as a "populist", almost as though to de-demonize him. Takeyh adverts to the populist elements in Khomeini's vision, but doesn't downplay the ruthlessness and, at times, duplicity, of the old man to achieve his single-minded aim of toppling the Persian monarchy. Certainly the creation of any sort of republican democracy was the last thing in Khomeini's mind. It seems that the revolutionaries, and Khomeini among them, had no ideas about governing the country other than getting rid of the Shah, and then ridding themselves of inconvenient rival revolutionary or liberal rivals. Of economics, diplomacy, military strategy, civil governance and all the other appurtenances of the modern state, Khomeini and his closest supporters, many of whom remain at or near the top of the Iranian government/theocracy today, seem to have been completely ignorant, even not interested. Dr Takeyh is good on the Iran-Iraq war. He also reassesses the significance of President Khatami's two terms as a "reformist" president, and shows clearly how the aspirations of Khatami and his millions of supporters were progressively thwarted and reversed by the conservative elements in the theocratic side of the complex matrix that Khomeini handed down as the constitution of Iran. What would be interesting would be to read Dr Takeyh's take on the 2009 presidential elections.
"Guardians of the Revolution" is no easy read, but repays the effort of reading carefully. What I did find irritating, however, is that Takeyh insists, almost petulantly, in transliterating fairly well-known Arabic or Persian names into unfamiliar forms, e.g., Saddam Huseyn (who he, you may ask?), Ayatollah Bihishti (Beheshti), Ayatollah Muntaziri (Montazeri). It's only a small criticism, however.