The Devil We Know

Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower
Narrated by: Ted Barker
Length: 9 hrs and 46 mins
Categories: History, Middle East
4.5 out of 5 stars (243 ratings)

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

Over the past 30 years, while the United States has turned either a blind or dismissive eye, Iran has emerged as a nation every bit as capable of altering America's destiny as traditional superpowers Russia and China. Indeed, one of this audiobook's central arguments is that, in some ways, Iran's grip on America's future is even tighter.  

As ex-CIA operative Robert Baer masterfully shows, Iran has maneuvered itself into the elite superpower ranks by exploiting America's false perceptions of what Iran is - by letting us believe it is a country run by scowling religious fanatics, too preoccupied with theocratic jostling and terrorist agendas to strengthen its political and economic foundations.

The reality is much more frightening - and yet contained in the potential catastrophe is an implicit political response that, if we're bold enough to adopt it, could avert disaster.

Baer's on-the-ground sleuthing and interviews with key Middle East players - everyone from an Iranian ayatollah to the king of Bahrain to the head of Israel's internal security - paint a picture of the centuries-old Shia nation that is starkly the opposite of the one normally drawn. For example, Iran's hate-spouting President Ahmadinejad is by no means the true spokesman for Iranian foreign policy, nor is Iran making it the highest priority to become a nuclear player. 

Even so, Baer has discovered that Iran is currently engaged in a soft takeover of the Middle East, that the proxy method of war-making and co-option it perfected with Hezbollah in Lebanon is being exported throughout the region, that Iran now controls a significant portion of Iraq, that it is extending its influence over Jordan and Egypt, that the Arab Emirates and other Gulf States are being pulled into its sphere, and that it will shortly have a firm hold on the world's oil spigot.

By mixing anecdotes with information gleaned from clandestine sources, Baer superbly demonstrates that Iran, far from being a wild-eyed rogue state, is a rational actor - one skilled in the game of nations and so effective at thwarting perceived Western colonialism that even rival Sunnis relish fighting under its banner.

For US policy makers, the choices have narrowed: either cede the world’s most important energy corridors to a nation that can match us militarily with its asymmetric capabilities (which include the use of suicide bombers) - or deal with the devil we know. We might just find that in allying with Iran, we’ll have increased not just our own security, but that of all Middle East nations. The alternative - to continue goading Iran into establishing hegemony over the Muslim world - is too chilling to contemplate. 

©2008 Robert Baer (P)2008 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Timely and provocative...adds an important perspective to a crucial international debate." ( Publishers Weekly)
"An important text studded with keen insights into a nation about which America remains dangerously misinformed." ( Kirkus Reviews)
What members say
Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    142
  • 4 Stars
    63
  • 3 Stars
    27
  • 2 Stars
    9
  • 1 Stars
    2
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    83
  • 4 Stars
    42
  • 3 Stars
    13
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    1
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    92
  • 4 Stars
    34
  • 3 Stars
    14
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    2

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Insider's Guide to Middle East Conspiracy Theory

5 stars for the narrator. He reads with matter-of-fact authority that's never monotonous. Effort has clearly been made on foreign name pronunciations. Such a reading style and work ethic is sadly missed in audio versions of history books.

This is a helpful starting point for anyone trying to make sense out of events in the Middle East from 1979 to 2008. Baer spins a clear and straightforward narrative; by the end even a casual listener can understand the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah, Khomeini and Khamenei, and many more. This was extremely valuable to me as someone who has tried seriously to follow the news, without really managing to sort out the players in the Middle East.

Baer also gives an answer to the question of why links between Iran and terrorism were all over the news in the 1980s but have largely disappeared. The Iranian government learned that when trying to run a large country, making terrorism a key element of one's foreign relations just makes the job more difficult. "The Iranians" have changed their main strategy to building ground-level support for Iran in as many parts of the Middle East as possible. Baer never explains exactly what "Iranians" are in charge, but in his account they never make mistakes, building up their regional power base by schemes that always work perfectly.

Baer purports to explain in detail the machinations of all kinds of shadowy organizations. He does get around, describing his meetings with Kurdish guerrillas in Northern Iraq, Iranian agents, and officers of seemingly every Palestinian and Lebanese paramilitary group. In every conversation Baer is told nothing substantial, yet somehow only he understands exactly what each group is up to and how each has secret Iran connections. I wouldn't believe half of what Baer says, but it's definitely worth hearing: he's certainly been closer to the action than most of us.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great book but...

Robert Baer does a great job discussing the history of the region...but he (Baer) proposes some 'unique' and uncomfortable solutions to a very dangerous situation. Much as I enjoyed the history lesson, I'm not completely 'sold' on his recommendations to end the bloody stalemate in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I do recommend this as a 'must read' for anyone interested in a very real view of Middle East events.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Another outstanding effort by Baer.

Robert Baer, an author that speaks with an authority on the subject of Iran that few possess, presents a completely new point of view of this nation. Highly enlightening.

The book is also well narrated.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Baer at his best

Unprecedented insight in the middle east power politics from the man who knows it the best. I wish the guys at the State Department had half the brains of Baer, we'd be in much better shape in Iraq by now.
Must read for anyone with an interest in World affairs.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Smashing

The depth and breadth of Mr. Baer’s knowledge of Iran in general and Persians in particular is almost frightening. If Mr. Baer were a “marjah-eh taghleed”, I would gladly follow him. I wonder if he is working on a follow-up book focusing on the Trump administration’s behavior towards Iran and the behind-the-scene dynamics driving that policy or the lack-there-of.
بسیار کتاب عالیست.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • DS
  • 02-03-13

RETHINKING IRAN

Do our politicians read? They should read this book. We really do have to rebalance our Middle East policy. Read this. What do you think?

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Blueprint for Middle East solutions

Baer illuminates with steely reality the dead end we are at now, and a road map to restoring some sanity to the Middle East by putting rational actors at the forefront.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Conclusions

Great objective assessment of the overall situation of Iran in the Middle East. Disagree with the conclusion and approach to solving the Iran predicament. A better approach would be to take away Iran’s banner aka fighting for the Muslim oppression by resolving the Palestinian crisis for example with the help of the Saudis. Open up the Arabic world to Israel. The Saudi’s would rather do that then let the Persians take over the Arabic world. I don’t think dealing with Iran as another super power is beneficial for America. They will continue to fight America by proxy wars just exactly as China is using North Korea. We’re only going to get more rogue nations out there.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Insightful by someone who's been there...

The author provides first-hand experience from living, working and absorbing the intricacies of Iran and the region. Of particular interest, the author provides nine recommendations on how to best engage Iran and influence the region.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Good prep on Iran

The book is almost a decade old, so some of the situations mentioned in it have shifted. It is still a great background study on Iran and I'd recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about the mysterious neighbor to the countries the US finds itself dealing with.