The Devil We Know by Robert Baer
Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower

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Over the past thirty 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 book’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 Americans’ 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 U.S. 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.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Robert Baer

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ROBERT BAER is the author of two New York Times bestsellers: Sleeping with the Devil, about the Saudi royal family and its relationship with the United States; and See No Evil, which recounts Baer's years as a top CIA operative. See No Evil was the basis for the acclaimed film Syriana, which earned George Clooney an Oscar for his portrayal of Baer. Baer writes regularly for and has contributed to Vanity Fair, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. He is considered one of the world's foremost authorities on the Middle East.From the Hardcover edition.
Published September 23, 2008 by Broadway Books. 288 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Devil We Know

Publishers Weekly

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Former CIA operative Baer (See No Evil ) challenges the conventional wisdom regarding Iran in this timely and provocative analysis, arguing that Iran has already “half-won” its undeclared 30-year war with the United States and is rapidly becoming a superpower.

Jul 14 2008 | Read Full Review of The Devil We Know: Dealing wi...

Publishers Weekly

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In his blustering second book, former CIA officer Baer (See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism) targets Saudi Arabia's corrupt leadership and cozy relationship with Washington.

| Read Full Review of The Devil We Know: Dealing wi...

Huntington News

Iran, Baer says, thinks in terms of the long haul: "Iran is calculating that the United States will get tired of Iraq, pull out, and let fall the first domino in a Persian reconquest of the Gulf."

Oct 03 2008 | Read Full Review of The Devil We Know: Dealing wi...

Daily Kos

Unless we do something really stupid - like attacking Iran (or permitting Israel to do it), which will give a new lease on life to the hardliners - then I see pretty much the same thing happening in Iran and it will become a really cool country that we can live with.

May 28 2009 | Read Full Review of The Devil We Know: Dealing wi...


This viewpoint is strongly reinforced by Robert Baer's work The Devil We Know, an ironic title in that one of his central themes is that we – the United States – do not know them at all correctly but as caricatures of evil reinforced by our – the United States – ignorance of their long history an...

Jun 04 2009 | Read Full Review of The Devil We Know: Dealing wi...


Jason Dudley, who works closely with "Sons of Iraq" leaders in northeast Baghdad.

Feb 18 2010 | Read Full Review of The Devil We Know: Dealing wi...

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