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A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama's Diplomacy with Iran

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The first objective assessment of the high-stakes diplomatic sparring between Washington and Tehran during President Obamas first years in office Have the diplomatic efforts of the Obama administration toward Iran failed? Was the Bush administration's emphasis on military intervention, refusal to negotiate, and pursuit of regime change a better approach? How can the United The first objective assessment of the high-stakes diplomatic sparring between Washington and Tehran during President Obama’s first years in office Have the diplomatic efforts of the Obama administration toward Iran failed? Was the Bush administration's emphasis on military intervention, refusal to negotiate, and pursuit of regime change a better approach? How can the United States best address the ongoing turmoil in Tehran? This book provides a definitive and comprehensive analysis of the Obama administration's early diplomatic outreach to Iran and discusses the best way to move toward more positive relations between the two discordant states. Trita Parsi, a Middle East foreign policy expert with extensive Capitol Hill and United Nations experience, interviewed 70 high-ranking officials from the U.S., Iran, Europe, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Brazil—including the top American and Iranian negotiators—for this book. Parsi uncovers the previously unknown story of American and Iranian negotiations during Obama's early years as president, the calculations behind the two nations' dealings, and the real reasons for their current stalemate. Contrary to prevailing opinion, Parsi contends that diplomacy has not been fully tried. For various reasons, Obama's diplomacy ended up being a single roll of the dice. It had to work either immediately—or not at all. Persistence and perseverance are keys to any negotiation. Neither Iran nor the U.S. had them in 2009.


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The first objective assessment of the high-stakes diplomatic sparring between Washington and Tehran during President Obamas first years in office Have the diplomatic efforts of the Obama administration toward Iran failed? Was the Bush administration's emphasis on military intervention, refusal to negotiate, and pursuit of regime change a better approach? How can the United The first objective assessment of the high-stakes diplomatic sparring between Washington and Tehran during President Obama’s first years in office Have the diplomatic efforts of the Obama administration toward Iran failed? Was the Bush administration's emphasis on military intervention, refusal to negotiate, and pursuit of regime change a better approach? How can the United States best address the ongoing turmoil in Tehran? This book provides a definitive and comprehensive analysis of the Obama administration's early diplomatic outreach to Iran and discusses the best way to move toward more positive relations between the two discordant states. Trita Parsi, a Middle East foreign policy expert with extensive Capitol Hill and United Nations experience, interviewed 70 high-ranking officials from the U.S., Iran, Europe, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Brazil—including the top American and Iranian negotiators—for this book. Parsi uncovers the previously unknown story of American and Iranian negotiations during Obama's early years as president, the calculations behind the two nations' dealings, and the real reasons for their current stalemate. Contrary to prevailing opinion, Parsi contends that diplomacy has not been fully tried. For various reasons, Obama's diplomacy ended up being a single roll of the dice. It had to work either immediately—or not at all. Persistence and perseverance are keys to any negotiation. Neither Iran nor the U.S. had them in 2009.

30 review for A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama's Diplomacy with Iran

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gavin

    An interesting read on what went wrong the first time that the Obama administration attempted to negotiate with Iran. The easiest way to sum it up is in the words of Ambassador John Limbert, who was a former hostage in Iran: "First, 'never walk through an open door. Instead bang your head against a wall.' Second, 'never say yes to anything the other side proposes. Doing so will make you look weak.' Third, assume that the 'other side is infinitely hostile, devious, domineering and irrational. It An interesting read on what went wrong the first time that the Obama administration attempted to negotiate with Iran. The easiest way to sum it up is in the words of Ambassador John Limbert, who was a former hostage in Iran: "First, 'never walk through an open door. Instead bang your head against a wall.' Second, 'never say yes to anything the other side proposes. Doing so will make you look weak.' Third, assume that the 'other side is infinitely hostile, devious, domineering and irrational. It is the embodiment of all that is evil.' Consequently, 'anything the other side proposes must contain some kind of trick. Its only purpose in life is to cheat you.' And last bug not least, 'whenever you seem to be making progress, someone or some diabolical confidence will mess it up.' Lambert agrees that before diplomacy can succeed, these rules must be abolished. (p. 235). The other issue, is that in this day and age your oppositional political party will attempt to extract all of the political capital that it can to defeat you and make you appear weak in foreign policy. Thus endeth the lesson.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    An extremely well written and researched book that really hits the ground running. Parsi assumes that the reader has some historical knowledge of the issues and relationships he discusses. If you don't have it, you'll be fine, but having some type of background painted prior to this would be beneficial and will probably allow you to enjoy his research more. The book does not take a stance on who is right or wrong, rather it is just a cataloging of events on the relationship between Iran and the An extremely well written and researched book that really hits the ground running. Parsi assumes that the reader has some historical knowledge of the issues and relationships he discusses. If you don't have it, you'll be fine, but having some type of background painted prior to this would be beneficial and will probably allow you to enjoy his research more. The book does not take a stance on who is right or wrong, rather it is just a cataloging of events on the relationship between Iran and the United States; specifically focusing on those that have taken place since Obama took office. The only time the author takes a stance is at the very end where he hopes for more diplomacy. That being said, after a few chapters I did feel a tinge of bias towards Iran and opted to read about the author in the jacket cover. Upon seeing his background, I realized that my observation was probably accurate. His bias is not bad, nor obvious, nor did I feel it impacted the book in a negative manner. Another assumption that I had, based on the writing style, was that the author was male. Just as gender is irrelevant, I don't believe the bias I detected mattered to the research, or even much to the presentation of it. It was mostly out of omission of historical information about Iran that would be extremely relevant to the relationships today. Multilaterally, he does not provide much historical information, but by not doing this with Iran frames them like a kid on the playground getting bullied by the much bigger (and wealthier) kids. If nothing else, this book is a great illustration of the amount of complex and continuously moving parts in international relationships and how they become politically intertwined domestically and abroad. The author does a great job of keeping what could be a very dry issue, a page turner of a book. I would recommend it for just about anyone wanting to learn more about politics, international relations, or more specifically, present-day relations with Iran. As a side note, I noticed a few 1 star reviews on Amazon, but after reading them I noticed that they were mostly from people who never read the book: they either do not like the author or the country of Iran.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lory

    First of all, I was unsure whether I would be able to muster the intestinal fortitude to finish reading this book. It is not a light-weight read, and really, how many ways are there to say that Obama & the United States have a flawed and weak approach to diplomacy fomented by longstanding institutionalized enmity between Iran and the west? And that the western world responds with an entrenched,knee-jerk pull toward sanctions and hostility, while fractured Iran cannot get its collective shit First of all, I was unsure whether I would be able to muster the intestinal fortitude to finish reading this book. It is not a light-weight read, and really, how many ways are there to say that Obama & the United States have a flawed and weak approach to diplomacy fomented by longstanding institutionalized enmity between Iran and the west? And that the western world responds with an entrenched,knee-jerk pull toward sanctions and hostility, while fractured Iran cannot get its collective shit together to make a showing at all. I get it--and get it---and get it. The author also shows his Persian bias---as he would certainly be expected to do, but in the end, his rose-colored recommendations seem as likely to be successful as the immediate rectification of 30 years of hostile dialogue between the two states has been. Too much bravado, too much ego, too much greed and too much saber-rattling and not enough concern concern with the lives of the many who rise and fall at the whim of the powerful few.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This book is readable and well-researched, not to mention eye-opening. I highly recommend it over the nightly news to get a real sense of the pressures and agendas that drive the different key players in this international issue, and how these have developed over time and manifested in different (lost) opportunities. Seriously: turn off the TV for the duration of the nightly news, read this book in that time, and repeat as many nights as you need to finish it and you will have learned more than This book is readable and well-researched, not to mention eye-opening. I highly recommend it over the nightly news to get a real sense of the pressures and agendas that drive the different key players in this international issue, and how these have developed over time and manifested in different (lost) opportunities. Seriously: turn off the TV for the duration of the nightly news, read this book in that time, and repeat as many nights as you need to finish it and you will have learned more than the news can tell you. As I mentioned, the book is readable, more so than I thought it would be, so it won't be a drag and you'll probably finish before you even know it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ahmed saad aboyossef

    كتاب رائع جدا ولن اقول ممتع لانه كتاب اكاديمي وهذه النوعية من الكتب لا يتوفر فيها عنصر الامتاع غالبا , لكن الامتاع يكمن فى الانتهاء من الكتاب بحصيلة معلومات وفهم للواقع السياسي لا يشق له غبار ! مؤلف الكتاب بذل مجهودا جيد فى تتبع الاخبار منذ الثورة الايرانية والمفاوضات التى جرت بين ايران والمجتمع الدولي فى 2009 , وكذلك مقابلته مع عدد من الدبلوماسيين وصانعي القرار فى ايران وامريكا والاتحاد الاوربي وذكر رؤيتهم للعلاقات والمشاكل السياسية الناشئة نتيجة السياسة الايرانية أضفى قيمة للكتاب , وختم الكتاب كتاب رائع جدا ولن اقول ممتع لانه كتاب اكاديمي وهذه النوعية من الكتب لا يتوفر فيها عنصر الامتاع غالبا , لكن الامتاع يكمن فى الانتهاء من الكتاب بحصيلة معلومات وفهم للواقع السياسي لا يشق له غبار ! مؤلف الكتاب بذل مجهودا جيد فى تتبع الاخبار منذ الثورة الايرانية والمفاوضات التى جرت بين ايران والمجتمع الدولي فى 2009 , وكذلك مقابلته مع عدد من الدبلوماسيين وصانعي القرار فى ايران وامريكا والاتحاد الاوربي وذكر رؤيتهم للعلاقات والمشاكل السياسية الناشئة نتيجة السياسة الايرانية أضفى قيمة للكتاب , وختم الكتاب بتحليل ممتاز ورؤية لكيفية تخطي وايجاد حلول للمشاكل بين ايران والمجتمع الدولي . كتاب مهم لمن يريد أن يفهم سياسة

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jason DeLillo

    Fairly decent book about Obama's first attempt at diplomacy with Iran. The only criticism I have is that Parsi, although he does not think sanctions should be the primary focus diplomacy, still thinks they can an effective if used sparingly.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    I didn't want to announce I was actually reading this in interest of time, though I'm not sure why I don't normally do that, what particular criterion disqualifies this and the hundreds of other books in my personal library from mention... (I do have many books here, but many others I have yet to even discuss.) I may have found it terrifying to make any assertions in the field of international relations, focus: middle east, though I've read extensively about this fascinating area. Why do I find I didn't want to announce I was actually reading this in interest of time, though I'm not sure why I don't normally do that, what particular criterion disqualifies this and the hundreds of other books in my personal library from mention... (I do have many books here, but many others I have yet to even discuss.) I may have found it terrifying to make any assertions in the field of international relations, focus: middle east, though I've read extensively about this fascinating area. Why do I find it frightening? My mind is only reporting to me bombs right now. I'm scared that if too many people knew how well-versed I am in this, then I'd have to fly to that area and possibly get blown up, though I don't think Iran is the real greenhouse for what I fear, more its neighbours on either side, Iraq and Afghanistan. (If I had to pick between the three, I would go to Iran. Aww, looks like at the moment I'd have to go through the Swiss government right now, and I likely would be detained for espionage anyway. That's okay. I knew the main conflict is with Iraq and Syria, I wasn't thinking about going there! ...really, not Afghanistan? Yes, the FAA warns against travel there too. Hmm, I know people go to Mexico anyway, so I guess these ARE just warnings... Looking at the Mexican one, it may just depend on the state.) Fortunately, in order to supersede this caution, I remembered clearly going to my international relations professor's office, asking him a question (I think also about US/Iranian politics specifically!), and watching how he took the book in my hand, dissected my question, sought what could be relevant in the index, and turned to a page which had my exact answer. So I went to the index of this book, looked at what it had to offer, considered what I could glean from this book, and actually learned the answer, which made me like this book more than if I just read it cover-to-cover like I typically do with any book. What a time-saver that office visit had been, even years afterwards! Using this index tactic made this book interesting and relevant to me, though I worried with it having been published in 2012 that the information may be a bit dated by now (by four years). Then I figured it's just a history book, with the dates rather close to the current time! So it is actually a good read I am reviewing here on Goodreads.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    Parsi presents a straightforward explanation of the complications involving the relationship between the U.S. and Iran and why diplomacy continues to fail. He addresses the attempts by Obama to establish a diplomatic relationship and use diplomacy to obtain foreign policy goals and the constraints under which Obama operated. The real reason diplomacy has never worked with Iran and the reason there continues to be rhetorical conflict is a result of domestic politicking that makes extended Parsi presents a straightforward explanation of the complications involving the relationship between the U.S. and Iran and why diplomacy continues to fail. He addresses the attempts by Obama to establish a diplomatic relationship and use diplomacy to obtain foreign policy goals and the constraints under which Obama operated. The real reason diplomacy has never worked with Iran and the reason there continues to be rhetorical conflict is a result of domestic politicking that makes extended diplomatic outreach untennable despite the fact that extended diplomacy is the only option to acheiving successful negotiations and to help Iran to assimilate into the international communicty as an equal partner. Parsi's book is worth reading to understand a better perspective on the relationship between Iran and the U.S. and all its complications.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Unwisely

    Really, what this book lays out in excruciating detail is what a cluster American diplomacy in the Middle East is. So many groups to deal with (domestic as well as international), many of whom have contradictory interests. Am very, very glad I ditched one of my early plans to go into the diplomatic corps, because, how frustrating must this be? Interesting and informative, although I was reading this book episodically and could have used a timeline/quick list of players. There were a lot of them, Really, what this book lays out in excruciating detail is what a cluster American diplomacy in the Middle East is. So many groups to deal with (domestic as well as international), many of whom have contradictory interests. Am very, very glad I ditched one of my early plans to go into the diplomatic corps, because, how frustrating must this be? Interesting and informative, although I was reading this book episodically and could have used a timeline/quick list of players. There were a lot of them, and I put the book down enough times (and read enough fantasy novels in parallel) that I would have benefited from a section where I could look up the major players. (Some of them honestly had names that could have worked in either. Sorry, Mr. Amorim.)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Solid read. Like most nonfiction books it was a little repetitive, and it's frustrating that the end result is basically just being back at square one, but hey, don't shoot the messenger, eh? I've heard this author has a biased ("pro-Iran") view but I think the guy's just trying to plead for practicality; it's usually good to read nonfiction with a little grain of salt just in case though. Anyway I got a pretty good sense of what's been going on in the Middle East over the last ten years which Solid read. Like most nonfiction books it was a little repetitive, and it's frustrating that the end result is basically just being back at square one, but hey, don't shoot the messenger, eh? I've heard this author has a biased ("pro-Iran") view but I think the guy's just trying to plead for practicality; it's usually good to read nonfiction with a little grain of salt just in case though. Anyway I got a pretty good sense of what's been going on in the Middle East over the last ten years which was exactly my goal, so I'm satisfied. Did wake up in the middle of the night once in a panic but that's the world we live in.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Yousef

    كتاب جميل جداً يشرح تسلسل المفاوضات المتعلقة بالبرنامج النووي الإيراني بين إيران وأوروبا من جهة وإيران وأمريكا من جهة أخرى. وفي ختام الكتاب يشرح الكاتب سبب فشل هذه المفاوضات واستبدالها بالعقوبات القاسية بهدف إنهاك الإقتصاد الإيراني. سبب فشل المفاوضات هو عدم الثقة المتبادلة بين إيران والولايات المتحدة والتي أدت إلى جمود شديد بالمفاوضات. لتحقيق أكبر فهم للكتاب يجب على القارئ أن يكون ملم بالتسلسل الزمني لبرنامج إيران النووي. خرجت من هذا الكتاب وأنا على علم بأن السياسة الإيرانية تقوم على المماطلة كتاب جميل جداً يشرح تسلسل المفاوضات المتعلقة بالبرنامج النووي الإيراني بين إيران وأوروبا من جهة وإيران وأمريكا من جهة أخرى. وفي ختام الكتاب يشرح الكاتب سبب فشل هذه المفاوضات واستبدالها بالعقوبات القاسية بهدف إنهاك الإقتصاد الإيراني. سبب فشل المفاوضات هو عدم الثقة المتبادلة بين إيران والولايات المتحدة والتي أدت إلى جمود شديد بالمفاوضات. لتحقيق أكبر فهم للكتاب يجب على القارئ أن يكون ملم بالتسلسل الزمني لبرنامج إيران النووي. خرجت من هذا الكتاب وأنا على علم بأن السياسة الإيرانية تقوم على المماطلة والتسويف والذكاء والحنكة والصبر والمثابرة والتي لم تتواجد عند نظام صدام حسين مما ادت إلى إسقاطه. والتي نفتقر إلى وجودها في عالمنا العربي المتسم بالتسرع والطيش.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bick McSwiney

    A very intricate look at Obama's push for diplomacy with Iran, and the challenges he faced. I'm not sure about the bias of the writer, but aside from his commentary, it seems very well reported. It's interesting to me how much Israel was involved, and the type of pressure they were putting on the US government. Additionally, it has yielded me some insight into dealing with others when there is conflict. Admittedly, these others are mostly 13 year-olds, but I still feel the ideas Parsi shared A very intricate look at Obama's push for diplomacy with Iran, and the challenges he faced. I'm not sure about the bias of the writer, but aside from his commentary, it seems very well reported. It's interesting to me how much Israel was involved, and the type of pressure they were putting on the US government. Additionally, it has yielded me some insight into dealing with others when there is conflict. Admittedly, these others are mostly 13 year-olds, but I still feel the ideas Parsi shared about improving the chances for diplomatic success as very applicable to practical life. Great book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    If you are a foreign policy wonk, by all means give this book a read. For the average reader, this is way TMI. I read 127 pages and gave up. Life is too short. The narrative included a great deal of extraneous 'filler' material, which turned what might have been an engaging essay into an overly-long book in which the message is lost among the minutiae. The book, which was published in 2012, already seems somewhat dated and irrelevant with the rise of Rouhani and the eclipse of Ahmadinejad.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Maryc

    It wasn't an easy fun read but I did really enjoy it. Fascinating insights from many different perspectives based on interviews with the key players. I learned a lot and realize I am geographically and historically challenged. So much history in this part of the world compared to our very brief life as a nation-does that make it easier for them to look forward with a longer view?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    An excellent analysis on the current US-Iran foreign policy. Parsi weaves a very readable story from the hopes of the beginning of the Obama administration for nuclear diplomacy to the heavy sanctions that have been placed on Iran. It is well researched books and he examines each side of the major players in the failed talks. This is a great book for anyone with interests in US foreign policy.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    This book covers America's diplomacy with Iran during the first two years of the Obama administration with background about our relations before. It maintains a sufficiently narrow scope so that the topic is covered well and you can understand the events of the day more clearly. Diplomacy was clearly not a high priority for Iran or America, so there has not been a lot of progress yet.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    I have a new and deeper respect for the enormous job the US State Dept. does. I recommend this book highly, even if you don't agree with Obama's policies it is a fascinating look at the behind the scene examination of the day to day work of the State Dept.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Don

    The author makes an extremely complex situation understandable--which is not to say there's any easy solution. In fact, the convoluted nature of the strange relationship we have with Iran is much denser and further from resolution than it may seem

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    This is a very good book. It should be read with All the Shah's Men. This book really illustrates the difficulties on both sides of the problem in negotiations with Iran. It also illustrates why we (the US) should make the first move.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stormy

    Informative. Shows the pressures of lobbying that influence what a president can/may/might do. Lobbying by Israel, Jews in America, Republicans, Democrats, Congress and more.

  21. 4 out of 5

    ...

    ما أنكر اني استفدت من الكتاب لكن ترتيب النص والبناء ما اعجبني

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gaby Chapman

    The early years of Obama's relations with Iran. Behind the news headlines, things aren't quite so simple...

  23. 4 out of 5

    John Poor

    Excellent glimpse of behind the scenes policy making Merged review: Excellent glimpse of behind the scenes policy making

  24. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Turner

    Long and a little depressing that we can't overcome short term bullshit to get to a long term solution.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    Who knew there was a readable account of failed Iran-U.S. diplomacy? saw this guy on the daily show and loved him. Great read...informative and frustrating.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Umer

    a realistic book shedding light impartially on the US- Iran Nuclear controversy.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Khalid AlHaqqan

    لفهم طبيعة الصراع الطويل بين إيران و الولايات المتحدة أنصح بقراءة هذا الكتاب. أضف إلى ذلك الدروس المستفادة من محاولات حل الصراع بالطرق المختلفة و الأخطاء التي شابت العملية برمتها لفهم طبيعة الصراع الطويل بين إيران و الولايات المتحدة، أنصح بقراءة هذا الكتاب. أضف إلى ذلك الدروس المستفادة من محاولات حل الصراع بالطرق المختلفة و الأخطاء التي شابت العملية برمتها

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alexa

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nadia Marques de Carvalho

  30. 5 out of 5

    buki

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