The trilateral relationship between Israel, Iran, and the United States is complex. Alas, Treacherous Alliance does not explain it. Based on the Johns Hopkins University doctoral thesis of Trita Parsi, best known as a Washington-based Iran lobbyist who trades on his connections to officials within the Islamic Republic, the narrative wallows in half-truths and conspiracy rather than fact.
Parsi begins, for example, by stating that neoconservatives "desperately wish" for a U.S. war with Iran. Perhaps Commentary's Norman Podhoretz does, but he is in a minority. Further, Parsi suggests that foreign policy hawks worry about Iran itself, rather than the Islamic Republic's covert nuclear program and terror sponsorship, an obvious mistake.
Basing his research largely on interviews, Parsi picks and chooses what he wants to include. The result is a hodgepodge.
He emphasizes Iranian pragmatism and dismisses the role of ideology. Iranian support for Hezbollah, in his rendering, has more to do with regional power ambition than ideology—this would come as a surprise to Hezbollah, which defines itself in opposition to the Jewish state and whose secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, on October 23, 2002, encouraged Jews all to gather in Israel, thereby saving Hezbollah "the trouble of going after them worldwide."
Parsi breaks no new ground in his treatment of the early relationship between Iran and Israel, offering little more than a potted history. He omits the role of Ziama Divon, the first Israeli to visit the shah and confidential assistant to Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion.
He treats as a primary source the views of Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, without ever bothering to ask whether Wilkerson has direct knowledge of events he describes. Had Parsi asked, Wilkerson would have had to admit he attended none of the interagency policy meetings and lacks firsthand knowledge of them.
Parsi suggests that in 2003 Tehran offered to disarm Hezbollah, but this is false. He makes much of a freelance proposal by the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, Tim Guldimann, that did not win the support of the Iranian regime, which at that time was in fact accelerating its support to Hezbollah. This incident suggests that Parsi's Iranian interlocutors view him as a mechanism for disinformation.
Parsi's manipulation of data undercuts his work. He argues that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map" was mistranslated and instead renders the phrase more benignly that Israel should be "eliminated from the pages of history." But the Iranian state-controlled news agency used the former translation.
As documents and correspondence are declassified, Yale University Press will appear foolish for publishing this volume, as will Francis Fukuyama, Parsi's academic advisor, who appears to have been AWOL in his supervisory duties.