Blame everywhere but Tehran

Review of "A Single Roll of the Dice"


Blame everywhere but Tehran
by Sohrab Ahmari

Just over three years have passed since President Barack Obama extended a hand to the Islamic Republic of Iran in the hope of stopping its quest for nuclear weapons. Today his policy of engaging Tehran is judged by many to be a disaster. The headlines daily reinforce this conclusion: As Iran's nuclearization drive hurtles to the point of no return, the governing mullahs plot assassination on U.S. soil and threaten American aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf. A diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue remains as elusive as it was when the Obama administration first assumed power.

In A Single Roll of the Dice, Trita Parsi tries to account for this failure. But rather than re-examine U.S. policy and its underlying assumptions, Mr. Parsi spends much of the book casting blame on a wide range of actors for Mr. Obama's inability to disarm the clerical regime through diplomatic means. Such blame-shifting is not surprising. The author has spent years, as president of the National Iranian American Council, advocating for engagement with Iran; he is now determined to explain away the policy's inherent flaws.

Although Mr. Parsi is far from disinterested in the ultimate outcome of the engagement debate, "A Single Roll of the Dice" is written with an ersatz air of objective analysis, employing a coolly neutral tone and a prose style straight out of a diplomatic press release. ("Even on the third day, when the negotiators were reaching a point of exhaustion, the atmosphere remained respectful and constructive.") There are also no less than 98 unattributed quotations, with a "senior European official" reliably presenting views that would no doubt go down well at the National Iranian American Council.

Beneath the book's slick presentation, though, political animus simmers. Mr. Parsi accuses a remarkable number of countries, organizations and individuals—including Sunni-Arab states, the European Union, the U.S. Congress and even members of the Obama administration—of having deliberately undermined the president.

Predictably, Israel and American Jews with an interest in U.S. policy are subjected to the harshest criticism. Israel's perception of the Iranian threat, Mr. Parsi says, has long "resembled prophesy more than reality," impelling the Jewish state to frame its conflict with Iran's clerical regime "as one between the sole democracy in the Middle East and a theocracy that hated everything the West stood for." Mr. Parsi rejects that perception. Beneath the Iranians' viciously anti-Semitic and anti-American sloganeering, he contends, lies a legitimate demand that their "security interests and regional aspirations" be recognized. Meet the demand, he thinks, and Iran will no longer be a threat.

Israel and its allies in the U.S. were determined to prevent such an exchange of strategic respect, according to Mr. Parsi. Thus was closed a rare diplomatic opening represented by the election of an American president with a persona well suited to peacemaking and without "the baggage of previous administrations."

Quick to ascribe irrationality and bad faith to opponents of engagement, Mr. Parsi is charitable when it comes to examining the motivations of the Iranian side. But he must frequently sift the obviously belligerent content of the theocrats' statements to find signs of goodwill—signs invisible to unsophisticated "hawks" and "elements on the right" in the U.S.

Consider Mr. Parsi's treatment of the bizarre note sent by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to congratulate Mr. Obama on his election victory in 2008. The letter brimmed with Mr. Ahmadinejad's typically venomous rhetoric: "The nations of the world expect an end to policies based on warmongering, invasion, bullying, trickery" and so on. Yet Mr. Parsi sees a bright side: "The content of the letter was less important than the fact that the letter had been sent in the first place . . . showing Iran's interest in dialogue and willingness to take political risks to begin engagement with America."

Or take Mr. Obama's first video postcard to the Islamic Republic on the occasion of the Persian New Year, where the American president made it clear that the U.S. no longer intended to undermine the Iranian regime. "This is not a change," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, had sneered in response. "This is deceit." In the same speech, Ayatollah Khamenei had declared that "the divine laws and the world will change [America] if it doesn't do so willingly." Mr. Parsi does not quote this passage. Instead he tells us that the mere fact of Ayatollah Khamenei's response was "a sign of the success of Obama's move, because no other U.S. president had managed to compel Iran's Supreme Leader to act in this manner."

It is only in his account of Iranian protesters' post-election uprising in 2009 and the regime's crackdown on them that Mr. Parsi strays from this narrative of Iranian earnestness and Western folly. Readers may find it difficult to reconcile his portrait of a regime that "showed no mercy" at home but is also a rational negotiating partner eager to engage the West.

Yet the author concedes that "the election fraud and ensuing human rights violations" strengthened the case against U.S. engagement with Iran and "dealt the biggest blow to Obama." But Mr. Parsi does not follow his concession to its logical conclusion: that enmity between the West and Iran is based on ideological differences, not strategic ones.

Mr. Obama's engagement policy failed not because of Israeli connivance or because the administration did not try hard enough. The policy failed because the Iranian regime, when confronted by its own people or by outsiders, has only one way of responding: with a truncheon.

First published Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Ahmari is an Iranian-American journalist and a nonresident associate research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society.



Parsi is into something

by choghok on

I have not read the book but I remember that after the election show in Iran and beating up people in the streets Khamenei did not actually in his talk mention USA but England as the main enemy. It was not until Obama started to talk about atrocities that Khamenei started pointing at USA.


Also to the funny remark about Parsis masters in Sweden. That is the most funny thing to say. Is it Volvo or Scania? Maybe Electrolux want to sell vaccum cleaners to Ahmadinejad. Unfortunatly the writer of the article put too much effort in dissing Parsi and too little in reviewing the book. 


What I like to know is who

by vildemose on

What I like to know is who are his real supporters who are not Iranian but Americans??  Where did Breizinski find this guy?? Why would IRI officials trust someone whose mentor was Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski ?

Who had the original idea of forming NIAC (I am positive it was not Parsi's idea)???

A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.--Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.


True,but maybe NIAC should be changed to The Trita Parsi Society

by AMIR1973 on

That would be a more honest reflection of its actual nature (after all, The Henry Jackson Society doesn't call itself the National American Council or something along those lines).

Esfand Aashena

It's a busy "dokoon" in the America media.

by Esfand Aashena on

Everything is sacred


Is setting up a "dokoon" & calling it National Iranian American

by AMIR1973 on

Council merely hooey/nutty or downright fraudulent/acting on false pretenses/acting in bad faith? Your opinion?

Esfand Aashena

Anyone is "worthy" to dish Trita. Just think this guy is a nut!

by Esfand Aashena on

I think anyone who calls himself an "associate research fellow" of a hooey society is a nut!  A "non-resident" nutcase!

It's like printing your own business card and calling yourself "President and CEO" of being self-employment (read unemployed).  "Fellows" or research fellow are associated with accredited universities and academia.  At least that's how they're mostly used.

Trita has his own views and anyone can criticize him.  I don't see any shortage of criticism.    

Everything is sacred


Esfand Ashena

by AMIR1973 on

Who do you think would be worthy enough to review Brother Trita's latest masterpiece? (I hear Hossein Shariatmadari may be available).

Esfand Aashena

A "fellow" at Henry Jackson Society = a hooey "academia"!

by Esfand Aashena on

The political philosophies and positions of Jackson, a Cold War anti-Communist Democrat, have been cited as an influence on a number of key figures associated with neoconservatism, including Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. The Henry Jackson Society is named in his honor.


Everything is sacred

Mash Ghasem

Because it's a great song written by this

by Mash Ghasem on



منصور تهرانی



Why does Sattar Sorkhe Sooratam say it all?

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

Time will unveil mysteries.


I could have saved you

by shushtari on

from wasting your money on this 'book'

parsi is a proven butt kisser for the mullahs and always makes a feeble attempt to legitimize the akhoonds 32 year illigetimate rule by force. 



by Abarmard on


This was about certain specific points in the book.

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

The Author/NIAC President does not realize the positive development from not being able to negotiate with IRI, we now have a hope to get the USA to realize they can not get any agreement from IRI or to be able to contain IRI, so now is a good time to pursue a non-military option and support the people of Iran for bringing about a regime change of IRI.  This is the wish of the Iranian American Community at large! 

Iranians largly support Reza Pahlavi's approach of being able to give the people of Iran the choice to choose their own future form of democratic government through UN monitored elections.  Iranians Americans in the USA do not want a USA that loves the IRI and wishes them to be in power and a USA that supports the regime through careful approaches designed to keep them alive and in power and only working with groups like MEK to work on trying to stear Iran towards another theocracy after an attack on the current IRI, from other non MEK islamists in Iran that are more amenable to US dictates .


Not a very mature and

by Khebedin on

Not a very mature and worthwhile article to read.


Write a negative book review and out come the NIACis

by AMIR1973 on

Their level of devotion to their Supreme Leader Trita is most impressive -- LOL.


Hiding behind peace

by masoudA on

Trita is just earning a living while pleasing his handlers in Sweden!!  poor kids problem is he has no clue what Iranians are actually like...... we know how to smash vunerable conciences and are masters in crashing chickens who think they can fly.


Is this a review of "A Single Roll of the Dice"

by Bavafa on

or rather an essay about Titra Parsi and NIAC?

Very little has been said about the content of the book and much about the author of the book.  Is this the new standard for reviewing a book?

 Mr. Ahmari: Lets try again


'Hambastegi' is the main key to victory