Thriller Set in Iran
The Tehran Conviction
By Tom Gabbay
Harper, 2010, $7.99
BY FLORENCE GILKESON
The average American was overwhelmed in 1979 when a student group overpowered security at our embassy in Tehran, then held American citizens hostage for more than a year. Most were more than astonished; they were blindsided.
Insight into the political background leading to the shocking takeover of American lives and property comes with the reading of this thriller featuring Jack Teller, a former Central Intelligence Agency operative.
Teller is lured back to Iran after an old friend tracks him down in the United States and advises that her brother has been imprisoned in one of the most infamous prisons in Tehran. The friendship dates back to 1953 and the dawn of the revolution manipulated in Iran by the CIA in a move to prevent a Soviet takeover of a vulnerable neighbor.
From there, Gabbay splits his narrative between his 1953 adventure and his 1979 foray back to Iran. His return occurs almost hours before the students take over the American embassy.
In 1953 Teller was new to the CIA, which was itself new. His first assignment was to persuade Iranian insider leadership to open the way for the ousting of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and the restoration of the Reza Shah Pahlavi to the Peacock Throne. The policy of the U.S. government, terrified of communism during the peak of the Cold War, was to overthrow any foreign government deemed vulnerable to a communist takeover. CIA leaders regarded the shah as the best leader to do that. They saw Mosaddegh, despite his democratically elected authority, as too weak to withstand Soviet dominance.
Little did they know that it was a policy that would turn around and bite us back a quarter of a century later.
Teller makes a good operative, but he suffers from a conscience. It's not in his blood to befriend people, then betray them to further a cause he views with uncertainty.
"The Tehran Conviction" is a fast-moving thriller, but it offers a thoughtful perspective on the history of two eras in foreign policy. Well-written and thought-provoking, it is painful at times because of its ethical insight but certainly an excellent reading experience.
Gabbay is the author of "The Berlin Conspiracy" and "The Lisbon Crossing."A former director of children's and comedy programs for NBC Entertainment, he now lives in Europe.
Florence Gilkeson may be reached at email@example.com.
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