Patrikarakos, a London based journalist, traces the history of Iran's nuclear program from the days of the shah up to the months preceding the 2012 U.S. presidential election. He concludes that despite changes in regimes, the Iranian nuclear program is unalterably linked to Iranian identity and fundamentally revolves around a desire to assert what is seen by Iranians as their country's "rightful place" in the world.
For the shah, a nuclear program was foremost a symbol of modernity. Even as he displayed great pride in Iran's ancient history, he also viewed following in the path of the West as desirable and attainable. A nuclear program was just one aspect of that impulse. Under the Islamic Republic, there is the identical goal of garnering respect in the regional and wider international order, but the determination to press forward with the nuclear program, despite sanctions and threats, is meant to signal a rejection of past dependence on the West, or worse,submission to it.
Patrikarakos debunks some common misconceptions. Most notably, while it is often said that the shah sought nuclear weapons, the author demonstrates that he ultimately exercised restraint, opting for essentially a symbolic civilian program, primarily because he did not wish to antagonize Washington, which did not back his pursuit. As for the Islamic Republic, Patrikarakos ably argues that its nuclear program contrasts with the shah's in that, at the minimum, nuclear weapons capability is being sought.
Some problems exist as in the author's use of sources. Although Patrikarakos shows familiarity with primary media sources in present day Iran, this is conspicuously absent from his account of the nuclear program under the shah. More generally, there is a slight overdependence on secondary sources in his post- 1979 revolution account when there is still an abundance of primary Iranian material to explore (e.g., the writings of former president Rafsanjani on the 1980s).
Overall, however, Nuclear Iran is a well-researched, highly accessible work for the general reader or academic specialist seeking to understand the controversies surrounding Iran's nuclear program.