I listened to Robin Wright on a panel discussing Iran--US relations this morning on the Diane Rehm Show. It reminded me how much I enjoyed her very informative book, Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East and her refreshing, and deeply informed comments on middle east issues.
She details in this book just how unique each government and culture is in the middle east. They each must be approached in a unique way.
If you want a good, foundational understanding of Arab and Persian countries, read Robin Wright, and listen when she is interviewed.