Is the fall of ISIS the end of the perpetual war in the Middle East?
In this urgent and timely book, Patrick Cockburn writes the first draft of the history of the current crisis in the Middle East. Here he charts the period from the recapture of Mosul in 2017 to Turkey’s attack on Kurdish territory in November 2019, and recounts the new phase in the wars of disintegration that have plagued the region. The ground battle with the caliphate is perhaps over, but was this the end of the conflict that has scarred these nations for decades?
Cockburn offers panoramic on-the-ground analysis as well as a lifetime’s study of the region. And here he shows how peace appears a distant possibility with the continuation of conflict in Syria, Saudi Arabia’s violent intervention in the Yemen, riots in Baghdad and Tehran. At the same time, the rising aggression between Israel and Iran, the raising of stakes between the US, Russia and Turkey, shows that this remains the theatre of the proxy wars of the world’s superpowers. Has Trump abandoned the area for good, leaving a vacuum for others—Putin, Erdogan, Mohammed Bin Saud—to fill? He also looks at what might happen to the Islamic State: will it disappear now that it has lost its territory or emerge in a new form and with renewed violence?
Cockburn (The Age of Jihad), a foreign correspondent for the Independent, delivers a nuanced, deeply informed account of recent events in the Middle East. Chronicling the period from the 2016 2017 Battle of Mosul to the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in January 2020, Cockburn details tensions between Iran and the U.S., fallout from Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, and the "rise and fall of de facto Kurdish states in Iraq and Syria," among other inflection points. Though careful to note that the forces reshaping the Middle East are larger than any one U.S. president, Cockburn faults the Trump administration for changing policies on a whim, believing in "self-serving conspiracy theories," and being "peculiarly ill-equipped" to deal with the complexities of the region. He also notes parallels between Trump and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, including "manic sensitivity to criticism," and takes the White House to task for failing to stop "the ethnic cleansing of Kurds by Turkey" after U.S. troops withdrew from northeastern Syria. Balancing on-the-ground reporting with big-picture analysis, Cockburn writes with deep empathy for the people whose lives have been reshaped by these events. Readers with a deep interest in the Middle East will appreciate this incisive look behind the headlines.