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With roots in imperialism and the nineteenth-century mindset of the “Great Game,” Western nations have waged an intricate spy game this past century to establish control over the Middle East, secure access to key resources and regions of commerce, and prevent the spread of Soviet communism into the region. From the Suez Canal to the former Ottoman Empire, British and American intelligence communities have conspired to topple regimes and initiate Muslim leaders as pawns in a ...
With roots in imperialism and the nineteenth-century mindset of the “Great Game,” Western nations have waged an intricate spy game this past century to establish control over the Middle East, secure access to key resources and regions of commerce, and prevent the spread of Soviet communism into the region. From the Suez Canal to the former Ottoman Empire, British and American intelligence communities have conspired to topple regimes and initiate Muslim leaders as pawns in a geopolitical chess game fought against Marxist expansion.
Yet while the Iron Curtain was doomed to fall near the end of the twentieth century, this pattern of tunnel vision has created a different monster. The resulting resurgence of Muslim radicalism, and the induction of Arabs and other Muslims into the dark arts of espionage and sabotage, have only served to fan the flames in an already incendiary region and deepen the tensions between the Middle East and the West today.
An authority on international studies and the history of guerilla warfare, André Gerolymatos offers the contemporary reader insight into the intelligence game that is still waged internationally with lethal intent, and into the Middle Eastern terrorist networks that had evolved over the decades. In this definitive account of covert operations in the Middle East, the author brings to life the extraordinary men and women whose successes and failures have shaped relations, and he reveals how the explosive nature of the region today has direct roots in the history of American and Western intervention.
A chronicle of the failures of Western intelligence operations in the Middle East.
Gerolymatos (History/Simon Fraser Univ.; Red Acropolis, Black Terror: The Greek Civil War and the Origins of Soviet-American Rivalry, 1943–1949, 2004, etc.) delivers an often jaw-dropping account of a century of failure in clandestine attempts to influence Islamic nations. While nearly everyone agrees that the United States rushed into Iraq and Afghanistan ignorant of their politics and culture, the author points out that ignorance of Islamic culture is a hallmark of Western policy. A profound intelligence misstep occurred after World War II when nationalist leaders assumed leadership of newly independent Egypt, Syria and Iraq. None were religious, but they showed a disturbing friendliness toward the Soviet Union. In response, Western policymakers covertly supplied money and military training to their growing, fiercely anticommunist opposition: Islamic fundamentalists. This support flagged in the face of 1970s terrorism but proved irresistible after the 1979 Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Readers may shake their heads in disbelief, but they will keep turning the pages as Gerolymatos recounts disastrous plots to overthrow the supposedly procommunist Syrian government or Egypt's President Nasser. The author also looks at how the U.S. military recruited ex-Nazi military and intelligence officers, supposedly (but not in reality) expert in anti-Soviet espionage. Even successful covert operations turned out badly. For decades after the 1953 Anglo-American–backed coup ousted the democratically elected government of Iran and installed the Shah, U.S. leaders considered it a triumph. Since the Shah's overthrow in 1979, it's become an embarrassment.
Those who suspect espionage is a mug's game will find plenty of evidence here, as well as a great deal of amusement.