Castles Made of Sand: A Century of Anglo-American Espionage and Intervention in the Middle East [NOOK Book]

Overview


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 ...

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Castles Made of Sand: A Century of Anglo-American Espionage and Intervention in the Middle East

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Overview


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.



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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Gerolymatos (Red Acropolis), a historian at Simon Fraser University, explores the problematic nexus of British and U.S. espionage and diplomacy in the Middle East in this provocative history. Surveying a century of Anglo-American efforts to secure political and economic interests in the region--primarily through the spy craft of Britain's MI6 and America's CIA--the author finds a dismal pattern of policy "held hostage by ephemeral notions and self-delusion." Following the collapse of the Ottoman caliphate after WWI, first the British and later the Americans sought security by "supporting Islamic militancy--including such groups as Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood-- as a counterweight to nationalism and later communism." If the policies were ad hoc, the results were often unintended. Anglo-American support for Islamic extremists inadvertently "stimulated forces that... ultimately spun out of control." The Soviet Union was defeated, but "the new threat to the Middle East would be seen to be the rapidly expanding influence of political Islam." Extensively researched--with detailed source notes and an expansive bibliography--and cogently argued, Gerolymatos's study of diplomacy by espionage is timely and instructive. (Dec.)
Library Journal
The first Western incursion into the Middle East was the Crusades. Using them as a symbol of ongoing aggression and intervention, Gerolymatos, a Canadian historian, looks at the struggle for national independence in the Middle East and South Asia and American and British efforts to manipulate and control the region for their economic and political goals, especially to assure the flow of oil and block the influence of Communism. Gerolymatos examines multiple cases, starting with the political reconfigurations spurred by World War I, and focuses on the growing drive for independence of the Arab states after World War II, complicated by the establishment of Israel. He shows that much Western intelligence was founded on personal relations and romantic delusions rather than factual analysis, leading to support for militant Islam as a barrier to Communism and anti-Western nationalism, eventually contributing to the current attacks by al-Qaeda and worldwide terrorist threats. VERDICT While Gerolymatos covers a wide range of events in several Arab countries, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and draws on extensive secondary sources as well as some archives, the result is episodic and lacks a coherent framework. This book is only moderately useful in clarifying an important and complex political issue.—Elizabeth R. Hayford, Evanston, IL
Kirkus Reviews

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429913720
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/23/2010
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author


ANDRÉ GEROLYMATOS is a member of the Department of History at Simon Fraser University, a former lecturer at McGill University, and a member of Canada’s Advisory Council on National Security. His previous books include Red Acropolis, Black Terror and The Balkan Wars.


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