Illuminating account of the origins of sectarian violence and the current political shape of the Muslim world.
"What happened to us?" So runs a common refrain in households from Pakistan to Libya. Beirut-born journalist Ghattas (The Secretary: A Journey With Hillary Clinton From Beirut to the Heart of American Power, 2013), now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, locates an answer in three events of the same year, all tightly linked: the overthrow of the shah and the revolution in Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the attack on the Grand Mosque of Mecca by Saudi militants. "Nothing has changed the Arab and Muslim world as deeply and fundamentally as the events of 1979," she writes. Her fluid, fast-moving narrative ably proves the thesis. The Iranian Revolution put into sharp relief the ancient division between Shia and Sunni Islam, an argument at once religious and political, with the Ayatollah Khomeini and his successors vying for power with an implacably opposed—though just as conservative—form of Islam. The struggle has played out in many times and places over centuries, but since 1979, it has taken a form more familiar to Westerners. While occasionally Shia and Sunni clerics allied to battle a common enemy, such as the secularist Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the two powers of Iran and Saudi Arabia have more often squared off through proxies in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and particularly Pakistan after the withdrawal of the Soviets from neighboring Afghanistan—a defeat paid for by Saudi money but whose aftermath was swayed by Iran. One constant in the narrative: Wherever Americans have been involved, the aftereffects have been worse, whether attacking Iraq in 1991 and 2003 or attempting to shift the balance of power in the Middle East, with the bumbling of the current administration enabling such things as the savage murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The headlines from the Middle East make a little more sense through the lens Ghattas provides.
Essential for all who follow world events.
A New York Times Editor’s Choice
“[A] sweeping and authoritative history.” The New York Times Book Review
“She serves up a wealth of human interest wrapped in ambiance and atmosphere. She paints riveting portraits of the protagonists… a superbly researched and subtly told storycurrent history at its best.” The Wall Street Journal
“[A] wonderfully readable account… Ghattas has an enviable gift for going beyond politics… Whatever happens next in this long-running, oppressive and dangerous Middle Eastern drama, Black Wave will be a vivid, indispensable guide to the story so far.” The Guardian
“A timely and welcome guide to the politics of a region…Well-researched and elegantly written.” The Financial Times
“Unlike narratives told from a Western point of view, this book doesn’t highlight terrorism or ISIS but instead seamlessly weaves history and personal narrative into a story that explains the gradual suppression of intellectualism and the creep of authoritarianism in the region…Illuminating, conversational, rich in details and like nothing else you’ve ever read about the Middle East, Black Wave will leave you with a new understanding of this diverse and troubled region.” BookPage
“The publication of this book, Black Wave, could not be better timed. In it, Kim Ghattas argues convincingly that the revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power in 1979 was one of three events that year that profoundly shaped or rather misshaped the Middle East… a fascinating and winding but highly readable tale.” The Times (UK)
“[An] illuminating account of the origins of sectarian violence and the current political shape of the Muslim world… [a] fluid, fast-moving narrative...Essential for all who follow world events.” Kirkus Reviews, *starred review*
“Skillfully written and scrupulously researched, Black Wave is an essential book in understanding the origins of the modern conflicts in the Middle East.” Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower
"The framing of Black Wave is as important as the content. Kim Ghattas portrays the last four decades across the Middle East as a dark age, a world dimmed behind a curtain of violence, misogyny, and religious extremism. In exploring how this blackness came to be, she recalls a brighter past and predicts a better future. It's a powerful and important book." Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of the New America Foundation and former Director of Policy Planning at the Department of State
“Kim Ghattas is a superb writer and reporter, which makes Black Wave an accessible and very interesting account of the sectarian schism and regional rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia that has riven the Middle East for decades and is one of the most consequential contests threatening global security.” Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt
"An artful, gripping, timely, and humane account of the roots and consequences of the destructive rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia from one of the region's most insightful and incisive observers." Ambassador William J. Burns, President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former Deputy Secretary of State
“A well-researched and highly readable primer on the rivalry between Shias and Sunnis shaping today’s Middle East. Kim Ghattas masterfully traces the origins of sectarianism in the explosive rise of Islamic fundamentalism in 1979 and the destructive Saudi-Iranian rivalry that followed. Told through the experiences of those who lived and shaped sectarianism, Black Wave is both gripping and informative; a must read for anyone interested in understanding the forces shaping the Middle East today.” Vali Nasr, professor of international affairs and Middle East politics at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University and author of Shia Revival
“Clear-eyed and honest, perfectly researched and brilliantly written, a unique book that is about more than the Saudi-Iran rivalry as it illuminates how and why the region began to turn inward over the last 100 yearsa must read for outsiders and people in the region.” Marwan Muasher, Vice President for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former minister of foreign affairs of Jordan
"Black Wave is a brilliant piece of work. Ghattas reveals how the competition between Tehran and Riyadh, instigated in 1979 by the Iranian revolution and the siege of Meccaand intensified after the 2003 US invasion of Iraqled to the instrumentalization of Islam to destroy cosmopolitanism, to force women to veil, and to mobilize sectarian extremists." Emma Sky, senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute and author of In a Time of Monsters