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.

Read the review here.

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