Lords of the Desert

Book Title Lords of the Desert
Author Name James Barr
Publishing house simonandschuster
Country – city UK
Date of issue 2018
Number of pages 464

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This post is also available in: ar العربية (Arabic)

‘Barr tells a serious story . . .Lords of the Desert bustles impressively with detail and anecdote.’ – Justin Marozzi, The Sunday Times

‘One of the many pleasures offered by Lords of the Desert …, is the quotations that are liberally strewn across its pages. … and testify to the research that has gone into this dense but consistently fascinating account.’ – Jason Burke, The Spectator

‘James Barr’s beautifully written and deeply researched book covers 25 years of competition between Britain and the US for hegemony in the Middle East … Barr also deftly integrates the role of secret intelligence in foreign policy, drawing on the diary of a little-known journalist-cum-MI6 agent to add indiscreet and illuminating detail.’ Ian Black, The Observer

‘Barr has mined memoirs and archives to add fresh detail to his remarkable and dispiriting story.’ The Economist

‘Barr describes this transfer of power in a brilliant, detached and eye-opening narrative that matches his A Line In The Sand for pace. It is a gripping tale of diplomatic legerdemain, political hypocrisy and, once the intelligence boys got going, derring-do.’ Lawrence James, The Times

‘Compelling… This is essential, gripping history with major relevance for those who wish to understand that tortured region today.’
Nicholas Burns, Professor, Harvard University and former Under Secretary of State
‘High adventure and covert action meet in this account of a momentous power shift that decisively shaped today’s world.’
—Stephen Kinzer, author of All the Shah’s Men and Overthrow
‘An essential book for understanding the modern Middle East—and a thrilling read to boot.’
—Alex von Tunzelmann, author of Blood and Sand
 Upon victory in 1945, Britain still dominated the Middle East. She directly ruled Palestine and Aden, was the kingmaker in Iran, the power behind the thrones of Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, and protected the sultan of Oman and the Gulf sheikhs. But her motives for wanting to dominate this crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa were changing. Where ‘imperial security’ – control of the route to India – had once been paramount, now oil was an increasingly important factor. So, too, was prestige. Ironically, the very end of empire made control of the Middle East precious in itself: on it hung Britain’s claim to be a great power.

Unable to withstand Arab and Jewish nationalism, within a generation the British were gone. But that is not the full story. What ultimately sped Britain on her way was the uncompromising attitude of the United States, which was determined to displace the British in the Middle East.

The British did not give in gracefully to this onslaught. Using newly declassified records and long-forgotten memoirs, including the diaries of a key British spy, James Barr tears up the conventional interpretation of this era in the Middle East, vividly portraying the tensions between London and Washington, and shedding an uncompromising light on the murkier activities of a generation of American and British diehards in the region, from the battle of El Alamein in 1942 to Britain’s abandonment of Aden in 1967. Reminding us that the Middle East has always served as the arena for great power conflict, this is the tale of an internecine struggle in which Britain would discover that her most formidable rival was the ally she had assumed would be her closest friend.

This post is also available in: ar العربية (Arabic)


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