Overall, I would characterize Charles Tripp's book as a chronological monologue that tells the story of what happened, starting from the beginning and going along in chronological order with meticulous attention paid to dates, and names of political figures. Reading this book often became a monotonous affair, as the author explained the names and dates of yet another coup d'état or of yet another rebellion in Kurdistan, each coup and ethnic rebellion not significantly different from the one before it. In terms of clarity of presentation that this book achieves, I would say that while it is very good at describing what happened, it is much less clear at explaining why things happened. It often presupposes that the reader possesses background knowledge of Middle Eastern politics or of other disciplines. For example, the book talks extensively about the war between Iraq and Iran, but fails to explain the nature of the Iranian revolution, and how such a revolution would affect the Shi`a in Iraq. The book talks about the Gulf War, but does not explain that the reason for US intervention was largely economic. Perhaps these questions do not pertain directly to Iraq, but I think that providing some background information about other countries' interests and situations (when these countries came in contact with Iraq) is necessary in order to understand what was going on. Another thing I found frustrating is that the book did not explain what the real difference between Sunnis and Shi'a is about, and why the Sunnis have always been in control of the Iraqi state, even during Ottoman times. Another issue that I found particularly bothersome is the lack of emphasis in the book on explaining why Great Britain chose to define the borders of Iraq to be the way they ended up being. Why was Kuwait separated from Basra? At no point does the author address this question. Overall, I would have appreciated this book more if the author spent less time talking about what, who, and when, and more time explaining why.
In terms of assessing the pedagogical value of the book, I would say that because this book doesn't make connections between histories of various developing nations, does not define general themes and trends, the book itself becomes much more meaningful when read in conjunction with another book on Third World Development, Howard Handelman's The Challenge of Third World Development, for example. When read in this way, Charles Tripp's "History of Iraq" becomes a colorful and clear illustration of the many issues that concern developing nations. From legacies of colonialism (national borders, rulers, elites, etc), to the use of patronage by third world countries' governments, to the impacts of agricultural reform, to ethnic and religious conflict, and the involvement of the military in the political affairs, this book serves as a real world illustration of the many themes that pertain to Third World development.