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The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising Hardcover – 1 Nov 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (1 Nov. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846140609
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846140600
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 496,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


Advance Praise for "The Siege of Mecca" "Yaroslav Trofimov has written a spellbinding thriller. Packed with vivid, previously undisclosed details, it illuminates a little-known hostage crisis in the closed-off heart of the Muslim world that helped give rise to Al Qaeda. Once I started reading, I couldn't put the book down."--Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone" "As Yaroslav Trofimov amply and skillfully demonstrates, the most radioactive particle in the world today is not North Korea, Iran, or, for that matter, the United States. It is, rather, the terrifying bundle of contradictions otherwise known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The most formative event in the modern history of this secretive and at times morally disgusting petrocracy is vivisected by Trofimov to unsettling effect, and he reminds us of why anything that has happened or will happen there is a matter of great concern to the world." --Tom Bissell, author of "God Lives in St. Petersburg "and "The Father of All Things"

About the Author

Yaroslav Trofimov, a staff foreign correspondent of The Wall Street Journal since 1999, has extensively reported from the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, and the Balkans. He is also the author of Faith at War: A Journey on the Frontlines of Islam, from Baghdad to Timbuktu.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Good read
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What a sad, vicious and heartless tale of what religious fanaticism can do to some people. This is a story about people who entirely miss the point of being alive and assume that their base instincts are an automatic expression of the Creator's will.

Anyone considering whether to put their trust in a religious leader would do well to read this first. The best advice would be 'don't'.

As an example of religious psychopathology this book is well worth reading. The depressed should perhaps apply to their doctor for a dose of Prozac first.

By the way, not all religion is like this ... but my advice is be very careful and discerning.
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Format: Paperback
I was prepared to dislike this book, suspecting an "action pack thriller", full of loopy historical inaccuracies, if not outright fantasy - all because of the jarring black and red cover. Instead I found a lean, scholarly, and almost certainly dispassionately accurate account of one of the more important and not very well understood events in the last quarter of the 20th Century. It is written in a fast-paced action style, flipping back and forth among the major actors in this drama, but that enhances and does not hinder his story. Ramifications of this siege are affecting us today.

Mr. Trofimov knows his subject well, amazingly well. He deftly describes the numerous disparate historical antecedents to the taking of the mosque by Islamic fanatics, and the reactions of the major actors. The Ikhwan, the religious brotherhood which was instrumental in Abdul Aziz's conquest and consolidation of what would be the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and his decision that they overstepped their limits, and so he had to mow them down with borrowed British machine guns in the early `30's, leading to a sense of martyrdom in the remnants of the defeated communities. America was tired of "foreign adventures," Vietnam being the prime reason, and therefore the CIA was severely constrained, with the coups it directed in Chile and Iran very much in mind. There was the Kingdom itself, being overwhelmed by the "future shock" of oil revenues, and the attendant rapid "modernization," with its own ills, inevitably leaving some people behind

As with many events of this magnitude, ironies abound; they are described but not overplayed.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a remarkable story of the 1979 seige of the grand mosque in Mecca. I do not remember news coverage of this seige perhaps because it was overshadowed by the US Embassy hostages in Tehran. The author has done a great job peeling back the layers of secrecy and obfuscation which have kept this significant event under wraps. He is particularly strong in explaining the political history of modern Saudi Arabia and the tensions within that state which remains under the headship of the house of Al Saud. This family are the cutodians of the central holy sites of Islam, and therefore the guardians of the faith.

The Saudi regime is orthodox Sunni muslim only too happy to oppress their Shi-ite coastal minority. From outside the kingdom seems to be the ultimate in orthodoxy and yet the occupation of the grand mosque and capture of the kaaba and other holiest of sites was done by those yet more more conservative than their rulers. The inspiration for the seizure of the mosque was the 'coming' of the Mahdi (as promised in the scriptures) in the form of a young Isalmic sholar. The agenda was the overthrow of the monarchy and the the installation of this Madhi as leader of Islam. So conservative were these Mahdists who seized the mosque on the turn of the 14th hundred century of Islam, that when they handled a Saudi bank note they would black out the image of the king from the note - the heresy of a graven image.

This book shows the ruling family to be weak. Its survival in 1979 was more due to the misjudgement of the islamist rebels rather than the strength of the royal family. The regime is one of contradictions. On one hand it is subject to the rigid sunni islamic interpretation of the clerics of the 'Ulema', whose support the monarchy needs.
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Format: Paperback
A very well written book which covers one of the lesser known key events in the Middle East. I think that the book highlights some interesting points:
1. The Saudis appear to have been caught completely off guard by the nature, scale and magnitude of the attack. It is noteworthy that they had wanted to question one of the key figures prior but that senior clerical figures stepped in and made the relevant representations. A not dissimilar situation seems to have been encountered in the mid 2000s when the Saudis suddenly woke up to Al- Qaeda elements inside the Kingdom and then had to launch a severe crackdown to avoid losing control.
2. Notwithstanding the US being caught offguard in Iran a year before with the overthrow of the Shah and the Iranian Revolution, the intelligence services do not appear to have drawn any lessons for not being caught out similarly in the region. The Americans only found out from a "walk in" who told them what was going on. The US did not hear anything from the Saudis who obviously wanted to avoid any news breaking on this matter and also seem for some time to be under the impression that th seizure was somehow linked to the Iranians.
It is also interesting that the Saudis turned to the French rather than the US for the final assistance in rooting out the remaining fighters in the Holy Mosque. The French involvement is still somewhat shrouded in mystery and the author has made a good fist of digging out the facts.
Th author has done a very thorough investigation of events and interviewed some of the participants, including that from the insurgents` side, and has a delivered a very pacey and informative book.
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