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A Tale of Deceit and Double Dealing in the Struggle for the Middle East.
on 24 May 2013
This book covers the modern history of the Middle East and the creation of the Arab states from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire during the period 1915 to 1949. The particular thrust of this book that makes it quite different from the numerous volumes on this subject is that it specifically deals with the rivalry between Britain and France for supremacy in the area, and contains a great deal of new information on the extraordinary breadth of clandestine and thoroughly devious behaviour adopted by both Great Powers with respect to each other.
The scene is set with the well known Sykes-Picot Agreement of 3 January 1916 that established the arbitrary `line in the sand' of the title and which divided the soon to be created new states of Syria and Iraq (and later Trans-Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon.)
The author, James Barr, then charts the history of the defeat of Turkey and occupation of the Middle East, the Druze Revolt of 1925 and the struggle that France and Britain had in maintaining peace in their respective territories whilst denying the indigenous population self determination in defiance of the American President Woodrow Wilson. The author advances through the endless machinations between France and Britain to the Second World War, the Mandates, the growth of the nascent Jewish state and eventual evacuation of the Colonial Powers. However, this well worn path is highly dramatised by the revelation of the activities of British and French agents and the totally underhand activities of the respective governments, which I would suggest, has not before been handled in such revealing detail. The author introduces to us many interesting buccaneering characters that seem to be attracted to the area as well as many of the local leaders. I found the role of General Charles de Gaulle quite breathtaking in the depth of his arrogance, ingratitude and rudeness towards anything English.
For the most part this book is entirely objective and very well researched, however, I would take issue with the somewhat sanitised description of how the Zionists obtained land from the local Arabs. This book is not just a re-hash of a familiar story, it does contain much new material and a new perspective and should be a good choice for all those with an interest in this area of history. It is astounding that we continue to endlessly meddle in the Middle East to no advantage.