America's Great Game

SKU: ES-1510 £21.50
America's Great Game
The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East
Hugh Wilford
Basic Books
 
From an esteemed intelligence historian, this is the story of the eccentric CIA agents whose spy-games changed the course of Middle Eastern history-and U.S.-Arab relations - at the dawn of the Cold War. Since its formation in 1947, the Central Intelligence Agency has played a central role in the relationship between the United States and the Middle East. And from the 1953 coup that restored the rule of the repressive Iranian Shah to recent reports of secret prisons and waterboarding, the CIA's shadowy activities have not always contributed positively to this fraught relationship; indeed, many observers rightfully blame many of the problems between America and the Middle East squarely on the agency itself. But while the CIA's involvement in the Middle East has often been counterproductive, the agency was not always perceived as an enemy of Islam or of the Arab people. To the contrary, there was a time when the CIA was perceived as being the staunchest western ally of the Middle East. As Wilford shows, these contradictory impulses shaped the defining covert operations of the era: coup plots throughout the Arab world; a clandestine alliance with the leading Arab nationalist of the day, Egypt's Gamal Nasser; and-revealed in detail for the first time - a secret campaign in the US to sway public opinion against support for the new state of Israel. As Wilford shows, the CIA's manipulation of Middle Eastern governments and its inconsistent treatment of the nascent Arab nationalist movement eroded its support base within the Middle East during the early 1950s, but it was American support for Israel that would ultimately prove the most destructive to the Arabists' influence within both the CIA and America itself. Nasser, the agency's closest ally in the region, was backed into a corner by American support for Zionism, and ultimately led the Arab world into a conflict with Israel that would dramatically reshape the region and destabilize America's place within it. Based on a vast range of declassified government records, private papers, and personal interviews, America's Great Game skillfully interweaves the colorful life stories of the CIA Arabists with the momentous historical events through which they lived, revealing that the US stance toward the Arab world was once quite different than it is today - and that the current crisis in US relations with the Middle East was a tragic, but not inevitable, rupture between two former friends.
Hardcover, 384 pages. UK £21.50, USA $38.00, ROW £23.00

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