The New Middle East
The World After the Arab Spring
By Paul Danahar
(Bloomsbury Press, Hardcover, 9781620402535, 480pp.)
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
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For the past forty years the story of the Middle East has been simple. The news images flashing across our TV screens from the Middle East provoked anger, outrage and, sometimes military action from the international community. But now the handful of dictators who ruled over hundreds of millions of people with an iron fist are locked up, exiled, fighting for their lives or buried in unmarked graves, leaving behind countries in turmoil. Saddam Hussein, Assad, Ben Ali, Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak all lived lives of cartoonish excess, stalked their own people, snatched them from their beds and murdered them before their children. The West propped these men up because, so the story went, the alternative was states falling under the influence of the communist block or later into the arms of radical Islam.
That narrative of the old Middle East lasted as long as the old Arab dictators did. But now these men are gone. In 2011 the people of the western world realised for the first time that the people of the Arab world weren't all brooding fanatics who needed to be kept in check by a reign of terror. If now is the first time that they can speak openly then it is also our first chance to listen. We can ask what kind of societies they are going to build and learn how their decisions will change our lives. The countries engulfed by the Arab Spring -Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria - are on a journey from dictatorship to democracy and together they will shape a New Middle East. Danahar also reveals the quiet but equally profound revolution going in Israel where tensions between religious and secular Jews are threatening the fabric of society. He investigates how that and the changing regional dynamics while shape the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Paul Danahar is the BBC's Middle East Bureau Chief and ran the organization’s news coverage of the Arab Spring. He has reported from Iraq, Iran and North Korea—every nation in the “Axis of Evil.” Follow him @pdanahar.
“Danahar’s analysis and projections are incisive and will appeal to policy wonks, while his conversational tone and ability to engage with a wide range of subjects will benefit a general readership.”—Publishers Weekly
“A cogent prognosis for the post-revolutionary Arab world.”—Kirkus Reviews
"There is lots of writing about the Middle East, much of it muddle-headed and ludicrously partial. It leaves you longing for a book that is clear-headed, honest and intelligent. Paul Danahar has produced such a book. His narrative spans a turbulent time but throughout all the upheavals and horrors he witnesses Danahar is a calm and intelligent witness. There is also great humanity in this excellent book. One is never allowed to forget that the Arab Spring is a narrative of people in extremis."—Fergal Keane, author of Letter to Daniel
"Reporters who can analyse, and analysts who spent time on the ground, are rare. Time and again in this thorough, provocative and readable work, Danahar shows he combines the best of both. Danahar has spent years on the ground, working in some of the toughest places in the world. But this is no instant journalist's account. Every turned page reveals deep research, powerful argument and a talent for acutely observed detail. Anyone interested in the Middle East, its present, past or future, should read this book."—Jason Burke, author of Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam
"The New Middle East is far and away the best book I've read on the effects of the Arab Spring: an excellent amalgamation of the scholarly and the journalistic, which gives it both a magisterial overview with precision of close-up experience. Country by country, Danahar has gone through the most important countries of the region, tracking the causes of change and the likely effects, and each of his judgments seems to me to be precise, enviably clear, thoroughly grounded and highly impressive. The world will move on after The New Middle East, and there will be major new developments, especially in Syria, but this book will continue to offer far more than just snapshot of a particular moment: it will be a text which I, for one, will come back to again and again in order to understand the future."—John Simpson
"It's hard to think of a senior BBC journalist better placed to write such a fine book on what the Middle East and the world looks like in the wake of the Arab Spring or one that has more insights...He has managed to achieve what many writers rarely do; to allow the voices of the people he has met, interviewed and worked and traveled with to emerge and to paint a picture of the Arab Spring through their eyes. He has done so in a style that is immediate, accessible, and filled with warmth, compassion, realism."—Rageh Omar
"Danahar's account has the pacey urgency and vivid color of the on-the-day news reporting...he gives coherence and shape to the historic shifts taking place. He has talent for shutting the noise of extraneous detail and laying bare the big picture. This book is trenchant, opinionated, blunt, entertaining and pleasingly readbale. If you want a thorough accessible account of what has been going on in the Arab world over the last decade - and the historical context that gave rise to it - look no further."—Allan Little
"Danahar uses his years of firsthand experience covering Middle East affairs, coupled with historical context, to inform the breakdown of Arab Spring events and highlight the social, political, and economic forces at play. He describes and analyzes the implications of these forces in shaping the future makeup of the Middle East, particularly for the Arab Spring countries themselves, from that pivotal moment forward. He analyzes each of the countries individually, and further ties his analysis to Western interests, explaining the complexity of the West’s stakes in the Middle East."—The Middle East Journal, Vol 68, No. 1