From Publishers Weekly
Allawi, until recently a senior minister in the Iraqi government, provides an insider's account of the nascent Iraqi government following the American invasion. His scholarly yet immensely readable exposition of Iraqi society and politics will likely become the standard reference on post-9/11 Iraq. It convincingly blasts the Coalition Provisional Authority for failing to understand the simmering sectarian animosity and conflicting loyalties that led Iraq into chaos. Beginning during Saddam's reign, among the motley gang of liberal democrats, Islamists and Kurdish nationalists that formed the opposition-in-exile, of which Allawi was a prominent member, he chronicles the fortunes and aspirations of the political parties, personalities and interest groups that now are tearing Iraq apart. In one representative episode, after the siege of Fallujah in 2004, the Marines initiated an ill-fated attempt to create a Fallujah Brigade of local men who would be loyal to the CPA. "[Head of the CPA L. Paul] Bremer... learned about it from newspaper reports.... The defense minister [Allawi himself] went on television, denouncing the Fallujah Brigade.... The 'Fallujah Brigade,' after a few weeks of apparent cooperation with the Marines, began to act as the core of a national liberation army. Any pretense that they were rooting out insurgents was dropped." (Apr. 9)
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In exile for more than 30 years, Allawi left a successful career in finance and Middle Eastern policy analysis to return to Iraq in 2003. During the next three years, he served as minister of trade, the first postwar civilian minister of defense, and a member of the transitional national government's legislative body. Allawi here draws on his multifaceted experience with the struggling American project in Iraq to document what went wrong and when. Although recognizing the deep roots of Iraq's internal strife and the extent to which the American invasion destroyed the fragile equilibrium holding the nation together under Saddam Hussein, Allawi emphasizes the more proximate causes of Iraq's decline, soberly cataloging dozens of missed opportunities and unintended consequences amid a culture of confusion, corruption, and administrative complacency. Avoiding quick-fix prescriptions, Allawi nevertheless somewhat tacitly suggests that the solution may involve a federalized and only minimally American Iraqi state that protects the rights of the Sunni minority without reversing the recent gains made by Shi'a and Kurdish groups. Comprehensive, factually robust, and likely to provoke public discussion, this book surpasses almost all other recent works on Iraq. Brendan DriscollCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved