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Syria Burning: A Short History of a Catastrophe

What are the origins of the Syrian crisis, and why did no one do anything to stop it?
Since the upsurge of the Arab Spring in 2011, the Syrian civil war has claimed in excess of 200,000 lives, with an estimated 8 million Syrians, more than a third of the country’s population, forced to flee their homes. Militant Sunni groups, such as ISIS, have taken control of large swathes of the nation. The impact of this catastrophe is now being felt on the streets of Europe and the United States.

Veteran Middle East expert Charles Glass combines reportage, analysis, and history to provide an accessible overview of the origins and permutations defining the conflict. He also gives a powerful argument for why the West has failed to get to grips with the consequences of the crisis.

Reviews

  • “Tells us more about the reality of Syria and its future than could be gained from any other single source.”
  • “More than ever in the era of 24-hour sound-bite news, events demand the long view if they are to be explicable. With his deep experience of the Levant, that is exactly what Charlie Glass offers the student of the Middle East in this timely, elegant and penetrating study of turmoil that has reshaped the region.”
  • “If news moves fast, assessments have not, which is one reason why we should all read Syria Burning … [But] there is another, better reason to read this book. Glass has been traveling in and writing about the Middle East since the 1980s … His view on how the conflict has escalated and why it has not taken the turns many others anticipated make for enlightening reading.”
  • “Read Syria Burning to understand why the Assad regime was uniquely prepared and determined to resist the winds of change, even if the war doubtless marks the end of a century of post-Ottoman history.”
  • “Cutting through the misrepresentation that plagues most media coverage of the region, Glass clearly explains the current conflict, drawing on his extensive reporting experience in Syria.”
  • “Glass has tackled an enormously complex war and its context... If we learned and took to the heart the history outlined in 'Syria Burning', perhaps we wouldn't repeat it.”
  • “Glass traces a brief history of Syria up to the first protests against the Bashar al-Assad regime in 2011, and then describes the sad descent from peaceful pro-democracy protests to a sectarian bloodbath mixed with regional and global proxy war. He pulls no punches, condemning all sides for their role in the destruction of a country. No hands are clean and Glass takes no prisoners.”
  • “Glass offers a brief but necessary look at the country's past.”

Blog

  • A Higher Standard

    "We know that the work for the left now is long and slow and that it requires force and numbers and commitment at a grassroots, community level. We must also recognise that the challenge for the left in 2017 is one of transnational solidarity: figuring out how to join up, link up and learn from global struggles." - Rachel Shabi looks back at a year of many challenges, and what we can do to build solidarity and resistance in 2017.

    Of course it wasn’t the worst year, ever. Those bewailing the myriad awfulness of 2016 know history has dealt worse than the year of Brexit and Donald Trump’s election, the year of deadly terror attacks around the world, a desperate refugee crisis and an alarming rise in far-right forces across Europe. Even ignoring swathes of history, recent years have been awful, too: the five since the Arab Uprisings have seen grotesque war in Syria, a deadly assault on Yemen, repression and human rights abuses in Egypt and Bahrain – as well as a harsh crackdown in Turkey, once considered to be a ‘model’ for the region. Egyptian analysts might well say the “worst year ever” was 2013, when a military coup put their authoritarian, Abdel Fatah el-Sisi in charge.


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  • Crisis and Conflict in the Middle East: A Reading List

    An agreement has been reached to evacuate civilians and opposition fighters from the besieged eastern districts of the city of Aleppo, a senior Turkish official and rebel officials have told the Guardian.

    The agreement has capped weeks of horrific suffering and violence that have left many dead and others in total despair, raising serious questions at the lack of response from the international community.

    People in east Aleppo have issued desperate pleas for rescue, posting farewell messages on Monday night and into Tuesday morning, predicting they would either die in the ongoing bombardment or be tortured and killed if they surrendered.


    As events continue to unfold, we present a reading list of key books which — through investigative journalism, graphic storytelling, and critical analysis – shed light on the unfolding crisis in the Middle East.


    Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo to go to the government-held side.

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  • Life in the Caliphate

    "The 5 or 6 million people living in ISIS-controlled territory exist in a world full of prohibitions and regulations. Breach of these divinely inspired rules is savagely punished."

    In this extract from The Age of Jihad: Islamic State and the Great War for the Middle East, Patrick Cockburn brings us an insight into life in the caliphate, through a series of interviews with those living within its walls. The Age of Jihad is 50% off as part of our end of year sale until Jan 1.

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