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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2006, Vol, 6 No. 1 .

An Alliance Against Babylon: The U.S., Israel, and Iraq
John K. Cooley

London: Pluto Books, 2005, 246 pp, HB 17.99, ISBN 0-7453-2282-4

Led by the United States (US), a new war in Iraq began in March 2003 and as this review is written, the war continues to claim lives on a daily basis. The controversial reasons given for going to war have been well documented. However in this book, John Cooley puts into historical context the reasons why Iraq, and more specifically Saddam Hussein?s regime, became an enemy of the world?s superpower. He claims that overt endorsement of ?regime change? in Iraq began during the Clinton administration, with the appointment of Madeleine Albright as US Secretary of State. He also argues that the current Bush administration had been making preparations to achieve this objective well before the tragic events of 9/11, despite having publicly committed to disarming Iraq through the auspices of the United Nations (195-6).

While the US took the decision to go to war alone, it was, and always has been Cooley argues, heavily influenced by Israeli intelligence, which on this occasion was either simply incorrect or had its own agenda. Israel?s role in the war has never been publicly clarified. Despite this, the author argues that, whether intentional or not, it has cemented the alliance between the two states even further. Cooley asserts that the war has affected the balance of power in the Middle East and marks a turning point in the West?s relationship with the Arab world - the consequences of which will reverberate not only regionally but also internationally. Although Israeli involvement is apparent, to some extent at least, the author maintains that most contemporary assessments of the historical background to the current conflict in Iraq and the previous conflict in 1991 ignore the crucial relationship between the Americans and the Israelis. One of the central aims of this book thus is to examine this alliance, but more specifically, to assess the role played by Israel in these wars.

Thematically, the book is chronologically ordered, although the author does put historic events into context for today?s reader. He begins with an historic and Biblical overview of the Jews? Babylonian captivity, progressing into retelling the exodus of the Jews from Iraq when the new Jewish homeland was established in Palestine in 1947, and then onto reportage of the conflicts that have occurred since then. By detailing the development of the cultural and political heritage of those generations and the relationships, antagonistic and otherwise, of the Jewish people with the people and states of Iraq, from Biblical Old testament times to modern times, he illustrates to the reader the importance of the deep-seeded mistrust that many Jews have toward Arabs and vice versa. It is revealed throughout the book that Israel has always viewed Iraq as one of its greatest ? even its greatest - long-term strategic enemy and feared that its eastern Arab neighbours ? Jordan, Syria and Iraq -- might patch up their differences and ideological quarrels and join in a unified ?Eastern front? against their Jewish adversary (75). However, the Arabs seemingly have found it impossible to mount an effective and joint operational war against Israel and as a consequence have lost land to Israel. As Israel?s power grew in the region, the US became an increasingly closer ally and a dominant power in the region. In conjunction with this development, Iraq became perceived as the over-riding threat to US power in the Middle East and Saddam Hussein?s ?removal would serve as an example to others who might challenge this power? (202). The author holds a deep conviction that none of the Middle Eastern conflicts will ever be resolved peacefully unless there is a fair settlement between Israel and the Palestinians Arabs. However, the war in Iraq and the close alliance between the US and Israel is polarising the Arab world even further and making this an increasingly impossible reality.

This book is an important contribution to those researching the conflict in the Middle East because it is well researched and pays particular attention to historic detail while at the same time relating it to current affairs. What Cooley relays vibrantly to the reader is the complex and often contradictory relationship between Israel and the US and how this affected Iraq and other Middle Eastern actors. Furthermore, throughout his forty years of journalistic experience reporting on Middle Eastern and Central Asian affairs, Cooley has interviewed some of the key players involved in the Arab-Israeli conflicts and can offer the reader a unique insight into the their personalities.

Shauna Meehan, INCORE Intern, 2005-06

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