Shadow Wars

Pages: 688
Subject: Current Affairs, Middle East, History
Imprint: Oneworld

Shadow Wars

The Secret Struggle for the Middle East

Christopher Davidson

Who is to blame for the failure of the Arab Spring and the rise of Islamic State? The answer lies far closer to home than you might dare imagine…
9781786071927 (5 Oct 2017)
RRP £16.99 / US$21.99

The Book

In this unparalleled investigation, Christopher Davidson exposes the true extent of Western interference in the Middle East over the past one hundred years. Drawing on the examination of hundreds of leaked and declassified documents, and interviews with former officials, academics, journalists and activists, he shows how the region's most powerful actors have been manipulated by foreign players in a game that has given rise to dictators, sectarian wars, bloody counter-revolutions and the most brutal incarnation of extremism ever seen.

Additional Information

Subject Current Affairs, Middle East, History
Pages 688
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Christopher Davidson is a Reader in Middle East Politics at Durham University.


‘This is an outstanding book, bracing in its understanding of the rapacious forces that set upon the Middle East and meticulous in weaving the historical threads that explain why.'

- John Pilger

‘The best and most informative book yet on the struggle for power among the US and Europe, Arab autocratic regimes, and these countries' impoverished masses.'

- R. W. Olson, University of Kentucky, CHOICE Magazine

‘An avalanche of spies, lies, covert actions and overt aggression - Davidson shows how many of the West's troubles in the Middle East have emerged from its relentless search for resources.'

- Leif Wenar, Professor and Chair in Philosophy and Law, King’s College London

‘A thought-provoking and original take on the present catastrophic realities in the Middle East. This is a timely research into the causes of the failure of the Arab Spring. It deems the defeat of the ‘Spring' as a counter revolution prompted by external interventions. The book is a tour de force that begins with the past European Revolutions and ends up with an intriguing and highly convincing analysis of the demise of the Arab Spring. No one is spared in this incisive analysis: Arab regimes, fundamentalist movements, the West and Israel are all castigated here for their responsibility for the suffering of the people of Middle East today.'

- Ilan Pappe, Professor of History, University of Exeter

‘Plunges into America's move to center stage and how it has sustained its ravenous postwar economy by preserving access to crude oil imports at any cost...Davidson is especially dogged at "following the money”—e.g., the rise of crony-capitalist networks in the Gulf monarchies and the financing of al-Qaeda and of the new Islamic State group…An exhaustively researched account.'

- Kirkus

‘For its unsparing probity, Davidson's book ought to be required reading…Who are these people? Where did they come from? What do they want? Shadow Wars makes the answers painfully, damningly clear.'

- Christian Science Monitor

‘Mr Davidson is one of the most knowledgeable academics writing about the region.'

- The Economist

Table of Contents



1  Counter-revolution - A Pattern Emerges

Lessons from the past - nothing is new

Lessons from the past - the preventive counter-revolutions

Britain's hungry empire

The threat from Arab nationalism

Trouble on the Arabian Peninsula - revolution reaches Yemen

The contagion spreads - the Sultanate of Oman

The smaller sheikhdoms - preventive measures


2  Cold War, Oil War - America Takes Over

America's even hungrier empire

America's global counter-revolution

America's Middle East - special treatment for a special case

Removing the rivals - Iranian democracy

Removing the rivals - taking on the Arabs

Strengthening the status quo - the arms trade

Strengthening the status quo - military bases

Strengthening the status quo - mercenaries


3  The Road to al-Qaeda - The CIA's Baby

Searching for an Islamic state - Britain's caliphate

Searching for an Islamic state - Wahhabism and the Muslim Brotherhood

Mobilizing jihad - the case of Afghanistan

Operation Cyclone - Anglo-American jihad

Foreign fighters, foreign cash

The Islamic Republic of Iran - a secret relationship


4  Allied to Jihad - Useful Idiots

The Taliban - America's new ally

Keeping bin Laden on board

The war against Serbia - Bosnian jihad

The war against Serbia - Kosovan jihad

The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group - Britain's new ally

The road to 9/11 - managing blowback

9/11 - saving Saudi Arabia

9/11 - protecting the funding networks

The fake ‘War on Terror' - Afghanistan

The fake ‘War on Terror' - Iraq


5  The Arab Spring - A System Threatened

A new challenge, a new hope

The road to 2011 - regimes in decay

Tunisia - the Jasmine Revolution

Egypt - the Republic of Tahrir

Yemen - revolution in Arabia

Breaking the fear barrier - a chance for cosmopolitanism

The economic storm - enter neo-liberalism

The economic storm - the rise of crony capitalism

The economic storm - the rise of Gulf capitalism

From modernizing Arabs to revolutionary Arabs

Cosmopolitan communications - from satellites to social media


6  Plan ‘A' - Islamists Versus the Deep State

The need for counter-revolution

Egypt - back to the Brotherhood

Egypt - an uneasy alliance

Egypt - military dictatorship

Egypt - ‘Sisi mania'

Egypt - the Qatar connection

Egypt - Saudi Arabia takes on the Brotherhood

Tunisia - under pressure

Tunisia - sleepwalking to counter-revolution

Yemen - outmanoeuvring the Arab Spring

Bahrain - the forgotten revolution


7  Plan ‘B' - A Fake Arab Spring

Containable protests

Axis against axis - faking the Arab Spring

Libya - Gaddafi's strange regime

Libya - flirting with neo-liberalism

Libya - not so supplicant

Libya - the uprising

Libya - subverting the National Transitional Council

Libya - NATO takes action

Libya - an international crime

Libya - the scramble for assets

Libya - a role for al-Qaeda

Libya - searching for a Sisi

Syria - parallel plans

Syria - the uprising begins

Syria - preparing for intervention

Syria - enter the proxies

Syria - arming the rebels

Syria - searching for the ‘red line'

Syria - back to the battlefield

Syria - the media war

Yemen - a painful intervention

Yemen - bringing back al-Qaeda


8  Enter the Islamic State - A Phantom Menace

Al-Qaeda's limits

The need for ‘national jihadists'

Iraq - the incubation chamber

Iraq - the emerging Islamic State

Iraq - the proto-caliphate

The Islamic State - mysterious new leadership

The Islamic State - a persuasive ideology

Opportunities in Syria

Expansion in Iraq

The caliphate restored

The resurrection of Saddam Hussein

‘Remaining and expanding' - services and recruitment

‘Remaining and expanding' - masters of propaganda


9  The Islamic State - A Strategic Asset

Qui bono - to whose profit?

The manufacturing of evil - the new bogeyman

The business of evil - a history of cashing in

The business of evil - the arms industry bonanza

Surprise, surprise - the Islamic State came from nowhere

The strangest road to war

A campaign of contradictions

Explaining failure - the official line

Suspicions mount - challenging the narrative

Follow the money - the self-funding narrative

Follow the money - the Islamic State's funders

Funders need facilitators - the role of Turkey


10 The Islamic State - A Gift That Keeps Giving

The return of the ‘War on Terror'

The Islamic State in Libya

The Islamic State in Yemen

The fight for Mali

Boko Haram - Nigeria under attack

Boko Haram - the shift to the Islamic State

Boko Haram - generous sponsors

Boko Haram - delivering results

Beyond Panetta - other pledges to the Islamic State

Russia and China - superpower implications


Epilogue - Keeping the Wheel Turning

Getting business back to usual

The exploitation of Egypt

Wild card number one - opening up Iran

A new Iran, a new sectarian war

Wild card number two - American oil

A new Saudi Arabia, a new chapter