• Lords of the Desert

  • By: James Barr
  • Narrated by: Peter Noble
  • Length: 14 hrs and 7 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (17 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Within a single generation, between 1945 and 1970, America replaced Britain as the dominant power in the Middle East. By any standard, it was an extraordinary role reversal, and it was one that came with very little warning. Starting in the 19th century, Britain had first established themselves as protector of the sheikhdoms along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf, before acquiring Aden, Cyprus and then Egypt and the Sudan. In the Great War in the 20th century they then added Palestine, Jordan and Iraq by conquest. And finally Britain had jointly run Iran with the Soviets since 1941 to defeat Hitler.

The discovery of vast oil reserves in Saudi Arabia, at a time when the United States’ own domestic reserves seemed to be running low, made America’s initial interest commercial. But trade required political stability. Its absence led the United States to look more critically at the conduct of her major ally in the region.

Added to this theatre of operations, the Zionists in Israel after World War One actively pursued a policy to establish and win an independent state for the Jews - which, spurred on by thousands of Jewish refugees from war-torn Europe, enabled them to build up the forces necessary to achieve power. How would Britain manage both Arab and Jewish positions and still maintain power? In 1943 they came up with an ambitious plan do so and in 1944 put it into action.

Lords of the Desert tells this story.

©2017 James Barr (P)2018 Simon & Schuster UK
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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Anglo-American rivalry in the ME in a nutshell

This book is a direct follow-up on the author's previous work, "The Line in the Sand", chronicling Anglo-French rivalry in the Middle East 1914-1948. Having listened to the previous one, I was eager to get into this. It didn't disappoint. The author is still superb in condensing very complicated processes to digestable form, and his analysis is always pointed, concise and well-grounded (the book version's footnotes and sources give you the impression that it is well-researched). The characters and their motives are again crystall clear, making this a more enjoyable piece of literature, than a great deal of actual fiction. The story it tells, while simple is also quite engrossing: how a retreating and an advancing imperial power, allies globally stick it to each other, whenever their interests clash (altough that format worked a bit better with the British and French, as they were more or less equal in terms of strength, while the great disparity between Britain and the US in the postwar period is clearly from the beginning - still, the author promotes facts over comfortable narratives).

What feels missing is the "natives". Although the various Arabic actors' points of view are clearly explained (be it individuals, like Nasser, or countries like Egypt), perhaps the book could have benefitted from inserting the "objects" of imperial rivalry more into the story. Or even outsiders, like the Iranese and the Soviets. The sources themselves show a picture of English-language orientedness, British and US archives, as well as English-language literature are listed, but not others (although the author clearly reads French). So, this is not an all-encompassing journey, but for what it is, it is very good indeed.

I was looking forward to the narration as well, which didn't disappoint at all. Peter Noble - as with the previous title - does a superb job, and deserves the ultimate praise for a narrator: he is not only clearly legible, but makes the story more, rather, than less interesting for the listener.

1 person found this helpful

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Profile Image for Mehmet
  • Mehmet
  • 09-01-19

Allies or rivals

If you really want to understand the politics of the Middle East today, especially if you too sometimes asking yourself ”how come governers in the region act in such awfully, extremely and unwisely” you need to read this book and the previous one ”A line in the sand”.
Very good insights to understand the personalities of the dictators of the region, double faces of developed countries such as the USA, UK and France, and their money and interest-oriented struggle and selfishness. Shortly, ”Real Politics”.

6 people found this helpful

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  • MR A B FESSEY
  • 01-08-19

Unlistenable

Unfortunately you can hear the narrator sucking in breath each time.
Awful as totally off putting.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Kate Fahey
  • 10-26-19

Informative, detailed, well narrated

There was so much information in this book. Well researched, and gave me a grasp of the complexity of our relationship with the Middle East and the USA. It also helped me to understand our past leaders and how we have gotten to our current position in the world.

5 people found this helpful

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  • EEG Master
  • 11-28-21

More skulduggery in the Middle East: Britain vs US

Having seen their role in the Levant extinguished by the late 1940's, after a fierce but largely hidden death struggle with their French allies, the British were desperate to cling on in Egypt and Arabia. The Americans and Nasser had other ideas and this is the story of how Britain, was eased out by the US, helped in no small degree by British policy decisions that failed to recognise their much diminished status in the post-war world. A great example of the saying "Great Powers do not have friends, they have interests" and when British and American interests clashed, the Americans were quite ruthless in asserting dominance. A sequel to James Barr's 'Line in the Sand' which, although each book stands alone, should be read first if possible. An excellent read. Highly recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Robert Herron
  • 01-21-21

Excellent insight

Excellent insight into the West's interference in the Middle East.
well read and full of information. I did struggle a little with the timeline of events but they have just been me and not the author

1 person found this helpful

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  • J. Whittle
  • 12-28-20

A story half told

The story is well presented in the 1940s illustrating the links between oil companies and the US and UK foreign policy. In the 50s the focus slips into UKs foreign policy and leaves the interesting links with the oil companies out. Without the context we lose interest.

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  • jeremy hurley
  • 08-19-20

Better than any thriller

Fantastic book, full of spies politicians, shieks and dodgy characters. A must read too understand the modern middle east.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-26-21

Fascinating recent history compellingly told

Excellent aide memoire of the UK foreign entanglement and decline in the Middle East - which provided great context to the continued turmoil and challenges

On listening to this, one wonders how any British Government can argue military involvement far from home. Should be required listening for those in positions of responsibility

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-17-21

Withdrawal from the Middle East

Well written account of the UK’s exit from the Middle East & the selfish interests of the USA, vs the UK.

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  • Marwan Ali
  • 07-03-21

So much valuable information and accounts

I think reading this after finishing A line in the sand, has given a good overview on Imperial interference and power struggle between Western and Eastern powers, and can explain alloy of the issues that remain today in the middle east.

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